Category Archives: Uncategorized

Every student graduating from this Milwaukee school will be the first in their family to attend college

Marisa Peryer:

Established in 2015, the school is part of a nationwide network of 35 Cristo Rey Jesuit schools that predominantly reach students from low-income families. Students spend four days a week at the school, then one day a week at businesses across greater Milwaukee as part of the work-study program. The students are not paid; instead, their “pay” goes to the school to pay down the cost of tuition.

Almost all the students are Hispanic, and almost all attend the school on taxpayer-funded vouchers through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The school continues to grow. Now at 1215 S. 45th St., it soon will double its space as it moves into a vacated Pick ‘n Save store at 1818 W. National Ave.

A few hundred parents, family members and friends gathered in Marquette University’s Church of the Gesu for Friday’s ceremony.

After speeches from salutatorian Wendy Gutierrez-Perez, who will attend College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and from commencement speaker the Rev. John P. Foley, chairman emeritus of Cristo Rey’s board, Vera took to the podium to give her valedictorian address.

“Whether this speech is protected by the First Amendment is of little or no concern to many colleges and universities”

Rob Shimshock:

“On a regular basis, the University of Illinois sends a clear message to students who wish to engage in political and religious speech: there are some views that are welcome, and others that are not,” Speech First President Nicole Neily said in the press release. “Students deserve to be able to express themselves and voice their opinions without fear of investigation or punishment – which is why these policies must be reformed.”

[RELATED: Think things are bad at Berkeley? Here’s why I’m suing UIllinois (OPINION)]

Speech First took issue with UIUC’s leafleting policy, which says that students cannot “post and distribute leaflets, handbills, and other types of materials” that are “promotional materials of candidates for noncampus elections” without approval in advance from the school. The nonprofit also cites UIUC’s 2017-2018 Bias Assessment Response Team report, which asserts that the university received 265 bias reports of 128 separate bias incidents for FY 2018.

Civics: Back Row America

Chris Arnade:

I wasn’t in the mood to listen to anyone, especially other bankers, other academics, and the educated experts who were my neighbors. I hadn’t been for a few years. In 2008, the financial crisis had consumed the country and my life, sending Citibank, the company I worked for, into a tailspin stopped only by a government bailout. I had just seen where hubris—my own included—had taken us, and what it had cost the country. Not that it had actually cost us bankers, or my neighbors, much of anything.

I was in the habit of taking walks, sometimes as long as fifteen miles, to explore and reduce stress, but now my walks began to evolve. Rather than setting out with some plan to walk the entire length of Broadway, or along the length of a subway line, I started walking the less-seen parts of New York City. Along the way, I talked to anyone who talked to me. I used my camera to take portraits of people I met.

What I started seeing and learning was just how cloistered and privileged my world was—and how narrow and selfish I was. Like most successful and well-educated people, especially in New York City, I considered myself open-minded, considerate, and reflective about my privilege. I read three ­papers daily, I watched documentaries on our social problems, and I voted for and supported policies that I felt recognized and addressed my privilege. I gave money and time to charities that focused on ­poverty and injustice. I understood that I was ­selfish, but I rationalized. Aren’t we all selfish? ­Besides, I am far less selfish than others. Look at how I vote (­progressive), what I believe in (equality), and who my colleagues are (people of all races from all ­places).

When I first came to Hunts Point, I was determined to be respectful. I knew that HBO had done an early and salacious documentary called Hookers at the Point. Other documentaries had likewise focused on the drugs and the sex work, not on the lived realities of the majority of the residents. So I spent most of my time talking to and photographing the bike clubs, the pigeon keepers, the graffiti artists, and the workers from the nonprofits. My focus changed during a rare, quiet moment in the industrial part of Hunts Point on a Sunday afternoon. The truck traffic was light and most of the shops were closed. Takeesha was standing alone by a trickling fire hydrant, washing her face. She was working, wearing thigh-high faux-leather red boots and leopard-print tights, waving at every car or truck that passed by. She yelled to me, “Hey, take my picture!” When I asked why, she said, “Because I am a sexy, ­beautiful ­prostitute.”

Over the next half hour, she told me her life story. She told me how her mother’s pimp had put her on the streets at twelve. How she had had her first child at thirteen. How she was addicted to heroin. I ended by asking her the question I asked everyone I ­photographed: How do you want to be described? She replied without a pause, “As who I am. A prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God.”

Commentary on the UW School of Education and The taxpayer supported Madison school district

David Blaska:

The school district lives and breathes identity politics because they teach it at UW-Madison and at all leading schools of education across the country. That includes Harvard, from which superintendent Jennifer Cheatham received her doctoral degree and at which she will grow future crops.

Even at a school as left-wing as UW-Madison, its school of education is radical left. Perhaps only the sociology department is more “woke.”

Four UW faculty members are the brains behind the Freedom, Inc. cadres who have been disrupting school board meetings these past two years. Freedom Inc.’s Bianca Gomez boasts that she hold’s a master’s degree in race and gender studies. They also staff MMSD’s TEEM Scholars Program.

The four faculty members operate what they call the “Mobilizing Youth Voices Project.” Its stated purpose:

Related on Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

A conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones about race, education, and hypocrisy.

Dianna Douglas:

Public schools in gentrifying neighborhoods seem on the cusp of becoming truly diverse, as historically underserved neighborhoods fill up with younger, whiter families. But the schools remain stubbornly segregated. Nikole Hannah-Jones has chronicled this phenomenon around the country, and seen it firsthand in her neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“White communities want neighborhood schools if their neighborhood school is white,” she says. “If their neighborhood school is black, they want choice.” Charter schools and magnet schools spring up in place of neighborhood schools, where white students can be in the majority.

“We have a system where white people control the outcomes, and the outcome that most white Americans want is segregation,” she says.

In a recent episode of The Atlantic Interview, Nikole Hannah-Jones and The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, discuss how integrated schools are good for white children and black children.

“If one were to believe that having people who are different from you makes you smarter, that you engage in a higher level of thinking, that you solve problems better, there are higher-level ways that integration is good for white folks,” Jones says.

Increasing the density of America’s cities is a crucial part of progressive city planning.

Benjamin Schneider:

If I asked my neighbors in San Francisco if they’d support a policy that reduces fossil-fuel consumption, protects unspoiled wildlands, increases economic mobility, and creates more affordable housing, they would probably all say yes.

But if I told them such a policy would legalize small apartment buildings in our neighborhood of charming, million-dollar single-family homes, many of them would balk. That would make parking even harder, increase traffic, block views, bring rowdiness and crime, make our schools worse, they’d argue.

Soon, a series of proposals to increase urban density in California, Oregon, Seattle, Austin, and numerous other places will shed light on whether liberal America is willing to live according to its purported values. Neighborhoods like mine can welcome apartment buildings and their residents and be part of the solution to our society’s big collective-action problems—or they can remain as they are: fundamentally conservative spaces defined by an “I got mine” philosophy.

Much of the debate surrounding zoning proposals like this one focuses on the pressing issue of housing affordability: more units would, down the line, mean lower costs. But these ideas have much wider implications, too. Allowing a lot more people to live in the places with the most jobs, educational opportunities, and transportation options will reduce segregation and inequality, enable more people to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle, and create the kind of homes that conform to current demographic realities.

Mapping my Google location data

Chandan Rauniyar:

After Google’s announcement, I was curious to see what type of location data is stored against my account. I downloaded my data in JSON format at The zip archive was around 45 MB. I wasn’t surprised at this point but little did I know, I was about to be blown away. I downloaded the file and unzipped it. There was an 800 MB JSON file named Location History.json

Civics: Abuses show Assange case was never about law

Jonathan Cook:

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

US Universities And Retirees Are Funding The Technology Behind China’s Surveillance State

Ryan Mac:

Princeton University and the US’s largest public pension plan are among a number of stateside organizations funding technology behind the Chinese government’s unprecedented surveillance of some 11 million people of Muslim ethnic minorities.

Since 2017, Chinese authorities have detained more than a million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in political reeducation camps in the country’s northwest region of Xinjiang, identifying them, in part, with facial recognition software created by two companies: SenseTime, based in Hong Kong, and Beijing’s Megvii. A BuzzFeed News investigation has found that US universities, private foundations, and retirement funds entrusted their money to investors that, in turn, plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into these two startups over the last three years. Using that capital, SenseTime and Megvii have grown into billion-dollar industry leaders, partnering with government agencies and other private companies to develop tools for the Communist Party’s social control of its citizens.

Also among the diverse group of institutions helping to finance China’s surveillance state: the Alaska Retirement Management Board, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Rockefeller Foundation all of which are “limited partners” in private equity funds that invested in SenseTime or Megvii. And even as congressional leaders, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have championed a bill to condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang, their own states’ public employee pension funds are invested in companies building out the Chinese government’s system for tracking Uighurs.

The U.S. Debt Ceiling Expired On March 1 And Nobody Cared — But They Will

Teresa Ghilarducci:

The federal debt limit expired on March 1. Why does it matter? Markets didn’t move and the holders of the $22 trillion in national debt didn’t utter a peep of worry that the U.S. government wouldn’t pay its interest or redeem its bonds. The government is now taking temporary measures to pay its bills—delaying intragovernmental transfers and probably looking for coins in the couch cushions. The U.S. loses its legal authority to pay out cash in fall 2019.

Not many nations can announce they legally can’t pay all of their debts and yet avoid a wiggle in the credit risk of their bonds. Imagine a nation, say Argentina or Italy, signals the government can’t legally pay debt; their interest rates would soar. When the limit is reached, the U.S. Treasury can’t borrow any more, which one would think would cause a crisis of confidence, severely impacting the real economy for fear the government would default on our debt. But the risk premium on U.S. Treasuries did not budge much.

The Stunning Statistical Fraud Behind The Global Warming Scare


What do we mean by fraudulent? How about this: NOAA has made repeated “adjustments” to its data, for the presumed scientific reason of making the data sets more accurate.

Nothing wrong with that. Except, all their changes point to one thing — lowering previously measured temperatures to show cooler weather in the past, and raising more recent temperatures to show warming in the recent present.

This creates a data illusion of ever-rising temperatures to match the increase in CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere since the mid-1800s, which global warming advocates say is a cause-and-effect relationship. The more CO2, the more warming.

But the actual measured temperature record shows something different: There have been hot years and hot decades since the turn of the last century, and colder years and colder decades. But the overall measured temperature shows no clear trend over the last century, at least not one that suggests runaway warming.

Civics and Domestic Surveillance: Former Pitt professor reassessing view of MLK after he uncovers new FBI documents

Sean Hamill:

David Garrow confesses that while doing research for his 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr., he came to more than just appreciate the late civil rights leader.

In particular, Mr. Garrow, a former University of Pittsburgh professor of law and history, said listening to every sermon he could find from King “had a very deep, profound impact on me.”

“I always had a very, very high opinion about his humility and self-sacrificing qualities,” Mr. Garrow said from his Squirrel Hill home Friday, “and I still have that.”

Civics: Dangers of a World Where “Almost Anyone Can be Arrested for Something”

Ilya Somin:

In a recent dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch warns of the dangers of the modern expansion of criminal law to the point where “almost anyone can be arrested for anything”:

History shows that governments sometimes seek to regulate our lives finely, acutely, thoroughly, and exhaustively. In our own time and place, criminal laws have grown so exuberantly and come to cover so much previously innocent conduct that almost anyone can be arrested for something. If the state could use these laws not for their intended purposes but to silence those who voice unpopular ideas, little would be left of our First Amendment liberties, and little would separate us from the tyrannies of the past or the malignant fiefdoms of our own age. The freedom to speak with-out risking arrest is “one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation.” Houston v. Hill, 482 U. S. 451, 463 (1987).

Why Business Schools Are Shutting Down Their MBA Programs

John Byrne:

The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business has become the latest school to announce that it is getting out of the full-time, on-campus MBA market. Instead, Gies will focus more aggressively on its online MBA option, the $22,000 iMBA, which has seen big growth since being launched in 2015 (see Illinois To End Full- And Part-Time MBA Programs On Campus).

Why is Gies giving up on its full-time MBA? For one thing, the school admits it is losing money on the program. While it may surprise many observers given how high tuition rates are for MBA programs, many of these programs are actually loss leaders or “show” programs to get a U.S. News ranking. Secondly, applications to most MBA programs have been declining for years, evidence that there is less interest in the degree.

Just look at the numbers at the University of Illinois’ full-time MBA, ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News. Applications to Gies’ full-time program fell to 290 this year from 386 in 2016. The school actually enrolled fewer than 50 full-time students in each of the past three years. Even when apps were nearly 100 higher in 2016, Gies was only able to enroll a class of 47 students.

Algorithms and Humans

Sam Sweeney:

Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available—creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.

It’s happening in the Uber and Lyft parking lot outside Reagan National airport. The lot fills with 120 to 150 drivers sometimes for hours, waiting for the busy evening rush. And nearly all the drivers have one complaint:

“Uber doesn’t pay us enough, what the company is doing is defrauding all these people by taking 35-40 percent,” one driver told ABC 7.

“They are taking all this money because there’s no system of accountability,” another unidentified driver said.

ABC7’s Sam Sweeney asks: “Do all you guys agree with that?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!,” the driver says.

Where the Presidential Candidates Went to School

Alyson Klein and Maya Riser-Kositsky:

The presidential candidates may not be talking much about education so far, but they’ve all had personal experience with it. After all, they were students themselves at one time or another. And the parents among them choose schools—public or private—for their own children.

So what did that experience look like? Did the candidates go to public schools, religious schools, or private schools? Where did they decide to send their own kids? And how much does any of it matter, when it comes to both politics and actual policymaking?

What Should Free Speech Mean in College?

Jill Patton:

Imagine a student posting satirical flyers around his dorm that mock undocumented students who fear deportation. Or flyers that say, “Racism lives here.” Or posters advertising a controversial speaker’s visit—which another resident rips down.

Now picture a classroom discussion about police shootings of African Americans. Some students attribute the deaths to cops’ racist attitudes. Another student counters that claim, saying a more likely explanation is that violent crime rates are higher among blacks. “Now, that was particularly uncivil!” the professor replies. Another student stands, as if to storm out in disgust at his classmate’s rebuttal. The professor slams his hand on the table, crying, “Sit down!” as he tries to regain control of the room.

Out in White Plaza—a Stanford free speech zone—a student group staffs a table in support of a Supreme Court nominee. Detractors try to steal the group’s signs, prompting the supporters to film the sign stealers and the taunting that ensues on both sides.

There are no easy answers to how a university should address conflicts in which students feel attacked or silenced—sometimes on both sides simultaneously. As Debra Satz, a philosopher and the dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, says, “A central aim of the university—to generate knowledge—depends on the free exchange of ideas.” But, says Satz, who expands on her view in an essay below, “The classroom is not a street corner: No classroom can be a place of learning without abiding by norms of civility and mutual respect.”

How School Districts Weaponize Child Protection Services Against Uncooperative Parents

Kerry McDonald:

Schooling is adept at rooting out individuality and enforcing compliance. In his book, Understanding Power, Noam Chomsky writes: “In fact, the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on—because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”

This filtering process begins very early in a child’s schooling as conformity is rewarded and divergence is punished.

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

Paul Fanlund, in an interesting contrast to recent Isthmus articles:

She said Madison should look beyond simple metrics and keep working to “create a liberating experience for students where they’re valued, where they’re seen as fully human and complex. That’s what this community needs to hold at the center as it’s making its decisions in all the years ahead.”

As an example of a step in the right direction during her tenure, she pointed to the community school program, in which the school serves as a hub for health care, academic tutoring, mentoring, food access and parental involvement. Looking ahead, she endorsed integrating mental health support into all schools and expanding the “pathways” model of personalized learning and exploration.

Cheatham said she understands why some educators feel a shock after doing things one way and then being asked to change. “All of a sudden, you’re hearing from black students, black families, black staff members, for example, that the ways of working that you’ve been using are actually maybe doing damage,” she said.

“That causes a terrifying feeling of disequilibrium, and it seems natural to me that we want to blame someone, right? When I’m feeling that way, I want to declare: ‘Whose fault is it? ‘It’s got to be Jen Cheatham’s fault. It’s got to be the fault of this policy. It’s got to be someone’s fault.’ ”

All along, Cheatham said, she knew creating something new in Madison would have a cost: “As a white female, I know that it has been my obligation to use my white privilege — and sometimes burn down the capital that I have built up — so that I can make change for people who don’t have the privilege that I have, and if that means getting a crummy article written about me, if that means social media chatter that, quite honestly, I don’t look at, then so be it, because guess what?

“I am going to be able to wake up the next day and go back into the office and be OK.”

2013: Jennifer Cheatham at the Madison Rotary ClubWhat will be different this time?

2019: Jennifer Cheatham at the Madison Rotary Club

2013: “Plenty of Resources

“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”.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.


Madison West High School students to compete in international rocketry competition

Logan Wroge:

A month before Americans celebrate the 50th anniversary of landing a man on the moon, a group of West High School students will demonstrate their own rocketry skill on an international level — ideally by sending three eggs 856 feet in the air to safely land uncracked on French soil.

The nearly all-freshmen team of Madison students will represent the United States during the International Paris Air Show next month, facing off against three other nations to determine the champion model rocket building team. The trip marks the third time West High has sent a team to the international competition, the last being in 2012.

Earlier this month, the club qualified by placing first in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, besting 100 other teams, including another from West High.

The 34-inch rocket is constructed out of lightweight, craft paper tubing, fiberglass fins and a plastic nose cone, and is divided into two main pieces — the payload portion containing three large grade A eggs and the booster component.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Florida Is the Big Winner as the Wealthy Move Out of Northern States

Lee Miller & Wei Lu:

Roughly 5 million Americans move from one state to another annually and some states are clearly making out better than others.

Florida and South Carolina enjoyed the top economic gains, while Connecticut, New York and New Jersey faced some of the biggest financial drains, according to a Bloomberg analysis of state-to-state moves based on data from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Connecticut lost the equivalent of 1.6% of its annual adjusted gross income, as the people who moved out of the Constitution State had an average income of $122,000, which was 26% higher than those migrating in. Moreover, “leavers” outnumbered “stayers” by a five-to-four margin.

Civics: Philly judge stuns wrongly convicted juvenile lifer by setting him free after 21 years in prison

Samantha Melamed

After fighting for 21 years to be exonerated of participating in a 1996 West Philadelphia murder, Terrance Lewis had given up.

He withdrew his petition to vacate his conviction in February — an agonizing decision — to clear the way to be resentenced after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were illegal. It would mean he’d get out of prison eventually — but he’d be on parole for life, and his name would never be cleared.

Tuesday, something happened at his resentencing that neither Lewis and his lawyers, nor the District Attorney’s Office, whose Conviction Integrity Unit had been investigating the case, had anticipated.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara McDermott decided to review his innocence claim on the spot and — due to what she deemed “a denial of due process” — threw out his conviction. The district attorney declined to retry the case.

Are Homeschoolers Overqualified?

Annie Holmquist:

Mike Rowe responded to this letter with a rant about how the “college for all” push is senseless and driving the American skills gap. Undoubtedly, many Americans would agree with him.

But what I find even more fascinating about this story is the young man’s accomplishments. He is only 18, but obviously well-educated with a full portfolio of important life-skills. That’s not the type of student we see graduating from today’s high schools. Many of those students can’t even perform basic skills such as money management or conversing with strangers.

The element that seems to have set this student apart from others? He was homeschooled.

U.S. Military to Trawl Through 350 Billion Social Media Messages

Pete Norman:

The Trump administration widened its dragnet this week on Chinese companies barred from selling to the U.S. or buying components from American firms in a push to slow China’s technological advances. After crippling Huawei Technologies Co., China’s biggest telecommunications company, the administration followed up by threatening to cut off U.S. components or software to five Chinese video surveillance firms.

But the plan might backfire, because U.S. companies are so inextricably involved in the global technology supply chain. Concerns over Washington’s punitive measures and possible retaliation by the Chinese rattled markets throughout the week, hammering chipmakers and Apple Inc.

It’s 5G that embodies most of Washington’s fears — by powering a wealth of upcoming technologies from self-driving cars to advanced medical procedures, the new wireless standard is set to be the backbone of the modern economy. Until recently, it seemed like Huawei, the world’s biggest purveyor of communications networking gear and the second-largest smartphone maker, was leading in supplying that infrastructure.

Belief in Learning Styles Myth May Be Detrimental

Shaylene Nancekivell, Priti Shah, and Susan A. Gelman:

Many people, including educators, believe learning styles are set at birth and predict both academic and career success even though there is no scientific evidence to support this common myth, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

In two online experiments with 668 participants, more than 90 percent of them believed people learn better if they are taught in their predominant learning style, whether that is visual, auditory or tactile. But those who believed in learning styles split evenly into an “essentialist” group, with more strongly held beliefs, and a “nonessentialist” group, with more flexible beliefs about learning styles, said lead researcher Shaylene Nancekivell, PhD, a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan.

Madison school district website “learning style” search

Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?

Jenny Peek:

Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison professor and cognitive neuroscientist, has spent decades researching the way humans acquire language. He is blunt about Wisconsin’s schools’ ability to teach children to read: “If you want your kid to learn to read you can’t assume that the school’s going to take care of it. You have to take care of it outside of the school, if there’s someone in the home who can do it or if you have enough money to pay for a tutor or learning center.”

Theresa Morateck, literacy coordinator for the district, says the word “balanced” is one that’s been wrestled with for many years in the reading world.

“I think my perspective and the perspective of Madison currently is that balanced means that you’re providing time to explicitly teach those foundational skills, but also that’s not the end-all be-all of your program,” Morateck says.

According to the district, students in elementary school get 120 minutes of daily literacy instruction.

Lisa Kvistad, the district’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, lays out what those two hours look like for kindergarten, first and second grade. For 30 minutes, students focus on foundational skills including print awareness (the difference between letters, words and punctuation), phonemic awareness (the ability to hear, identify and make individual sounds), and phonics (correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters).

Then teachers move into a 15-minute group lesson on a topic the class is focusing on. That’s followed by a workshop in which students are broken up into different groups for 20 to 40 minutes.

In these workshops, says Kvistad, “students are in varying groups and approaching literacy acquisition through opportunities to work with the teacher, read independently, and engage in word study.”

That independent learning allows students to choose books at their assessed skill level, Kvistad says. The district also offers a supplemental online program called Lexia for students who want to work on phonics.

At the end of the workshop, teachers bring students together again to connect their independent or small group study with the mini-lesson they started with.

After reading, 30 to 50 minutes are dedicated to writing, which is also done in a workshop model. The 120 minutes are rounded out by about 20 minutes of “speaking, listening and handwriting.”

For third, fourth and fifth graders, the 120-minute block looks similar, except no time is spent on foundational skills — except for the continued ability to use Lexia.

Kvistad explains that getting the right balance of foundational skills and exposure to grade-level curriculum is an art.

“There’s always a temptation to do more phonics,” Kvistad says. But she says there are drawbacks to that: “Those little ones never get a chance to access grade level curriculum, to engage in rich dialogue with the students in class, to have experience with grade-level vocabulary.”

But for those who advocate for a purely science-based approach to teaching reading, children need to master foundational reading skills before they have any hope of progressing to the more advanced skills that are emphasized with balanced literacy.

Steven Dykstra of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, an organization that advocates for science-based reading instruction, pulls no punches, calling balanced literacy the “current name for the bad way to teach reading.” He says it evolved from “whole language,” a now-discredited type of instruction.

“In whole language you would have taught no phonics, and when you read books with kids you would have taught them to guess and use pictures,” Dykstra says. “In balanced literacy you teach some phonics, but when you sit and read a book you still give priority to guessing and pictures as a way to identify words. And you resort to phonics as a last resort.”

The UW’s Seidenberg explores the complex science of reading in his book Language at the Speed of Sight.

“What happens when you become a skilled reader is that your knowledge of print and your knowledge of spoken language become deeply integrated in behavior and in the brain,” he tells Isthmus. “So that when you are successful at becoming a reader you have this close, intimate relationship between print and sound.”


2018: “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”.

Plenty of resources”. Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, between $18 to 20K per student, depending on the district documents one reviews.

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


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has granted thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge waivers.

Wisconsin elementary teachers are, by law, required to pass the Foundations of Reading exam. This requirement – our only teacher content knowledge imperative – is based on Massachusetts’ highly successful MTEL initiative.

An emphasis on adult employment.

Eagle School’s Maya Jadhav advances to finals at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Shelly Mesch:

Maya Jadhav, a fifth-grader at Fitchburg’s Eagle School, will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals Thursday where she will compete with 49 of the country’s top spellers.

Maya traveled to National Harbor, Maryland, this week for the Scripps Spelling Bee with seven other Wisconsin students: Immanuel Goveas, from Menomonee Falls North Middle School; Aryan Kalluvila, from Richfield Middle School; Frankie Bautista, from Edgewood Campus School; Kieran McKinney, who is home-schooled; Spencer Phillips, from Indian Mound Middle School; Julianne Washa, from Highland Community Elementary School; and Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya, from Blessed Sacrament School.

Students learn to speak Latin, ‘the un-dead language’

Zoe Greenberg:

The Roman gladiators entered the cafeteria in a single-file line, thumping elongated cardboard tubes against duct-taped cardboard shields. They wore helmets, wrist cuffs, shin protectors.

“Sanguinem!” the eighth-grade spectators chanted from the sidelines, pounding the tables. Blood!

The annual gladiator battle at Ottoson Middle School is not only about whacking enemies with recyclable swords. It’s also about bringing a supposedly dead language to life by doing something unheard-of in Latin classes of the past: Speaking it.

In schools across Massachusetts and the country, teachers are throwing out the memorized charts of verb conjugations and noun declensions that were once essential to a Latin education, and instead emphasizing the spoken word. The goal is to make Latin more inclusive and more engaging for kids in 2019.

Civics: Making Life Worse: The Flaws of Green Mandates

Joel Kotkin:

In reality, most events, like California’s wildfires, linked by the climate industry to greenhouse gases, may have more than one cause; in this case, green policies, notably on clearing brush, may have been more responsible than the climate, and also for rising emissions. The reality remains, as the UN Panel on Climate Change admits, “we are dealing with a non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states may not be entirely possible.”

No basis for politically sound policy

Despite the historical record, hysteria provides the pretext for US Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez’s Green New Deal. Predictably, she demands her sweeping trillion-dollar proposals, including the elimination of all fossil fuels by 2030 all in the cause of saving the planet from catastrophe.

p>Not surprisingly such policies are opposed by people most threatened by these changes, in energy rich places like Australia’s Queensland, Alberta, or Appalachia as well as

manufacturing areas like Ontario, Canada, the U.S. Midwest, the British midlands or large parts of industrial Germany.

But the green program does not just threaten factory hands or ill-riggers. Increasingly it takes aim at virtually everything long associated with improved middle class living standards, such as living in a single-family house, or even eating meat. Some scientists even suggest we will have to shift from hamburgers to such delightful concoctions as “maggot sausages.”

What’s Not On The Test

Hidden Brain Podcast:

Smarts matter. But other factors may play an even bigger role in whether someone succeeds. This week, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman about the skills that predict how you’ll fare in life. We’ll also look at programs that build these skills in the neediest of children – and new research that suggests the benefits of investing in kids and families can last for generations.

Free College Tuition: You Get What You Pay For By


Let’s say that this does happen. All student debt is paid off, all colleges and universities are free, and anyone can get in with acceptance. Now, a student at a university that you are paying higher taxes for so they can pursue that diploma drops out or flunks. What compensation will the government assure you? Answer: none. The modern left is in the business of getting students into universities (and hopes to do so on your dime) so they can gain votes and continue to stack their elite with the college educated many of whom have degrees that are essentially useless in most professional markets. “Well, if they flunk out or drop out, they could join the military as a form of repayment.” That sounds great too, except that the military, even for enlistees, has high standards. The armed forces will accept those with high school diplomas and G.E.D.s. But, the number of those who enlist with a G.E.D. are very small. So by sending those who drop out or flunk out of an already free system to go serve and get paid, once again by taxpayers, is illogical in and of itself. Not to mention that you are asking those who couldn’t handle the pressures of a classroom to go into something that requires more, up to the sacrifice of their own lives. The American military, minus times when the draft was used, thrives on a desire to be there. A college dropout just paying back his dues, all while getting paid, would not be the ideal candidate for serving the country.

Most Democrats pursuing a 2020 run, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, among others, vehemently disagree with the idea of economic competition. But anyone who has taken high school economics knows that competition is key to any free-market capitalist economy. Without competition, colleges would have an even higher number of students fill their campuses and keep the cash flowing. All without regard for the standard of education they provide. Now since this is available to everyone, the demand will go up, in turn making costs higher. Without competition for students, the number of the essentially worthless degrees goes up because colleges will have much more capacity to offer them. Once again, why should the taxpayer be saddled with a student’s debt so she can pursue a degree in “lesbian dance theory”? Higher education is already offering a great number of degrees in programs that there are very small, if not, no markets for. This causes students to miss out on that career of grandeur they’ve built up in their heads the last four years. Instead, they end up with debt they aren’t able to pay off. If academia and students alike would use the same critical thinking they preach about, then they would stop offering and taking worthless programs that there is no demand for. Learn to focus on ones that can offer rewarding careers that can easily pay off student debt, which then in turn encourages alumni to donate to their alma mater.

To Get More Young People Into Good Jobs, a New Focus on Apprenticeships

Philip Rojc:

For centuries, craftsmen and tradespeople engaged young people in long-term learning roles intended to pass on techniques and skills. In recent decades, though, this pathway into the skilled trades has shrunk, replaced by the pervasive belief that college is the best route to a secure career.

But college isn’t appropriate or accessible for everyone. Many low-income students drop out of college for financial and personal reasons; millions more who do get degrees struggle because their skills don’t match the job market and/or they’re saddled with student debt. Meanwhile, employers can’t fill a range of jobs that require specialized skills and training—but not a college education. A case in point: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that America will face a growing shortage of electricians in coming years. A similar skills shortage exists in plumbing and other trades.

One philanthropic strategy to address that gap involves adapting the apprenticeship model to better fit today’s economy. With the backing of several big-name funders, New America’s Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) is expanding its work in this area.

PAYA got up and running in late 2018. It’s a grantmaking program, but it also aims to boost general awareness of the model among educators, employers and policymakers. Toward that end, PAYA has laid out explanatory material on youth apprenticeships for those in the dark about how it works. According to PAYA, the key components of high-quality youth apprenticeships are (1) paid, on-the-job learning, (2) related classroom instruction, (3) ongoing assessment and (4) a portable, industry-recognized credential and postsecondary credit.

NJEA: The Taxpayer Funded Special Interest

Mike Lilley, via a kind reader’s email:

The NJEA Gains Laws That Secure Taxpayer Funding With great deliberation and persistence over many years, the NJEA used its political clout to construct a funding system that funnels taxpayer dollars directly into its coffers. This expertly designed legislative regime had three1pillars: exclusive bargaining authority, agency fees and the automaticwithholding of teachers’ dues. The legislature passed each of these laws after prolonged NJEA lobbying.

Per legislation passed in the 1960s, the NJEA established itself as the exclusive representative of teachers and was empowered to collectively bargain with local school boards, which were bound by law to negotiate in good faith. The NJEA also gained “dues check-off:” the right to have teachers’ dues deducted from their paychecks automatically (after first gaining teachers’ permission). Property taxes pay teacher salaries, so dues withholding meant that teachers and school districts effectively became pass-throughs for property tax dollars to flow directly to the NJEA. The teachers never saw the money.

Finally, in 1979, after many years of lobbying, the NJEA won the right to charge a teacher “agency fees” even if the teacher did not belong to the union. Such fees amounted to as much as 85% of regular dues, sopredictably fewer than 1% of teachers opted not to join the union. This law ensured that the NJEA had an enormous base of members from which to withhold dues.

School Districts Are the NJEA’s Bill Collector

Thanks to this legislative regime, the school district essentially acts as the bill collector for a private, special interest – all on the taxpayers’ dime.In the decades since its enactment and up until 2018, this funding system worked extremely well for the NJEA.

Dues check-off and agency feescombined to provide the NJEA with an automatic and substantial annualstream of tens of millions of property tax dollars. From 1994-2018, theNJEA brought in a total of $2.11 billion, reaching a record high of $129 million in 2018.

Related: Wisconsin Act 10.

Orwell in the Chinese Classroom

Made in China Journal:

Men in plainclothes, stalking, disappearance. A déjà vu.

At the same time, at the Department of Medicine at Peking University, Shen Yuxuan suddenly became unreachable.

The night before, as usual, she and another classmate studied in the fourth classroom of the biochemistry building.

At about 10:30pm, several men appeared at the door of the classroom and took photos of Shen. Then, six or seven ‘teachers’, security guards, and two policemen broke in.

After sending other students away, they stood next to the seat occupied by Shen: ‘Will you come with us or not? Are you coming with us by yourself or do you want me to force you? ”

This request was completely unmotivated, and the two students were unwilling to respond.

Suddenly, a classmate was grabbed by his neck and pulled up from his seat. They held down his arms and dragged him into the police car, where he was punched and kicked. Do you want to call for help? They poured a bottle of water all over his face.

Then the police resorted to the usual means—strangling, covering his mouth, twisting his arms behind his back—and took him to the security office. In a conference room, they used both hard and soft methods to beat, abuse, and mock this classmate until 2am.

In the meantime, Shen Yuxuan sent these messages at 11:30pm:

How I made sure all 12 of my kids could pay for college themselves

Francis Thompson:

We as parents allowed kids to make mistakes. Five years before the 16th birthday and their “new” car gift, they had to help out with our family cars. Once I asked my son, Samuel, to change the oil and asked if he needed help or instruction. “No, Dad, I can do it.” An hour later, he came in and said, “Dad, does it take 18 quarts of oil to change the oil?” I asked where did he put 18 quarts of oil when normally only five were needed. His response: “That big screw on top at the front of the engine.” I said “You mean the radiator?” Well, he did not get into trouble for filling the radiator with oil. He had to drain it, we bought a radiator flush, put in new radiator fluid, and then he had to change the real oil. We did not ground him or give him any punishment for doing it “wrong.” We let the lesson be the teaching tool. Our children are not afraid to try something new. They were trained that if they do something wrong they will not get punished. It often cost us more money, but we were raising kids, not saving money.
The kids each got their own computer, but had to build it. I bought the processor, memory, power supply, case, keyboard, hard drive, motherboard, and mouse. They had to put it together and load the software on. This started when they were 12.
We let the children make their own choices, but limited. For example, do you want to go to bed now or clean your room? Rarely, did we give directives that were one way, unless it dealt with living the agreed-upon family rules. This let the child feel that she had some control over life.

SAT to Give Students ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background

Douglas Belkin:

The SAT, which includes math and verbal sections and is still taken with No. 2 pencils, is facing challenges. Federal prosecutors revealed this spring that students cheated on both the SAT and ACT for years as part of a far-reaching college admissions cheating scheme. In Asia and the Middle East, both the ACT and SAT exams have experienced security breaches.

Yale University is one of the schools that has tried using applicants’ adversity scores. Yale has pushed to increase socioeconomic diversity and, over several years, has nearly doubled the number of low-income and first-generation-to-attend-college students to about 20% of newly admitted students, said Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.

“This [adversity score] is literally affecting every application we look at,” he said. “It has been a part of the success story to help diversify our freshman class.”

Colleges could glean some of the information that the adversity score reflects from other parts of a student’s application. But having the score makes comparisons more consistent, Mr. Quinlan said.

Unraveling the Myths Around Reading and Dyslexia

Holly Korbey:

Yet often, elementary school teachers skip or minimize the crucial first step in learning how to read—a thorough understanding of phonics—and emphasize other aspects of reading, like “learning to love reading” instead, assuming that, eventually, children will just pick up reading naturally.

That doesn’t work: The wait-and-see approach is really a wait-to-fail model, according to Gaab, and typically sets children with dyslexia even further behind, with serious implications for the rest of their lives. A quarter of children with dyslexia suffer from depression and anxiety, and a third also have ADHD. Nearly half of all prison inmates have dyslexia, and adults with disabilities are 46 percent more likely to commit suicide than those without.

While dyslexia cannot be cured, there are early interventions that can help a child learn how to read—specifically, structured literacy, an umbrella term for multisensory, explicit instruction based on six specific language areas set forth by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA): phonology, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

When teachers use this approach for beginning readers who show signs of dyslexia, “studies have shown that 50–90 percent of those kids will reach the range of average reading ability,” says Gaab.

How Bill Gates Destroyed the College Board

Daniel Greenfield:

A poor immigrant who studied hard and worked hard might have a shot at the best schools in the land.

Over a century later, the College Board has announced that the Scholastic Assessment Test will include an adversity score based on zip codes that purports to measure the social environment of the student.

After nearly a century of trying to measure intelligence, instead of class, the SAT will collude in a college admission system where class overwhelms merit to a degree unseen since 18th century Harvard.

The latest assault on standardized testing assumes that the individual student should be defined by the income, education and family averages of his zip code, more than by his actual skills and learning in a complete reversal of the entire purpose of the SAT and the meritocratic work of the College Board.

Ironically, the College Board fell victim to the success of a college dropout from a wealthy family.

William Henry Gates III, more commonly known as Bill Gates, has wielded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a tool for wrecking education with Common Core and has hijacked the College Board, which began as a conclave of elite college leaders, into pursuing his radical social and political agendas.


Stephanie Francis Ward:

Following multiple years of discussion, and two rejections from the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted a proposed revision to tighten an accreditation standard regarding bar passage Friday.

To be in compliance with the revised version of Standard 316, at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sat for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation. Under the previous rule, there were various ways to meet the standard, and no law school had been found to be out of compliance with it.

Those ways include:

• Having a 75% pass rate for all graduates over the five most recent calendar years;

• Having a 75% pass rate for at least three of those five years;

• And having at least 70% of its graduates pass the bar at a rate within 15 percentage points of the average first-time bar pass rate for ABA-approved law school graduates in the same jurisdiction for three out of the five most recently completed calendar years.

Claude Shannon

The bit player:

In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics. But when interviewed in the 1980s, Shannon was more interested in showing off the gadgets he’d constructed — juggling robots, a Rubik’s Cube solving machine, a wearable computer to win at roulette, a unicycle without pedals, a flame-throwing trumpet — than rehashing the past. Mixing contemporary interviews, archival film, animation and dialogue drawn from interviews conducted with Shannon himself, The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

Civics: Your Personal Information is Yours, Not the Raw Material for Surveillance Technology

Jake Snow:

The information that you share with a company should not be repurposed or sold without your consent. But companies are building algorithms from massive repositories of personal information, collected from people who are not told about how the company will use their information.

A recent report revealed a troubling example of this invasive practice. A Silicon Valley-based company called Ever apparently used billions of private photos they collected from their users to secretly train a face surveillance tool marketed to the military and law enforcement.

Your private photos are yours and should not be the raw materials of surveillance technology.

This is an egregious violation of people’s privacy. When companies collect people’s personal information—like private photos—for one purpose, they should get permission from their users before they contort that data for an entirely different purpose.

So what happened here? Ever describes itself as “a company dedicated to helping you capture and rediscover your life’s memories.” Its website shows a photo album called “Weekend with Grandpa” depicting a young child playing outside. Ever’s “free” and “unlimited” photo storage and sharing app, called Everalbum, offers to make “it easy to share your favorite memories with the people who matter most.” Ever eventually accumulated billions of photos from millions of people into this “private” platform.

Make School Hard Again

John Nye:

On March 12, news of a massive admission scandal broke in the world of higher education. At least 50 people, including several celebrities, stand accused of paying a consultant named William Rick Singer to get their children into particular colleges by any means necessary. His alleged tactics included falsifying standardized test results and bribing coaches to fraudulently nominate students for athletic scholarships, sometimes in sports they didn’t even play in high school.

The revelations have understandably provoked much wailing about the corruption of the university admissions process. But much less notice has been paid to another sea change that enabled this scandal to occur: It is still very hard to get into elite schools, but it’s not at all difficult to graduate.

In a different era, obtaining a diploma from an Ivy League school required hard work and real educational attainment for almost any major. The kinds of students admitted through money or connections would often struggle to make it through—hence the so-called “gentleman’s C.” But the vast majority of those who completed a degree could take pride in their accomplishments and rest easy knowing they were well-prepared to succeed in life.

Not so anymore. Since the late 1960s, universities have increasingly suffered from grade inflation and an emphasis on ensuring that all admitted students graduate. At the same time, schools have become more liberal about accepting applicants based on unorthodox qualifications, from athletic ability to nonacademic accomplishments, disadvantageous backgrounds, and demonstrated social “awareness.”

If these changes were simply used to admit a wider range of individuals who in the past would likely have been overlooked but who, given the opportunity, were capable of meeting the strict existing standards, this would be a laudable development. But that is not what has happened.

The old academic criteria, imperfect as they were, were in fact doing a reasonable job of selecting individuals able and willing to handle the rigors of traditional college. The blunt fact is that the majority of people who scored below a 1200 on the verbal and math sections of the SAT would have found it difficult or impossible to handle a curriculum like that required to earn a state-school engineering degree or comparable certification. Today, thanks to grade inflation, such students can and do pass through top schools with top honors, especially in the liberal arts.

Civics: The indictment of Assange is a blueprint for making journalists into felons

Glenn Greenwald:

The argument offered by both the Trump administration and by some members of the self-styled “resistance” to Trump is, ironically, the same: that Assange isn’t a journalist at all and thus deserves no free press protections. But this claim overlooks the indictment’s real danger and, worse, displays a wholesale ignorance of the First Amendment. Press freedoms belong to everyone, not to a select, privileged group of citizens called “journalists.” Empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections would restrict “freedom of the press” to a small, cloistered priesthood of privileged citizens designated by the government as “journalists.” The First Amendment was written to avoid precisely that danger.

Most critically, the U.S. government has now issued a legal document that formally declares that collaborating with government sources to receive and publish classified documents is no longer regarded by the Justice Department as journalism protected by the First Amendment, but rather as the felony of espionage, one that can send reporters and their editors to prison for decades. It thus represents, by far, the greatest threat to press freedom in the Trump era, if not the last several decades.

Act 10 litigation continues

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:

Today, on behalf of a public school teacher who has refused union membership, attorneys at WILL have filed a motion to intervene in the latest lawsuit over the 2011 collective bargaining reform law (“Act 10”). This month, labor unions revived a dormant lawsuit in federal court to bring against the Evers Administration arguing that key provisions of Act 10 are unconstitutional.

Yesterday, the Evers’ Administration indicated that they will defend the law. But WILL’s client has a direct, distinct interest in the lawsuit because, if successful, it would restore union collective bargaining rights and overturn a number of provisions of Act 10 that protect her legal and First Amendment rights.

Much more on Act 10, here

Madison’s TAXPAYER sUpportEd K-12 School Climate

David Blaska:

Over the last few days since I voiced my concerns about the poor language being used towards adults by our children and youth in our public schools (and at several school board meetings). I have received mostly positive feedback. However, I have also read comments by people who feel my concern about our children’s poor use of language is overstated, misguided and disrespectful.

Worse, I was referred to as a man who practices “respectability politics” and a “Black leader” who has “turned his back” on Black children and who “can no longer hear this voice [of Black youth], can no longer hear the concerns of the masses, can no longer concern [myself] with Black, often low-income, and poor people because [they] are not speaking the way [I] want them to speak?”

It was interesting reading this from people who clearly know very little if anything about me or my work, but whose children have directly benefited from years of my advocacy, and from specific programs I created or pushed to have established. ….

Kaleem Caire:

“As a father of five, I would never let (or condone) my children, or any other young person (or adult), direct hurtful language like that at me or another person without speaking up and correcting them. To see adults clapping for that behavior tonight turned my stomach inside out. I had to get up and leave, and take the mic to say a few words before I left.

“People, what are we thinking and what are we doing? Too many children are cursing out teachers and staff every day in our public schools and we are letting it happen, and making excuses for many children who do it.

“And for those who don’t like what I am saying, you can be mad but you can’t call me racist, and you definitely can’t call me crazy. Many of our young people in our public schools are benefiting directly from my years of hard work, advocacy and programs that I personally fought for and led the creation of. To sit there and hear young people who represent a demographic that I have worked and fought very hard for, for more than 30 years, curse out other people who are trying to help them…it broke my heart and made my heart sink into my stomach.

“Mothers, fathers, educators and community members, we cannot allow this type of poor behavior to continue unabated. We need to tell our young people that attitudes and behaviors like this WILL NOT BE TOLERATED, PERIOD. It’s not good for our children and their future, and it’s not good for our community and our schools. WE CAN ADVOCATE WITH PASSION, RESPECTFULLY. Onward.”

David Blaska summarizes a recent Isthmus article:

Dylan Brogan is the news reporter of the year so far. The reporter for Madison’s Isthmus publication ripped the bandage off the happy face Jennifer Cheatham puts on Madison’s public schools. He took some hair with it.

Brogan conducted 30 hours of interviews with dozens of Madison educators since, oh, about the April 2 school board election.

For all that, there is nothing new in his May 16 exposé for the weekly Isthmus, “A Rotten Year; Madison teachers report from the classroom.”

The classrooms are in chaos, but we knew that.
Teacher morale is plummeting, but we knew that.
Central administration will throw any teacher under the bus if race is involved, but we knew that.
The densely bureaucratic Behavior Education Plan only greases the school-to-prison pipeline, but we knew that.
We said that teachers are tired of being hit, ignored, taunted, and humiliated. We said that principals have lost control of their schools and teachers of their classrooms. We said a handful of misbehaving students can wreck the learning environment for everyone. We said central administration is interested only in making the numbers work.

Endorsed by Madison’s liberal establishment

While spending far more than most, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A majority of the Madison school board aborted the Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

Much more, here

Civics: China wants us to forget the horrors of Tiananmen as it rewrites its history

Louisa Lim and Ilaria Maria Sala:

Remembering the deaths of 4 June 1989 is no neutral task. It is a civic duty, a burden and an act of resistance in countering a state-level lie that risks spreading far beyond China’s borders.

On that day the Communist party sent tanks to clear protesters from Tiananmen Square in the centre of Beijing, killing hundreds of people, maybe more than a thousand. In the intervening years, China has systematically erased the evidence and memory of this violent suppression using its increasingly hi-tech apparatus of censorship and control.

We know this first-hand: one of us was present in Beijing in 1989, while the other wrote a book on Tiananmen’s legacy. Neither of us ever intended to become an activist, yet to broach the subject of 4 June publicly is to challenge the Communist party’s silence and counter Beijing’s attempts at excising this episode from history. Journalists generally shy away from taking political or ideological positions and yet, since China has for 30 years tried to deny its crime, the simple act of writing about it unwittingly tips us into activism.

Charging Rent When Your Adult Kid Moves Home

Beth DeCarbo:

“I think in hindsight, I wish we would have charged everybody rent and given it back to them after they left,” says Ms. Hantjis, 62, a retired nurse.

“It would have been so positive,” adds Mr. Hantjis, 61 and retired from the Navy. He and his wife were able to financially support them all, he says, but charging rent would have helped prepare them for “real life.” The children are now financially stable, married and living on their own, Mr. Hantjis says.

Looking back, they think they did what was right for themselves and their children. “We were a military family that moved around—we didn’t make a lot of permanent connections,” Mr. Hantjis says. “Our family unit was pretty close. Our narrative was to rely on each other.”

Nanjing School Heads Detained Over Fake Nursing Programs

Cai Xuejiao:

Top administrators at two vocational schools in the eastern city of Nanjing have been apprehended on suspicion of fraud after students and parents in late April protested an unapproved nursing program being offered by the schools, according to an official announcement Wednesday.

The announcement said that Zhang Jing, president of the Nanjing School of Applied Technology, or NSAT, and Wang Zhongping, chairman of Nanjing Oriental Arts and Sciences College and former Communist Party secretary of Yingtian Vocational and Technical College, were criminally detained Wednesday for alleged fraud. The city government added that a working group appointed by the provincial education and human resources departments had been dispatched to the campus shared by the two schools to resolve any lingering issues and “uphold the legitimate rights of the students.” It further stated that a committee had been formed to oversee teaching and general management at all three schools.

Next week’s national spelling bee is the biggest contest ever—because more than half the spellers paid to compete instead of having to win their way in.

Shapiro Shankar:

It’s not just spelling bees where youthful competition has ramped up its intensity.Scripps gives its rationale for the program as making the competition more fair and inclusive, not less. Some areas of the country lack regional sponsors to pay winners’ way to the national event, and some have more crowded regional competitions than others, so spellers face geographic inequities. “Through RSVBee we are proud to open a door that had closed, often for matters beyond the participants’ control,” said Paige Kimble, the Bee’s executive director, in an email. Asked about creating economic inequities, she added, “It’s our aim to keep the price…as low as possible” and noted that families often can get local donors to help.It’s not just spelling bees where youthful competition has ramped up its intensity. What kids now call a “spelling career” is analogous to their peers’ approach to chess meets, dance competitions, gourmet cooking or other passions that their predecessors cultivated somewhat later in life. Parents of this generation—Generation Z, born from 1997 to 2012—have become versed in ferrying their children to high-stakes contests of all kinds, many of them expensive to sustain.The RSVBee program epitomizes how human capital development is permeating childhood. In previous generations, those with means poured time and money into preparing their offspring for college and the job market. Writing about Millennials, born in the 1980s and ’90s, journalist Malcolm Harris identified high school and college internships as the primary resume-builders. What is distinct about Gen Z is how early this process is beginning.

Civics: Rural Americans would be serfs if we abolished the Electoral College

Trent England:

Now a California millionaire named John Koza is trying to undo this system. He is leading and funding the National Popular Vote campaign. Their plan is to get state governments to ignore how their own citizens vote in presidential elections and instead get them to cast their electoral votes based on the national popular vote. If it works, this will be like getting rid of the Electoral College but without actually amending the Constitution.

‘2 wolves and a lamb’ voting on lunch

California has already passed NPV, along with 13 other states plus Washington, D.C. Nevada, with six electoral votes, could be next. NPV only takes effect if it is joined by enough states that they control 270 electoral votes, which would then control the outcome of all future presidential elections. If that happens (NPV needs 81 more electoral votes), and if the courts do not strike it down, big cities will gain more political power at the expense of everyone else.

The idea that every vote should count equally is attractive. But a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin famously reminds us that democracy can be “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.” (City dwellers who think that meat comes from the grocery store might not understand why this is such a big problem for the lamb.) And when you think about it, every check on government power, from the Electoral College to the Bill of Rights, is a restraint on the majority.

The Electoral College makes it even harder to win the presidency. It requires geographic balance and helps protect Americans who might otherwise have their voices ignored. All Americans should value constitutional protections, like the Electoral College, that remind us that the real purpose of government is to protect our individual rights.

People In Higher Social Class Have An Exaggerated Belief That They Are More Capable Than Others


People who see themselves as being in a higher social class may tend to have an exaggerated belief that they are more adept than their equally capable lower-class counterparts, and that overconfidence can often be misinterpreted by others as greater competence in important situations, such as job interviews, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
“Advantages beget advantages. Those who are born in upper-class echelons are likely to remain in the upper class, and high-earning entrepreneurs disproportionately originate from highly educated, well-to-do families,” said Peter Belmi, PhD, of the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. “Our research suggests that social class shapes the attitudes that people hold about their abilities and that, in turn, has important implications for how class hierarchies perpetuate from one generation to the next.”

Why pessimism on Social Security could come back to bite millennials

Mark Miller:

“If you add up all these factors, you have a constellation of things that will make it very difficult for young people down the road,” he said. “That’s why Social Security is crucially important for both this generation and younger people. Joining forces between older folks in the boomer generation and the millennial generation offers a tremendous strategic opportunity to bolster the long-term stability of Social Security.”

Politicians routinely claim that Social Security is going bankrupt and that its shortfalls drive the national deficit – neither is true. I often hear so-called experts from the financial services industry advise people to count on receiving only part of their future benefits. Good luck with that – just try running the numbers with only half of your projected Social Security benefits, and you will watch your plan collapse right there on your computer screen.

Much of the media coverage of the annual report of the Social Security trustees also is atrocious. Just this past April, the report’s release set off the predictable wave of erroneous headlines and broadcast reports stating that Social Security is “running out of money,” describing its “depleted funds” and advising people on how to prepare for a future retirement without their expected benefits.

Democrats Are the Anti-Immigrant Party

Tyler Cowen:

In essence, SB 50 was a pro-immigration bill. By turning it down, California lawmakers essentially engaged in restrictionist immigration policy, whether or not that was their intent.

There are striking parallels between the philosophies of Trump and NIMBY urbanists. Trump asserts that America is “full” and so wants to restrict the flow of immigrants. The urbanists, who tend to be Democratic and highly educated, assert that their cities are too crowded and so want to restrict the supply of housing. The cultural valence of the two views is quite different, but the practical implications have a lot in common — namely, a harder set of conditions for potential low-skilled migrants to the U.S.

Note that most cities in “Red America,” especially those in Texas, have fewer building restrictions than San Francisco or Los Angeles. These red cities and counties, and by extension states, are relatively pro-immigration in this regard.

The minimum wage is another tool of anti-immigration policy, at least for less skilled immigrants. Say a city sets a minimum wage of $15 an hour. That means a potential migrant whose work is worth only $12 an hour won’t be able to get a legal job in that city. That will deter migration, both legal and illegal. Furthermore, a worker in, say, Honduras may not find it possible to improve his or her skills to be worth $15 an hour, at least not without arriving in the U.S.

So higher minimum wages are also a restrictionist immigration policy, at least for the poorest class of migrants. This is one of those truths that is inconvenient for people at both ends of the political spectrum. Many Republicans want tighter immigration, but they are not so crazy about higher minimum wages. Many Democrats face this dilemma in reverse.

It turns out that one of the leading anti-immigration thinkers is in fact quite perceptive on this issue. Ron Unz has argued the “conservative case for a higher minimum wage,” in part on the grounds that it would limit illegal migration. In particular, if minimum-wage laws were truly and strictly enforced, employers would not and could not court illegal workers for the purposes of lowering their wage bill.

A somewhat recent local issue.

Analyzing the Grim Reality of College Acceptance Rates Over Time


Every year, it seems it’s harder to get in to the top colleges in the United States. Perfect grades and SATs were barely enough a decade ago to get admission into the Ivy League and now competition is even more fierce.

But just how hard is it to get into a top college today and how does that compare to the past? If you got into a top school a decade ago, would you have a chance today? Are some schools even more difficult to get into than others?

We analyzed data from Priceonomics customer who assembled admissions rates from top schools in 2006 and compare them to twelve years later in 2018. We restricted our analysis to just the top schools in the United States a decade ago (the top 51according to US News back then) to see how their admissions rates changed.

Yes, it’s much harder to get into a top school today than it was in 2006 and admissions rates have plummeted across the board. The school that’s had the sharpest drop in acceptance rates is the University of Chicago, followed by Northwestern and Duke. Of the 51 schools we looked at, 49 schools were more difficult to get into, but 2 actually had higher admissions rates.

Bloat Does Not Explain the Rising Cost of Education

Alex Tabarrok:

If bloat doesn’t work, what is the explanation for higher costs in education? The explanation turns out to be simple: we are paying teachers (and faculty) more in real terms and we have hired more of them. It’s hard to get costs to fall when input prices and quantities are both rising and teachers are doing more or less the same job as in 1950.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Civics: The Success of Nonviolent Civil Resistance

Erica Chenoweth:

Between 1900-2006, campaigns of nonviolent civil resistance were twice as successful as violent campaigns. Erica Chenoweth, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, will talk about her research on the impressive historical record of civil resistance in the 20th century and discuss the promise of unarmed struggle in the 21st century. She will focus on the so-called “3.5% rule”—the notion that no government can withstand a challenge of 3.5% of its population without either accommodating the movement or (in extreme cases) disintegrating. In addition to explaining why nonviolent resistance has been so effective, she will also share some lessons learned about why it sometimes fails.

It costs over $69,000 a year to go to Cornell—but this is how much students actually pay

Abigail Hess:

According to the College Board’s 2018 Trends in College Pricing Report, from 1988 to 2018, tuition prices tripled at public four-year schools and doubled at public two-year and private non-profit four-year schools.

But tuition rates and published sticker prices are not entirely indicative of the cost of college today. During the 2018-2019 school year, the reported tuition at private non-profit four-year schools was an average $35,830. But in reality, many students end up paying far less after grants and scholarships are factored in. The average net price of tuition and fees in 2019 is $14,610.

At Cornell University, many students end up paying less than the published tuition price — some significantly so. For the 2019-2020 academic year, undergraduate tuition for New York residents studying agriculture and life sciences, human ecology or industrial and labor relations is $37,880 per year, while tuition for students from other states and studying other subjects is $56,500.

Duke Pays $54.5 Million To Settle Class Action Alleging Non-Poaching Agreement With UNC Stifled Lateral Faculty Moves

Brent Kendall:

Duke and the University of North Carolina are fierce competitors on the basketball court, but when it comes to medical hiring, they have been cozy collaborators, according to a class action that Duke moved to settle Monday for $54.5 million.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015, alleges the rivals agreed not to hire each other’s medical faculty in certain circumstances.

The lead plaintiff, Duke radiology professor Danielle Seaman, contacted UNC about the possibility of becoming a thoracic radiologist there. A UNC official allegedly responded that such a job switch wasn’t possible because Duke and UNC had agreed not to poach each other’s medical faculty for positions that would be a lateral move between the two institutions, according to the lawsuit.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador seeks to expel merit from Mexico’s schools

The Economist:

The reforms had little time to work. Just 171,000 teachers—less than 10% of the total—were hired on merit. A further 36,000 head teachers and supervisors were promoted on ability rather than loyalty to union bosses. But even this may leave a mark. A study published this year by the Development Bank of Latin America found that teachers hired on merit not only had better high-school grades than union-picked ones, they also helped their pupils learn faster. That inspires hope that Mexico may have improved its lowly ranking in the next round of pisa tests, an international measure of student proficiency in maths, reading and science, the results of which are due in December.

Mr López Obrador has long complained that the old reforms infringed on teachers’ “dignity”, and that national evaluations were “punitive” and unfair to poorer states. In fact, veteran teachers who failed evaluations three times in a row were not laid off. Instead they were transferred to administrative roles. Such a fate befell less than 1% of those assessed. But the haphazard implementation may have hastened the reforms’ demise. The Peña administration overspent its marketing budget but underspent its teacher-training budget. To appease strikers, the government gave deputy head-teacher positions to union commissioners, undermining the meritocracy it was trying to build, says Marco Fernández of Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Misinformation about New York schools spreads in Chinese on WeChat

Mia Shuang Li:

Across the US and even in mainland China, a news story is arresting the attention of a global Chinese-speaking readership: The New York City standardized high school entrance exam. It’s a wonky topic that improbably inflames Chinese American parents as well as Chinese ones reading from their living rooms in Beijing and Shanghai, because of the proliferation of misleading coverage on WeChat, the dominant Chinese-language messaging app, on which misinformation runs rampant.

As the number of black and Hispanic students in New York City’s eight specialized high schools drops to an all time low, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to diversify the student body by overhauling the admissions process has sparked intense debate. Of particular concern is de Blasio’s proposed elimination of the standardized test announced in June, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), that serves as the schools’ only entrance exam. The plan, intended to increase ethnic diversity in high schools, faces strong opposition, especially from the Asian American community, who make up about 60 percent of the student bodies in these schools.

More Students Secluded and Restrained in Madison

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick:

When I helped to pass Act 125 in 2012 to document and regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin schools, one of the chief goals was to reduce the use of these aversive techniques. I recently obtained the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) seclusion and restraint data for the past school year, and sadly, while there has been some progress in reducing the number of incidents of seclusion and restraint, as compared to the prior year, there were actually more students secluded and restrained during the 2017-18 school year than in the prior year.

Civics: ‘If I disappear’: Chinese students make farewell messages amid crackdowns over labor activism

Gerry Shih:

The video opens with the 21-year-old sociology student facing the camera. His voice quivers as he recounts his interrogation — his humiliation — for days at the hands of Beijing police.

The officials pressured him to quit labor activism and drop out of Peking University, he says. They slapped him until blood streamed from his nose. They jammed headphones into his ears and played hours of propaganda at full volume.

On the last day, he alleges, they had him bend over a table naked and spread his buttocks, joking darkly that they would teach him how to insert a listening device.

“This all happened on campus,” Qiu Zhanxuan seethes in the video he recorded in February after he said the police released him, temporarily, after a four-day ordeal.

“If I disappear,” he adds, “it’ll be because of them.”

Qiu disappeared April 29.

State security agents seized him that day from Beijing’s outskirts, his classmates say. Qiu’s offense? He was the leader of the Marxist student association at the elite Peking University, a communist of conscience who defied the Communist Party of China.

The Conventional Wisdom About Millennial Suffering Is A Myth

David Harsanyi:

If there were a healthy, properly incentivized economic structure in higher education, banks wouldn’t be handing out loans to students without any thought to their future earning potential. There isn’t.

Also, millennials aren’t compelled to rent apartments in the middle of the most expensive cities in America. Yet, many are happier living in urban areas than previous generations were. Pew Research found in 2018 that 88 percent of millennials now reside in metropolitan areas. That’s also a choice.

And the urban areas that millennials choose are more expensive partly because they are far better iterations of cities than previous generations encountered. In the past 30 years, these places have undergone waves of gentrification and revival, in part to cater to the tastes of younger Americans. Most are cleaner, safer, and more livable in numerous ways—and thus, more pricey. Yes, Brooklyn was a lot cheaper in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It was also more dangerous, dirtier, and less enticing for families and businesses.

The real (surprisingly comforting) reason rural America is doomed to decline

Andrew Van Dam:

According to the United States’ original 1950 urban classifications, rural America is crushing it. It’s home to about as many people as urban America, and it’s growing faster. So why do headlines and statistics paint rural areas as perpetually in decline?

Because the contest between rural and urban America is rigged. Official definitions are regularly updated in such a way that rural counties are continually losing their most successful places to urbanization. When a rural county grows, it transmutes into an urban one.

In a way, rural areas serve as urban America’s farm team: All their most promising prospects get called up to the big leagues, leaving the low-density margins populated by an ever-shrinking pool of those who couldn’t qualify.

Imagine how unfair a sport would seem if one team automatically drafted the other’s best players the moment they showed any promise. That’s essentially what happens when we measure rural areas as whatever’s left over after anywhere that hits a certain population level is considered metropolitan. It distorts how we see rural America. It skews our view of everything from presidential politics to suicide to deaths caused by alcohol.

Officially, the years since 2010 have marked a turning point for rural counties. For the first time, they have lost population. Their share of the U.S. population hit an all-time low of 14 percent. But those startling statistics are due entirely to changes in county definitions, according to a paper presented to the Rural Sociological Society by Ken Johnson of the University of New Hampshire, Daniel Lichter of Cornell University and John Cromartie of the Agriculture Department.

Do Charter Schools Replicate?

Wall Street Journal:

The paper’s authors, three professors of economics or education policy, explain what happened after Massachusetts raised its charter cap in 2010. The state set rules encouraging successful charter schools—deemed “proven providers”—to seed new campuses. Most follow a “no excuses” framework, with high expectations and a low tolerance for misbehavior.

After the cap was lifted, growth came rapidly. By 2015 the share of Boston’s sixth-graders attending a charter school had risen from 15% to 31%. Yet applications increased even faster, to the point that there were two hopefuls for each open seat. Oversubscribed charters award admission by lottery, which randomizes the results. “Comparing the outcomes of students who receive lottery offers to those that do not,” the authors write, shows “large positive impacts of charter attendance on test scores.”

Notably, the charter spinoffs were equally successful “while enrolling students that appear more representative of the general Boston population.” Compared with peers at Boston Public Schools, these pupils had lower previous test scores, were more likely to qualify for subsidized lunch and had similar rates of special needs and limited English.

Civics: ‘Mind control’: The secret UK government blueprints shaping post-terror planning

Ian Cobain:

After the 2017 London Bridge attack, local officials were told: ‘We’re sending you a hundred imams.’ How hashtags, vigils and flowers are used to steer the public towards grief instead of anger
The British government has prepared for terrorist incidents by pre-planning social media campaigns that are designed to appear to be a spontaneous public response to attacks, Middle East Eye has learned.

Hashtags are carefully tested before attacks happen, Instagram images selected, and “impromptu” street posters are printed.

In operations that contingency planners term “controlled spontaneity”, politicians’ statements, vigils and inter-faith events are also negotiated and planned in readiness for any terrorist attack.

Civics: Report reveals new details about DOJ’s seizing of AP phone records

Ramya Krishnan and Trevor Timm:

With its latest leak indictment last week, the Department of Justice under Donald Trump is now on pace to break the previous record for prosecutions of journalists’ sources, just two and a half years into its administration. A new report, released for the first time today, shows just how dangerous such cases can be to journalists.

In 2013, the Justice Department launched a brazen attack on press freedom, issuing sweeping subpoenas for the phone records of the Associated Press and several of its reporters and editors as part of a leak investigation. At the time, the subpoenas were widely seen as a massive intrusion into newsgathering operations. Last month, we learned that they told only part of the story.

A new report obtained by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Freedom of the Press Foundation (where the authors work) under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the DOJ’s actions against the AP were broader than previously known, and that the DOJ considered subpoenaing the phone records of other news organizations, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ABC News. Moreover, they reveal how narrowly the DOJ interprets the Media Guidelines, the agency’s internal rules for obtaining reporters’ data.

A student in Boston wrote ‘I am from Hong Kong.’ An onslaught of Chinese anger followed.

Shibani Mahtani:

Sitting on a bus in Boston, thousands of miles from her home in Hong Kong, college student Frances Hui crossed paths with an inquisitive fellow passenger.

“Where are you from?” the passenger pressed.

When she eventually replied “Hong Kong,” the man started to get aggressive, Hui recounted. He insisted that she should define herself as “from China” — which was handed control of the former British colony in 1997.

“He kept telling me, ‘You are Chinese, you need to fix your identity,’ ” Hui, a junior at Emerson College, said in an interview. “I felt really insulted. Identity is really personal. It is my thing.”

Hui penned a column at Emerson’s student paper, titled “I am from Hong Kong, not China.” She opened with the line: “I am from a city owned by a country I don’t belong to.”

It was soon followed by an intense and, at times, threatening backlash from mainland Chinese students at her college.

Who Gets Extra Time on the SAT? The Affluent

Scott Jaschik:

Students who attend wealthy high schools appear more likely than those who attend low-income high schools to get extra time on the SAT and other exams, according to a new analysis by The Wall Street Journal. At some wealthy high schools identified by the Journal, one in four students is permitted to have extra time on tests by virtue of having claimed a disability. At low-income high schools, the total is 1.4 percent on average, the Journal found.
The findings are consistent with other studies. A 2000 study by the California state auditor found that 1.2 percent of those graduating from high school were receiving extra time on the SAT. Compared to the state’s population, those students were more likely to be white, more likely to come from a wealthy family and more likely to attend private schools than other students.

What We Want Doesn’t Always Make Us Happy

Noak Smith:

Much of modern economic theory is based around a simple idea: Human beings maximize utility. But what is utility? Many people think of it as happiness or pleasure; British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the inventor of utilitarianism, conceived of it this way. But this isn’t how modern economists think of the concept. To an economist, utility simply means how much people want something. If an economist observes people working hard and making sacrifices to buy houses, then the conclusion is that houses must have lots of utility to those people.

Modern economists tend to assume that utility is good — that people should get what they want. When economists talk about the notion of consumer surplus, they just mean the utility that consumers derive from getting a good deal on consumer goods. Welfare economics, which deals with the question of how much the economy benefits humanity, often conceives of social welfare as a function of the extent to which people satisfy their wants. More egalitarian economists will tend to value the utility of the poor and disadvantaged more than the utility of the wealthy, but fundamentally it’s still about giving people what they desire.

There are certainly reasons to criticize this philosophical approach. First of all, people sometimes make choices they come to regret. Smokers know they should quit now, but they put it off and years later end up wishing they had shown a little more fortitude. So should society care about people’s present selves, or their future selves? This question is very important when discussing whether to ban electronic cigarettes, as the city of San Francisco is now considering. If Juul Labs and other vape makers get young people hooked on nicotine in ways that they’ll later wish they hadn’t, it might make sense for government to bar those people from satisfying their wants.

Mystery, Manners, and the Rediscovery of Great Literature

Tod Worner:

In many high school or college venues, the process of teaching literature has been reduced to performing cold and soulless vivisection on the most vibrant, engaging and instructive of stories. And what is the result? A corpse—a cold and soulless story—is left on the table, likely never to be approached again by the disillusioned student. John Jay Chapman captures the essence of this tragedy when describing what has become of William Shakespeare’s brilliance when many a teacher is through with him: “Many a lad has known less about Shakespeare than he did when the only phrase he knew was ‘Anoint thee, witch’—and he didn’t know where that came from. Now he can write the etymology of the words on an examination paper; but the witch herself has vanished. Information is the enemy of poetry.”

But this wasn’t the case for Bob Dylan. The sweep and verve, the agony and ecstasy of an obsessed sea captain, an anguished young soldier, and a homesick hero sprang off the pages at him. They were companions that challenged him to thoughtfully consider them, to be changed by them, to tell their story but in a different way. They possessed him and his music because obsession and anguish and homesickness are all parts of who Bob Dylan is. And we listen to Dylan spin the story anew because they are part of who we are too.

In our age of scientism, with our distasteful and delusionary sense that technique, efficiency, and hard work will demystify everything, the experience of literature is essential. After reading a critic’s analysis of Shakespeare, G.K. Chesterton puckishly noted, “I hasten to say that the [scholar] is very learned and I am very ignorant. I do not profess to know much about Shakespeare, outside such superfluous trifling, as the reading of his literary works.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Retirement Inequality Chartbook

Monique Morrissey:

Today, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions (see “Types of retirement plans,” below). This chartbook assesses the impact of the shift from pensions to individual savings by examining disparities in retirement preparedness and outcomes by income, race, ethnicity, education, gender, and marital status.

The first section of the chartbook looks at retirement-plan participation and retirement account savings of working-age families. The charts in this section focus on families headed by someone age 32–61, a 30-year period before the Social Security early eligibility age of 62 when most families should be accumulating pension benefits and retirement savings. The second section looks at income sources for seniors. Since many workers transition to retirement between Social Security’s early eligibility age and the program’s normal retirement age (currently 66, formerly 65), the charts in the second section focus on retirement outcomes of people age 65 and older.

DNA Testing Was Meant to Help Esmé. It Created Turmoil.

Amy Dockser Marcus:

Hillary Savoie wanted clear answers. Instead, the genetic testing results for her 4-year-old daughter, Esmé, sent her reeling.

“I’m pale. The bags under my eyes are purple,” she wrote in her blog started when Esmé was a baby. “My lips are drawn tight in a thin line.”

Ever since the little girl came into the world in 2011, limp, blue, and struggling to breathe, doctors had been searching for the cause of her problems. They were certain the answer was hidden in Esmé’s DNA, the genetic code comprising more than 3 billion letters that help determine our basic makeup, from health risks to what we look like.

A genetic test performed when she was almost 2 years old revealed a variant on one of Esmé’s genes—“one tiny letter switched out for a second letter,” Ms. Savoie described it—which doctors thought might explain her delayed walking and talking, and epilepsy.

The findings gave the family an answer, and a community. Esmé had a variant in the PCDH19 gene. Ms. Savoie threw herself into PCDH19 research and friendships with families of other PCDH19 children.

The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East

Emma Green:

The call came in 2014, shortly after Easter. Four years earlier, Catrin Almako’s family had applied for special visas to the United States. Catrin’s husband, Evan, had cut hair for the U.S. military during the early years of its occupation of Iraq. Now a staffer from the International Organization for Migration was on the phone. “Are you ready?” he asked. The family had been assigned a departure date just a few weeks away.

“I was so confused,” Catrin told me recently. During the years they had waited for their visas, Catrin and Evan had debated whether they actually wanted to leave Iraq. Both of them had grown up in Karamles, a small town in the historic heart of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain. Evan owned a barbershop near a church. Catrin loved her kitchen, where she spent her days making pastries filled with nuts and dates. Their families lived there: her five siblings and aging parents, his two brothers.

Yes, Determinists, There Is Free Will

George Musser:

It’s not just in politics where otherwise smart people consistently talk past one another. People debating whether humans have free will also have this tendency. Neuroscientist and free-will skeptic Sam Harris has dueled philosopher and free-will defender Daniel Dennett for years and once invited him onto his podcast with the express purpose of finally having a meeting of minds. Whoosh! They flew right past each other yet again.

Christian List, a philosopher at the London School of Economics who specializes in how humans make decisions, has a new book, Why Free Will Is Real, that tries to bridge the gap. List is one of a youngish generation of thinkers, such as cosmologist Sean Carroll and philosopher Jenann Ismael, who dissolve the old dichotomies on free will and think that a nuanced reading of physics poses no contradiction for it.

List accepts the skeptics’ definition of free will as a genuine openness to our decisions, and he agrees this seems to be at odds with the clockwork universe of fundamental physics and neurobiology. But he argues that fundamental physics and neurobiology are only part of the story of human behavior. You may be a big bunch of atoms governed by the mechanical laws, but you are not just any bunch of atoms. You are an intricately structured bunch of atoms, and your behavior depends not just on the laws that govern the individual atoms but on the way those atoms are assembled. At a higher level of description, your decisions can be truly open. When you walk into a store and choose between Android and Apple, the outcome is not preordained. It really is on you.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New Orleans misused millions in school tax dollars to fund pensions, lawsuit says

Wilbur’s Nobles, III:

The city takes a 2% administrative fee to cover its collection of OPSB taxes, but the lawsuit alleges the revenue department began withholding additional amounts starting in 2007 to satisfy various city pension obligations. In total, the city has withheld at least $7.6 million from the OPSB for its pension funds, the lawsuit claims. That amount doesn’t include the approximately $3.4 million in administrative fees collected each year.

25% of Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 School District’s budget was spent on benefits.

No marks for Chinese education bosses sacked after exam results public outcry

Phoebe Zhang:

Two top education officials have been fired while another two are under investigation amid accusations that grades were manipulated in China’s college entrance exams.

Authorities in eastern China’s Zhejiang province launched an investigation following public protests last month over the results of English language test results in the exams, commonly known as gaokao. Protesters complained of unfairness and questioned the scores.

On Wednesday the provincial government announced on social media that an inquiry committee, headed by provincial governor Yuan Jiajun, had concluded there had been a “wrong policy decision” by the Zhejiang Education Department.
The grades of many students had been distorted as a result, leading to unfairness.

Average US School spending is up to $12K per pupil (Madison spends at least 50% more)

US Census Bureau:

U.S. School Spending Per Pupil Increased for Fifth Consecutive Year, U.S. Census Bureau Reports.

The amount spent per pupil for public elementary and secondary education (prekindergarten through 12th grade) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia increased by 3.7% to $12,201 per pupil during the 2017 fiscal year, compared to $11,763 per pupil in 2016, according to new tables released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The increase in spending in 2017 was due in part to an overall increase in revenue for school systems in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2017, public elementary and secondary education revenue, from all sources, amounted to $694.1 billion, up 3.4% from $671.2 billion in 2016.

Other highlights include:

Of the 50 states, New York ($23,091), the District of Columbia ($21,974), Connecticut ($19,322), New Jersey ($18,920) and Vermont ($18,290) spent the most per pupil in 2017.
Of the 100 largest school systems based on enrollment in the United States, the five school systems with the highest spending per pupil in 2017 were New York City School District in New York ($25,199), Boston City Schools in Massachusetts ($22,292), Baltimore City Schools in Maryland ($16,184), Montgomery County School District in Maryland ($16,109), and Howard County School District in Maryland ($15,921). Maryland had one additional school system in the top 10, making it four of the top 10 school systems in the United States. To see the top 10 school districts by current spending per pupil, see the graphic Top 10 Largest School Districts by Enrollment and Per Pupil Current Spending.

Annual Survey of Taxpayer Supported School System Finances.

Madison’s K-12 school district budget data.

CrossFit, Inc. Suspends Use of Facebook and Associated Properties


Recently, Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook’s action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.

Facebook and its properties host and oversee a significant share of the marketplace of public thought. To millions of individuals and communities across the world, Facebook and its properties remain the platforms where ideas and information are exchanged. Facebook thus serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.

CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community. Common decency demands that we do so, as do our convictions regarding fitness, health, and nutrition, which sit at the heart of CrossFit’s identity and prescription. To this end, all activity on CrossFit, Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was suspended as of May 22, 2019, as CrossFit investigates the circumstances pertaining to Facebook’s deletion of the Banting7DayMealPlan and other well-known public complaints about the social-media company that may adversely impact the security and privacy of our global CrossFit community.

The First Amendment.

Detroit male high school maintains 100% college acceptance for 9 years in a row

Porsha Monique:

Detroit’s all male Loyola High School recently announced that every 2019 graduating senior has been accepted into a two-year or four-year college. The high school, which is a Catholic school in the Jesuit tradition, nurtures a culture of hope and academic success for young men challenged by an urban environment and prepares them to be men of Christian love, justice, and service who act with integrity, compassion, and courage. This year marks the ninth continuous year that 100% of Loyola’s graduating class has been accepted into their college of choice.

31% Passed February 2019 California Bar Exam, Up 4% From Last Year

National Law Journal:

Still, the success rate—31.4%—increased 4.1 percentage points from the historically low pass rate of 27.3% recorded in February 2018.

Only 31.4% of would-be attorneys passed California’s February 2019 bar exam, marking the second-lowest pass rate on the notoriously difficult test in 35 years, according to figures released by the state bar Friday night.

The success rate was 4.1 percentage points higher than the historically low pass rate of 27.3% recorded in February 2018.

Civics: manuel was a habitual violator of Illinois’ public records laws and shielded the police from public scrutiny whenever he could


It’s been quite a day for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Atlantic announced that Emanuel is coming aboard as a contributing editor to the venerable magazine’s “ideas” section. Meanwhile, ABC News announced it has hired Emanuel as a contributor. All within 48 hours of his leaving office.

The former Obama White House chief of staff has almost seamlessly transitioned to the next phase of his career: a sage political observer with his finger on the pulse of what 2020 Democrats need to do to defeat Trump. It’s completely predictable but still inexcusable for media outlets to hire him.

Besides the fact that Emanuel has been a mercenary politician his entire adult life, which should be disqualifying on its face, he should at the very least be blackballed from media gigs for his unrepentant and habitual violations of Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Under Emanuel’s leadership, the city government was notorious for stonewalling public records requests from news outlets and activists, most notably in the case of the 2014 fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police.

Police dash cam video clearly contradicted the police narrative that McDonald “lunged” at an officer with a knife, but the Emanuel administration sat on the footage for more than a year—an election year, it so happens—citing an ongoing investigation. The city settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million, but part of the agreement forbid the family from releasing the tape until the “investigation” was complete. Chicago only released the video after it lost a FOIA lawsuit brought by an independent journalist, who was later barred from the press conference where the video was first shown.

“Rahm Emanuel’s administration was a FOIA disgrace, and he was no friend to the Chicago media,” says Matt Topic, a government transparency attorney at Loevy & Loevy who litigated the lawsuit over the McDonald video. “He represents everything that is wrong in government when it comes to transparency and accountability, and he was a shameless self-promoter with little regard for actual facts.”

First Amendment vitals: Taking Gen Z’s pulse on free expression and inclusion

Evette Treewater Alexander:

A majority of students do not support free speech restrictions, but 41 percent draw the line at hate speech:

College Pulse asked college students if hate speech — defined as speech that “attacks people based on their race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation,” — should continue to be protected under the First Amendment as repeatedly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of students said that hate speech ought to be protected while 41 percent disagree.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How the long debt cycle might end

Martin Wolf:

“Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.” These brilliant lines by the poet Robert Frost capture the world’s possible economic prospects. Some warn that the world of high debt and low interest rates will end in the fire of inflation. Others prophesy that it will end in the ice of deflation. Others, such as Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, are more optimistic: the economy will be neither burnt nor frozen. Instead, it will be neither too hot nor too cold, like the baby bear’s porridge, at least in countries that have had the fortune and wit to borrow in currencies they create freely.

William White, former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements, presciently warned of financial risks before the 2007-09 financial crisis. Last year, he warned of another crisis, pointing to the continuing rise in non-financial sector debt, especially of governments in high-income countries and corporations in high-income and emerging economies. Those in emerging countries are particularly vulnerable, because much of their borrowing is in foreign currencies. This causes currency mismatches in their balance sheets. Meanwhile, monetary policy fosters risk-taking, while regulation discourages it — a recipe for instability.

How Many Schools Are Low-Performing Under ESSA? Here Are Some Answers

Andrew Ujifusa:

Much of the federal education law deals with schools struggling to meet expectations. And we have new information concerning just how many of them are being tagged as needing improvement in the Every Student Succeeds Act era. But the answers vary significantly by state.

A new report from the Center on Education Policy takes a state-by-state look at the number of schools that have been identified as needing comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted support and improvement. Those are ESSA’s three school improvement categories.

The share of schools getting each one of those labels can vary dramatically from state to state. In Florida, for example, 69 percent of schools fell into one of those buckets, while in Maryland, just 3 percent of schools have recevied one of the labels so far. The same goes for the share of schools in each of those categories: In Arizona, 41 percent of schools need targeted support and improvement, while in Kansas, the corresponding figure is just 6 percent.

Need a reminder of which schools those labels apply to? You can go here. Basically, schools needing comprehensive support and improvement are Title I schools with very low overall performance, or high schools with low graduation rates, while the other two types of schools have some sort of chronic underperformance among student subgroups. These labels matter schools are supposed to get evidence-based interventions tailored to address their problem areas.

Is Sexual Autonomy Worth The Cost To Human Lives?

Noelle Mering:

The promise of the sexual revolution was that sex can be meaningless. Indeed, it has to be meaningless to preserve our autonomy. If it has intrinsic meaning, independent of whatever we desire it to mean, then that might signify that we have duties that affect our autonomy.

This revolution has thrown human relationships into chaos from the inside out, most tragically the relationship between parent and child. A baby is a glaring, obtrusive, manifestation of meaning interjected into our autonomy.

To maintain the illusion of sexual autonomy requires us to be at war with, not only the science of basic human embryology, but also our very selves: our bodies, minds, and emotions. This is casual, so why do I feel intimately bonded to him? This is casual, so why do I feel used? This is casual, so why is a baby coming?

A funny thing happens when we contort our thinking in a way that denies basic reality: people sometimes accidentally reason their way backward into the truth. This is what we saw when Alyssa Milano, in response to recent laws limiting the availability of abortion, called for sexual restraint in the form of a sex strike—the implication being that if men want sex they’d better give us abortion in case we get pregnant. The less intended implication was that sexual abstinence is possible for a worthwhile end.

Another feminist tweet that went viral called for men to be responsible for both the women they have sex with and the children who might follow: “If abortion is illegal then men abandoning their child should also be illegal. If this was a permanent decision for me then it is for you as a father also.”

If abortion is illegal then men abandoning their child should also be illegal. If this was a permanent decision for me then it is for you as a father also.

— Ricky Spanish (@5headshawtyyy) May 12, 2019

Both of these implicitly concede that because of the nature of sexual intimacy, and without the backstop of abortion, we all might have to realize our duties toward one another and our responsibilities to those to come.

With the camouflage of abortion under threat, the lie of the sexually autonomous lifestyle and the deep injustice it has imposed on men, women, and children is exposed and threatened. We can somewhat cover up the emotional and psychological toll of casual sex, but we can’t quite cover up a baby unless we get rid of it.

Scaffolding the Curriculum Renaissance with Explicit Instruction

mr gmpls:

Yet declaring the superiority of explicit instruction is considered quite controversial in many colleges of education. For at least the past 30 years, teachers have been trained in a progressive education ideology pushing vague notions of pedagogical constructivism. Gradually, the idealized teacher became one that talks less, directly teaches less, and facilitates more “21st century skills” like technology-assisted collaboration and discovery.

Most concerning is the denigration of knowledge and memorization in pursuit of elusive “critical thinking skills,” all while research continues to show that a critical part of critical thinking (and reading comprehension) is the background knowledge one has in those domains.

It is a relief then that discussion in the U.S. about improving student outcomes is beginning to shift to the implementation of a knowledge-rich curriculum. In the U.S., this has taken the form of the curriculum renaissance – the spread full-service curricular resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards and designed to build deep and robust background knowledge, unlike other curricula which were organized around things like “finding the main idea.”

It’s Time to Hold American Elites Accountable for Their Abuses

Raymo Emanuel (!):

Every time Democrats look at a problem, they think of a program. And while those programs often point the way forward, they need to focus their energy on convincing the middle class that they share their values more than just their economic interests. There is more to voters than their wallets. To do that, Democrats need to prove to them that they know the difference between right and wrong, and that begins with owning the terms accountability and responsibility. No matter how privileged, Democrats need to be the ones demanding that those who fall short be made to answer for their own decisions. Every one of us should have to live by the same moral and ethical codes. The nation’s elite shouldn’t have any special license to take the easy way out.

The Rise of the Rural Creative Class (!)

Richard Florida:

One of the most persistent myths in America today is that urban areas are innovative and rural areas are not. While it is overwhelmingly clear that innovation and creativity tend to cluster in a small number of cities and metropolitan areas, it’s a big mistake to think that they somehow skip over rural America.

A series of studies from Tim Wojan and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service documents the drivers of rural innovation. Their findings draw on a variety of data sets, including a large-scale survey that compares innovation in urban and rural areas called the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS). This is based on some 11,000 business establishments with at least five paid employees in tradable industries—that is, sectors that produce goods and services that are or could be traded internationally—in rural (or non-metro) and urban (metro) areas.

The survey divides businesses into three main groups. Roughly 30 percent of firms are substantive innovators, launching new products and services, making data-driven decisions, and creating intellectual property worth protecting; another 33 percent are nominal innovators who engage in more incremental improvement of their products and processes; and 38 percent show little or no evidence of innovation, so are considered to be non-innovators.

New Study: Charter, Choice Outperform Public Schools in Growth, Test Scores

Will Flanders:

Here are 5 findings for our upcoming report on school performance:
1. Milwaukee: Choice Schools Lead in Student Proficiency (even more significantly than DPI data suggests)
Wisconsin’s private and charter schools, much maligned by Governor Evers and other leaders on the left, continue to succeed for Wisconsin students. Once schools are put on a level playing field, all types of charters show a proficiency advantage over traditional public schools (TPS). Led by schools like Carmen Middle/High School of Science and Technology in Milwaukee, non-instrumentalities have 12% higher proficiency in English and 13% higher proficiency in math on average than TPS. This dramatic performance positively exceeded every other sector measured.
Independent charter schools, schools in which the governor has attempted to freeze enrollment, exceeded TPS proficiency rates in math by 8%, as did instrumentality charters (for a brief primer on charter school types, look here). No effect of independent charters or instrumentalities was found for English. Private schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program have higher proficiency rates in both math and English. Proficiency was 4.7% higher in English, and about 4% higher in math than TPS. The inclusion of control variables widens these gaps in most cases, meaning that the results are more positive for choice schools than the data on DPI’s website which lacks controls.

These findings will be enlightening to Governor Evers, who in an interview earlier this week declared vouchers to perform similar to students at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

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”

Grade A Scandal: Montgomery County Public Schools’ grading policies raise concerns

Helen Qian, Valerie Wang, and Robyn Fohouo:

MCPS has recently come under fire for allegedly inflating the grades of its students by altering the semester grading policy in 2015. The altered policy reversed the former downward trend grade calculation with a quality point mathematical grade calculation, and the number of As and Bs students have received in the ensuing school years has risen exponentially. Whether or not the rise in higher semester grades is an unintended consequence or a deliberate goal of the altered grading system is the mystery this investigation sought to solve. The Washington Post recently investigated this issue, concluding that MCPS is guilty of grade inflation and urging action to be taken.
Over the course of the past six months, we have looked into numerous sources of information, with our most prominent source being interviews around the local community. We have conducted a total of 42 interviews, many of which feature students, teachers and even school board members. We also looked through online data of MCPS grade trends, MCPS standardized testing score and RM’s school profile for college admissions. Since the issue of grade inflation has also recently come into the spotlight in the news media, we were able to obtain more information from both local and national news outlets. Additionally, we filed public record requests for more specific data regarding MCPS grades and sent emails to multiple college counselors requesting an interview about the subject; however, all of these requests did not receive a reply.

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”

Why Should Anyone Need a License for Anything?

Kevin Currie-Knight:

Imagine a US state where locksmiths, pastoral counselors, home security companies, and acupuncturists do not have to be licensed by the government to do business. They could pursue certification with a private organization if they wanted to, but they could decide not to as well. Would chaos ensue?

Recently, the state legislature in my home state of North Carolina approved draft legislation that would undo licensing requirements for 15 professions, including locksmithing, pastoral counseling, and acupuncture. At present, practicing in these professions requires licensure by the state, but this bill would dissolve that requirement for these professions.

Related: The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama

Getting my personal data out of Facebook

Ruben Verborgh:

In January 2019, I closed my Facebook account because it was no longer of any professional use to me. As a European citizen, the gdpr directive gives me the right to request the data Facebook has about me, and ask for its deletion. Unsurprisingly living up to its reputation, Facebook refuses to comply with my gdpr Subject Access Requests in an appropriate manner. This page is tracking my communication with Facebook and their responses, with the aim of attracting attention to their unlawful practices and fixing the process for everyone. It provides interesting insights into the curious “legal” maneuvers by Facebook, and would at times even be funny—if only it wasn’t so sad.

The Dubious Management Fad Sweeping Corporate America

Khadeeja Safdar and Inti Pacheco:

uch of Corporate America is obsessed with its net promoter score, or NPS, a measure of customer satisfaction that has developed a cultlike following among CEOs in recent years. Unlike profits or sales, which are measured and audited, NPS is usually calculated from a one-question survey that companies often administer themselves.

Executives pointed to strong or rising NPS as proof that shoppers preferred to pick up orders at Target Corp. stores or that Google’s newest Pixel smartphone was off to a good start. Out of all the mentions the Journal tracked on earnings calls, no executive has ever said the score declined.

Dozens of public companies are reporting the score in securities filings. Last year, “net promoter” was mentioned in 56 proxy filings. Some companies, including American Express Co., Best Buy Co. and Citigroup Inc., list the metric as a criteria for executive compensation, alongside traditional measures such as revenue growth and earnings per share.

The score was introduced in 2003 in a Harvard Business Review article titled “The One Number You Need to Grow.” The Bain & Co. consultant who wrote the article called NPS the “simplest, most intuitive and best predictor of customer behavior” and a “useful predictor of growth.”

Our Brush With Google Censorship

Ryan Williams:

Google wasn’t represented at a Senate hearing last month on political censorship. But it assured lawmakers in a written statement that “our products serve users of all viewpoints and remain politically neutral” while acknowledging that “sometimes our content moderation systems do make mistakes.” This week my organization was hit by one such “mistake.”

On our American Mind website, the Claremont Institute recently launched a campaign to engage citizens in debate about what it means to be an American. We are warning about the danger to the republic posed by multiculturalism, identity politics and politically correct speech restrictions. Google decided that our writings violated the company’s policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising” and prevented us from advertising to our own readers about our 40th-anniversary gala dinner this Saturday.

The relevant section of Google’s policy lists “racially or ethnically oriented publications, racially or ethnically oriented universities, racial or ethnic dating” as examples of violations. Either Google’s algorithm, an employee or a combination must have designated the American Mind a “racially or ethnically oriented” publication. That’s ironic. For its 40-year history, the Claremont Institute’s animating principle has been the proposition that all human beings are created equal.

The kilo is dead. Long live the kilo

David Chandler:

For 130 years, a cylinder made of a platinum-iridium alloy and stored in a suburb of Paris called Saint Cloud has been the official definition of a kilogram, the internationally accepted basic unit of mass. But that will change once and for all on May 20, when for the first time all of the basic units of measurement will be officially defined in terms of atomic properties and fundamental physics constants, rather than specific, human-made objects.

The other objects on which physical standards are based, such as the standard meter, were already replaced years ago, but the kilogram — generally known as the kilo for short — turned out to be a harder unit to define in absolute terms. Physicists and engineers have been frustrated, however, by the inevitable imprecision of a unit based on a single physical object.

A dismal scientist offers advice to new parents

The Economist:

For new parents, it is a terrifying moment. The hospital doors close behind them, leaving them with a new and helpless human being. The baby’s survival into adulthood seems impossible. What if it will not eat? What if it is allergic to water? What if an owl carries it off? Probably, few parents wish at that moment for the help of an economist. But “Cribsheet”, a new book by Emily Oster of Brown University, shows that in the hectic haze of parenthood an economist’s perspective can prove surprisingly clarifying.

Ms Oster’s academic work relates to health and health policy. A recent paper, for example, studied how food-purchasing decisions change in response to being diagnosed with diabetes. Five years ago she published a book on pregnancy, drawing on her training as an economist and her own experience (her husband, Jesse Shapiro, with whom she has two children, is also an economist at Brown). “Cribsheet” tackles the next step in the journey from childfree person to parent. Deciding whether to have a child in the first place fairly obviously involves economic calculations, from the impact on the parents’ earning potential to the resources that must be set aside to pay for nappies, child care and university. The decisions that come in a torrent after the birth, in contrast, such as whether to breastfeed or how to manage sleeping arrangements, might not seem so amenable to such thinking. But Ms Oster’s new book shows that they are.

Parents generally try to maximise the welfare, present and future, of their children (and, secondarily, themselves) subject to constraints of money and time. That requires choices. Economics can help a parent judge these trade-offs. Good choices begin with good information. Before deciding whether breastfeeding is worth the time, trouble and physical toll, it helps to know the benefits compared with feeding with formula. Parents do as most people do when making a hard call: turn to experts, friends, family and the internet. But different sources provide wildly different answers—and often with an extraordinary intensity of belief. As Ms Oster notes, internet mums frequently write as though ignoring their advice is tantamount to abandoning a child to wolves.

75% of black California boys don’t meet state reading standards

Matt Levin:

Across ethnicities and economic status, girls outperform boys on English in standardized tests

Three of four African-American boys in California classrooms failed to meet reading and writing standards on the most recent round of testing, according to data obtained from the state Department of Education and analyzed by CALmatters.

More than half of black boys scored in the lowest category on the English portion of the test, trailing their female counterparts. The disparity reflects a stubbornly persistent gender gap in reading and writing scores that stretches across ethnic groups.

The data provide a unique glimpse of how gender interacts with race and class in mastery of basic reading, writing and listening skills tested on state exams. While California publishes separate figures on the performance of various ethnic and economic groups, it does not make public a more detailed breakdown of how boys and girls are performing within those groups. State officials say they do not sort the data that way because of complexity, cost and time constraints.

Unlike in math, where girls have caught up to boys in California and elsewhere, female students in general maintain a sizable lead over their male classmates in the language arts. While initiatives to encourage girls to learn math and science have received considerable publicity, the gender reading gap is viewed less as a problem warranting action.


“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”.

Can Data Ward Off College Debt? New Strategy Focuses on Results

Kevin Carey:

The Department of Education on Tuesday released a trove of information that shows the average amount of debt incurred by graduates of different academic programs at each college and university in America. This focus on discrete programs, rather than institutions as a whole, is gaining favor among political leaders and could have far-reaching effects.

With anxiety about student debt soaring — the billionaire Robert F. Smith made headlines last weekend with his surprise promise to pay off the debts of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class — the program-level information has the potential to alter how colleges are funded, regulated and understood by consumers in the marketplace.

Everyone knows that different majors have different economic payoffs. Social workers earn less than chemical engineers. But federal laws that regulate college success don’t account for that. Instead, they average results across the university. People don’t have a good way of seeing how big those differences are within a particular university, let alone comparing programs across universities.

The new, more detailed debt information was created in response to an executive order issued in March by President Trump.

How an Academic Journal Censored My Review on Xinjiang

Timothy Grose:

Amidst the uproar, the chief publishing officer of Brill reached out to me on the Twitter thread seeking a “better understanding” of the situation. Brill’s publishing director for Asian studies later contacted me by email, claiming that “an honest mistake was made by soliciting a review of a book that lies outside the scope of the relevant journal” (which is supposedly about China’s historical relations with other Asian countries), and that “this was then exacerbated by mistakenly citing the wrong reasons for the editor-in-chief’s reluctance to publish the review.”

On digging deeper, I came to believe that this was not an “honest mistake” (they chased up the review several times, after all) but that the journal would not allow my review to criticize the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policies in Xinjiang. I discovered that the editor-in-chief, a professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, conducts formal research on Xinjiang and Tibet, and claims state-minority relations as one of his specializations. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed in Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong’s pro-CCP paper, in which he identifies “outside influences, especially from the western world and the Muslim world” as one of six sources of the region’s unrest. I shared this information with Brill, but they haven’t responded yet. Having opened a Beijing office in 2017 to “strength[en] Brill’s presence in China,” that response may never come. The journal launched as planned in February 2019.