Category Archives: Uncategorized

Where does truth fit into democracy?

David Bell:

Kakutani and the many pundits and critics who have offered up a similarly broad cultural diagnosis have obvious incentives for doing so. It lets them pose as serious public intellectuals who can see beyond the froth of the current news cycle. It gives them the chance to display their wide-ranging and eclectic reading (in a single paragraph, Kakutani name-checks Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Thomas Pynchon, David Bowie, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, and Frank Gehry). And, not least, it exonerates them from the charge that they are nothing but liberal ideologues by allowing them to assign blame to both sides in the ongoing American culture wars. Yes, the responsibility for the death of truth may lie, in part, with Fox News and the GOP, but it also lies with the New Left and those dreadful postmodernist academics. “Postmodernist arguments,” Kakutani explains, “deny an objective reality existing independently from human perception.” And since one perception is as good as another, anything goes. Michel Foucault and Donald Trump: brothers-in-arms.

Mainstream writers like Kakutani have repeated this last argument so often that it is easy to forget how strange and unconvincing it actually is. First, it reflects a misunderstanding of the most prominent “postmodern” philosophers. The radicalism of an author like Foucault, for instance, lies not in any supposed denial of objective reality but in his insistence that the way we know, understand, and speak about reality is always a matter of power relations. Second, it also assumes, bizarrely, that an abstruse current of thought which has attracted few readers outside the academy, and which mainstream publications have roundly and repeatedly denounced, has somehow infected the entire culture and come to define our political moment. Has academic postmodernism really had an appreciable influence on the Trumpian right, whose ideologues rarely miss an opportunity to denounce academics in general and humanists in particular?

UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school

Chris Rickert:

According to emails released to the State Journal under the state’s open records law, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham on Sept. 10 asked her chief of staff, Ricardo Jara, and other front-office officials whether Arbor was “worth trying to stop? Or change somehow? If so, how?”

Cheatham expressed the district’s opposition to the school in a letter to Cross on Sept. 24 that points to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s application, and accuses OEO of not sharing information with the district about the school.

“I am writing you to formally request that the OEO immediately terminate contract negotiations with (Arbor Community School) or, at the very least, require that this school not be located in the City of Madison,” she wrote.

That same day, former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes took Cheatham’s letter to a board of directors meeting of the Goodman Community Center, where Arbor was then trying to secure space.

More, from Negassi Tesfamichael.

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques on Madison’s disastrous reading results:

Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.

Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.

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

Routing around Madison’s non-diverse K-12 legacy governance model:

In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.”

Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School Board member Ed Hughes to a September meeting of the Goodman Community Center board of directors to express the district’s opposition to another proposed charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Hughes gave the board a letter from Cheatham to UW System President Ray Cross that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, pointed to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s charter proposal, and asked that Arbor either be rejected or at least kept out of Madison.

Hughes also told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

Becky Steinhoff, Goodman executive director, later told the Wisconsin State Journal that Goodman was “experiencing a period of enormous change,” including the recent opening of a new building, and chose not to work with Arbor.

“I understand the climate and the polarizing topic of charters” in Madison, McCabe said, but he wasn’t concerned the district would attempt to thwart Milestone and he said it would “be a dream come true” if Milestone were one day folded into the district.

He said Community—Learning—Design has an application due to the state Feb. 22 for a federal planning grant.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

Ananda Mirilli, 1027 S. Sunnyvale Lane Unit A, Madison

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

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

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!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

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.

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

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.

Sarah Manski and Ed Hughes “withdrew” from their respective races in recent elections. The timing, in both cases was unfortunate for voters, and other candidates.

A majority of the Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

“One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”

Christopher Osher:

But districts are free to use their READ Act per-pupil funds on whatever curriculum they want, even on interventions researchers have found ineffective.

“Typically, as with any education policy, we’re only given so much authority on what we can tell districts to do and what we monitor for,” Colsman said in an interview with The Colorado Sun.

The state spends $3 million annually through the READ Act to provide diagnostic software school districts can use to assess student reading levels, but not all districts use it. Data shows the state’s software is used on fewer than half of the students in the state. The reading proficiency of most of the young students in Colorado is determined through other diagnostic tools never subjected to quality reviews by the state.

Meanwhile, state tracking of READ Act student performance shows that only 6 percent of children identified with a significant reading deficiency in kindergarten were reading at their grade level by third grade.

“All of us are looking for a way to get better results for kids because we can’t wait a generation for this,” Colsman said.

Half of state districts see worsening rates for significant deficiencies

Nearly half of the state’s 178 school districts saw the rate of students with significant reading deficiencies worsen since the READ Act program was put in place, according to a review of state data.

Commerce City’s Adams County 14 school district, home to 7,500 students, received more than $3 million in per-pupil READ Act funding to tackle significant reading deficiencies from 2012 through 2018, but reading problems there have worsened over same period.

In 2014, slightly more than 18 percent of the district’s kindergarten through third-grade students had a significant reading deficiency, according to state records. By 2018, that rate had more than doubled to nearly 40 percent.

New administrators at the district, forced by the Colorado Board of Education in November to hire an outside management consultant, said they’ve discovered the reading curriculum they were using was ineffective and not suited to the district’s heavily bilingual student population. They’ve since switched curriculum and are putting in place a summer school program devoted solely to reading instruction.

“Over the past 19 years we’ve had a high turnover in teachers and administrators,” said Jeanette Patterson, who was hired as the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction last summer. “We’ve had to do a lot of training and retraining and retraining. That leads to inconsistency in the literacy block at the elementary school level.”

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques on Madison’s disastrous reading results:

Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.

Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.

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

Routing around Madison’s non-diverse K-12 legacy governance model:

In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.”

Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School Board member Ed Hughes to a September meeting of the Goodman Community Center board of directors to express the district’s opposition to another proposed charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Hughes gave the board a letter from Cheatham to UW System President Ray Cross that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, pointed to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s charter proposal, and asked that Arbor either be rejected or at least kept out of Madison.

Hughes also told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

Becky Steinhoff, Goodman executive director, later told the Wisconsin State Journal that Goodman was “experiencing a period of enormous change,” including the recent opening of a new building, and chose not to work with Arbor.

“I understand the climate and the polarizing topic of charters” in Madison, McCabe said, but he wasn’t concerned the district would attempt to thwart Milestone and he said it would “be a dream come true” if Milestone were one day folded into the district.

He said Community—Learning—Design has an application due to the state Feb. 22 for a federal planning grant.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

Ananda Mirilli, 1027 S. Sunnyvale Lane Unit A, Madison

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

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

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!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

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.

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

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.

Sarah Manski and Ed Hughes “withdrew” from their respective races in recent elections. The timing, in both cases was unfortunate for voters, and other candidates.

Teaching China Through Black History

Fairbank Center Blog:

To commemorate Black History Month in the United States, the Fairbank Center presents a reading and teaching introduction to the history of Black and African Americans’ interactions with the People’s Republic of China. This guide includes blog posts, journal articles, books and book chapters, audio-visual resources, digital archives, and other materials that can be used to teach the confluence of black and Chinese history in the 20th century.

More Google Employees Are Losing Faith in Their CEO’s Vision

Ellen Huet and Mark Bergen:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google became the most-profitable internet company by recruiting talented technologists and inspiring them enough to keep them around. That advantage may be slipping as some workers increasingly doubt the leadership and vision of Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, according to recent results from an employee survey.

The annual internal poll, known as Googlegeist, asked workers whether Pichai’s vision of what the company can achieve inspires them. In response, 78 percent indicated yes, down 10 percentage points from the previous year.

Another question asked if employees have confidence in Pichai and his management team to effectively lead Google in the future. Positive responses represented 74 percent of the total, an 18 point decline from a year earlier.

There were similar declines for questions about Pichai’s decisions and strategies, his commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the compensation the company pays, according the results, which were viewed by Bloomberg News. Google shares the results with all employees to make sure concerns are heard. This time, 89 percent of workers took the survey.

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

Bloomberg’s “team wants to collect data about voters on an unprecedented scale, match that data with consumer data… voter data… social-media profiles, and look for new ways to” manipulate their voting behavior on a national scale.

Edward-Isaac Dovere:

Whether or not he runs for president, the former New York City mayor is building the most powerful political organization in America.

Michael Bloomberg has bigger plans for 2020 than running for president. The billionaire and former New York City mayor has been openly dreaming of the White House for 25 years, and spent huge amounts of time and money four times over the past 10 years trying to figure out a way to get himself there.

But he has hesitations about this race, too. He’s not sure there is a realistic space in the Democratic primaries for his centrist record. And he almost certainly won’t run if Joe Biden does, members of his team believe.

While no final decision has been made, his aides have been working on a fallback that only a man worth $40 billion can afford. Bloomberg is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a data-centric political operation designed to ensure one goal: crush Donald Trump.

‘A step below hell’: Video gives inside look at Houston School board’s dysfunction

Jacob Carpenter:

Details of the seven-hour mid-October meeting have not been publicly disclosed until now, largely because it was not attended by local media and HISD officials did not post video of the meeting online. The Houston Chronicle obtained a copy of the video through a public records request.

The video depicts a beaten-down board compromised by grudges, clashing personalities and heightened suspicions. Some trustees have said they were unaware they were being recorded during the meeting, resulting in an unfiltered look at the fragmented board.

Freshman applications dip at UC for the first time in 15 years. Is it the start of a trend?

Teresa Watanabe and Suhauna Hussain:

For the first time in 15 years, the number of would-be freshmen applying to the University of California has dropped, the first sign that a national trend of declining college enrollment could be hitting the West Coast.

Applications for the coming school year dipped by 3% to 176,530, according to preliminary UC data released Tuesday. The drop could be a temporary blip, experts said. Among the system’s nine undergraduate campuses, only three — UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz — saw declines in freshman applications.

But the number of students graduating from California high schools is forecast to top out in six years. And that demographic trend already has hit the nation’s Northeastern states, where birthrates began declining years ago and enrollment has dropped even at elite institutions, such as Princeton University and MIT.

Homeschooling Produces Better-Educated, More-Tolerant Kids. Politicians Hate That

J.D. Tuccille:

There’s no better sign of success than an escalation in attacks by your enemies. Based on such evidence, homeschooling is enjoying a boom, as growing numbers of families with diverse backgrounds, philosophies, and approaches abandon government-controlled schools in favor of taking responsibility for their own children’s education. As they do so, they’re coming under assault from officials panicking over the number of people slipping from their grasp.

There’s little doubt that homeschooling is an increasingly popular option. “From 1999 to 2012, the percentage of students who were homeschooled doubled, from an estimated 1.7 percent to 3.4 percent,” reports the National Center for Education Statistics. While the government agency suggests that growth has leveled off since then, other researchers say data is hard to come by, since many states simply don’t count people who homeschool.

“While the overall school-age population in the United States grew by about 2.0 percent from spring 2012 to spring 2016, data from 16 states from all four major regions of the nation showed that homeschooling grew by an average of about 25 percent in those states,” counters the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), in response to NCES figures. “If the data from these states are representative of what happened in the other states during those four years, then homeschooling is continuing to grow in both absolute numbers and as a portion of the overall school-age population.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Over 60, and Crushed by Student Loan Debt

AnnaMaria Andriotis:

One generation of Americans owed $86 billion in student loan debt at last count. Its members are all 60 years old or more.

Many of these seniors took out loans to help pay for their children’s college tuition and are still paying them off. Others took out student loans for themselves in the wake of the last recession, as they went back to school to boost their own employment prospects.

On average, student loan borrowers in their 60s owed $33,800 in 2017, up 44% from 2010, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by credit-reporting firm TransUnion. Total student loan debt rose 161% for people aged 60 and older from 2010 to 2017—the biggest increase for any age group, according to the latest data available from TransUnion.

Some are having funds garnished from their Social Security checks. The federal government, which is the largest student loan lender in the country, garnished the Social Security benefits, tax refunds or other federal payments of more than 40,000 people aged 65 and older in fiscal year 2015 because they defaulted on student or parent loan debt. That’s up 362% from a decade prior, according to the latest data from the Government Accountability Office.

At 66, Ante Grgas-Cice owes about $29,000 in student loans. His only income is a roughly $1,600 monthly Social Security check, which the federal government garnished for a period last year because he wasn’t paying his student loans.

Civics: Exclusive: Ex-NSA cyberspies reveal how they helped hack foes of UAE

Christopher Bing and Joel Schectman:

Ex-NSA operatives reveal how they helped spy on targets for the Arab monarchy — dissidents, rival leaders and journalists.

Two weeks after leaving her position as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. National Security Agency in 2014, Lori Stroud was in the Middle East working as a hacker for an Arab monarchy.

She had joined Project Raven, a clandestine team that included more than a dozen former U.S. intelligence operatives recruited to help the United Arab Emirates engage in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy.

Stroud and her team, working from a converted mansion in Abu Dhabi known internally as “the Villa,” would use methods learned from a decade in the U.S intelligence community to help the UAE hack into the phones and computers of its enemies.

Stroud had been recruited by a Maryland cybersecurity contractor to help the Emiratis launch hacking operations, and for three years, she thrived in the job. But in 2016, the Emiratis moved Project Raven to a UAE cybersecurity firm named DarkMatter. Before long, Stroud and other Americans involved in the effort say they saw the mission cross a red line: targeting fellow Americans for surveillance.

“I am working for a foreign intelligence agency who is targeting U.S. persons,” she told Reuters. “I am officially the bad kind of spy.”

The story of Project Raven reveals how former U.S. government hackers have employed state-of-the-art cyber-espionage tools on behalf of a foreign intelligence service that spies on human rights activists, journalists and political rivals.

The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law

Gail Heriot and Alison Somin:

On March 8, 2010, one year into the Obama Administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a passionate speech in which he asserted (correctly) that African-American students are the subjects of school discipline at higher rates than white students. Although he did not mention it, it is also true that white students are the subjects of school discipline at higher rates than Asian American students and that male students are disciplined at higher rates than female students.

In response to the racial disparity he identified, Duncan promised that the Department of Education would be stepping up its enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the years that followed, the Department of Education made good on that promise by opening numerous investigations based on statistical disparities. On January 18, 2014, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice jointly issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on school discipline in which they asserted that the law prohibits not only actual discrimination in discipline on the basis of race, but also what they called “unjustified” disparate impact.

In Part I of this article, we point out that there are two sides to the “disparate impact” coin. The Department of Education has focused only upon the fact that, as a group, African-American students are suspended and expelled more often than other students. By failing to consider the other side of the coin — that African-American students may be disproportionately victimized by disorderly classrooms — its policy threatens to do more harm than good even for the group Secretary Duncan was trying to help. In Part II, we discuss the Department of Education’s enforcement policy toward school discipline in greater detail, its over-reliance on racial disparate impact, and how that over-reliance pushes some schools to violate Title VI’s ban on race discrimination rather than honor it. In Part III, we elaborate on why school discipline is important and present evidence that the Department of Education’s policy has contributed to the problem of disorderly classrooms, especially in schools with high minority student enrollment. In Part IV, we discuss how aggregate racial disparities in discipline do not in themselves show the discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians that some proponents of the Department of Education’s policy claim. Rather, the evidence shows that they are the result of differences in behavior. In Part V, we explain why the Department of Education’s disparate impact policy is not just wrong-headed, but also unauthorized by law.

Commentary on Madison School Board’s Unique Election Process

Chris Rickert:

Before any votes were cast last April, one of the three candidates running for two seats on the Madison School Board was a shoo-in to win even though — like the other two contenders on the ballot that day — she was running for a districtwide seat.

Over the last 20 school board elections, the same thing has happened at least four other times, and will again next month.

The reason? A school board election system that may well be unique in Wisconsin.

Madison’s current system dates to the 1980s, when state lawmakers stepped in to implement a City Council-sponsored plan to move from at-large elections to the current system. The council’s plan had been overwhelmingly rejected in 1978 by the School Board and in a citywide referendum.

Today, state law mandates that any Wisconsin school district with a city whose population is between 150,000 and 500,000 — meaning only Madison — must elect board members to at-large, numbered seats. It is likely unique among school board election systems in Wisconsin, although it appears to be in place in at least a handful of districts in Texas and perhaps elsewhere.

“Most people couldn’t wrap their heads around voting for two candidates,” said Sheryl Moore, superintendent of the Sealy (Texas) Independent School District, explaining why her board moved from at-large to numbered-seat elections.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board elections, here.

Substitute reading for potholes: local elections

Rod Dreher:

Stout-hearted Steve McClellan, running for supervisor of Holmes County, Miss., is my new favorite politician. “Holes in the road!” is 2019’s “the rent is too damn high!”

In this update, McClellan, who is now wearing a bandanna over his eyes, condemns the injustice of the New Orleans Saints being robbed of their victory over the Rams. “The NFL is just like these potholes: We got to get ’em fixed,” he says.

Madison, despite spending far more than most, has Long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“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”

Meet the man behind a third of what’s on Wikipedia

CBS News:

Steven Pruitt has made nearly 3 million edits on Wikipedia and written 35,000 original articles. It’s earned him not only accolades but almost legendary status on the internet.

The online encyclopedia now boasts more than 5.7 million articles in English and millions more translated into other languages – all written by online volunteers. Pruitt was named one of the most influential people on the internet by Time magazine in part because one-third of all English language articles on Wikipedia have been edited by Steven. An incredible feat, ignited by a fascination with his own history.

Pruitt is deeply obsessed with history, and his love of opera inspired his Wikipedia username: Ser Amantio Di Nicolao, his favorite opera character.

Communications in the Second Century of the Telephone (1977)

Arthur C Clarke:

While researching for our magazine we sometimes find nuggets buried by time that have been forgotten by the Internet. This particular nugget was found in the May 1977 issue of Creative Computing. Science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions of the future are fascinating, both for what he got right, and what he got wrong…

This article was taken from an address by Mr. Clarke at the “Convocation on Communications in Celebration of the Centennial of the Telephone,” sponsored by American Telephone and Telegraph Co. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is reprinted here because of its historic worth and its otherwise inaccessibility to the general public.

Predictors of mental health and well‐being in employed adults with autism spectrum disorder at 12‐month follow‐up

Darren Hedley Mirko Uljarević Simon M. Bury Cheryl Dissanayake:

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) commonly experience poor outcomes in adulthood. Previous research on adult outcomes has focused on negative aspects of health and well‐being, while positive well‐being remains understudied. The current study charted 12‐month change in daily living skills, job satisfaction, depression, anxiety, and positive well‐being in 36 (32 male) newly employed adults with ASD aged 18 to 57 years who were participating in a supported employment program. There was a small increase in daily living skills, and a slight decrease in job satisfaction, with all other measures remaining stable over time. Regression analyses revealed that, controlling for baseline depression, positive well‐being negatively predicted depression at follow‐up. No significant predictors of anxiety were identified. Social support and depression at baseline were associated with positive well‐being at follow‐up; however, they were no longer significant predictors after the effects of baseline positive well‐being were taken into account. The findings provide evidence that positive well‐being may buffer against depression in people with ASD. Our finding of stability of mental health and well‐being measures over time indicates more research is required to uncover the mechanisms underpinning mental health and well‐being outcomes in employed adults with ASD. Autism Research 2019. © 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Civics: Prisons Across the U.S. Are Quietly Building Databases of Incarcerated People’s Voice Prints

George Joseph and Debbie Nathan:

So when it was his turn, he walked up to the phone, picked up the receiver, and followed a series of automated instructions. “It said, ‘Say this phrase, blah, blah, blah,’ and if you didn’t say it clearly, they would say, ‘Say this phrase again,’ like ‘cat’ or ‘I’m a citizen of the United States of America.’” Dukes said he repeated such phrases for a minute or two. The voice then told him the process was complete.

“Here’s another part of myself that I had to give away again in this prison system,” he remembers thinking as he walked back to the cell.

Dukes, who was released in October, says he was never told about what that procedure was meant to do. But contracting documents for New York’s new prison phone system, obtained by The Appeal in partnership with The Intercept, and follow-up interviews with prison authorities, indicate that Dukes was right to be suspicious: His audio sample was being “enrolled” into a new voice surveillance system.

In New York and other states across the country, authorities are acquiring technology to extract and digitize the voices of incarcerated people into unique biometric signatures, known as voice prints. Prison authorities have quietly enrolled hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people’s voice prints into large-scale biometric databases. Computer algorithms then draw on these databases to identify the voices taking part in a call and to search for other calls in which the voices of interest are detected. Some programs, like New York’s, even analyze the voices of call recipients outside prisons to track which outsiders speak to multiple prisoners regularly.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Too Many Americans Will Never Be Able to Retire

Noah Smith:

Some see this as a positive trend, because it adds to the economy. But others rightfully view it with trepidation, because there’s the distinct possibility that many of these elderly people just can’t afford to retire. Whether their nest eggs were wiped out in the housing crash, or they just didn’t save enough, or whether their kids don’t make enough money to support them, the decline of retirement seems like an ominous development.

The pressures on older Americans to work will likely only become greater in the coming years. This is because the young, working population needed to support retirees will see slower growth, and possibly outright shrinkage.

As recently as 10 years ago, the U.S. had unusually high fertility rates for a developed nation. The total fertility rate — the number of children a woman can be expected to have over her lifetime — was about 2.1 children per woman, which is the level required for long-term population stability. But since then, the rate has fallen to 1.8 in 2016, implying long-term population shrinkage:

University of the Third Age

Wikipedia:

The University of the Third Age is an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life. It is commonly referred to as U3A.

There is no universally accepted model for the U3A. Its original conception in France as an extramural university activity was significantly modified in the United Kingdom where it was recognized that most people of retirement age have something to contribute and the emphasis has been on sharing, without formal links to traditional universities.

Many English-speaking countries have followed this geragogic model, whereas continental European countries have mostly followed the French model.

Civics: Detained blogger revealed true picture of Chinese information warfare

Feng Chongyi:

His wife and stepdaughter were taken away by another group of security officers.

What are the reasons Yang was arrested by the Chinese authorities? Why him? Well, he had been arrested previously by the Chinese secret police for political dissent. Yang is a well-known liberal public intellectual who is critical of the Chinese communist regime.

Yang got his bachelor of arts in politics from Fudan University in Shanghai in 1987 and resigned from his post in the Chinese government, moving to Australia in 1999, where he earned a masters in politics from University of New South Wales in 2002. He wrote a trilogy of spy novels, Fatal Weakness, Fatal Weapon and Fatal Assassination.

He was enrolled in a PhD in China studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, under my supervision in 2006, and worked with me on a Chinese newspaper, Sydney Times, at the same time, starting his journey as a liberal scholar.

Duke University professor removed over ‘Speak English’ email

Helier Cheung:

A US university professor has been removed as director of a graduate programme, amid a furore over an email she sent urging students not to speak Chinese.

Megan Neely, an assistant professor at Duke University in North Carolina, said in an email to students that two unnamed faculty members of the biostatistics Masters programme had complained to her about students speaking Chinese in public areas in the department.

She said that not speaking English could lead to “unintended consequences” for international students.

Her email went viral on Twitter and Chinese social media, while Duke’s medical faculty has promised to review its biostatistics programme.

Many have criticised Dr Neely’s email as racist or insensitive, and raised concerns that faculty members were discriminating against international students.

The Hard Part of Computer Science? Getting Into Class

Natasha Singer:

Lured by the prospect of high-salary, high-status jobs, college students are rushing in record numbers to study computer science.

Now, if only they could get a seat in class.

On campuses across the country, from major state universities to small private colleges, the surge in student demand for computer science courses is far outstripping the supply of professors, as the tech industry snaps up talent. At some schools, the shortage is creating an undergraduate divide of computing haves and have-nots — potentially narrowing a path for some minority and female students to an industry that has struggled with diversity.

The number of undergraduates majoring in the subject more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, to over 106,000, while tenure-track faculty ranks rose about 17 percent, according to the Computing Research Association, a nonprofit that gathers data from about 200 universities.

DeSantis considers action against Broward School Board members. ‘Every single one of us is at risk,’ one says

Susannah Bryan, Scott Travis, Skyler Swisher:

Gov. Ron DeSantis sent some Broward School Board members into shock Wednesday after saying they might be held accountable over the Parkland shooting.

He did not reveal who might be held accountable but said he hopes to make a decision in the next few weeks.

DeSantis said he does not think he has the authority to suspend beleaguered Superintendent Robert Runcie, who was appointed by the School Board. But he is exploring what action he can take against School Board members.

On Wednesday, two School Board members said they were stunned to hear their jobs might be on the line. One said she was not surprised. Another, newest member Lori Alhadeff, who lost a daughter in the shooting, said she doubts the governor would suspend her. The five other board members could not be reached for comment.

The Play Deficit

Peter Gray:

When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it.

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Dear districts: These are the glory days. Are you ready for tomorrow’s financial pain?

Marguerite Roza:

Psst, districts! We’ve seen this script before.

Back in 2008, it’s a fair bet that most school systems didn’t know they were in a financial boom before the Great Recession unleashed the bust, filling subsequent years with program cuts, furloughs, school closures, and fights about seniority-based layoffs. Today, signs suggest we’re once again at a peak, with a likely financial stumble headed our way.

Just like the years leading up to 2008, the last few years have yielded stronger growth in funds for schooling. And just like in 2008, there are signs of trouble ahead. For districts, a fiscal downturn can trigger the equivalent of a debilitating migraine: Pain comes from every direction and little seems to quell it.

While we can’t predict how an economic downturn will affect every district, we can anticipate some big-picture trends, and in doing so potentially tweak the script.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts. This, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

3 Ways Economic Freedom Improves Quality of Life

Patrick Tyrrell and Miguel Pontifis:

Economic Freedom Means aGreater Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is an important measure of well–being. The World Health Organization states that the “global average life expectancy increased by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s.”

It is not a coincidence that the top five freest economies in the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom have a much greater life expectancy than the bottom five, repressed economies in the index.

Economic freedom promotes improvements in the quality of health care, better access to clean water, better systems to remove waste, and better outcomes for AIDS and mortality incidence.

K-12 Tax & spending climate: Do you really think Bing Crosby and Bob Hope paid 90% of their income to the taxman?

Joe Nocera:

After Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised the idea of a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on income over $10 million, the progressive wing of the Twittersphere began pointing out that in the 1950s and early 1960s 1 , the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent.

The progressives’ point was that, despite this seemingly onerous level of taxation, the 1950s were a golden age for the U.S. economy, and the rich did just fine, thank you very much. According to records compiled by the Tax Foundation, a single person making $16,000 in 1955 — that’s $150,000 in today’s dollars — had a marginal tax rate of 50 percent; compensation of $50,000 ($470,000 today) moved you into the 75 percent tax bracket; and an income of $200,000 ($1.9 million today) put you in the 91 percent tax bracket. . (Married couples filing jointly hit the 91 percent mark at $400,000.) Which meant that the federal government took 91 cents of every dollar over $200,000. When you added it all up, someone in 1955 who made $1 million a year paid over $800,000 in taxes.

The Man Who Invented Information Theory

Boston Review:

In a video from the early 1950s, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon demonstrates one of his new inventions: a toy mouse named Theseus that looks like it could be a wind-up. The gaunt Shannon, looking a bit like Gary Cooper, stands next to a handsomely crafted tabletop maze and explains that Theseus (which Shannon pronounces with two syllables: “THEE-soose”) has been built to solve the maze. Through trial and error, the mouse finds a series of unimpeded openings and records the successful route. On its second attempt, Theseus follows the right path, error-free from start to finish.

Shannon then unveils the secret to Theseus’s success: a dense array of electrical relays, sourced from the Bell System’s trove of phone-switching hardware. It is the 1950s equivalent of a computer chip, but it’s about a thousand times bigger and only a millionth as powerful as today’s hardware.

Claude Shannon’s achievements were at the level of an Einstein or a Feynman, but he has not achieved commensurate fame.

While some scientists and engineers may have recognized Theseus as something important—a tidy and clever example of a thinking machine—many in Shannon’s audience probably dismissed the contraption as a fancy wind-up toy, or maybe a fraudulent automaton in the tradition of the chess-playing Turk.

‘Heroin for middle-class nerds’: how Warhammer conquered gaming

Alex Hern:

Last year saw a bloodbath on the high street. Debenhams closed 50 shops, Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld went into administration, and more retail space was lost than in any year since 2008, with 1.9m sq metres closing, according to the property analysts EG. But one retailer beat this trend, reporting profits of £40m in the final six months of the year. In 2017, the same company was the publicly traded British stock that outperformed every other: Games Workshop, a high-street retailer of science fiction and fantasy miniatures, now carries a market capitalisation of more than £1bn.

But how did a company founded 40 years ago with one shop in Hammersmith, west London, become so successful? The answer lies in Warhammer 40,000 – 40k, as it is usually known; a sprawling tabletop conflict game in which two players fight with collectible armies, including the space marines of the fascist human Imperium and the ancient fallen angels of the Eldar, using rules found in a library of 30 or so source books.

If this sounds surprising, it is worth noting that Games Workshop isn’t the only part of nerd culture to experience a recent rush of interest. Dungeons & Dragons, the venerable role-playing game, has had its own resurgence since 2014, thanks to depictions in TV shows such as Community and Stranger Things. The rise in “actual play” podcasts such as the Adventure Zone and Critical Role has also helped, as has a focus on attracting new players for its fifth edition.

Civics: Google, Facebook spend big on U.S. lobbying amid policy battles

Parrish Dave:

Alphabet Inc’s Google disclosed in a quarterly filing on Tuesday that it spent a company-record $21.2 million on lobbying the U.S. government in 2018, topping its previous high of $18.22 million in 2012, as the search engine operator fights wide-ranging scrutiny into its practices.

In its filing to Congress on Tuesday, Facebook Inc disclosed that it also spent more on government lobbying in 2018 than it ever had before at $12.62 million. That was up from $11.51 million a year ago, according to tracking by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Google’s spent $18.04 million on lobbying in 2017, according to the center’s data.

Google and Facebook declined to comment beyond their filings.

U.S. lawmakers and regulators have weighed new privacy and antitrust rules to rein in the power of large internet service providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. Regulatory backlash in the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, is near the top of the list of concerns for technology investors, according to financial analysts.

Microsoft Corp spent $9.52 million on lobbying in 2018, according to its disclosure on Tuesday, up from $8.5 million in 2017 but below its $10.5 million tab in 2013.

Apple Inc spent $6.62 million last year, compared to its record of $7.15 million in 2017, according to center data going back to 1998.

Across U.S., graduation rates are rising, with little connection to test scores

Matt Barnum:

Until last year, when he became Chicago Public Schools’ chief equity officer, Maurice Swinney was a high school principal pulling out all the stops to keep ninth-graders from failing their classes.

At Tilden Career Community Academy, Swinney made it a priority to connect incoming students to the school community and to have a single person responsible for coordinating efforts to help ninth-graders. He was driven by “Freshmen On-Track,” a data point that Chicago researchers developed after realizing that how students fared in their first year of high school reliably predicted whether they would ultimately graduate — better than their race, gender, family background, and middle school grades and test scores combined.

A new book, “The Make-or-Break Year: Solving the Dropout Crisis One Ninth Grader at a Time,” chronicles the history of Freshmen On-Track, from its serendipitous origins at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, to its rollout as a citywide measure of success, to its unusually successful adoption by educators eager to help their students but weary of being told what to do. You can read an excerpt here.

Author Emily Krone Phillips first learned about the metric while working at the research consortium, where she was communications director at the time. (She now directs communications at the Spencer Foundation, which supports Chalkbeat.) She spent more than a year reporting from Tilden, a high school in Canaryville; John Hancock High School in Gage Park; and across the district to understand Freshmen On-Track’s influence in Chicago.

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

Civics: Encryption efforts in Colorado challenge crime reporters, transparency

Jonathan Peters:

Colorado journalists on the crime beat are increasingly in the dark. More than two-dozen law enforcement agencies statewide have encrypted all of their radio communications, not just those related to surveillance or a special or sensitive operation. That means journalists and others can’t listen in using a scanner or smartphone app to learn about routine police calls.

Law enforcement officials say that’s basically the point. Scanner technology has become more accessible through smartphone apps, and encryption has become easier and less expensive. Officials say that encrypting all radio communications is good for police safety and effectiveness, because suspects sometimes use scanners to evade or target officers, and good for the privacy of crime victims, whose personal information and location can go out over the radio. They also cite misinformation as a reason to encrypt. Kevin Klein, the director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said people listening to scanner traffic during a 2015 Colorado Springs shooting live-tweeted the incident and, in doing so, spread false information about the shooter’s identity and the police response.

WILL Releases K-12 Education Reform Agenda

Wisconsin Institute of Law Liberty:

The Problem: Wisconsin’s K-12 education system is not working. Reading and math achievement has been stagnant for two decades while the rest of the country has experienced significant growth. About 80% of the students at Milwaukee Public Schools, the biggest district with 77,000 students, are not proficient in English. The results are similar across Wisconsin’s largest cities, including Green Bay, Madison, and Kenosha. Wisconsin has the largest black-white academic achievement gap amongst all 50 states. Rural school districts perform about as poorly as urban ones – though receive less attention. And many of the students who graduate from high school are tragically unprepared for college.

With our work ethic and ingenuity, Wisconsin should have the best school system in the country. It doesn’t – but we’ve created a roadmap to show state lawmakers and Governor Evers how to get there.

The Report: WILL staff have spent more than two years conducting extensive interviews with school leaders, education advocates, and national think tanks in order to come up with serious policy recommendations on how to improve student achievement in Wisconsin. The “Roadmap to Student Achievement” is one of the most comprehensive reform agendas for Wisconsin that is publicly available.

Linear Algebra by Jim Hefferon (free)

Jim Hefferon:

Standard coverage  Linear systems and Gauss’s method, vector spaces, linear maps and matrices, determinants, and eigenvectors and eigenvalues.
Free  The book is Freely available, including its source.

Developmental approach  It covers the requisite material and proves all the results, but it does not start by assuming that students are already able at abstract work. Instead, it proceeds with a great deal of motivation, many computational examples, and exercises that range from routine verifications to a few challenges. The goal is, in the context of developing the material of an undergraduate course, to raise each student’s level of mathematical maturity.

Extensive exercise sets, with worked answers to all exercises  Sometimes material described on the web as a book is really lecture notes. That’s fine but from notes to a book is a long way. That means things like figures and an index, but most importantly means exercises. Each subsection here has many, spanning a range of difficulty. In the Answers book each exercise is covered, completely, including proofs.

Popular  Downloadable for twenty years, this book has been used in hundreds of classes at many schools as well as by thousands of individuals for independent study.
Applications  Each chapter finishes with four or five short supplemental topics. These are good for reading or projects, or for small group work.

Extras  There are beamer slides for classroom presentations, and there is a lab manual using Sage.

Prerequisite  One semester of calculus.

Reviews.  Here are some: the Mathematical Association of America review, the American Institute of Mathematics, the Open Textbook Library (includes a number of reviews), one from a longstanding site for free texts.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Fleecing of Millennials

David Leonhardt:

For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, given that the economy has now been growing for almost a decade. But the truth is that younger Americans have not benefited much.

Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000:

The wealth trends look even worse. Since the century’s start, median net worth has plummeted for every age group under 55:

Economics: John Bogle

Ira Stoll:

ohn Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group who died earlier this month at age 89, got rich by giving his mutual fund customers a better deal.

The obituaries seem to have missed that point, dwelling instead on the theory that if only Bogle had chosen to rip off his customers, he could have been even richer. That claim is highly speculative, and based on a fundamental misperception: a view of capitalism as a racket rather than as a system in which the incentives of entrepreneurs and customers sometimes align with results that are spectacularly rewarding for both.

The tone was set with a New York Times obituary. “Vanguard managed its indexed mutual funds at cost, charging investors fees that were far lower than those of virtually all of its rivals,” the Times wrote. “Vanguard’s consistent growth produced riches for Mr. Bogle, but not to the extent that another ownership structure might have done. For example, Edward C. Johnson III, the chairman of Fidelity Investments, has a net worth of $7.4 billion, according to Forbes. Mr. Bogle’s net worth was generally estimated at $80 million last year.”

In case anyone missed the point, the lead headline in Friday’s Times business section read “Jack Bogle was no billionaire.” That ran over an article crediting Bogle with “giving up his chance at great wealth by eschewing ownership of the company,” and describing Bogle’s $80 million as “small change by the standards of money management.”

“Instead of making billions, helping millions,” was the Times inside headline. An accompanying Times article described Bogle as someone “who didn’t care about his own bottom line.”

Why Big Brother Doesn’t Bother Most Chinese

Adam
Minter
:

Who says government can’t innovate? In one Chinese city, the local court system recently launched a smartphone-based map that displays the location and identity of anyone within 500 meters who’s landed on a government creditworthiness blacklist. Worried the person seated next to you at Starbucks might not have paid a court-approved fine? The Deadbeat Map, as it’s known, provides pinpoint confirmation, the ability to share that information via social media and — if so inclined — a reporting function to notify the authorities.

It’s chilling, dystopian — and likely to be quite popular. Chinese have already embraced a whole range of private and government systems that gather, aggregate and distribute records of digital and offline behavior. Depicted outside of China as a creepy digital panopticon, this network of so-called social-credit systems is seen within China as a means to generate something the country sorely lacks: trust. For that, perpetual surveillance and the loss of privacy are a small price to pay.

Colleges Lose a ‘Stunning’ 651 Foreign-Language Programs in 3 Years

Steven Johnson:

Colleges closed more than 650 foreign-language programs in a recent three-year period, according to a forthcoming report from the Modern Language Association.

The new data, which the MLA shared with The Chronicle, suggest that it took several years for the full effect of the recession of 2008 to hit foreign-language programs. Higher education, in aggregate, lost just one such program from 2009 to 2013. From 2013 to 2016, it lost 651, said Dennis Looney, director of programs at the MLA.

Civics: Microsoft’s mobile Edge browser begins issuing fake news warnings

Saqib Shah:

Microsoft’s Edge mobile browser has started flagging fake news sites as part of its latest update for iOS and Android. Previously only available as a desktop plug-in, the feature is powered by news rating company NewsGuard — which makes a point of using journalists, not algorithms, to identify “unreliable” websites. Its eponymous fake news extension is also available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

NewsGuard can be toggled on via Edge’s settings under “news rating.” The description boasts that it’s “evaluated news websites that account for 98% of online media engagements in the United States.” Here’s how it works: once enabled, it provides a rating icon in the address bar (red for unreliable and green for trusted). Tap it and you’ll see a “nutritional label” with more info. For instance, if a site is flagged as untrustworthy, it reads: “Proceed with caution: this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” And, if you see a site sans label, you can submit it for review.

According to The Guardian, the tool is flagging the MailOnline as unreliable. In our tests, we also saw that Breitbart carried a warning but fellow conservative news site The Daily Wire was given the all clear, despite the fact that fact-checking website Snopes has called it out for printing falsehoods. But if you expand its NewsGuard label, it clearly states that the controversial site “does not repeatedly publish false content” — though it does note that it “regularly corrects or clarifies errors.” CNN and Fox News were also deemed as safe. Next up, NewsGuard’s creators reportedly want to bring it to more platforms.

The software engineer who refuses to work at Amazon, even though it tried to hire her

Rob Roy:

Let’s face it, we’ve heard a lot about “helicopter parents” over the last few years. And even though it’s hard to admit, most of us have allowed ourselves to become overly protective parents to a great extent. Still, there are many factors out there that contribute to this technology crisis that faces this rising generation. But ultimately, we are in control of what our children are exposed to and what activities they engage in.

As I think back to my childhood (particularly during the summer break), most days my parents had no idea where we were at. I grew up in a small town in northern Arizona that was surrounded by the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world. There were vast expanses of wilderness directly behind my house. On summer days, my friends and I would get on our dirt bikes and follow miles of game trails all through the forest and up to the base of the volcanic boulder mountain where we would drop our bikes and climb massive rocks and cliffs until sunset. It was glorious!

Were my parents negligent to allow us such freedom? Personally, I don’t think so, based on the fact that most of my friends had parents with similar parenting styles. Many of these adults had been raised with the same type of autonomy when they were kids. They were just patterning their own parent’s parenting styles.

The MPS Carmen saga — a three-act play with a little drama, no love and not much to laugh at

Alan Borsuk:

The Milwaukee School Board’s version of Carmen, which played out over three evenings in the last three weeks, also attracted large audiences. But it was definitely lacking in love. It had some resemblance to a bullfight. I couldn’t find anything comic about it. I’d rate it pretty low for entertainment value. I’d rather spend a night at the opera.

I wouldn’t rate it so high as a good way to make education policy, either. Sigh.

The focus was a set of charter schools known as the Carmen schools. The first opened a dozen years ago in the former Walker Middle School at West Mitchell and South 32nd streets. Authorized to operate by the school board, Carmen hires its own teachers and selects its own program. The school at Walker has been very successful. Serving about 375 Hispanic high school students, it emphasizes science and technology, college readiness and job experience while in high school.

A few years ago, Carmen took over a long-troubled MPS middle and high school on the northwest side. It’s been much harder establishing a strong learning culture there and last year was particularly rocky. The school’s rating on state report cards, which had been pretty decent in prior years, fell to the lowest category. Carmen leaders say they have responded with changes in the program and new leadership.

Are Alabama’s latest high school graduation rates real?

Trisha Powell Crain:

Federal high school graduation rates for the 2016-17 school year are out, and once again, Alabama finds itself at or near the top of the list. This time Alabama touts the highest graduation rate among all states and the District of Columbia for African American students, whose graduation rate has risen nearly 20 percentage points—to 86.5 percent—since 2012.

Hispanic students in Alabama graduated at the second-highest rate—88 percent—in the country.

And Alabama ranked fourth highest for graduation rate overall, with a rate of 89.3 percent.

But don’t celebrate just yet. Alabama’s high graduation rates a few years ago brought federal auditors to the state, resulting in an admission by state officials that rates were artificially inflated because they counted students whose coursework wasn’t aligned with state standards.

So do these latest graduation rates measure up?

One measure Alabama education officials created to determine if graduates are ready for life after high school—college or career—paints a different picture.

While Alabama’s federal graduation rate for black students is 86.5 percent, the percentage of black students who have earned one of the state’s college or career readiness credentials is only 55.6 percent.

A similar but much smaller gap exists for white students: 91 percent graduation rate, college and career readiness rate of 80.4 percent.

So, what’s the difference in the two rates? And does the gap matter?

“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”

My hometown schools are segregated again. I went back to see why.

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

In the fall of 1976, I started kindergarten by climbing onto a yellow school bus that wove its way through my tree-lined North Buffalo neighborhood and deposited me downtown near the edge of Lake Erie.

Waterfront Elementary – a new Brutalist-style building made of corrugated concrete – was anything but brutal on the inside. We had a swimming pool, a dance studio, and open classrooms where children from all over our otherwise segregated city came together to learn.

It was the first year of Buffalo’s new magnet-school program – part of the response to a federal court order to desegregate. The “magnets” drew families into schools voluntarily to contribute to racial balancing.

My best friend in elementary school was biracial and lived in the mostly black subsidized apartment complex next to Waterfront. When I visited Sondae Stevens’s place, she’d dare me to climb up with her on the low-slung roof of the school. When she visited mine, she enjoyed the novelty of playing in an attic. Our quirky personalities just clicked.

While we progressed through the grades, the magnet system grew into a national model. Before the desegregation order, 7 out of 10 Buffalo public schools were segregated – meaning more than 80 percent white or 80 percent minority. By the mid-1980s, that was down to 4 out of 10. The peak of school integration nationwide happened around 1988, when I was starting my senior year of high school.

It took less than 25 years for that progress to unravel. By 2012, some 70 percent of Buffalo schools were once again segregated. Courts had lifted many integration orders (including Buffalo’s) in the 1990s. Subsequently, a series of Supreme Court decisions limited the tools school districts could use to racially integrate.

On top of that, City Honors – a school for Grades 5 through 12 that I started attending in ninth grade – had become the centerpiece of a civil rights complaint in 2014, focused on the low rate of African-American students admitted to Buffalo’s selective schools.

When I came across this information as an education reporter, my heart sank. I had been largely out of touch with Buffalo since my parents had relocated in the early 1990s. Had it really so drastically changed?

We Can’t Just Assume that Facebook Will Do Its Best

Von Katarina Barley:

Another important area is the handling of personal data. It is logical that selling user data to advertisers is contrary to company interests, given that one can earn a lot more money selling ads oneself. But what happens when data is leaked anyway? Facebook doesn’t just bear a responsibility to refrain from intentionally sharing data. It must also actively protect that data from third-party access.

External regulation is a sensible way of giving back a sense of security to users of platforms like Facebook. Binding rules must be combined with monitoring to ensure the rules are being observed. But what should such controls look like if they are to establish trust without infringing on user freedom?

As a statistician, I see huge issues with the way science is done in the era of big data

Kai Zhang:

What is causing this big problem? There are many contributing factors. As a statistician, I see huge issues with the way science is done in the era of big data. The reproducibility crisis is driven in part by invalid statistical analyses that are from data-driven hypotheses – the opposite of how things are traditionally done.

Scientific method

In a classical experiment, the statistician and scientist first together frame a hypothesis. Then scientists conduct experiments to collect data, which are subsequently analyzed by statisticians.

A famous example of this process is the “lady tasting tea” story. Back in the 1920s, at a party of academics, a woman claimed to be able to tell the difference in flavor if the tea or milk was added first in a cup. Statistician Ronald Fisher doubted that she had any such talent. He hypothesized that, out of eight cups of tea, prepared such that four cups had milk added first and the other four cups had tea added first, the number of correct guesses would follow a probability model called the hypergeometric distribution.

Such an experiment was done with eight cups of tea sent to the lady in a random order – and, according to legend, she categorized all eight correctly. This was strong evidence against Fisher’s hypothesis. The chances that the lady had achieved all correct answers through random guessing was an extremely low 1.4 percent.

That process – hypothesize, then gather data, then analyze – is rare in the big data era. Today’s technology can collect huge amounts of data, on the order of 2.5 exabytes a day.

Civics: Civility on the Decline — A Crisis in Free Speech and Violence

SG Cheah:

Professor Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist mentioned how males tend to be more skilled than females at civil discourse. He opines the reason behind that was because all face-to-face discussions between males were backed by the underlying threat of violence.

Males tend to be better at logical and controlled debates because males are used to holding back the utterance of ill-advised verbal insults at each other, lest they assume the risk of being met with violence. For instance, an insufferable cis-gender male stupidly running his mouth causing insult to another cis-gender male will likely be met with a fist, whereas women are less likely to retaliate with physical force.

So it wasn’t surprising when I read on USA Today that Professor Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit) decided it’s time he deleted his Twitter account. He cited the lack of meaningful thought and civil discourse as the principal reason of leaving Twitter.

It was clear Professor Reynolds’s frustration with Twitter had reached the boiling point of anger where his violent retaliation was ripe had the stupidity and toxicity he experienced on Twitter spilled over into the real world offline. The latest outrage of the mobs on Twitter hunting down a 16 year old boy for smiling is simply another instance of the vile poison festering on Twitter.

People near Portland aren’t vaccinating babies. Health officials just declared a measles emergency

Ashley May:

People choosing not to vaccinate has emerged into a global health threat in 2019, the the World Health Organization recently reported. The CDC has also recognized that the number of children who aren’t being vaccinated by 24 months old has been gradually increasing.

Some parents opt not to vaccinate because of the discredited belief vaccines are linked to autism. The CDC says that there is no link and that there are no ingredients in vaccines that could cause autism.

Rush to pass ‘backroom’ deal banning charters would be bad for L.A. students — transparency calls should be for all public schools

Seth Litt, Katie Braude and Ben Austin:

Despite the fact that parents and students were on the outside looking in when it came to the high-stakes contract negotiations in Los Angeles, the teacher strike drew much-needed attention to public education and secured small but meaningful steps toward providing schools and teachers with more resources, including academic counselors, librarians, nurses and a small reduction in class sizes. We are hopeful that this will lead to better outcomes for students at Los Angeles Unified schools.

However, in the midst of these negotiations, the district and the teachers union apparently cut a backroom deal resulting in a proposed LAUSD board resolution supporting a quality-blind ban on new non-profit public charter schools. This late-night transaction was made with no transparency, no public debate, and no input from the students and parents it would impact most.
Now the board is rushing to jam through this backroom deal. It may benefit special interests and the district bureaucracy, but could deny educational opportunity to tens of thousands of low-income students and students of color trapped in systemically failing district schools.

We have long spent far more than most taxpayer funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve tolerated disastrous reading results for decades.

However, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

Local Government Unions Grew Post-Janus — But News Wasn’t So Good For States Or Feds in Just Released Federal Stats

Mike Antonucci:

Unions representing employees of local governments showed gains in membership in 2018, according to the annual report released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This broad category, which includes most public school teachers, police officers and firefighters, saw the number of union members increase by 64,000 over last year. The union share of the total local government workforce rose to 40.3 percent from 40.1 percent.

Though we do not have further disaggregation by job title or month, these figures must be considered a victory for teacher unions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling last June, which ended the public-sector union practice of charging agency fees to nonmembers.

While local government unions could celebrate, the news was not good for public-sector union membership at the federal and state levels.

Federal government unions added 5,000 new members, but the workforce increased by 55,000 employees, reducing the unionization rate to 26.4 percent.

Geometric Understanding of Deep Learning

Na Lei, Zhongxuan Luo, Shing-Tung Yau, David Xianfeng Gu:

Deep learning is the mainstream technique for many machine learning tasks, including image recognition, machine translation, speech recognition, and so on. It has outperformed conventional methods in various fields and achieved great successes. Unfortunately, the understanding on how it works remains unclear. It has the central importance to lay down the theoretic foundation for deep learning.
In this work, we give a geometric view to understand deep learning: we show that the fundamental principle attributing to the success is the manifold structure in data, namely natural high dimensional data concentrates close to a low-dimensional manifold, deep learning learns the manifold and the probability distribution on it.

We further introduce the concepts of rectified linear complexity for deep neural network measuring its learning capability, rectified linear complexity of an embedding manifold describing the difficulty to be learned. Then we show for any deep neural network with fixed architecture, there exists a manifold that cannot be learned by the network. Finally, we propose to apply optimal mass transportation theory to control the probability distribution in the latent space.

Civics: The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate

Andrew Sullivan:

The boys — stuck waiting for a bus — decided to respond to this assault by performing school chants. Most look a little bewildered, as one might imagine. Some even tried to engage. Here are the spoken words I heard, in response to the abuse: “That’s racist, bro.” “That’s rude.” “Why are you being mean? Why do you call us Klansmen?” “We don’t judge you.” One of them offered to shake hands, and was rebuffed. Another offered some water from a plastic bottle. The response? “You got some Trump water? What does it taste like? Incest?”

Yes, the boys did chant some school riffs; I’m sure some of those joining in the Native American drumming and chanting were doing it partly in mockery, but others may have just been rolling with it. Yes, they should not have been wearing MAGA hats to a pro-life march. They aren’t angels; they’re teenage boys. But they were also subjected for quite a while to a racist, anti-Catholic, homophobic tirade on a loudspeaker, which would be more than most of us urbanites could bear — and they’re adolescents literally off the bus from Kentucky. I heard no slurs back. They stayed there because they were waiting for a bus, not to intimidate anyone.

To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question. Ruth Graham on Slate saw a 16-year-old she’d seen on a tape for a couple of minutes and immediately knew that he was indistinguishable from the “white young men crowding around a single black man at a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia in the 1960s” or other white “high school boys flashing Nazi salutes.” Even after the full context was clear, Graham refused to apologize to the kid, or retract her condemnation: The context didn’t “change the larger story” which, she explained, was bigotry toward Native Americans. She cited Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” for Elizabeth Warren as evidence. But using a bullhorn to call Native Americans “savages” and “drunkards at the casino” to their faces a few minutes earlier on the same tape was not worth a mention?

After Living Abroad, Kids Struggle With American Overparenting

Lenore Skenazy:

When Jean Phillipson’s family returned to Fairfax, Virginia, after living in Bolivia, the main thing her 10-year-old son complained about was the bus ride home from school. “He wasn’t allowed to have a pencil out,” says the mom of three, “because it was considered unsafe.”

Welcome back, kid, to the land of the outlandishly cautious.

I asked children and parents who’d lived both abroad and here in the States what struck them as the biggest difference. They all said it was the lack of childhood independence in America.

In Berlin, says Tully Comfort, an 11-year-old living there now, “me and my friends will meet up and go to the market and get something to eat on our own.” But a year ago, when she was living in the U.S., “the parents had to always be around.”

Tully and her family lived in Costa Rica and Mexico for six years before moving back to her mother’s hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, when she was 7. “I enrolled her in public school and right away we came up against this lack of freedom,” says Tully’s mom, Julie Comfort. “They told me my daughter was not allowed to walk to school without an adult until middle school.”

Back when she was her daughter’s age, Julie says, “I used to walk with my friends in this same neighborhood.” But since then, fear of strangers and liability issues have ossified into hard rules. Fed up, the Comforts moved to Berlin, a city Julie picked after vacationing there and seeing “a little kid, maybe 3 years old, riding his bike down the sidewalk, and his parents were way down the street, nonchalant.”

Civics The High School Deplorables

Wall Street Journal:

Only it turns out there was a much longer video, nearly two hours, showing that almost everything first reported about the confrontation was false, or at least much more complicated. The boys had been taunted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. Far from the boys confronting Mr. Phillips, he confronted them as they were waiting near the Lincoln Memorial for their bus.

It also turns out that Mr. Phillips is not the Vietnam veteran he was reported to be in most stories. On Tuesday the Washington Post offered a correction, noting that while Mr. Phillips served in the Marines from 1972 to 1976, he was “never deployed to Vietnam.”

Some of the students did respond to Mr. Phillips by doing the Tomahawk Chop, and it would have been better had they all walked away. But on the whole these teenagers were calm amid the provocations and far less incendiary than the adults who taunted them and the progressive high priests who denounced them.

The new information has people who had so eagerly cast the first stones hastily deleting their tweets. Still, it is telling that some of the most disgusting tweets were the work of the blue-check elites who pride themselves on their tolerance. More surprising is the rush to judgment by those who might have been expected to consider the boys innocent until proven guilty, or at least until all the evidence is in.

On Saturday the boys’ school issued a joint statement with the Covington Diocese saying they “condemn” the students for their actions and were considering appropriate action “including expulsion.” A post on National Review said the boys might as well have “just spit on the cross.” And the March for Life distanced itself from the “reprehensible behavior” of the marchers from Covington.

Many of these early critics have now apologized or walked back their initial condemnations. But these social injustices perpetrated on social media are not so easily redressed. Covington Catholic was closed Tuesday for security reasons.

Remastered 1964 films show origins of SLAC

Andy Freeberg:

A pair of 1964 films detailing the construction of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, later renamed SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, were recently remastered and are now available for viewing on YouTube thanks to a partnership between the films’ producer, J. Douglas Allen, and the SLAC Archives, History & Records Office.

The films provide a fascinating look back at the origins of SLAC and the history of particle physics in the United States. At the time of the production, SLAC was the largest civilian basic science project ever undertaken in the United States. The site where it was being built, along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California, was then largely orchards and pasture. Today the region is known as Silicon Valley and considered an unparalleled cradle of innovation.

Why you should re-read Paradise Lost

BBC:

Milton’s Paradise Lost is rarely read today. But this epic poem, 350 years old this month, remains a work of unparalleled imaginative genius that shapes English literature even now.

In more than 10,000 lines of blank verse, it tells the story of the war for heaven and of man’s expulsion from Eden. Its dozen sections are an ambitious attempt to comprehend the loss of paradise – from the perspectives of the fallen angel Satan and of man, fallen from grace. Even to readers in a secular age, the poem is a powerful meditation on rebellion, longing and the desire for redemption.

Despite being born into prosperity, Milton’s worldview was forged by personal and political struggle. A committed republican, he rose to public prominence in the ferment of England’s bloody civil war: two months after the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Milton became a diplomat for the new republic, with the title of Secretary for Foreign Tongues. (He wrote poetry in English, Greek, Latin and Italian, prose in Dutch, German, French and Spanish, and read Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac).

Milton gained a reputation in Europe for his erudition and rhetorical prowess in defence of England’s radical new regime; at home he came to be regarded as a prolific advocate for the Commonwealth cause. But his deteriorating eyesight limited his diplomatic travels. By 1654, Milton was completely blind. For the final 20 years of his life, he would dictate his poetry, letters and polemical tracts to a series of amanuenses – his daughters, friends and fellow poets.

The Tech Revolt

Cameron Bird, Sean Captain, Elise Craig, Haley Cohen Gilliland, and Joy Shan:

The software engineer who refuses to work at Amazon, even though it tried to hire her

As a software engineer and especially as a woman, I get a ton of recruiting emails. There’s almost no emphasis on, “What is the impact of this company?” Instead they talk about, “We just got funding. Look at this cool tech stack you’ll be working with.” At Stanford, there was only one ethics class that was a requirement for all computer science majors. There was this sense of, “Oh, if you’re going into tech, it’s not evil like investment banking. It’s a more ethically safe route.” Last August, this Amazon Web Services recruiter emails me. I had recently found out that Palantir, which works directly with ICE, was running on Amazon Web Services, and I was talking about it with a friend who was working with a Latinx political organization called Mijente. They had just initiated a campaign to try to cut ICE from the tech that supports it. In my email to the recruiter — it was a spur-of-the-moment thing — I wanted someone to understand that I’m paying attention to what their company is doing, that I’m not just going to sign on because of the cool tech I might get to work with. Palantir doesn’t have a gigantic contract with Amazon Web Services, and it wouldn’t be financially difficult for Amazon to cancel its contract.

Three weeks later, I get an email from the manager at Amazon that said, “My recruiting partner reached out to you and brought your profile to my attention.” I think my email got pulled up in some filter that says, “Good candidate. Respond to recruiter: yes or no. If they responded, then forward to the manager.” This manager had not seen the email I had written. We spoke on the phone, and it was clear that he thought he was going to be talking to me about working at Amazon. I pretty quickly hijacked the conversation and said, “Did you read the email?” He’s like, “No.” I said, “OK, instead of you trying to sell me, I’m going to tell you why I wouldn’t work for Amazon, and can you tell it to your boss?” He seemed caught off guard and was probably being polite until he could get off the phone.

Commentary on K-12 Governance Diversity

Will Flanders:

The News: January 20-26 marks National School Choice Week, a week-long celebration of the progress made across the country in providing parents with education options. WILL is celebrating National School Choice Week by releasing a short summary of facts about school choice in Wisconsin.

All week we’ll be profiling private schools participating in the school choice programs. Check out our first profile on the innovative new Free Enterprise Academy at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

Dive Deeper: Wisconsin has a rich history of providing parents and families with education options that best serve their children.

Madison has long practiced non-diverse K-12 governance. A majority of the Madison School board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

Cambridge University releases a brain-training app that improves concentration akin to Ritalin

Alan Weedon:

If you’ve ever convinced yourself that your lack of attention needs serious medication, think again: a simple brain-training app from Cambridge University just might be the ticket.

The university’s Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute has developed and tested “Decoder”, an app which activates a frontal-parietal network in the brain that is designed to improve attention and concentration.

In a study published in the scientific journal, Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, researchers — led by the Department of Psychiatry’s Professor Barbara Sahakian — found that the app’s use on an iPad for eight hours over the course of a month resulted in neurological improvements in healthy trial participants that were comparable to those taking stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or nicotine.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Too Many Americans Will Never Be Able to Retire

Noah Smith:

Fewer kids means, eventually, fewer young workers to support an increasing population of retirees. This will result in less money being paid into the Social Security and Medicare systems, requiring either cuts in benefits, a higher retirement age or ever-ballooning deficits. Past experience suggests that Americans will be asked to work longer.

The U.S. bounced back from falling fertility once before, in the late 1980s. But as economist Lyman Stone has written, there are reasons why history may not repeat itself. High and increasing costs of housing, child care and education show no sign of reversing. The need for ever-higher levels of education in order to thrive in the U.S. job market is causing families to delay childbirth, which results in fewer children. Stone projects that U.S. fertility rates could fall as low as 1.5 or 1.4 — the levels that prevail in Japan and some European countries.

There is one more source of population growth that the U.S. has traditionally depended on — immigration. Low-skilled immigrants make it easier to raise kids by providing cheap child-care services. High-skilled immigrants earn more and pay a lot of taxes, while using few government services themselves, meaning that their fiscal contribution is enormously positive:

Locally, Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 schools have long spent far more than most, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Civics: Big Tech is no longer delivering on its value proposition, the co-founder of the secretive data miner says.

Berkeley Lovelace, Jr.:

Karp, whose Palo Alto, California-based company provides services to the Defense Department, CIA and FBI, blasted tech companies that refuse work with the federal government to keep the country safe.

“That is a loser position. It is not intelligible. It is not intelligible to the average person. It’s academically not sustainable. And I am very happy we’re not on that side of the debate,” Karp said in the interview with “Squawk Box” co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Last year, for example, Alphabet’s Google unit decided not to renew its contact for a Defense Department program known as Project Maven after an employee firestorm erupted with a petition urging CEO Sundar Pichai to keep Google out of the “business of war.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended such public-private contracts, saying last year his company will continue to do business with government agencies and warned that other tech companies about turning their backs. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said in October.

Karp also went off on the government shutdown, which entered Day 33 on Wednesday. “It’s damaging for the American brand to have something from the outside that doesn’t seem to make sense.”

Much more on Palantir, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Case for Growth

James Pethokoukis:

This is probably pretty obvious to most Americans. Strong economic growth means more jobs and higher wages. Just take a look at the current expansion. It has been only moderate as far as the pace of growth, but it has been sustained. And month after month of a growing economy has brought down the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 1969, even as real wages continue to grow for all income levels. That’s especially true for working-class Americans. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate for Americans with only a high-school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Indeed, despite all the debate about income inequality, earnings have been growing faster for those at the bottom than at the top.

L.A. teacher sues union, saying dues were illegally taken out of her paycheck

Hannah Fry:

A Los Angeles Unified teacher filed a federal class-action lawsuit this week against United Teachers Los Angeles alleging the group continued to take dues out of her paycheck despite a change in law that bars public-sector unions from forcing members to pay.

Irene Seager, who teaches at Porter Ranch Community School, signed a card that authorized the deduction of union dues from her paycheck in April, which was a requirement of her employment at the time. Two months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teachers, police officers and other public employees in several states, including California, could not be forced to pay dues or fees to support their unions.

The decision in Janus vs. AFSCME was a sharp defeat for public employee unions, as it overturned a 41-year-old precedent that allowed unions to negotiate contracts requiring all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

After the ruling, Seager notified UTLA that she was resigning as a member and no longer consented to any deductions from her wages. The union denied her request, saying she was past the 30-day period to revoke her consent.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is also named in the lawsuit. The district and UTLA did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. News of the lawsuit comes as Los Angeles teachers returned to classrooms Wednesday following a strike that lasted six school days over contract issues.

Seager is asking the court as part of the lawsuit to strike down the union’s time-period provision, order officials to stop deducting dues from her wages and require them to refund money that was already taken.

The Secret Power of the Children’s Picture Book

Meghan Fox Gurdon:

Millions of people—perhaps you’re one of them—have watched viral videos of a Scottish granny collapsing in laughter while she reads to a baby. Comfortable on a sofa with her grandson, Janice Clark keeps cracking up as she tries to read “The Wonky Donkey” and, in a second video recorded a few months later, “I Need a New Bum.”

Her raspy burr sounds great, and she’s fun to watch, but the real genius of the scene is what’s happening to the baby. Tucked beside her, he’s totally enthralled by the book in her hands. In the second video especially, because he’s older, you can see his eyes tracking the illustrations, widening in amazement each time that she turns the page. He’s guileless, unaware of the camera. He has eyes only for the pictures in the book.

What’s happening to that baby is both obvious and a secret marvel. A grandmother is weeping with laughter as she reads a story, and her grandson is drinking it all in—that’s obvious. The marvel is hidden inside the child’s developing brain. There, the sound of her voice, the warmth of her nearness and, crucially, the sight of illustrations that stay still and allow him to gaze at will, all have the combined effect of engaging his deep cognitive networks.

Unbeknown to him and invisible to the viewer, there is connection and synchronization among the different domains of his brain: the cerebellum, the coral-shaped place at the base of the skull that’s believed to support skill refinement; the default mode network, which is involved with internally directed processes such as introspection, creativity and self-awareness; the visual imagery network, which involves higher-order visual and memory areas and is the brain’s means of seeing pictures in the mind’s eye; the semantic network, which is how the brain extracts the meaning of language; and the visual perception network, which supports the processing of visual stimuli.

The internet’s “Grammar Girl” on the last decade’s most dramatic change in language

Ephrat Livni:

Pretty much anyone on the internet who has ever had a question about English usage has referred to the work of Mignon Fogarty, whether or not they know her name. Her “Grammar Girl” website and podcast have made her a usage guru for the masses, illuminating everything from misplaced modifiers to proper comma placement with easy-to-understand explanations and examples.

Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, a popular podcaster, and the author of numerous usage books. Her affection for English is infectious and has won her many fans, probably because—unlike some esteemed grammarians—she’s pretty chill for a linguistic stickler. Still, she says, ”People routinely tell me they’re afraid to send me email messages or tweet at me or even talk to me, which is horrible because I’m one of the least judgmental people you’ll meet, and I think weird language things are pretty cool.”

Big Cities No Longer Deliver for Low-Skill Workers

Noah Smith:

David Autor, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a record of attacking the biggest and most important issues. He has raised alarms about disappearing middle-skilled jobs, pointed to the downsides of trade with China, warned about increasing industrial concentration and attacked the question of whether automation will kill jobs.

In a recent lecture at the American Economic Association meeting in Atlanta, Autor attempted to weave many of those threads together into a single story. Paraphrasing heavily, that story goes something like this: Forty years ago, Americans who didn’t go to college could move to cities and get good jobs in manufacturing or office work. But starting in about 1980, these jobs began to disappear, thanks in part to offshoring and automation. By 2000, manufacturing was in steady retreat:

Antiracist Writing Assessment

Asao Inoue:

This plenary will argue against the use of conventional standards in college courses that grade student writing by single standards. Inoue will discuss the ways that White language supremacy is perpetuated in college classrooms despite the better intentions of faculty, particularly through the practices of grading writing.

College Kids Are Ditching Beer and Binge-Drinking Hard Seltzer

Joseph Longo:

Cait watched her friend take their last gulp, remove the spine of the skeleton-shaped beer bong from their mouth and promptly let out a powerful burp. Realizing she was next, Cait headed to the fridge, grabbed a can from the six-pack and cracked open a fresh one. The oh-so-familiar carbonation rang in her ear, breaking through the loud party. She handed the can to the same friend who would now lead her through the process. Cait crouched, though keeping her neck high. Wrapping her fingers around the vertebrae of the bong, Cait gave a simple nod. On cue, her friend poured the sudsy liquid into the base of the cracked-open skull. Almost immediately, Cait tasted the sting of the carbonation enter her esophagus and free-fall into her stomach. It burned, but ended quickly. Too quickly: “I’m ready to go for another one,” she announced to the room.

An undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Cait knows her way around a college party. But unlike her friends who get drunk on Natty Light or Keystone, Conway sticks exclusively to hard seltzers, even when using a beer bong.

Public school teachers who send their children to private schools – why?

Reddit:

I’m just curious and not being judgmental at all – just looking for some reasoning. I am a public school music teacher in a large district where I travel between two schools, and both of my principals (and several other teachers) send their students to private schools. It just seems odd to me, especially as they are having these conversations about their kids while wearing the “I Public Schools” shirt!

Civics: Facebook’s WhatsApp limits users to five text forwards to curb rumors

:

Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) WhatsApp is limiting worldwide the number of times a user can forward a message to five, starting on Monday, as the popular messaging service looks to fight “misinformation and rumors”, company executives said on Monday.

Previously, a WhatsApp user could forward a message to 20 individuals or groups. The limit of five is in expansion of a measure WhatsApp put in place in India in July after the spread of rumors on social media led to killings and lynching attempts.

“We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” Victoria Grand, vice president for policy and communications at WhatsApp, said at an event in the Indonesian capital.

Here’s how the L.A. teachers’ strike is part of California unions’ pension preservation plot

Chris Reed:

In August 2009, at a seminar in Sacramento sponsored by the Public Retirement Journal, the chief actuary of the California Public Employees’ Retirement system — who thought he was at a closed event with no media present — made a grim, startling pronouncement that was unlike anything ever said publicly by his bosses at CalPERS. Ed Mendel, founder of the Calpensions blog, was at the event, and broke the story that’s reverberated ever since.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat anything,” [Ron] Seeling said as he neared the end of his comments. “We are facing decades without significant turnarounds in assets, decades of — what I, my personal words, nobody else’s — unsustainable pension costs of between 25 percent of pay for a miscellaneous plan and 40 to 50 percent of pay for a safety plan (police and firefighters) … unsustainable pension costs. We’ve got to find some other solutions.”

Seeling used the same word to describe CalPERS’ pension costs — “unsustainable” — that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had used to push for dramatic cuts in pension benefits. No one had more credibility than Seeling on CalPERS’ financial health, and 10 years ago, it was clear that he had joined the doomsayers who warned the “pension tsunami” would eventually strike with devastating effect.

Unsurprisingly, with its board dominated by union allies who defended the pension status quo, CalPERS quickly disavowed Seeling’s warning. The next month, it launched a website — calpersresponds.com — that rejected any concerns about CalPERS’ long-term viability. And ever since, public employee unions have mounted campaigns dismissing the idea that a pension crisis is coming — even as local governments eliminate or reduce services because of pension costs.

But union leaders are anything but dumb. The most telling example: Four years before the June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying public employees could opt out of paying union dues, the California Teachers Association had actually concluded the ruling was inevitable and started preparing for a future in which government worker unions would have diminished resources.

Related (2009): The Madison School District as General Motors.

Commentary on the 2019 Madison School Board candidates

Negassi Tesfamichael:

With the Madison School Board primary election less than a month away, a crowded field of nine candidates will make their case to voters in the coming weeks, starting with a forum on Feb. 5.

Here’s a closer look at how candidates are making their case to voters.

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, an education activist and founder of One City Schools, is calling for a focus on early childhood education. One City Schools, which he heads, is one of Wisconsin’s first 4K and kindergarten charter options authorized by the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Educational Opportunity.

Caire is running nearly eight years after the School Board rejected his proposal for another charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy.

“I would like to see stronger partnerships between MMSD and Madison’s early childhood education community that provide a sensible continuum of learning, growth and development opportunities for children from birth to age 5,” Caire wrote in a questionnaire distributed by Madison Teachers Inc.

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques on Madison’s disastrous reading results:

Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.

Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.

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

Routing around Madison’s non-diverse K-12 legacy governance model:

In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.”

Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School Board member Ed Hughes to a September meeting of the Goodman Community Center board of directors to express the district’s opposition to another proposed charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Hughes gave the board a letter from Cheatham to UW System President Ray Cross that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, pointed to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s charter proposal, and asked that Arbor either be rejected or at least kept out of Madison.

Hughes also told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

Becky Steinhoff, Goodman executive director, later told the Wisconsin State Journal that Goodman was “experiencing a period of enormous change,” including the recent opening of a new building, and chose not to work with Arbor.

“I understand the climate and the polarizing topic of charters” in Madison, McCabe said, but he wasn’t concerned the district would attempt to thwart Milestone and he said it would “be a dream come true” if Milestone were one day folded into the district.

He said Community—Learning—Design has an application due to the state Feb. 22 for a federal planning grant.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

Ananda Mirilli, 1027 S. Sunnyvale Lane Unit A, Madison

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

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

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!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

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.

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

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.

Sarah Manski and Ed Hughes “withdrew” from their respective races in recent elections. The timing, in both cases was unfortunate for voters, and other candidates.

Charter School Funding: Inequity in the City

Patrick J. Wolf Larry D. Maloney Jay F. May Corey A. DeAngelis:

One might assume that policymakers moved swiftly to remedy the injustice of charter school funding inequity revealed in the 2005 report. Sadly, that was not the case. We re-examined the charter school funding gap using data from 2006-07 and adding seven more states to our sample. In Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, we reported that the gap favoring TPS stood at 19.2 percent nationally, only trivially smaller than the original gap of 21.7 percent. Even more concerning, a third study of 2010-11 revenue data identified the gap across an expansive sample of 30 states plus D.C. to average 28.4 percent more funding for TPS than charters, provoking the report title of Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands.11 All three of these charter school revenue studies have concluded that funding gaps are larger in urban areas, due to more local funding and categorical
funding earmarked for districts with disadvantaged students going to TPS than to charters, even though public charter schools enroll a high proportion of low-income students.

This report contributes to the school funding policy literature by taking a deep dive into the realities of charter and TPS funding in major urban areas across the country. We examine funding disparity levels from all possible revenue sources in 15 different metropolitan areas for the 2013-14 school year. We selected the locations based on either a high concentration of charters in the metropolitan area or potential for charter school growth there. Eight of them have been the subject of our prior funding research, allowing us to track their charter school funding gaps over time, as we do in a section of this report. The remaining six locations add greater diversity to our sample, as they are smaller and newer charter school communities. Together, our selected
cities represent a cross-section of the current and projected charter school enrollment across the country. We highlight differences in local, state, and federal public funding, as well as all nonpublic funding for the same locations. This study represents the latest evidence regarding remaining public charter school funding inequities with a focus on where charters are most common: in cities.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer funded K-12 school districts.

University demands student pay $500 for public records on its Chinese propaganda institute

College Fix:

Under scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties and academic groups, universities have been closing their Chinese government-run centers at a brisk pace.

The University of Kansas has not publicly moved to shutter its Confucius Institute, however, and a KU student wanted to know if administrators had discussed the possibility. He filed a public records request a month ago.

The taxpayer-funded university gave him an answer Thursday: $506.50.

Conner Mitchell set up a crowdfunding page to raise the money demanded by KU to hand over emails from top administrators that include the phrase “Confucius Institute.” He describes himself as a freelance journalist who has previously written for The Kansas City Star, Palm Beach Post and KU’s hometown newspaper, the Lawrence Journal-World.

“I simply don’t have the funds to pay for a request like this, even though I think the results could be of great public interest,” Mitchell wrote, explaining that his interest was piqued by the University of Michigan’s planned closure of its Confucius Institute.

KU’s institute “has caused controversy in the past,” he continued: “So I’m asking for your help, not only to pay for this request, but to show public agencies they can’t make requesters go away simply by charging a high amount for records about public business.”

Public-records expert Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, denounced the university for requiring payment for records that should be free in the first place.

No, tech companies shouldn’t fund journalism

James Ball:

Yesterday, Facebook announced it would spend $300 million over three years on journalistic content, partnerships, and programs. The announcement commits the social network to match the funding rival tech giant Google said it would spend on such programs—but more importantly increases the already-dangerous co-dependency between big tech and newsrooms.

Journalism, especially local journalism, is certainly in need of new revenue streams, as the industry faces a fundamental challenge to its business model, as print advertising dwindles and publishers’ meagre share of online ad dollars do little to replace it. Meanwhile, the tech companies keep growing, reaping the online ad dollars that publishers are so eager to get.

Both the financial crisis of journalism and the dominance of big technology platforms are important issues, but they are too often conflated; academics and European lawmakers alike have pushed these two separate conversations together over the last few years, suggesting there’s an easy fix in making technology fund journalism. This is a tempting idea, and one gaining a foothold in the US, but in reality would be a serious mistake—especially when it comes to reader trust.

Many rightly see the rise of big tech, and social media in particular, as the root of journalism’s problems. Not only do Google and Facebook dominate the online ad market—the two together make up nearly two-thirds of the market, but the social networks have played a huge role in the spread of online misinformation and the incentivizing of clickbait, which have been large contributors to the crisis of trust in the media. That idea has widespread academic and political support. In July 2018, a UK parliament inquiry into disinformation and fake news warned of social media’s effects on both the information and advertising ecosystems. Likewise, Facebook conceded—while under severe media pressure earlier this year—that the journalistic outlets which provide much of its content are in crisis.

Call It ‘Ed Reform’ or Don’t — the Fight to Make Schools Work for Our Poorest Families Must Go On. To Stop Is to Dishonor King’s Memory

Howard Fuller:

I call on all my fellow warriors not to be deterred by those who believe that the only way to move forward is by returning to the “one best system” and therefore oppose giving poor families the power to choose, a power that so many who oppose it relentlessly use it for their own children. I know there will be those who would accuse people like me of trying to destroy public education because we want poor families to have choice, and in doing so, they continue to act as if the concept of public education is the same as the systems that have been set up to deliver it.

There will continue to be people who oppose charter schools because they don’t “promote integration” or they create all-black or -brown schools. They level these criticisms while comfortably set up in communities that provide a quality education for their children in nonintegrated or white-dominated schools. They somehow conveniently forget that many of these all-black or -brown charter schools bring good schools into communities that have been underserved and neglected for years. These age-old battles will go on while, in the meantime, the pain that defines so many of our children’s existence will continue.

Related:“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”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Families leaving New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, New York

United Van Lines:

Americans are on the move, relocating to western and southern parts of the country. The results of United Van Lines’ 42nd Annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns over the past year, revealed that more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state in 2018, with 66.8 percent of New Jersey moves being outbound. The study also found that the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration was Vermont (72.6 percent), with 234 total moves. Oregon, which had 3,346 total moves, experienced the second highest percentage nationally, with 63.8 percent inbound moves.

States in the Mountain West and Pacific West regions, including Oregon, Idaho (62.4 percent), Nevada (61.8 percent), Washington (58.8 percent) and South Dakota (57 percent) continue to increase in popularity for inbound moves. In tune with this trend, Arizona (60.2 percent) joined the list of top 10 inbound states in 2018.

Several southern states also experienced high percentages of inbound migration, such as South Carolina (59.9 percent) and North Carolina (57 percent). United Van Lines determined the top reasons for moving south include job change (46.6 percent) and retirement (22.3 percent).

Related: Outbound Open Enrollment (Madison).

Political Philosophy Isn’t Just for College Students, It’s Making My Students Stronger Readers

Zachary Wright:

Alongside the whiteboard in the front of my 12th-grade English classroom in Philadelphia, there are sentence strips listing the names of the authors we have read thus far this school year. The names read like a syllabus to “Political Philosophy 101”: Hobbes. Locke. Rousseau. Plato. Marx. Hume. Machiavelli. Sun Tzu.

These authors and their writings represent a pointed choice in how I, and the many outstanding English educators I have been privileged to collaborate with, support struggling readers develop the skills and confidence to attack, decode and comprehend complex texts.

It is counterintuitive to be sure. A common choice might be, when trying to design a curriculum to accelerate the reading abilities of students who read below grade level, to modify texts in such a way as to meet the students near where their reading ability happens to be presently.

If a student is not on a 12th-grade reading level, but rather on a fourth-grade reading level, then it would likely feel correct to choose a text closer to the fourth-grade level than not. Often, this is an absolutely effective, appropriate and logical choice. What I’ve found, however, is that there is benefit to tackling a student’s reading struggles from the opposite flank as well.

UW-Madison prof: Anti-bias programs mean well, but there’s no proof they work

Chris Rickert:

UW-Madison researcher Markus Brauer has what he admits is a provocative message at a time when companies, governments and other organizations are heeding calls from social justice activists for training to counter discrimination and build a more equitable society:

It’s far from clear that such training works, and some of it might actually have the opposite of its intended effect.

Brauer, a psychology professor, will speak Tuesday, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on “Approaching MLK’s dream: Scientifically tested methods to reduce racism and promote inclusivity” as part of UW-Madison’s Crossroads of Ideas public lecture series.

His critique resonates with at least one organization that has provided training on multiple occasions to Dane County government employees.

Rachel Godsil, co-founder of the New York City-based Perception Institute and a law professor at Rutgers University, said she shares “some of the same skepticism” Brauer has in particular about implicit bias training. Implicit bias is the notion that we all have subconscious biases about people based on race and other characteristics, and that these biases affect our understanding of the world and the way we treat people.

But she said her organization takes a more comprehensive approach to disrupting bias and is careful to keep up with the latest research and evaluate training effects, and Dane County officials “recognize that none of this is one and done,” she said.

The city’s top students from 2005 to 2007 set out to change the world. But then life happened and many strayed from their dreams

The Boston Globe:

Over the past year, the Globe has tracked down 93 of the 113 valedictorians who appeared in the paper’s first three “Faces of Excellence” features from 2005 to 2007. We wanted to know, more than a decade later, how the stories of Boston’s best and brightest were turning out.

These were the kids who did everything asked of them and more. Some arrived as refugees, their childhoods abbreviated by war and poverty. Others navigated broken homes, foster care, and unspeakable street violence closer to home. Still others charted a clearer course, their academic rise fueled by family expectations and strong support.

These photo displays project an unspoken faith that the American dream is alive and well: Nearly 80 percent of the valedictorians we interviewed became the first in their families to go to college, an achievement often crowned by a generous scholarship.

But in an era when social mobility is in sharp decline, many of Boston’s valedictorians struggled after high school, their vaulting ambitions running headlong into a thicket of real-world obstacles — obstacles their wealthier, often white counterparts in the suburbs much more rarely encounter. Theirs are stories of inequality not just in income, but in opportunity.

“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”.

Restorative justice isn’t working, but that’s not what the media is reporting

Max Eden:

Last week, the first randomized control trial study of “restorative justice” in a major urban district, Pittsburgh Public Schools, was published by the RAND Corporation.

The results were curiously mixed. Suspensions went down in elementary but not middle schools. Teachers reported improved school safety, professional environment, and classroom management ability. But students disagreed. They thought their teachers’ classroom management deteriorated, and that students in class were less respectful and supportive of each other; at a lower confidence interval, they reported bullying and more instructional time lost to disruption. And although restorative justice is billed as a way to fight the “school-to-prison pipeline,” it had no impact on student arrests.

The most troubling thing: There were significant and substantial negative effects on math achievement for middle school students, black students, and students in schools that are predominantly black.

What are we to make of these results? For education journalists like U.S. News and World Report’s Lauren Camera, there’s an easy solution: Don’t report the negative findings and write an article titled “Study Contradicts Betsy DeVos’ Reason for Eliminating School Discipline Guidance.”

When asked why she left her readers in the dark regarding the negative effects on black student achievement, Camera said that it “wasn’t intentional,” explaining that “it wasn’t meant to be a deep dive into the study. And we linked to it, so readers who wanted to follow up could.”

Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum is somewhat unique among education journalists for his practice of reading academic studies in full before writing about them. Barnum commented, “Well, I will say that the researchers didn’t do any favors in framing the results for reporters. The negative test for effect for black kids is buried on like page eighty with no mention (that I saw) until then…. [T]he research itself is excellent; their choice in framing is…notable.”

Chinese rich kids caught in rock band drug bust

Alice Yan:

Eleven young men, most of them fuerdai – wealthy second-generation millennials – will face court in southeastern China on drug charges, a Chinese newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Police in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, said men were all members of two rock bands in the city and tested positive for marijuana after a drug bust late last month, the Qianjiang Evening News reported.

Police launched the investigation in September after a tip-off, the report said.

Most of the suspects had studied abroad, had a similar family background and formed bands after returning from overseas, officers were quoted as saying. Police allege the men often kept marijuana at their studios and either possessed or sold the drug.

Among the accused is Huang Xiaoxin, a man in his early 20s and the son of a prominent businessman.

Huang studied at an American university and worked in his father’s company when he returned to China.

Universities Face Increased Pressure from Job Programs That Generate Results, Not Just Debt


Zak Slayback
:

Lambda School, a Y Combinator company that trains students in software engineering in exchange for a slice of their income for a few years, recently raised $30 million from investors in a Series B round. The core differentiator between Lambda School and its competitors is that Lambda operates under the Income Share Agreement (ISA) model.

The ISA model makes sense and is popular among students. They don’t have to pay anything up front, they receive training, and they only pay Lambda School back if they get a job earning more than $50,000/year. And it’s an improvement upon the sometimes-shoddy tuition-based model employed by coding boot camps since the industry started years ago.

University speech bias and suppression commentary

Greg Piper:

George Mason University eliminated its speech codes nearly four years ago, but didn’t adopt a formal statement defending freedom of expression until late last year.

What is more notable: The public university has flipped the script on bias reporting.

On its new “Free Speech at Mason” page, the northern Virginia school features a “Submit a Report” button at the top left. Here’s what it says: “If you believe your right to free speech has been infringed at Mason, you may submit an incident report by clicking on the button below.”

The message is repeated in bold at the bottom of the free-speech statement:

If you believe your freedom of speech or expression has been disrupted, you may report an incident of disruption of constitutionally protected speech by clicking on the “Submit a Report” button on this page.

The button goes to a “Free Speech Reporting Form” that asks users to share details of the alleged infringement, including who was involved, location and the user’s affiliation with the university.

Many universities tell students to report any speech or behavior that might conceivably show “bias” – never mind threats or harassment – and then teams of officials, sometimes including law enforcement, investigate those complaints.

2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Nearly all current candidates for the Madison School Board have started to make their case to voters and potential endorsers as the primary election heats up. That included answering questions from Madison Teachers Inc., the city’s teachers’ union.

Nine candidates are running for three seats on the seven-person School Board. MTI executive director Doug Keillor said candidates had to send in answers to the questionnaire by Jan. 11. On Wednesday, School Board candidates interviewed with the political action arm of MTI, which is comprised of 13 people who guide the union’s endorsement process during each election cycle.

Candidate Amos Roe, who is running for Seat 5, was the only current candidate who did not submit a questionnaire. Keillor said they reached out to Roe multiple times but did not receive a response. Skylar Croy, who withdrew from the race but whose name will still appear on the Feb. 19 ballot, also did not submit a questionnaire or interview with MTI.

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques on Madison’s disastrous reading results:

Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.

Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.

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

Routing around Madison’s non-diverse K-12 legacy governance model:

In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.”

Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School Board member Ed Hughes to a September meeting of the Goodman Community Center board of directors to express the district’s opposition to another proposed charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Hughes gave the board a letter from Cheatham to UW System President Ray Cross that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, pointed to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s charter proposal, and asked that Arbor either be rejected or at least kept out of Madison.

Hughes also told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

Becky Steinhoff, Goodman executive director, later told the Wisconsin State Journal that Goodman was “experiencing a period of enormous change,” including the recent opening of a new building, and chose not to work with Arbor.

“I understand the climate and the polarizing topic of charters” in Madison, McCabe said, but he wasn’t concerned the district would attempt to thwart Milestone and he said it would “be a dream come true” if Milestone were one day folded into the district.

He said Community—Learning—Design has an application due to the state Feb. 22 for a federal planning grant.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

Ananda Mirilli, 1027 S. Sunnyvale Lane Unit A, Madison

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

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

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!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

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.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

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!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

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.

Sarah Manski and Ed Hughes “withdrew” from their respective races in recent elections. The timing, in both cases was unfortunate for voters, and other candidates.

Universities Face Increased Pressure from Job Programs That Generate Results, Not Just Debt

Zak Slayback:

Lambda School, a Y Combinator company that trains students in software engineering in exchange for a slice of their income for a few years, recently raised $30 million from investors in a Series B round. The core differentiator between Lambda School and its competitors is that Lambda operates under the Income Share Agreement (ISA) model.

The ISA model makes sense and is popular among students. They don’t have to pay anything up front, they receive training, and they only pay Lambda School back if they get a job earning more than $50,000/year. And it’s an improvement upon the sometimes-shoddy tuition-based model employed by coding boot camps since the industry started years ago.

Civics: Obama and the Limits of ‘Fact-Based’ Foreign Policy

Shadi Hamid:

They were the best and the brightest. But, most of all, they believed they were right. Although the scale of disaster was considerably different, the same that was said of those who oversaw foreign policy under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson could be said of the Obama administration.

These were academics, intellectuals, and technocrats who were not only very smart; they took pride in being practical, grounded in reality, and wedded to facts. After the supposed anti-intellectualism and ideological rigidity of the George W. Bush administration, many of us welcomed the prospect of a president who was cerebral and professorial. Even those sympathetic to President Barack Obama’s foreign-policy instincts, however, will agree that it didn’t quite go as planned.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: What’s driving your state’s growth? Babies or suitcases?

Andy Egbert:

Between mid-year 2017 and 2018, the U.S. population grew by 0.6%, adding more than 2 million residents. America’s new arrivals—both babies and immigrants—were unequally distributed across the map. And despite moving less than in years’ past, more than 1 in 10 Americans changed their addresses, and about 745,000 crossed state lines. Even in a single year, these dynamics resulted in sizable changes to states’ populations.

The reallocation of electoral points and congressional seats that occurs following the 2020 Census count has heightened the interest in state population tallies in the final years of this decade. And labor market tightness has ratcheted up competition for luring workers across state lines and from abroad.

So what’s happening at the state level regarding population change?

At 2.1 percent, Nevada and Idaho led all states in population growth during July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, according to newly released estimates from the Census Bureau. The other swiftly growing states were Utah (1.9%), Arizona (1.7%), and Florida and Washington (1.5% apiece).

While these states grew the fastest, Texas (+379,100) and Florida (+322,500) added the most people. Next in line, California—the most populous state in the U.S.—added about half as many new residents (+157,700). With a population now exceeding 39.5 million, California is home to nearly 1 in 8 Americans. Arizona (+122,800), North Carolina (+112,800), Washington (+110,200), and Georgia (+106,400) rounded out the top tier of seven states which each added 100,000 or more people.

Racism row: British university apologises to Chinese students for exam cheating warning

Mandy Zuo:

A major British university caught in a racism row has apologised after Chinese students protested over a warning about cheating.

The apology came after the University of Liverpool’s Student Welfare Advice and Guidance office sent an email to all international students on Monday, warning them of serious consequences for breaking exam rules. The email was written in English but contained the Chinese characters for “cheating”.

When Chinese students protested, the office added fuel to the fire by saying: “We find that our Chinese students are usually unfamiliar with the word ‘cheating’ in English, and we therefore provided this translation.”

Commentary on the Los Angeles Teachers Strike

Andrew Moran:

Let’s begin with the makeup of the school district: It boasts a $7.52 billion budget and more than 60,000 employees, including about 26,000 teachers, with the average annual salary being $73,000. While employment has gone up 16% since 2004, enrollment has dropped 10% in the same period.

According to the latest available data, California school funding surged by nearly 10% from 2015 to 2016. If you examine a five-year period (2011 to 2016), school funding in the state is up a whopping 26%. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has further proposed the “largest ever investment” in the LAUSD.

Unprecedented Milwaukee preschool effort aims to build literacy, curb later problems

Annysa Johnson:

A lowercase “e,” it turns out, can be difficult to master. But Patrick Jagiello is endlessly patient.

“Slide right, then circle around,” Jagiello tells 4-year-old Tarrell Harvey at the sign-in table in Mandy Sluss’ preschool class at Milwaukee’s Next Door Foundation. Tarrell follows his lead, but his “e” looks a little wobbly.

“Here, I’m going to help you,” Jagiello tells him, gently placing his hand over the child’s hand. And together they move the pencil, sliding right, then circling around.

“That’s cool,” Tarrell tells him, obviously pleased with their effort. “Now, I want to try.”

That is exactly the reaction founders of the Washington, D.C.-based Literacy Lab hoped to elicit when they created the Leading Men Fellowship, a 2-year-old program aimed at boosting early childhood literacy skills while exposing young men of color to careers in education.

Betsy DeVos’ bet on boot camps

Michael Stratford:

As Americans look to build the skills they need for the fast-changing job market, a new type of education provider has swept onto the scene: the coding boot camp, an intensive, short-term training program for students trying to land high-tech jobs.

Although they still account for a tiny share of American higher education, they’re growing fast; last year the camps graduated 20,000 students, 20 percent up from the previous year. As more workers sign up, the camps are drawing attention from policymakers as an efficient, job-focused alternative to a costly and complicated higher-education system.

“These nontraditional technology education models are part of the solution to closing the skills gap,’’ Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said when he introduced legislation to promote coding camps for military veterans in 2017.

The appeal is easy to see: Instead of the big, expensive infrastructure of traditional higher ed, boot camps tend to be small, adaptable and infused with the kind of startup mentality that drives much of the high-tech job market. And graduates tend to see quick results: Many get jobs quickly with a salary boost that easily covers the average $12,000 tuition.

As boot camps proliferate, policymakers in Washington have been asking whether the federal government should get behind the idea—specifically, by opening up some of the $130 billion it doles out annually in student loan guarantees and Pell Grants for higher education. Currently, this aid can be used only for accredited schools, which means students can’t use federal grants or loans for coding camps, which are unaccredited and largely operate as for-profit businesses.

Related: Credentialism.

Education and Journalism

Citizen Stewart:

I got an email from an @AP reporter. The subject: “black charter schools debate.” It said: “This is Sally Ho, national education reporter with the Associated Press. I am working on a story about the black charter school debate in light of increasing enrollment in the community.”

When we talked Ho framed the issue as if it were a black civil war where billionaire-funded groups were fighting traditional groups like the NAACP. I told her that there is no war in the black community about charter schools. It’s a divisive manufactured story.

I told her research constantly tells us black people are among the most reliable supporters of charters and school choice. The majority of black people are clear about their support. If any segment of black “leaders” disagrees, they’re disagreeing with their own people.

Ho’s story, as expected, insinuated that our leading black organizations, including the Urban League, UNCF, 100 Black Men, and so on, are charter school friendly merely because they receive grant funding from the Walton Family Foundation. So disrepctful for an outsider to write.

Here is her insulting and sloppy attempt at a graphic depicting Walton at the center of a black universe. She assigns black agency to white masters. Given the history of these organizations and their missions, she trades in at least accidental millennial hipster racism. Gross.

On the other side, Ho pooh-poohed the idea that the NAACP and Movement For Black Lives are themselves publicly aligned with the teachers’ union campaigns against charters as a fulfillment of their grant funding from the unions. She told me she tired of that framing because….

teachers working through their unions on behalf of their profession isn’t the same things as the outsized role wealthy pro-charter people play in education policy. It’s a huge admission for a “journalist” to make. Facts be damned.

———-

Related: “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”.

Editorial Mutiny at Elsevier Journal

Lindsay Mckenzie:

The entire editorial board of the Elsevier-owned Journal of Informetrics resigned Thursday in protest over high open-access fees, restricted access to citation data and commercial control of scholarly work.

Today, the same team is launching a new fully open-access journal called Quantitative Science Studies. The journal will be for and by the academic community and will be owned by the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI). It will be published jointly with MIT Press.

The editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics said in a statement that they were unanimous in their decision to quit. They contend that scholarly journals should be owned by the scholarly community rather than by commercial publishers, should be open access under fair principles, and publishers should make citation data freely available.

Elsevier said in a statement that it regretted the board’s decision and that it had tried to address their concerns.

“They are all engineers of ideological conformity and cogs in the revolutionary machine”

John Garnaut:

They are all engineers of ideological conformity and cogs in the revolutionary machine.

Among the many things that China’s modern leaders did – including overseeing the greatest burst of market liberalisation and poverty alleviation the world has ever seen – those who won the internal political battles have retained the totalitarian aspiration of engineering the human soul in order to lead them towards the ever-receding and ever-changing utopian destination.

This is not to say that China could not have turned out differently. Elite politics from Mao’s death to the Tiananmen massacres was a genuine contest of ideas.

But ideology won that contest.

Today the PRC is the only ruling communist party that has never split with Stalin, with the partial exception of North Korea. Stalin’s portrait stood alongside Marx, Engels and Lenin in Tiananmen Square – six metres tall – right up to the early 1980s, at which point the portraits were moved indoors.

For a long time we all took comfort in thinking that this ideological aspiration existed only on paper, an object of lip service, while China’s 1.4 billion citizens got on with the job of building families and communities and seeking knowledge and prosperity.

The Black Achievement Paradox Nobody’s Talking About

Darrel Burnette II:

Why do black students whose parents serve in the military so significantly outperform their peers from black civilian families? This question has for years stumped researchers, but a new data-reporting requirement for military-connected students under the Every Student Succeeds Act could provide some insights for practitioners and policymakers serving America’s increasingly mobile students overall.

Moving just once for any student has the potential to derail the student’s academic trajectory.

And yet black military-connected students, who move on average six to nine times before they graduate high school, consistently perform on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and on state exams not only better than black students from civilian families, who on average rarely transfer schools, but also almost as high as their white civilian- and military-connected peers. That gap has only continued to narrow in recent years.

I first came across this emerging research about seven years ago. It was early on in my career as an education reporter, and I was writing frequently about how Minnesota’s schools—some of the best in the nation—had so dramatically left their black students behind.

In my personal life, I was grappling with the lingering effects of an academically and socially disjointed childhood.

“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”:

Vincent van Gogh: on the Road to Revolution

Tim Keane:

On December 23, 1888, an agitated 35-five-year-old Dutch man turned up at a brothel in a provincial town in the south of France and presented his severed ear to a prostitute. This gruesome local incident event would be lost in police records had it not been for the fact that the man handing over the body part was Vincent van Gogh, a painter whose art, most of it produced within a single decade, helped created a new language for nearly every 20th century movement in European painting.

Today millions of tourists flock to museums, crowding in front of van Goghs like The Starry Night (1889) and Sunflowers (1888). The art has been reproduced en masse, on posters, prints, calendars, key chains, tote bags, coffee mugs, umbrellas, fabric covers and even bathing suits. Yet the artist’s struggles with mental illness in the last year or so of his life have been magnified into cautionary tales about art, feeding a toxic popular myth that artists are insane, antisocial, and self-destructive. He is a wide-eyed messianic savant in Vicente Milleni’s Lust for Life (1956), an irritable and immature malcontent in Robert Altman’s Vincent and Theo (1990), and an institutionalized and emaciated victim in Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh (1991). Having exhausted van Gogh’s biography, filmmakers have turned the art-as-madness propaganda campaign on to other artists’ lives, from Mr. Turner (2014) and Pollock (2000) to Basquiat (1996), and Edvard Munch (1974). The message — unfailingly negative and absurdly reductive — is that artists are quasi-mystic misfits whose charming works were the byproduct of sick souls. In addition to further stigmatizing mental illness, these misrepresentations reinforce the lie that such illnesses strike painters in disproportionate numbers compared to the rest of the population. Armed with psychoanalytic theory and cultural studies, curators, critics and academics pile on, framing an artist’s work in spurious speculations about their inner lives and secret agendas. This insulates both academe and mass culture from engaging with art as complex and subversive forms of knowledge. Admire it, get its “messages,” but don’t take art too seriously. In turn, foundational principles from art like “creativity,” “imagination,” and “vision” get emptied of subversive meanings, appropriated for TED Talks and marketing campaigns while bungling inventors and venture capitalists become our modern-day Leonardo da Vincis. If the hijacking of van Gogh’s biography started us down this road, then revisiting van Gogh through the prism of newly published books about his life and aesthetics can chart a new course toward understanding the achievements buried beneath the myth.

After all “geniuses,” like “stars,” come and go with every news cycle. What makes van Gogh great was an ingrained mission he adopted, one that would test whether painting could expand the very phenomenon of experience itself. Judicious, well-read, focused, resourceful and unremitting, he learned and then rejected numerous conventions in order to break down the supposed distinctions between nature and art, between the world as it is and the world as it is painted. To this end, more radically than his equally talented and industrious Post-Impressionist peers, van Gogh undid long held Western assumptions about spatiality, color, and composition. Dispensing with three-dimensionality and chiaroscuro, he remade canvases into allover fields of undiluted, sharply contrasting colors and unpredictable densities of brushwork. Seemingly hurried and unrefined, his paintings helped advance abstraction in art by revealing how an object’s details can stand alone as self-contained exemplifications of the picture’s whole, as if painting itself had harnessed the ocular magic of telescopes, microscopes and zoom lenses. In all these respects, van Gogh discovered and mapped out unknown interrelationships between psychological depth and frank intimacy, audacious color and pure spatiality that guided much of 20th century art, from Pablo Picasso’s flattened planes of Cubism to Pierre Bonnard’s lushly colored interiors and into the art scenes across the Atlantic, from Frida Kahlo’s high-keyed probing self-portraiture to Joan Mitchell’s lyrical Abstract Expressionist evocations of nature.

Oregon proposes mandatory newborn home visits

:

One of the governor’s priorities that he’s most excited about is the beginning investment in a six-year program to create universal home visits for new parents. When the program is complete, every new parent — this includes adoptions — would receive a series of two or three visits by someone like a nurse or other health care practitioner. The visits could include basic health screenings for babies; hooking parents up with primary care physicians; linking them to other services; and coordinating the myriad childhood immunizations that babies need.

“This isn’t something for people in trouble. This is stuff all kids need. Stuff my kids needed,” Allen said.

e’s no stranger to issues related to youths; besides his work at the Health Authority, Allen also sits on the Sherwood School Board.

He said the state sees about 40,000 births per year. The universal home visit program has been piloted in Lincoln County. No other state in the nation offers universal visits for new parents, he said, although North Carolina has been a leader in the effort.

The Health Authority also will spend this year taking the next step in the advancement of Coordinated Care Organizations, or CCOs. They are designed to blend a variety of health services — such as physical health care, addictions and mental health, and dental care — to serve people who receive health care coverage under the Oregon Health Plan, or Medicaid.

Insiders are calling this year’s changes “CCO 2.0.”

Proposed legislation.

Chinese schools scanning children’s brains to see if they are concentrating

Chris Baynes:

Headbands that monitor concentration by reading brain signals have been trialled on thousands of Chinese schoolchildren.

The devices could soon be used on millions of students across China, according to the US tech company which designed them.

Massachusetts-based start-up BrainCo says its Focus 1 headbands can help teachers identify pupils who need extra assistance.

However, neuroscientists have questioned the devices’ effectiveness and the technology has also raised privacy concerns.

The headbands use electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to detect brain activity when the wearer is engaged in a task.