Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hong Kong has declared war against its young people

Avery Ng:

Another worrying development is that, over the weekend, soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army “volunteered” to leave their base in Kowloon to help clean up the roadblocks near a university. This could be a violation of the Basic Law – which doesn’t allow PLA interference with Hong Kong affairs unless requested – and is a blatant signal from Beijing that military intervention is a possibility.

Polling suggests that the movement still enjoys significant support among Hong Kongers. However, the government continues to refuse permission for mass peaceful protests. Rather than answering the movement’s call for an independent commission into police violence and a restart of the political reform process, the government is adding fuel to the fire. It has in effect declared war against the young.

At the time of writing, the police are storming the Polytechnic campus and making arrests. The situation is grave. But the students appear to be unwilling to give up their hopes for this beautiful but imperilled city.

The Architect of Modern Algorithms

Cody O’Loughlin:

Good code has both substance and style. It provides all necessary information, without extraneous details. It bypasses inefficiencies and bugs. It is accurate, succinct and eloquent enough to be read and understood by humans.

But by the late 1960s, advances in computing power had outpaced the abilities of programmers. Many computer scientists created programs without thought for design. They wrote long, incoherent algorithms riddled with “goto” statements — instructions for the machine to leap to a new part of the program if a certain condition is satisfied. Early coders relied on these statements to fix unforeseen consequences of their code, but they made programs hard to read, unpredictable and even dangerous. Bad software eventually claimed lives, as when the Therac-25 computer-controlled radiation machine delivered massive overdoses of radiation to cancer patients.

By the time Barbara Liskov earned her doctorate in computer science from Stanford University in 1968, she envied electrical engineers because they worked with hardware connected by wires. That architecture naturally allowed them to break up problems and divide them into modules, an approach that gave them more control since it permitted them to reason independently about discrete components.

Seclusion and isolation rooms misused in Illinois schools

Chicago Tribune:

The spaces have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens.

In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found.

Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.”

How the Collapse of Local News Is Causing a ‘National Crisis’

Julie Bosman:

School board and city council meetings are going uncovered. Overstretched reporters receive promising tips about stories, but have no time to follow up. Newspapers publish fewer pages or less frequently or, in hundreds of cases across the country, have shuttered completely.

All of this has added up to a crisis in local news coverage in the United States that has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a report by PEN America released on Wednesday.

“A vibrant, responsive democracy requires enlightened citizens, and without forceful local reporting they are kept in the dark,” the report said. “At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared fact-based discourse on the issues that most directly affect us is more essential and more elusive than ever.” 

The report, “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions,” paints a grim picture of the state of local news in every region of the country. The prelude is familiar to journalists: As print advertising revenue has plummeted, thousands of newspapers have been forced to cut costs, reduce their staffs or otherwise close.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Former Nashville Mayor David Briley Neglected to Tell Public About Dire Financial Crisis

Chris Butler:

The administration of former Nashville Mayor David Briley reportedly failed to disclose to the public how dire metro’s water system financial crisis was.

This, according to the Nashville-based WSMV.

The station reported that Tennessee Comptrollers have imposed a deadline for metro officials to come up with a plan for a water rate increase. This, even though officials did not disclose this to the public until after this fall’s mayoral election. State officials had warned metro for three years.

Metro Council members did not know about the problem. The station reported, however, that Briley, his financial officer, and Metro Water’s Scott Potter knew of the issue.

“This is important because the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office said Wednesday that the water department’s financial crisis is so urgent and real that it wouldn’t have enough money to make emergency repairs,” WSMV reported.

Commentary on Milwaukee’s tax and spending plans

Will Flanders:

The vast majority of academic research still shows that more spending on schools is not the answer to improving outcomes. And one would think that MPS would understand this given that they have evidence right in their own backyard that lower spending schools can achieve better results. Milwaukee’s choice and charter schools have significantly less revenue per student than do MPS schools. For the 2018–19 school year, independent charter schools received just $8,619 per student from state and local sources, compared with $10,494 from those sources for MPS (we leave federal funds out here to be fair to MPS because it is unclear how much goes to choice and charter schools from that source, but there is little doubt the inclusion of these funds would only serve to increase the gap). For private schools in the choice program, the amounts were $7,747 for K-8 and $8,393 for 9–12. Despite spending literally thousands of dollars less per student, these schools consistently perform better on  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>state exams, have  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>higher graduation rates, and produce students who are less likely to become  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>involved in criminal activity. Rather than asking for more money, MPS should investigate what is working in these schools and attempt to replicate it.

Bargaining for the Common Good Is Neither Common Nor Good. But It Makes for Great Public Relations

Mike Antonucci:

Have you heard? Teachers unions are no longer interested in negotiating only the salaries, benefits and working conditions of their members, but affordable housing, restorative justice, climate change and a host of other social issues as well.

Unions call this “bargaining for the common good” and have parlayed the concept into positive — to the point of fawning — media coverage. As a public relations exercise, it has to be considered a resounding success, but our press outlets repeatedly overlook the flaws in the argument that public employee contracts are the proper place to address public policy issues.

The phrase arose from a 2014 conference organized by Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. The conference included 130 public-sector union activists, community organizers, academics and researchers, there by invitation only, “to address the threats posed by financialization, privatization, growing income inequality and retirement insecurity to the lives of public-sector workers and the well-being of the communities they serve.”

Related: an emphasis on adult employment.

The Big Lie About Charter Schools

David Osborne:

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her education plan, she trotted out a familiar charge against charter schools: that they “strain the resources of school districts.” To fight this supposed scourge, she promised to end federal financial support for new charter schools. And she’s not an outlier among the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Her fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders had already charged, in his education plan, that charter schools’ “growth has drained funding from the public school system.” Even Joe Biden —who served under President Obama, an enthusiastic charter supporter—has picked up the refrain. “The bottom line” on chartering, he told an American Federation of Teachers town hall, “is, it siphons off money for our public schools, which are already in enough trouble.”

To begin with, charters themselves are public schools. The only difference is that they are operated independently of district bureaucracies, with more freedom to design their programs and choose their teachers but also more accountability. If charters fail—if their students fall too far behind—they are usually closed.

Technological progress is making life cheaper — but mostly for people who like new stuff.

Tyler Cowen:

Consider people who love to consume information, or, as I have labeled them, infovores. They can stay at home every night and read Wikipedia, scan Twitter, click on links, browse through Amazon reviews and search YouTube — all for free. Thirty years ago there was nothing comparable.

Of course, most people don’t have those tastes. But for the minority who do, it is a new paradise of plenty. These infovores — a group that includes some academics, a lot of internet nerds and many journalists — have experienced radical deflation.

Here is another bit:

So who might be worse off in this new American world?

People who like to spend time with their friends across town are one set of losers. Traffic congestion is much worse, and so driving in Los Angeles or Washington has never been such a big burden. In-person socializing is therefore more costly. On the other hand, the chance that you have remained in touch with your very distant friends is higher, due to email and social media. Those who enjoy less frequent (but perhaps more intense?) visits are on the whole better off for that reason. It is easier than ever to go virtually anywhere in the world and have someone interesting to talk to.

Another group of losers — facing super-high inflation rates — are the “cool” people who insist on living in America’s best and most advanced cities. Which might those be? New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco? You can debate that, but they have all grown much more expensive. Many smaller cities, such as Austin, Washington and Boston, are going the same route.

Wisconsin Act 10 and Union Recertification

Will Flanders and Lauren Tunney:

Act 10 shook the status quo for public employee unions in Wisconsin. And when workers get a say in the future of their union, the number of public employee unions in Wisconsin continues to shrink,” said Will Flanders, research director for the Milwaukee-based free market think tank. The report is titled, Democracy in the Workplace: Examining Union Recertification in Wisconsin Under Act 10.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Related: WEAC – $1,570,000 for four senators.

String quartet brings classical music to area elementary schools

Scott Girard:

“So for some kids here this is their first experience with orchestral string instruments,” Moran said. “Getting to see them live is a really exciting and big deal for them.

“I feel really lucky to have it at our school.”

That excitement was clear as the students listened to the four members of the quartet — Rachel Reese, Alex Chambers-Ozasky, Ava Shadmani and Fabio Sággin — explain ascending and descending melodies in the various pieces they played. Students at times pretended to conduct the group from their seats, and excitedly yelled out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” when they recognized the piece.

Moran said the students making connections with the music and the musicians is an especially great part of the program, as the same four visit each time and the students begin to recognize them. The diversity of the group, with one each from Mississippi, Minnesota, Brazil and Iran, allows a range of students to see that orchestral music can be open to all.

Madison’s elementary strings program has been on the chopping block a number of times, despite ongoing tax and spending increases.

University Of Florida Wants $2 Million Research Prize Won By Professors


The message that day from the administration, however, was far from congratulatory.

“Please understand that if Shea and Wong convert university funds to personal funds,” stated the email from a university lawyer to a lawyer representing the university’s faculty union, “they will be subject to personnel action and possibly other more serious consequences.”

The battle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contest was over. But the team had another fight, this one with its own university. Who gets to keep the prize money?

“We put our blood and sweat into this — working 14- or 16-hour days sometimes,” says David Greene, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering who works on artificial intelligence and communications for radio designs and is a member of the research team, GatorWings. “The university is basically setting a precedent that any cash prizes in any competition, whether they’re to students or faculty, will be owned by the university.”

Look, Latin Is Not Useless, Neither Is It Dead

Nicola Gardini:

For many people, Latin is useless. I won’t enter into a discussion on the meaning of “utility,” a concept with variations and stratifications that are centuries in the making, and which itself merits an entire book. What I will say here, however, is that those “many people”—civilians, politicians, professionals in every field—have a sadly (and dangerously) limited idea of education and human development. What their focus on “utility” betrays is the belief that, in the end, knowledge amounts to know-how, that thought should be immediately adapted toward a practical aim. But if that were the case, knowledge would hardly be useful: we’d have surgeons, plumbers, and not much else, given that machines are growing more and more responsible for satisfying our primary needs. Eventually the surgeon or plumber will disappear too. And if such is the fate of knowledge, that it be surrendered to machines—or, as we put it more often these days, to technology—what exactly will there be for humans to know? Of course, we’ll have to learn how to build the machines and keep them functioning, and to dispose of the remains when they become obsolete, and to procure the materials necessary to build new machines.

In short, all in service of machines, with the idea, no doubt, that machines are fundamental, the only truly useful thing, the all-encompassing solution . . . But what about the rest? Those needs that aren’t immediate, that aren’t practical or distinctly material, and yet are no less urgent? The so-called spirit? Memory, imagination, creativity, depth, complexity? And what about the larger questions, which are common to other essential domains of knowledge, including biology, physics, philosophy, psychology, and art: where and when did it all begin, where do I go, who am I, who are others, what is society, what is history, what is time, what is language, what are words, what is human life, what are feelings, who is a stranger, what am I doing here, what am I saying when I speak, what am I thinking when I think, what is meaning? Interpretation, in other words. Because without interpretation there is no freedom, and without freedom there is no happiness. This leads to passivity, a tacit acceptance of even our brighter moods. One becomes a slave to politics and the market, driven on by false needs.

Math scares your child’s elementary school teacher — and that should frighten you

Daniel Willingham:

American students remain stumped by math. The 2019 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress test — known as NAEP — were published last month, showing that performance for fourth- and eighth-graders hasn’t budged since 2009. That’s a year after the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, convened by President George W. Bush, concluded that American math achievement was “mediocre.”

The panel offered dozens of ideas for improvement, leading with the common-sense suggestion to strengthen the elementary math curriculum, which it deemed diffuse, shallow and repetitious in many schools. But improved curricula won’t help unless we acknowledge another significant problem: Many elementary teachers don’t understand math very well, and teaching it makes them anxious.

Consider why American kids struggle. Mathematical competence depends on three types of knowledge: having memorized a small set of math facts (like the times table), knowing standard algorithms to solve standard problems (like long division), and understanding why algorithms work (knowing why the standard method of solving long division problems yields the correct answer).

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers who cannot pass the “Foundations of Reading” content knowledge exam. The FORT is based on Massachusetts’ highly successful MTEL requirements.

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

Is college worth it? A Georgetown study measures return on investment — with some surprising results.

Susan Svrluga:

When Larry Burrill started college, his goal was to walk into a job that paid well after graduation. He was coming from a family of humble means and knew he would be paying his way through school. He chose Maine Maritime Academy, set in a historic town miles down a peninsula, because he knew graduates were earning starting salaries double or triple what he could otherwise expect to make.

That was back in the 1970s, but today, as a senior executive at an engineering services company he helped found (and as a father who paid for his children’s college educations), that practical approach makes more sense to him than ever. Higher education is so expensive now, he said, that few can afford the luxury of meandering through a liberal arts education without making hard calculations about employment prospects.

Is college worth it? Researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce tried to answer that question, using newly released federal data to try to calculate return on investment for thousands of colleges across the country.

Teachers Unions Have the Cure for What Ails America’s Schools

Glenn Sacks:

The rookie science teacher looks at me with the same “Am I understanding this job correctly or am I crazy?” look I’ve often seen in the eyes of new teachers.

“No, you understand,” I say. “You’ve been thrown into a situation that requires an enormous amount of work and a good amount of ability, and it’s sink or swim. You might naturally expect the system to help you, or at least acknowledge the position you’ve been put in. It won’t.”

Teachers have come under considerable scrutiny in recent decades, and everybody claims to have the silver-bullet reform that will fix education. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, charter schools, raising the qualifications to become a teacher, limiting or abolishing tenure, and countless other measures have been taken up by Congress and state legislatures since I took my first teaching position in 1989.

Yet there is little public discussion about the education system’s central problem: Teachers don’t have enough time to do our jobs properly. Teachers unions understand this and fight to protect our ability to do our jobs.

Here’s one reason for teachers’ “time poverty”: Unlike other white-collar professionals, we face an enormous burden of clerical and low-level work.

In what other industry would four highly educated professionals wait in line for 20 minutes to use the one functional copier? Where else would a highly trained counselor spend 30 minutes making sure teenagers throw their juice cartons in the trash during lunchtime?

How Are Chicago Public Schools’ Teachers Getting Post-Strike Makeup Days Off?

Dana Kozlov:

The Chicago Teachers Union did not budge during its 11-day strike.

“We should return to work in the schools pending one thing – and that one thing is a return-to-work agreement,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said on the 11th and last day of the strike on Oct. 31.

The union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to make up five instructional days. But now, not three weeks later, Pritzker Elementary School’s assistant principal sent a letter to parents about the Nov. 27, Jan. 2, and Jan. 3 makeup days, stating, “We anticipate a need or substitutes to cover the classes of teachers who have made advance plans for those days and will not be in attendance in school.”

The letter called on parents themselves to step in as substitute teachers. And principals say it is happening district-wide.

Kozlov asked Sharkey about all this.

Related: an emphasis on adult employment.

Don’t miss (Madison) Lighthouse Christian School’s stellar report card

Jim Bender:

As a district, Madison enrolls students who are 42% white, 14.5% with disabilities and 48.2% listed as economically disadvantaged. The Madison district report card score is 72.3

Lighthouse Christian enrolls students who are 90% of color, 14.8% with disabilities and 87% listed as economically disadvantaged. Their report card score is 83 based solely on students who attend using a state voucher.

Some schools have higher scores than Lighthouse in Madison. Van Hise Elementary has a report card score of 94.9. But it is also 63% white, 11% with disabilities and only 15% of students in poverty. The seven other schools in Madison with higher scores all have lower poverty and less diversity than Lighthouse.

The footprint of the Private School Choice Program in Madison is small but growing. In Milwaukee, where the population and number of participating private schools is larger, attention is often given to the performance of the many 80/80 schools

“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’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Grading inconsistencies ‘not new’ with West ‘grading floor,’ Madison School District officials say

Scott Girard:

With no Madison Metropolitan School District policy on grading at the four comprehensive high schools, administrators and teachers have room to implement their own practices.

Bottom-up decisions can help get buy-in from the teachers and staff carrying out any changes, but also mean that changes happen on different timelines, like the recent change at West High School to institute “grading floors” for its freshmen students. While that seemingly creates an inconsistency among the high schools, MMSD executive director of secondary programming Cindy Green pointed out that consistency in grading hasn’t existed here for years.

“Because there is no board policy, teachers right now have the autonomy to develop their own grading practices and their own determination around assignment weights,” Green said. “It’s not new.”

Madison West high school has conducted several experiments over the years, including:

English 10

Small Learning Communities

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.

‘It’s just really important to learn’: Madison Teachers Union holds racial justice summits for MMSD staff

Scott Girard:

MTI staff member Kerry Motoviloff helped organize the monthly Racial Justice Summit gatherings, which are part of the union’s equity focus. They began last year, and were in development a year earlier as MTI received a grant funded through national teachers’ union dues.

The sessions’ popularity amid the district’s Black Excellence push made it an easy decision to bring them back this year, Motoviloff said, with the added benefit of the National Education Association testing out its EdJustice curriculum and bringing in national trainers once per month. 

Motoviloff, the MTI president-elect during the 2011 Act 10 protests, said it’s important for the union to make clear that it exists to do more than bargain with the school district over contracts. That bargaining is now relatively limited, given the maximum increase each year set by state law. Now, they’re trying to help teachers dive into a complex topic that can be tough to talk about with supervisors in the room.

Houston School District teachers union files motion to join takeover lawsuit as TEA seeks to dismiss it

Jacob Carpenter:

Houston ISD’s largest teachers union and three educators filed a legal motion Tuesday to join a lawsuit brought by HISD’s school board that aims to stop the Texas Education Agency from temporarily replacing elected trustees.

The move by the Houston Federation of Teachers, a union representing about 6,500 district employees, comes one day after state officials published a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing HISD’s school board “seeks a judicial escape route” from severe sanctions that “simply does not exist.”

The dueling motions mark the latest legal machinations in the battle between HISD leaders and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who announced earlier this month that he plans to oust the district’s elected trustees following a state investigation into allegations of trustee misconduct and chronically poor academic scores at Wheatley High School.

Internet freedom is declining around the world—and social media is to blame

Technology Review:

The news: Governments worldwide are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and spy on citizens, think tank Freedom House has warned in its latest report. It’s the ninth year in a row that global internet freedom has dropped, according to its assessment of 65 countries.

A new menace: Disinformation—false information spread deliberately to deceive people—helped distort elections in 26 of the 30 countries studied that had national votes in the last year. Outright censorship and internet shutdowns persist, but many governments find it more effective to employ individuals to spread online propaganda, facilitated by social-media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, the report said.

Some figures: Of the 65 countries studied, half had an overall decline in their internet freedom score, while just 16 registered improvements. A majority were affected by advanced social-media surveillance programs, with law enforcement in 47 countries arresting people for political, social, or religious speech online.

People who never learned to read and write may be at increased risk for dementia.

Nicholas Bakalar:

Researchers studied 983 adults 65 and older with four or fewer years of schooling. Ninety percent were immigrants from the Dominican Republic, where there were limited opportunities for schooling. Many had learned to read outside of school, but 237 could not read or write.

Over an average of three and a half years, the participants periodically took tests of memory, language and reasoning.

Illiterate men and women were 2.65 times as likely as the literate to have dementia at the start of the study, and twice as likely to have developed it by the end. Illiterate people, however, did not show a faster rate of decline in skills than those who could read and write.

“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”.

It’s a Disservice to Urge Young People To Become Entrepreneurs

Jeffrey Tucker:

Young founders of businesses fail, almost certainly, and at a much greater rate that people who are much older, wiser, more skilled, and more knowledgeable about the industry. It turns out that succeeding in business is extremely difficult. It takes maturity above all else to achieve it. 

We know this now thanks to a fascinating studyby Javier Miranda, principal economist at the U.S. Census Bureau; Benjamin Jones, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and Pierre Azoulay, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. They took a detailed look at the demographics of successful entrepreneurship. The results were so conclusive as to debunk the myth of the young startup founder. They paint a portrait that is much more consistent with your own intuition from experience. 

They conclude: “The mean age at founding for the 1-in-1,000 fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. The findings are similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success.”

In other words, up with middle age! Actually, more precisely, up with experience, skills, discipline, and knowledge, all of which are more common among forty-somethings after two decades of work experience as compared with twenty-somethings. “Young people are just smarter,” says Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe so but it takes a lot more than that to make a successful enterprise. 

Civics: “Dark Money” and elections

Scott Bland and Maggie Severns:

The “green wave” of campaign cash that boosted Democrats and liberal causes in 2018 included an unprecedented gusher of secret money, new documents obtained by POLITICO show. 

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a little-known nonprofit headquartered in Washington, spent $141 million on more than 100 left-leaning causes during the midterm election year, according to a new tax filing from the group. The money contributed to efforts ranging from fighting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other Trump judicial nominees to boosting ballot measures raising the minimum wage and changing laws on voting and redistricting in numerous states.

Massachusetts’ K-12 tax & Spending Changes

Adrian Walker:

Passing any spending bill of this magnitude is a heavy lift. This was pushed over the past few years by a significant coalition of legislators, teachers unions, and community activists who never stopped building a movement. Even after the deal fell apart last year — and the end was ugly — reaching an agreement never felt impossible, because by then so many parties were invested in finding a solution.

The bill gives more money to districts with large concentrations of students in poverty and students of color. It also gives the state approval over how individual districts spend their newfound cash. That was one of the most contentious issues between the House and Senate, with the Senate pushing for less top-down control — a battle the House ultimately won in conference.

What was it like, I asked Chang-Díaz, to see the measure on which she spent years pass without being in the room negotiating for it?

“I don’t lament not being as involved,” she said. “I’ve been involved, just in a different role.”

Next Generation of Americans Will Embrace Socialism If We Lose ‘War on History’

Jarrett Stenman:

As young Americans are losing an understanding of civics and American history, they increasingly embrace socialism.

An annual poll conducted for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation again found that the younger generations have a far sunnier view of socialism and communism than their elders.

Some of the findings from the YouGov survey, released Oct. 28, were deeply worrisome.

According to the poll, 70% of millennials responded that they are likely or extremely likely to vote for a “socialist.” About 50% said they have an unfavorable view of capitalism.

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

Civics: Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers the 19th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society’s 2019 National Lawyers Convention

Willam Barr:

First, let me say a little about what the Framers had in mind in establishing an independent Executive in Article II of the Constitution.

The grammar school civics class version of our Revolution is that it was a rebellion against monarchial tyranny, and that, in framing our Constitution, one of the main preoccupations of the Founders was to keep the Executive weak.  This is misguided.  By the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1689, monarchical power was effectively neutered and had begun its steady decline.  Parliamentary power was well on its way to supremacy and was effectively in the driver’s seat.  By the time of the American Revolution, the patriots well understood that their prime antagonist was an overweening Parliament.  Indeed, British thinkers came to conceive of Parliament, rather than the people, as the seat of Sovereignty. 

During the Revolutionary era, American thinkers who considered inaugurating a republican form of government tended to think of the Executive component as essentially an errand boy of a Supreme legislative branch.  Often the Executive (sometimes constituted as a multi-member council) was conceived as a creature of the Legislature, dependent on and subservient to that body, whose sole function was carrying out the Legislative will.  Under the Articles of Confederation, for example, there was no Executive separate from Congress. 

Things changed by the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  To my mind, the real “miracle” in Philadelphia that summer was the creation of a strong Executive, independent of, and coequal with, the other two branches of government.

The consensus for a strong, independent Executive arose from the Framers’ experience in the Revolution and under the Articles of Confederation.  They had seen that the War had almost been lost and was a bumbling enterprise because of the lack of strong Executive leadership.  Under the Articles of Confederation, they had been mortified at the inability of the United States to protect itself against foreign impositions or to be taken seriously on the international stage.  They had also seen that, after the Revolution, too many States had adopted constitutions with weak Executives overly subordinate to the Legislatures.  Where this had been the case, state governments had proven incompetent and indeed tyrannical.

From these practical experiences, the Framers had come to appreciate that, to be successful, Republican government required the capacity to act with energy, consistency and decisiveness.  They had come to agree that those attributes could best be provided by making the Executive power independent of the divided counsels of the Legislative branch and vesting the Executive power in the hands of a solitary individual, regularly elected for a limited term by the Nation as a whole. As Jefferson put it, ‘[F]or the prompt, clear, and consistent action so necessary in an Executive, unity of person is necessary….”

While there may have been some differences among the Framers as to the precise scope of Executive power in particular areas, there was general agreement about its nature.  Just as the great separation-of-powers theorists– Polybius, Montesquieu, Locke – had, the Framers thought of Executive power as a distinct specie of power.  To be sure, Executive power includes the responsibility for carrying into effect the laws passed by the Legislature – that is, applying the general rules to a particular situation.  But the Framers understood that Executive power meant more than this.

It also entailed the power to handle essential sovereign functions – such as the conduct of foreign relations and the prosecution of war – which by their very nature cannot be directed by a pre-existing legal regime but rather demand speed, secrecy, unity of purpose, and prudent judgment to meet contingent circumstances.  They agreed that – due to the very nature of the activities involved, and the kind of decision-making they require – the Constitution generally vested authority over these spheres in the Executive.  For example, Jefferson, our first Secretary of State, described the conduct of foreign relations as “Executive altogether,” subject only to the explicit exceptions defined in the Constitution, such as the Senate’s power to ratify Treaties.

A related, and third aspect of Executive power is the power to address exigent circumstances that demand quick action to protect the well-being of the Nation but on which the law is either silent or inadequate – such as dealing with a plague or natural disaster.  This residual power to meet contingency is essentially the federative power discussed by Locke in his Second Treatise.

“Limits” on Presidential power are an evergreen topic.

Educational Earthquake: ‘Disappearing’ the Great Writers From Schools

Barbara Kay

The Greater Essex County District School Board in the Windsor, Ont., area is supplanting its grade 11 literature curriculum, which up to now has featured great writers of the western canon such as Shakespeare and George Orwell, with a year-long program of Indigenous writers. The change has already been effected in eight of the district’s 15 schools.

In the Peel district as well, I am informed by a reader, the same transformation is in progress. It would be naïve to assume that these schools will remain anomalies for long. The “disappearing” of dead white European male writers, however magnificent their achievements, may well be normalized across Canada before long.

It is hard to overstate the alarming implications of this educational earthquake. Deliberately withholding Shakespeare from young minds is a form of aesthetic starvation, but depriving them of Orwell is a moral crime. It is from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” that young minds first grasp the nature of totalitarian evil, whether it arises from the left or the right, and understand the preciousness of their freedoms.

Property taxes would spike under Milwaukee Schools’ referendum scenarios

Annysa Johnson:

Providing Milwaukee Public Schools students with a top-of-the-line education could cost as much as $640 million more a year in operating costs alone, more than doubling local property tax bills, district officials and their financial advisers told members of MPS’ referendum task force.

The figure appeared to shock at least some members of the ad hoc panel during a meeting Monday evening. And they cautioned against asking taxpayers for too much, saying a defeat at the polls could hinder MPS’ prospects for a referendum for years. 

“The last time you had a referendum was 25 years ago,” said Alan Shoho, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Education, who suggested the task force not recommend a figure at all, but leave that up to the school board.

Madison is planning a substantial 2020 referendum.

Right-Wing Populism, Social Media and Echo Chambers in Western Democracies

Shelley Boulianne, Karolina Koc-Michalska and Bruce Bimber:

Abstract: Many observers are concerned that echo chamber effects in digital media are contributing to the polarization of publics and in some places to the rise of right-wing populism. This study employs survey data collected in France, the United Kingdom, and United States (1500 respondents in each country) from April to May 2017. Overall, we do not find evidence that online/social media explain support for right-wing populist candidates and parties. Instead, in the USA, use of online media decreases support for right-wing populism. Looking specifically at echo chambers measures, we find offline discussion with those who are similar in race, ethnicity, and class positively correlates with support for populist candidates and parties in the UK and France. The findings challenge claims about the role of social media and the rise of populism.

Keywords: populism, social media, digital media, echo chambers, political discussion,

Shares in students: nifty finance or indentured servitude?

Archie Hall:

Combine a crisis in college affordability with yield-starved investors and you get one of the more unusual financial products of the past decade: shares in students.

Income share agreements are an alternative to student loans that are gaining ground in the US. From only a handful several years ago, this academic year almost 50 American universities and technical academies offer them. Next year, about 100 will. 

A student funding their education with an ISA gets money upfront in exchange for offering a share of their income after graduation — ranging from nothing if they are unemployed or on a low salary to potentially several multiples of what they received. Graduates continue paying a slice of their income until the ISA expires, usually after about a decade, or when they hit a repayment cap. Risk, in short, is shifted from borrower to lender.

“They might go backpacking for eight years and not pay you a dime, they’d be well within their rights,” said Charles Trafton, president of Edly, a recently-launched marketplace in New York that connects investors with ISA programmes.

ISAs are not a new idea — Yale briefly offered one in the 1970s — but today a group of universities, investors, and start-ups claim they have managed to make ISAs work. If they are right, ISAs could be part of the answer to the mounting US student debt burden, sitting at more than $1.5tn, that has become a central issue for those competing for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Pending Reading Legislation

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email

AB 110, creating a Wisconsin guidebook on dyslexia and related conditions, passed the Assembly earlier this year and passed, with an amendment, the Senate Education Committee at the end of the summer. However, the bill has not yet been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Meanwhile, other bills introduced at the same time are already at Governor Evers’ office waiting for his signature. If you are interested in action on AB 110 during this legislative session, contact Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Roger Roth, Senate President, and your own state senator to ask that this bill be scheduled as soon as possible.

Other reading-related legislation is progressing. The following bills now have numbers. We urge you to contact your representatives in the Assembly and Senate with your support. You can find your legislators here by entering your address.
AB 595/SB 555: providing funding for teachers teachers seeking or maintaining certain structured literacy certifications
AB 601/SB 552: requiring school district educators and administrators to view an online dyslexia awareness module
AB 602/SB553: requiring dyslexia screening for Wisconsin prison inmates
AB 594/SB 554: requiring teacher preparation programs to align reading instruction with the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading
AB 603: requiring DPI to publish Foundations of Reading Test scores annually by October 31st
AB 604: requiring school boards to adopt or develop a program to identify and address students with dyslexia


The Chippewa Falls Area School District is seeking a part-time LTE, Title I teacher to serve elementary and middle school students in the McDonell Area Catholic Schools. Pay is $38,000 – $40,000 depending on experience. Contact Mary Huffcutt at

The Role of Resiliency in the Classroom: Why Not All Children Respond to Reading Instruction, and What Teachers Need to Know

This FREE symposium with online attendance option is now open for registration

Monday, March 9, 2020
7:30 – 2:30 Central Time


  • Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D.
  • Fumiko Hoeft, MD, Ph.D.
  • Maureen Lovett, Ph.D.
  • Fireside chat with Emily Hanford


The Academic Language Therapy Association, with a growing number of certified members in Wisconsin, has created a Great Lakes chapter to serve Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Watch for professional development opportunities beginning in February, 2020. Follow the chapter on Facebook at ALTA Great Lakes. Congratulations to Wisconsinite Dr Tammy Tillotson, who will serve as chapter president.

The magical world of Japanese anime has become the reality of Hong Kong protesters

Vivienne Chow:

He is a petite, 14-year-old introvert who wants nothing more than a simple, quiet life and to reconnect with his estranged father. But destiny plays a joke on him, throwing him onto the front lines of brutal battles, fighting monstrous enemies over and over again. Confused and traumatized, he tries to run away. But when he realizes he cannot escape from his fate as a child warrior, he fights on.

That’s the trajectory of Shinji Ikari, the protagonist of Hideaki Anno’s 1995 sci-fi anime classic Neon Genesis Evangelion, which began streaming on Netflix in June. The show revolves around his physical and psychological struggles as he accepts his father’s request to pilot Evangelion Unit 01, a powerful giant cyborg designed to fight the beings known as Angels. Ikari initially fights to win the approval of his father, the head of a secret military organization. Eventually he accepts his fate as the only one who can stop the Human Instrumentality Project, which aims to merge all human souls into one entity.

Rural Wisconsin STEM teachers build connections to researchers at UW event

Yvonne Kim:

Science and math teacher Jessica Dennis, who represented Washington Island, called her island district a “magical place” where students don’t just learn about wood or Lyme disease on paper. Instead, they have direct access to wooded areas that directly influence what they’re learning based on their surroundings.

In the Pecatonica Area School District, high school science teacher Jacob Roberts said he enjoys the flexibility to change up his lesson plans day to day in a small district. For instance, he teaches climate change by referencing rates of flooding in the Pecatonica River, and “the students get that right away. It’s not political to them.”

“Where you live should not limit your opportunity,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we can’t afford some of the expensive scientific experiments without grants … so we need to continually seek out ways to get students in contact with technology and opportunities and re-instill in them that they’re capable of great things regardless of where they live.”

Northwestern University, the cancel culture and ‘Whatsoever things are true’

John Kaas:

What happened to the editors of The Daily Northwestern is that they are students, they are young. And they have not yet grown the hard bark that, now more than ever, is necessary to do the job of a journalist.

They’re young people raised in the cancel culture dominated by the left, a culture that is all about feelings and shame, and the student editors did what their culture demanded.

They caved to the mob.

What’s been missing from some of the more simplistic criticism is an examination of the cancel culture that groomed the students so that they’d censor themselves and capitulate on demand.

Most of you know the rough facts of it. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a supporter of President Donald Trump, visited NU for a talk with college Republicans.

Why we should worry more about school equity than desegregation

Richard Milner:

In the landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

However, many schools remained largely segregated even after the ruling.

When some schools eventually became racially desegregated, systems of inequity proliferated, ensuring that students from different races would still remain separate in schools and that black students in particular would be negatively affected.

Segregation by a different name

One example of an inequitable practice that was rooted in school’s deliberate attempt to maintain segregation was tracking. Many black students were, and still are, tracked into remedial, special education and regular tracked courses while many white students were tracked in accelerated and gifted programs.

The Education Marketplace: The Predictors of School Growth and Closures in Milwaukee

Corey DeAngelis & Will Flanders

Few evaluations have focused on the supply and demand within the education marketplace in a school choice environment. Because traditional public schools are not subject to the same level of competitive pressures as private schools, we expect that measures of school quality—enrollment, academic achievement, and safety—will be more likely to predict closures for private schools and public charter schools than Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). We employ survival analysis using data from private, traditional public, and public charter schools in Milwaukee from 2005 to 2016. Data on enrollment trends, demographics, and academic performance from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction were combined with data from other sources on school safety and closure. Results from our models suggest: (a) enrollment losses drive school closure in all three sectors, (b) low academic achievement only predicts closure for private schools, (c) families choose schools based on academics in all three sectors, and (d) academics and school safety are positively correlated.

U.S. Workers Show Little Improvement in 21st Century Skills

Virginia Van Natta:

U.S. workers are failing to improve the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly global economy, according to a government agency report released Friday.

The National Center for Education Statisticsasked 3,300 respondents ages 16-to-65 to read simple passages and solve basic math problems. What the researchers found is that literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving ability in the U.S. have stagnated over the past few years.

Recruit to Reject? Harvard and African American Applicants

Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, Tyler Ransom:

Over the past 20 years, elite colleges in the US have seen dramatic increases in applications. We provide context for part of this trend using detailed data on Harvard University that was unsealed as part of the SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit. We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans. African American applications soared beginning with the Class of 2009, with the increase driven by those with lower SAT scores. Yet there was little change in the share of admits who were African American. We show that this change in applicant behavior resulted in substantial convergence in the overall admissions rates across races yet no change in the large cross-race differences in admissions rates for high-SAT applicants.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Lone Star State voters pass new protection against an income tax

Wall Street Journal:

Texas has become one of America’s fastest-growing states, thanks in part to its lack of a state income tax. So it was encouraging last week when Lone Star State voters made it even more difficult to impose such a tax.

The Texas constitution since 1993 has barred the Legislature from imposing an income tax without the approval of voters in a statewide referendum. But with progressives working hard to turn Texas into another California, voters decided to raise the bar. Proposition 4 changes the state constitution to require income-tax legislation to win two-thirds support in both legislative chambers and majority approval in a referendum. It passed with 74% of the vote.

Nine states have no personal income tax, and Texas is the latest to protect a political model that leads to higher GDP growth, employment and wages. Tennessee voters in 2014 backed 2-to-1 a constitutional amendment banning its Legislature from introducing taxes on payroll or earned personal income. Last year a super-majority of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Legislature to raise current taxes or enact new ones.

Madison West High School to test ‘grading floor’ as part of district examination of freshman grading

Logan Wroge:

In an effort to keep students who fail early in their high school careers from falling completely out of school, ninth grade teachers at Madison’s West High School are planning to assign classroom grades of no less than 40%, eliminate extra credit and allow up to 90% credit for late work in required classes.

Madison’s largest high school plans to implement several changes to grading practices this year — primarily meant to keep freshman on-track to graduate during a time when slips in academic performance are not unusual — while other changes school-wide are being sought to create consistent expectations for grading.

Among the changes sought this year for all ninth grade core classes, which are required courses in English, math, science, social studies and physical education, is the idea of a “grading floor,” which would mean an assignment could receive no less than 40% regardless of whether it is completed. A 40% would still result in a failing grade.

West High Principal Karen Boran said moving to a grading floor in the required freshman classes could prevent a “super F” — assignments and tests receiving a zero, which can drag down students’ overall average grades and prevent them from catching up in a class.

“Traditionally, grades are given out on a 100-point grading scale, so you have 60 points to get it wrong, to fail. You have 40 points to get it right,” Boran said. “Once you get a couple of F’s, you can’t come back from that.”

Mike Hernandez, the district’s chief of high schools, said grading floors are also being tested at freshman classes in the other high schools, such as U.S. History at La Follette High School and algebra at East High School.

Madison West high school has conducted several experiments over the years, including:

English 10

Small Learning Communities

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

‘You’re welding now’: Madison high schoolers get close look at working in trades

Scott Girard:

WRTP/Big Step South Central site director Bill Clingan said it was “a great week” watching the students interact and learn about the different options. As ironworker Ace Ashford repeatedly told the students, the chance to try out some of the work showed them a different post-high school option, not to discourage them from college.

“If you’re not sure about what you want to do, get yourself a skilled trade,” he said.

He and others mentioned the opportunity to make money while learning through an apprenticeship, the pay and pensions for eventual retirement as great reasons to consider working in the trades. District career and technical education specialist Sue Schultz said students have “a-ha moments” during the week.

After unapologetically teaching to the ACT, this tiny Wisconsin district now ranks among the state’s best

Samantha West:

“We had all the pieces we needed for success,” said Bruggink, who first came to Oostburg as a student teacher and worked his way up to superintendent. “So was there a way we could harness that, that we could bring all that together?”

He turned to his teachers for ideas. Together, and with the assistance of a two-year transformation program, they rethought the whole business of education at Oostburg, and they settled on some surprising conclusions:

  • Teachers should have more power to figure out how to teach their own students.

  • Students needed to be encouraged to be more ambitious at an earlier age — whether their plans included a four-year college, a two-year tech school or heading straight into the workforce.

  • And Oostburg’s schools really should teach to the test — often viewed cynically as a sign of systemic wrongheadedness — because the test had the same goals as the schools did. But not quite in the way you’d think.

Seven years later, the results are hard to argue with.

Why my college pals went to Yale while my high school friends went to jail

Rob Henderson:

“If my parents got divorced when I was a kid I’d definitely be in jail right now.”

A fellow student at Yale said this when I pointed out that all of my friends at the university, including the ones who, like me, served in the military, were raised by both of their parents. He told me that when he was in high school, he just barely avoided getting into serious trouble because of his stable family.

This was not the case for my high-school friends. I was born into poverty to a drug-addicted mother. My dad abandoned us. I grew up in foster homes in Los Angeles and was later adopted into a home in Northern California. A year later, my adoptive parents got divorced. My adoptive father, angry at my mother for leaving him, decided to stop talking to me as a way to get back at her.

Czech university mired in Chinese influence scandal

Kathrin Hille in Taipei and James Shotter:

Prague’s Charles University is being shaken by a scandal over secret Chinese payments to four of its faculty members, amid concerns that Beijing could use its ties with some Czech politicians to build influence in academia.

The university, one of the world’s oldest academic institutions, fired Milos Balaban, until recently head of the university’s Centre for Security Policy (SBP), and two other members of the social sciences faculty last week. The move came after the school discovered they had set up a private company under the name of SBP which was paid by the Chinese embassy for conferences co-organised by the university centre.

The payments, first revealed by Czech news outlet Aktualne, have triggered a university probe of several companies owned by Mr Balaban, Mirka Kortusová, a financial and project manager at the CSP, and Libor Stejskal and Jan Ludvík, two research fellows at the centre.

“In light of current findings, we can see how vulnerable universities are to foreign influence,” said faculty spokesman Jakub Riman. “We believe this is a broad risk and we aim to prevent anything like that from repeating in the future and getting to the bottom of it.”

Schoolchildren Propel Hong Kong Protests

Natasha Khan, Joyu Wang and Frances Yoon:

Before the 8 a.m. bell rings at high schools across the city, uniformed students at some of them gather to join hands, chanting protest slogans or singing “the revolution of our times,” words from a popular protest anthem.

Hong Kong officials had expressed hope the city’s biggest protest movement in decades would begin to subside when classes resumed in September.

Instead, violence between demonstrators and police has intensified, producing some of the bloodiest days since the protests began in June—and schools have become a driver of the city’s uprising against China’s ruling party.

This week, clashes paralyzed Hong Kong, disrupting commutes and shutting down schools. Violence escalated Thursday when protesters at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University shot arrows at policemen, who responded with volleys of tear gas. Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at a summit in Brazil Thursday, blamed protesters for the violence and urged a tough police response.

Confrontations between protesters and police have turned university campuses into battle zones. Clashes at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and other universities prompted hundreds of mainland Chinese students to flee. The action on college campuses is bolstered by protesters not yet old enough to attend; high school students are turning up at the forefront of battles throughout the city.

“But top universities are also crucial for induction into the luxury belief class”

Rob Henderson:

Take vocabulary. Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

Affluent people promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others. The logic is akin to conspicuous consumption—if you’re a student who has a large subsidy from your parents and I do not, you can afford to waste $900 and I can’t, so wearing a Canada Goose jacket is a good way of advertising your superior wealth and status. Proposing policies that will cost you as a member of the upper class less than they would cost me serve the same function. Advocating for open borders and drug experimentation are good ways of advertising your membership of the elite because, thanks to your wealth and social connections, they will cost you less than me.

Unfortunately, the luxury beliefs of the upper class often trickle down and are adopted by people lower down the food chain, which means many of these beliefs end up causing social harm. Take polyamory. I had a revealing conversation recently with a student at an elite university. He said that when he sets his Tinder radius to five miles, about half of the women, mostly other students, said they were “polyamorous” in their bios. Then, when he extended the radius to 15 miles to include the rest of the city and its outskirts, about half of the women were single mothers. The costs created by the luxury beliefs of the former are borne by the latter. Polyamory is the latest expression of sexual freedom championed by the affluent. They are in a better position to manage the complications of novel relationship arrangements. And if these relationships don’t work out, they can recover thanks to their financial capability and social capital. The less fortunate suffer by adopting the beliefs of the upper class.

In 2029, the Internet Will Make Us Act Like Medieval Peasants

Max Read:

Paradoxically, the ephemerality — and sheer volume — of text on social media is re-creating the circumstances of a preliterate society: a world in which information is quickly forgotten and nothing can be easily looked up. (Like Irish monks copying out Aristotle, Google and Facebook will collect and sort the world’s knowledge; like the medieval Catholic church, they’ll rigorously control its presentation and accessibility.) Under these conditions, memorability and concision — you know, the same qualities you might say make someone good at Twitter — will be more highly prized than strength of argument, and effective political leaders, for whom the factual truth is less important than the perpetual reinscription of a durable myth, will focus on repetitive self-aggrandizement.

K-12 tax & spending climate: Entitlement Liabilities Are a Graver Threat to the Next Generation of Americans Than Climate Change

John Phelan:

On January 31, 1940, Miss Ida Fuller received a check for $22.54. She was the first person to retire under the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) scheme, better known as Social Security. At the time of her retirement in 1939, she had paid just $22 in Social Security taxes. Ms. Fuller lived to be 100, cashing over $20,000 worth of Social Security checks.

If she had only paid $22.54 in contributions, where did the $20,000 Ms. Fuller received in Social Security payouts come from? It came, as it does now, from the taxpayers of the day. As of 2019, your employer deducts 6.2 percent of your wages up to $132,900 a year, matches this amount, and sends it to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA deposits this with the Treasury, which spends it and receives Treasury bonds in return. This is the fabled trust fund that guarantees Social Security.

But these Treasury bonds are simply IOUs redeemable against the income of tomorrow’s taxpayers. When one of the Treasury bonds held by the SSA falls due for payment, the Treasury can only get the funds to meet this liability by taxing, borrowing (taxing the taxpayers of tomorrow), or printing money (imposing an inflation tax). In each case, what really guarantees Social Security is not the money you paid in but the earnings of today’s or tomorrow’s taxpayers.

Asians are doing too well – they must be stopped

Lionel Shriver:

Riddle: when is discrimination against a historically disadvantaged racial minority perfectly legal? Answer: when they do too well.

The first ruling on the Students for Fair Admissions suit against Harvard University is in. A federal judge in Massachusetts concluded last month that for America’s be-all-and-end-all university to discriminate against Asian applicants in order to serve the all-hallowed goal of ‘diversity’ is constitutional. (Or strictly speaking, if you can follow this logic, the university did not discriminate against Asians by discriminating against them.) The reasoning: ‘Race conscious admissions will always penalize to some extent the groups that are not being advantaged by the process.’ The decision has already been appealed, and the case is likely to land in the Supreme Court.

For American schools, the sole purpose of turning ‘diversity’ into a crowning educational asset has been to disguise the affirmative action that these same universities once openly pursued and now can legally enforce only by calling the practice something else. Fifty years ago, the notion took hold in the US that racial equality would never evolve naturally, but had to be socially engineered by giving historically disadvantaged groups an active leg up, especially in higher education. Bald racial quotas and substantially lower admission standards for minorities became commonplace. Yet using racism to combat racism obviously doesn’t sit easily with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, so multiple previous cases of this nature have ended up in the Supreme Court — whose rulings on the matter have been, to use a technical jurisprudential term, a big mess.

An Open Letter to the Asian American Community

874 Harvard Students:

November 11, 2019

To the Asian American “Community,”

Today was the walkout and rally to defend all immigrants along with the DACA and TPS programs that have been under constant attack by the current administration. 

The Asian American Womxn’s Association (AAWA) co-organized this event with Act on a Dream, an organization that pours immense labor into advocating for immigrants’ and undocu+ rights, both on campus and beyond. Many organizations across the university also contributed to the walkout by co-sponsoring and students from across the College and the graduate schools chose to actively show their support in a conscious walkout from class. 

During the planning process, active efforts were made to reach out to the Asian American organizations at the college, including Asian American Association (AAA), Chinese Students Association (CSA), Harvard Korean Association (HKA), Taskforce for Asian and Pacific American Studies (TAPAS), South Asian Association (SAA), South Asian Women’s Collective (SAWC), Harvard Vietnamese Association (HVA), Harvard Philippine Forum (HPF), Khmer Student Association (KSA), Asian American Brotherhood (AAB), and South Asian Men’s Collective (SAMC). Of these organizations, only TAPAS, HPF, and KSA co-sponsored the walkout.

The majority of organizations contacted did not respond to AAWA’s co-sponsorship request, and the few that did delivered the disappointing news that there was not enough support for immigrant rights on their board. This is not without consequence. In doing so, you have outed yourselves as non-safe spaces for undocu+ people within the Asian American community.

This response is unacceptable, and quite frankly, extremely disappointing. There are about 1.7 million Asian undocumented immigrants in the United States. This number represents 1 out of every 6 undocumented immigrants in this country, and also means that 1 out of every 7 Asian immigrants is undocumented. ICE raids and deportations on Southeast Asian refugee communities have ramped up since 2017. Of the estimated 35,000 intercountry adoptees without citizenship, 20,000 are Korean Americans. Many of your Asian American peers, staff, co-workers, tutors, professors, and friends on campus are among those impacted, as well as our friends and families beyond these gates.

The Art of Losing Friends and Alienating People

Laura Lippman:

As a friend, I frequently break the first rule of fiction: I’m all tell, no show. I’m not going to remember your kid’s birthday, or even yours, despite Facebook’s helpful nudges. When you’re in a crisis, I won’t know the right questions to ask. I blame my Southern parents for placing so many topics in the forbidden zone. I grew up being told it was rude to discuss age, income, health, feelings. I often think that’s why I became a reporter.

I have a list in my head of all the friends I let down. It’s not long, but it’s longer than I’d like, and it’s probably longer than I know. Most of those friends have forgiven me, but I never lose sight of my failures. It’s like a stain on a busily-patterned rug; once you know where to look, your eye goes there every time. I know where to look. I am aware of my misdeeds. Every friend who has ever called me out on being a bad friend had me dead to rights.

But this does not apply to Charley, who enumerated my flaws only when I demanded that she do so. More than a decade ago, she retreated, seemingly done with me. I pursued, asking what I had done wrong. She ticked off my sins: Self-centered, shallow, superficial, materialistic. I was taken aback and a little defensive, but I could see her side of things, so I apologized. And it wasn’t a mealy-mouthed if-you-feel-offended-then-I’m-sorry apology. It was full-throated and sincere, a mea culpa that was all mea. Later, I found out she had gone through a huge crisis at about the time of our break and I thought that explained everything.

Beware Warren’s ‘Madisonian’ Plan for Public Education

CJ Szafir and Cori Petersen

Of the Wisconsin school districts with an achievement gap, Madison’s is one of the worst. According to 2018-19 Forward Exam scores, only 34.9% of Madison students are proficient in English, well below the statewide average of 40.9%. But in Madison only 10% of African-American students are proficient in English, compared with 57.2% of white students. Only 79% of African-American students graduate from Madison public high schools within five years, compared with 94% of white students.

Those who graduate aren’t necessarily better off. Parents say there is no accountability when the district graduates students it has failed to educate. “Yes our black kids are being left behind,” says Jewel Adams, whose son graduated from La Follette High School in 2016. “They are getting passed along without the knowledge they need to be passed along with.”

The racial disparity in Madison extends to school safety. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty recently examined emergency calls to 911 originating from Madison public schools and found that black students are more likely than whites to attend dangerous schools. Brandon Alvarez graduated in 2018 from La Follette, where there was one 911 call per seven students from August 2012 to May 2019. His sister started high school this year and he advised his parents to take advantage of Wisconsin’s open-enrollment program and send her to school in another district. “I told my dad it wouldn’t be a good idea for my sister to go to La Follette,” says Mr. Alvarez. “She should go to a district that focuses more on academics and is safer.” Mr. Alvarez drives his sister to high school each day in neighboring Monona Grove.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The School District Administration is planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum for the fall, 2020 election.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Education and Economic Growth Policies

Oliver Bullough:

The story does not begin with trusts, but with credit cards, and with Governor William “Wild Bill” Janklow, a US marine and son of a Nuremberg prosecutor, who became governor in 1979 and led South Dakota for a total of 16 years. He died almost eight years ago, leaving behind an apparently bottomless store of anecdotes: about how he once brought a rifle to the scene of a hostage crisis; how his car got blown off the road when he was rushing to the scene of a tornado.

In the late 70s, South Dakota’s economy was mired in deep depression, and Janklow was prepared to do almost anything to bring in a bit of business. He sensed an opportunity in undercutting the regulations imposed by other states. At the time, national interest rates were set unusually high by the Federal Reserve, meaning that credit card companies were having to pay more to borrow funds than they could earn by lending them out, and were therefore losing money every time someone bought something. Citibank had invested heavily in credit cards, and was therefore at significant risk of going bankrupt.

The bank was searching for a way to escape this bind, and found it in Janklow. “We were in the poorhouse when Citibank called us,” the governor recalled in a later interview. “They were in bigger problems than we were. We could make it last. They couldn’t make it last. I was slowly bleeding to death; they were gushing to death.”

At the bank’s suggestion, in 1981, the governor abolished laws that at the time – in South Dakota, as in every other state in the union – set an upper limit to the interest rates lenders could charge. These “anti-usury” rules were a legacy of the New Deal era. They protected consumers from loan sharks, but they also prevented Citibank making a profit from credit cards. So, when Citibank promised Janklow 400 jobs if he abolished them, he had the necessary law passed in a single day. “The economy was, at that time, dead,” Janklow remembered. “I was desperately looking for an opportunity for jobs for South Dakotans.”

When Citibank based its credit card business in Sioux Falls, it could charge borrowers any interest rate it liked, and credit cards could become profitable. Thanks to Janklow, Citibank and other major companies came to South Dakota to dodge the restrictions imposed by the other 49 states. And so followed the explosion in consumer finance that has transformed the US and the world. Thanks to Janklow, South Dakota has a financial services industry, and the US has a trillion-dollar credit card debt.

History as a giant data set: how analysing the past could help save the future

Laura Spinney:

Turchin set out to determine whether history, like physics, follows certain laws. In 2003, he published a book called Historical Dynamics, in which he discerned secular cycles in France and Russia from their origins to the end of the 18th century. That same year, he founded a new field of academic study, called cliodynamics, which seeks to discover the underlying reasons for these historical patterns, and to model them using mathematics, the way one might model changes to the planet’s climate. Seven years later, he started the field’s first official journaland co-founded a database of historical and archaeological information, which now contains data on more than 450 historical societies. The database can be used to compare societies across large stretches of time and space, as well as to make predictions about coming political instability. In 2017, Turchin founded a working group of historians, semioticians, physicists and others to help anticipate the future of human societies based on historical evidence.

Civics: Legacy Media and Presidential Candidate Coverage.

Musa al-Gharbi:

Members of the press need to rethink their instinct to write endless Trump stories. That doesn’t mean a more aggressive posture; the alignment between the press and Trump’s ‘resistance’ has been part of the problem: In terms of endorsements and direct financial support, reporters and media organizations rallied behind Clinton’s candidacy (and against Trump’s) in a manner that was unlike any other contemporary election cycle. 

Studies by Pew and the Harvard Kennedy School show that, even after the election, press coverage has remained critical. Even if journalists might argue that his record doesn’t allow for more positive stories, this non-stop negative coverage has not lowered supporters’ esteem for the president. 

Instead, it seems to be contributing to greater polarization around the media itself. According to a recent poll by the Columbia Journalism Review, Americans have less confidence in the press today than any other major social institution—including Congress and the White House. Scaling back the obsession with Trump would almost certainly help restore some of that trust. 

How military drone technology is quietly creeping into policing, business, and everyday life

Jon Askonas:

Gorgon Stare and several other programs like it allowed American forces in Iraq to continuously surveil cities in their entirety, unblinkingly and without forgetting. After an IED attack, analysts could look back over the video to find the insurgents who had placed the bomb, and then further to find all of the places they had visited. Analysts could also cross-reference this data to other intelligence or surveillance, and build up lists of likely insurgent hideaways. Algorithms could trace individual cars or people over time, and even highlight suspicious driving activity for further investigation, like cars that did U-turns or followed other cars. Operators of the system could do this work in real time as well, coordinating with troops on the ground to pass on fresh intelligence or transmit the live images.

The tactical impact was tremendous, both on its own and as part of a new way of doing counterterrorism. Big data analytics, persistent surveillance, and massive increases in computing power enabled more sophisticated ways of “attacking the network” of the enemy by fusing intelligence from all kinds of sources. Social media, cell phone intercepts, captured documents, interrogations, and Gorgon Stare’s aerial surveillance could be used to build a nigh-inescapable net — even if every so often, innocents got scooped up as well.

When Admissions Adviser Rick Singer Called, This School Said, ‘No, Thanks’

Jennifer Levitz and Douglas Belkin:

One day in 2012, an admissions director at Occidental College got a surprising email. William “Rick” Singer proposed that the school reconsider an application from an academically challenged daughter of a wealthy family.

He wanted the school to overturn her rejection, and he suggested the parents would give the school money above and beyond tuition.

“Are you kidding?” an incredulous Mr. Singer wrote about her not being admitted. “We can create a win-win for both of us.”

Vince Cuseo, the admissions official at the small California liberal-arts school, gave a simple response: No.

Mr. Singer, the admitted mastermind of what federal prosecutors have called the largest admissions-cheating scandal in the country, had reason to be hopeful. He had made inroads into brand-name colleges and universities around the country scores of times, exploiting higher education’s focus on money and willingness to give extra consideration to wealthy applicants.

“we know best” pushback

Brentin Mock:

The tree-planters met stiff resistance: Roughly a quarter of the 7,500 residents they approached declined offers to have new trees planted in front of their homes. It was a high enough volume of rejections for such an otherwise valuable service that University of Vermont researcher Christine E. Carmichael wanted to know the reasons behind it.

She obtained data that TGD collected on the people who turned them down, and then visited Detroit to interview staff members and residents. What she found is that the rejections had more to do with how the tree-planters presented themselves and residents’ distrust of city government than it did with how residents felt about trees. Carmichael’s findings (with co-author Maureen H. McDonough) were published this week in the journal Society and Natural Resources.

The residents Carmichael surveyed understood the benefits of having trees in urban environments—they provide shade and cooling, absorb air pollution, especially from traffic, increase property values, and improve health outcomes. But the reasons Detroit folks were submitting “no tree requests” were rooted in how they have historically interpreted their lived experiences in the city, or what Carmichael calls “heritage narratives.”

It’s not that they didn’t trust the trees; they didn’t trust the city.

In China, genetic testing can determine if people are descendants of emperors. What good is that?

Wee Kek Koon:

Genetic testing has been popular for a while now and China has jumped on the bandwagon. To set itself apart from global competitors, Chinese DNA-mapping service provider 23Mofang claims that it can determine if its clients are the descendants of Chinese emperors. Could any Chinese person actually take pride in having imperial antecedents?

While there were a handful of great kings and emperors, the vast majority China’s many monarchs were of middling quality and presided over their realms with various levels of incompetence. Some were downright imbecilic, which goes some way towards explaining the frequent dynastic changes in the country’s long history.

People in modern times continue to attach importance to the descendants of eminent men and women, as if these ancestors, like the fattest hogs in a stud farm, had passed down the most desirable traits to them. Even in the most liberal democracies, names of certain political families still enthral the voting public, a phenomenon perhaps borne of a combination of the age-old fascination with “blue blood” and the present-day obsession with a “brand”.

Higher Education’s Enemy Within

Jose Cabranes:

American higher education seems to be in a permanent state of crisis. Almost monthly, a federal court has occasion to reprimand some college or university for improperly chilling speech, even as some students continue to complain that campuses are too friendly to the wrong kind of speakers. Many institutions have cut back on faculty hiring, even as the cost of tuition grows. Two basic, and mutually reinforcing, phenomena are behind the chaos on campus.

First, colleges and universities have subordinated their historic mission of free inquiry to a new pursuit of social justice. Consider the remarkable evolution of Yale’s mission statement. For decades the university said its purpose was “to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge.” The language was banal enough, but nevertheless on the money. In 2016, however, Yale’s president announced a new mission statement, which no longer mentions knowledge. Instead, Yale is now officially “committed to improving the world” and educating “aspiring leaders”—not only through research, but also through “practice.”

Second, American colleges and universities have been overwhelmed by a dangerous alliance of academic bureaucrats and student activists committed to imposing the latest social-justice diktats. This alliance has displaced the traditional governors of the university—the faculty. Indeed, nonfaculty administrators and activists are driving some of the most dangerous developments in university life, including the erosion of the due-process rights of faculty and students, efforts to regulate the “permissible limits” of classroom discussion, and the condemnation of unwelcome ideas as “hate speech.”

How did the university lose its way? How did this new alliance of activists and administrators supplant the faculty?

Though there are many factors, they all point back to a far-reaching intellectual confusion that pervades the nation’s campuses, from dorm rooms to classrooms. Too many in higher education are unwilling or unable to maintain a distinction that lies at the core of the liberal democratic project, and at the center of the West’s intellectual tradition: the distinction between inquiry and action, speech and conduct.

Transparency in Madison’s $500M+ Taxpayer Supported K-12 School District: Open Records Suppression edition

Scott Girard:

An anonymous Madison School District resident is suing the district over its refusal to provide records in response to 26 requests made over a three-and-a-half month period earlier this year.

The John Doe is being represented by attorney Tom Kamenick, the president and founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project. The lawsuit filed Nov. 14 in Dane County Circuit Court asks the court to mandate the release of the records and award Doe at least $100 for each of the 48 counts it alleges against the district in addition to attorney fees.

According to the lawsuit, between July 10 and Oct. 31 Doe filed requests seeking documents related to administration’s weekly updates with board members, curriculum plans, school improvement plans and the annual seclusion and restraint report, among other topics.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The School District Administration is planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum for the fall, 2020 election.

Ed Treleven:

The records requested between July and October have included such things as the “weekly update” document provided by the district to School Board members; School Improvement Plans for the 2019-20 school year; the district’s K-12 sequential curriculum plan; the “Inequitable Distribution of Teachers Report,” all reports regarding notification and reporting following use of seclusion or physical restraint; annual licensure certifications; among other documents.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the state open records law clearly states that no request can be denied because of anonymity, and that the district’s denials “are clearly illegal.”

“It may be that the district is relying on a case decided a few years back in which a court agreed that a custodian could deny a request from a known harasser,” Lueders said. But that does not give MSD the right to reject anonymous requests.”

He said the district should admit it was wrong and settle the lawsuit, “otherwise taxpayers will be on the hook for legal costs that should never have been incurred.”

A record number of students took the SATs in 2019. Here’s how they did.

Chris Stewart:

Over 2.2 million students in the class of 2019 took the SAT, an increase of 4% over the class of 2018, according to the 2019.


Almost a million students in the class of 2019 took the SAT on a school day, up from nearly 780,000 in the class of 2018. This means 43% of the class of 2019 took the SAT on a school day, compared to 36% of the class of 2018.


In the class of 2019, 46% of SAT School Day test takers were from high-poverty public schools, compared to only 22% of students who tested on a weekend; 46% of SAT School Day test takers were underrepresented minorities, versus only 32% of those who tested on weekends; and 45% of SAT School Day test takers were first-generation, compared to 30% of weekend testers.

How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

Kirsten Grind, Sam Schechner, Robert McMillan and John West:

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

  • Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBay Inc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Inc. and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.
  • Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.
  • Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.
  • In auto-complete, the feature that predicts search terms as the user types a query, Google’s engineers have created algorithms and blacklists to weed out more-incendiary suggestions for controversial subjects, such as abortion or immigration, in effect filtering out inflammatory results on high-profile topics.
  • Google employees and executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have disagreed on how much to intervene on search results and to what extent. Employees can push for revisions in specific search results, including on topics such as vaccinations and autism.
  • To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.

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

An interview with Madison School Board Member Ali Muldrow

David Blaska:

Blaska parried: “Your friend Ananda Mirilli … accused me of creating the system she is trying to undo. … [But] the system we have is so great that people are trying to get in illegally … because they know you can succeed in America if you work. I’m afraid we’re telling kids … it’s the teachers fault, it is the system’s fault, you are a victim therefore you cannot be expected to be accountable for your actions.”

Rather than address the substance, Ms. Muldrow announced that she had just been triggered, the default mode of social justice warriors everywhere.

“I want to correct you,” Ms. Muldrow lectured. “Ananda’s name is pronounced “Ah-NAHN-duh.”

Blaska speaks Wisconsin, apparently, which defaults to a flat-A pronunciation.  Wisconsin pronounces Aunt, for example, as “Ant” instead of “AWEnt.” My bad. Apparently, I had just disrespected a Latina immigrant from Brazil by mispronouncing her name. Blaska blames his Midwestern parents, who apparently have been de-listed from the Greatest Generation.

B-Flat or be square

Blaska had committed a micro-aggression and Ali must scold him: “You also called her ‘my friend’ and that is a flattening of our relationship. Ah-NAHN-duh is a fellow school board member, elected the same time I was.”

“You’re not friends?” Blaska sputtered. (Ali and Ah-NAHN-duh did campaign as a team, with both their names and likenesses on the same signage.)

Muldrow: “I think it just flattens a multi-dimensional relationship.”

Blaska apologized. “The last thing I want is to flatten a multi-dimensional relationship.” 

Ali Muldrow notes and links.

Somewhat related: Peter Thiel on the end of the Computer Age:

The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas

Dan Rockmore:

The key here isn’t fitness—it’s just a feeling of being free, of forgetting for a moment that we are bound by gravity and logic and convention, of letting the magic happen. For me, perhaps it’s that my ideas just need to be jostled into the right place. Jogging jogs them. But there are mathematicians who try to alter their brain chemistry a little more directly. The Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős was notoriously prolific, someone to whom the magic tricks seemed to come enviably easily. So, what was his secret? His friend Alfréd Rényi, a fellow-Hungarian, once said, “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.” And both men were caffeine enthusiasts. But Erdős was a person of extremes, and he also fuelled his ideas through a don’t-try-this-at-home technique: he used stimulants such as Ritalin and Benzedrine for much of his career. At one point, a friend, worried about Erdős’s health, challenged him to go off the drugs for a month, and Erdős agreed, but when the experiment was over he said that, on the whole, mathematics had been set back by his weeks of relative indolence.

Whereas Erdős sought hyper-focussed vigilance, other eminent mathematicians have found a hazy drowsiness to be the most fertile state of mind. Poincaré described lying in bed in a half-dream state as the ideal condition for coming up with new ideas. The philosopher and mathematician René Descartes famously loved to lounge in bed in the morning and think (I suppose to give evidence that he was). It was on one such morning—as the story goes—while dreamily watching the path of a fly flitting around on the ceiling, that he came up with the xy plane of Cartesian coordinates.

Cold Welcome for Veterans on Campus

Rob Henderson

Veterans who first serve in the military and then attend elite colleges learn to navigate both moral worlds. On campus we learn to blend in, even at the cost of feeling betrayed. We keep our love for America to ourselves. We don’t want to give veterans a bad reputation. We want to make friends. We try to understand campus protesters, to see where they’re coming from. Maybe their grievances are a bit overblown, but still, they’re young. They’re still maturing. Just like we were when we volunteered our lives for this country. Just like our friend was when he hanged himself after returning from his second deployment. 

In truth, many of the rich kids at elite colleges love American values, too. But they know that loving the Constitution and its first two amendments marks one as working-class or low-status, and that being against those things codes as educated. So they rail against those values to distinguish themselves from one crowd and fit into another.

This Veterans Day we can reflect on the sacrifices made by those who volunteered to defend the United States. But let’s also find time to consider that these sacrifices were undertaken to defend values that our ruling-class-in-waiting seeks to undermine. Many students at elite colleges are duping themselves, too. They don’t realize that they are protected by the very principles they despise and the people to whom they condescend.

Against Economics

David Graeber:

There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist.

A good example is the obsession with inflation. Economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability. We must be constantly vigilant over the dangers of inflation. For governments to simply print money is therefore inherently sinful. If, however, inflation is kept at bay through the coordinated action of government and central bankers, the market should find its “natural rate of unemployment,” and investors, taking advantage of clear price signals, should be able to ensure healthy growth. These assumptions came with the monetarism of the 1980s, the idea that government should restrict itself to managing the money supply, and by the 1990s had come to be accepted as such elementary common sense that pretty much all political debate had to set out from a ritual acknowledgment of the perils of government spending. This continues to be the case, despite the fact that, since the 2008 recession, central banks have been printing money frantically in an attempt to create inflation and compel the rich to do something useful with their money, and have been largely unsuccessful in both endeavors.

We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: If a Wealth Tax is Such a Good Idea, Why Did Europe Kill Theirs?

Greg Rosalsky:

Normally progressives like to point to Europe for policy success. Not this time. The experiment with the wealth tax in Europe was a failure in many countries. France’s wealth tax contributed to the exodus of an estimated 42,000 millionaires between 2000 and 2012, among other problems. Only last year, French president Emmanuel Macron killed it.

In 1990, twelve countries in Europe had a wealth tax. Today, there are only three: Norway, Spain, and Switzerland. According to reports by the OECD and others, there were some clear themes with the policy: it was expensive to administer, it was hard on people with lots of assets but little cash, it distorted saving and investment decisions, it pushed the rich and their money out of the taxing countries—and, perhaps worst of all, it didn’t raise much revenue.

UC Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, whose research helped put wealth inequality back on the American policy agenda, played a part in designing Warren’s wealth tax. He says it was designed explicitly with European failures in mind.

He argues the Warren plan is “very different than any wealth tax that has existed anywhere in the world.” Unlike in the European Union, it’s impossible to freely move to another country or state to escape national taxes. Existing U.S. law also taxes citizens wherever they are, so even if they do sail to a tax haven in the Caribbean, they’re still on the hook. On top of that, Warren’s plan includes an “exit tax,” which would confiscate 40 percent of all a person’s wealth over $50 million if they renounce their citizenship.

WC President Landgraf Responds to Cancellation of The Foreigner

The Talbot Spy

The following email was sent to the Washington College community yesterday evening by President Kurt Landgraf to respond to criticism that the liberal arts institution had censured freedom of artistic expression by cancelling a student production of the play entitled “The Foreigner.”

Dear Campus Community,

Last Friday, we announced a decision to cancel two scheduled public performances of “The Foreigner.”  This play—written in the 1980s and frequently produced at educational and professional institutions across the country—centers on a group of people who feel “othered” by society in various ways, including premarital pregnancy, neurological differences, and age. Over the course of the play, these individuals build a community together through listening, learning and, humor, but their bond is threatened by the xenophobic anger and self-proclaimed entitlement of two other characters. In the climax of the play, the community of disenfranchised protagonists rises up to easily defeat the bigoted antagonists (who reveal themselves as members of the KKK). It is through the portrayal and defeat of these villainous characters that the play conveys its message about the evils of xenophobia, the dangers of “othering,” and the importance of empathy.

The Single Reason Why People Can’t Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

Glenn Leibowitz:

“Why is so much writing so hard to understand? Why must a typical reader struggle to follow an academic article, the fine print on a tax return, or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?”

These are questions Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker asks in his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. They’re questions I’ve often encountered –and attempted to tackle– throughout my career as a business writer and editor. Whenever I see writing that is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come immediately to mind. First, what is the writer trying to say, exactly? And second, how can the writer convey her ideas more clearly, without having to lean on language that confuses the reader?

For Pinker, the root cause of so much bad writing is what he calls “the Curse of Knowledge”, which he defines as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

The Union Routs Students in Chicago

Wall Street Journal:

This social-justice dressing is intended to compensate for the deficits in accountability. Under the new contract, a joint union-school board committee will be convened to “mitigate or eliminate any disproportionate impacts of observations or student growth measures” on teacher evaluations. So instead of student performance, teachers will probably be rated on more subjective measures, perhaps congeniality in the lunchroom.

Chicago students are among the few to demonstrate improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress over the last several years, and one reason is reforms instituted by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold teachers accountable. Another reason is an expansion of charter schools, which enroll about one in six students.

The new union contract caps the number of charter-school seats, so no new schools will be able to open without others closing. This was a top union demand, and Mayor Lightfoot didn’t even put up a fight. Maybe the union should anoint her its honorary president.

Google and Privacy


After a while I reached a point that I suspect is familiar to most whistleblowers, where what I was witnessing was too important for me to remain silent. Two simple questions kept hounding me: did patients know about the transfer of their data to the tech giant? Should they be informed and given a chance to opt in or out?

The answer to the first question quickly became apparent: no. The answer to the second I became increasingly convinced about: yes. Put the two together, and how could I say nothing?

So much is at stake. Data security is important in any field, but when that data relates to the personal details of an individual’s health, it is of the utmost importance as this is the last frontier of data privacy.

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

Edgewood president disappointed by Madison Plan Commission delay

Nicholas Garton:

An Edgewood High School official said the school is “extremely disappointed” with the outcome of the Madison Plan Commisson’s decision to further delay a decision on whether the west side Catholic school can have its master plan repealed and move toward hosting athletic events at an on-campus stadium. 

On Monday, the Plan Commission was unable to execute a vote on Edgewood’s proposal to repeal its master plan. Members of the commission voted 3-2 against allowing Edgewood to back out of its plan. But commission Chair Ledell Zellers declined to cast a vote, so the four-vote majority necessary to prevail wasn’t met. 

The Plan Commission ultimately decided to refer Edgewood’s proposal to the December 9 meeting.  

Failing 15% of the time is the best way to learn, say scientists

Phoebe Weston

When learning something new, people naturally look to challenge themselves but the task should be too easy or too difficult, lest they get bored or give up.

Despite a long history of research, it is unclear why particular difficulty levels might be best for learning. 

However, scientists from the University of Arizona say they have now found the “Goldilocks zone” – with their data suggesting people who fail 15 per cent of the time learn the fastest. 

Researchers created machine-learning experiments in which they taught computers simple tasks like categorising patterns or arranging numbers. The computers learnt fastest when they got 85 per cent of answers correct, according to the paper published in Nature Communications

“We show theoretically that training at this optimal difficulty can lead to exponential improvements in the rate of learning,” researchers wrote in the paper. 

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Income & Public Spending

Phil Gramm & John F. Early:

Never in American history has the debate over income inequality so dominated the public square, with Democratic presidential candidates and congressional leaders calling for massive tax increases and federal expenditures to redistribute the nation’s income. Unfortunately, official measures of income inequality, the numbers being debated, are profoundly distorted by what the Census Bureau chooses to count as household income.

The published census data for 2017 portray the top quintile of households as having almost 17 times as much income as the bottom quintile. But this picture is false. The measure fails to account for the one-third of all household income paid in federal, state and local taxes. Since households in the top income quintile pay almost two-thirds of all taxes, ignoring the earned income lost to taxes substantially overstates inequality.

The Census Bureau also fails to count $1.9 trillion in annual public transfer payments to American households. The bureau ignores transfer payments from some 95 federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, which make up more than 40% of federal spending, along with dozens of state and local programs. Government transfers provide 89% of all resources available to the bottom income quintile of households and more than half of the total resources available to the second quintile.

How top health websites are sharing sensitive data with advertisers

Madhumita Murgia and Max Harlow:

Some of the UK’s most popular health websites are sharing people’s sensitive data — including medical symptoms, diagnoses, drug names and menstrual and fertility information — with dozens of companies around the world, ranging from ad-targeting giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Oracle, to lesser-known data-brokers and adtech firms like Scorecard and OpenX.

Using open-source tools to analyse 100 health websites, which include WebMD, Healthline, Babycentre and Bupa, an FT investigation found that 79 per cent of the sites dropped “cookies” — little bits of code that, when embedded in your browser, allow third-party companies to track individuals around the internet. This was done without the consent that is a legal requirement in the UK.

Google’s advertising arm DoubleClick was by far the most common destination for data, showing up on 78 per cent of the sites tested, followed by Amazon, which was present in 48 per cent of cases, Facebook, Microsoft and adtech firm AppNexus.

More South Korean academics caught naming kids as co-authors

Mark Zastrow

The number of South Korean academics accused of naming children as co-authors on research manuscripts — even though the children did not contribute to the research — continues to grow. An education ministry report details 11 university academics who named high-school or middle-school-aged children on papers that the children allegedly did not contribute to. Nine of these are newly identified, bringing the total number accused to 17, and the total number of papers affected to 24, since the practice was first exposed in late 2017.

Five of the nine newly identified academics named their own children on papers, said the report. One named a child of an acquaintance, and the others had no special relationship to the children. It is thought that in some cases, the children were named on papers to boost their chances of winning university places, for which competition in the country is fierce. The papers the ministry has identified as problematic stretch back at least as far as 2007.

The Rising Threat of Digital Nationalism

Alaska Kapur

Fifty years ago this week, at 10:30 on a warm night at the University of California, Los Angeles, the first email was sent. It was a decidedly local affair. A man sat in front of a teleprinter connected to an early precursor of the internet known as Arpanet and transmitted the message “login” to a colleague in Palo Alto. The system crashed; all that arrived at the Stanford Research Institute, some 350 miles away, was a truncated “lo.”

The network has moved on dramatically from those parochial—and stuttering—origins. Now more than 200 billion emails flow around the world every day. The internet has come to represent the very embodiment of globalization—a postnational public sphere, a virtual world impervious and even hostile to the control of sovereign governments (those “weary giants of flesh and steel,” as the cyberlibertarian activist John Perry Barlow famously put it in his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996).

But things have been changing recently. Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, once said that national law had no place in cyberlaw. That view seems increasingly anachronistic. Across the world, nation-states have been responding to a series of crises on the internet (some real, some overstated) by asserting their authority and claiming various forms of digital sovereignty. A network that once seemed to effortlessly defy regulation is being relentlessly, and often ruthlessly, domesticated.

From firewalls to shutdowns to new data-localization laws, a specter of digital nationalism now hangs over the network. This “territorialization of the internet,” as Scott Malcomson, a technology consultant and author, calls it, is fundamentally changing its character—and perhaps even threatening its continued existence as a unified global infrastructure.

The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, or, Downward Mobility

Kenneth Anderson:

The problem the New Class faces at this point is the psychological and social self-perceptions of a status group that is alienated (as we marxists say) from traditional labor by its semi-privileged upbringing – and by the fact that it is actually, two distinct strands, a privileged one and a semi-privileged one.  It is, for the moment, insistent not just on white-collar work as its birthright and unable to conceive of much else.  It does not celebrate the dignity of labor; it conceived of itself as existing to regulate labor.  So it has purified itself to the point that not just any white-collar work will do.  It has to be, as Michelle Obama instructed people in what now has to be seen as another era, virtuous non-profit or government work.  Those attitudes are changing, but only slowly; the university pipelines are still full of people who cannot imagine themselves in any other kind of work, unless it means working for Apple or Google.

The New Class has always operated across the lines of public and private, however, the government-university-finance and technology capital sectors.  It is not a theory of the government class versus the business class – as 1990s neoconservatives sometimes mistakenly imagined.  As Lasch pointed out, it is the class that bridges and moves effortlessly between the two.  As a theory of late capitalism (once imported from being an analysis of communist nomenkaltura) it offers itself as a theory of technocratic expertise first  – but, if that spectacularly fails as it did in 2008, it falls back on a much more rudimentary claim of monopoly access to the levers of the economy.  Which is to say, the right to bridge the private-public line, and rent out its access.

PhDs: the tortuous truth

Chris Woolston:

Getting a PhD is never easy, but it’s fair to say that Marina Kovačević had it especially hard. A third-year chemistry student at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, she started her PhD programme with no funding, which forced her to get side jobs bartending and waitressing. When a funded position came up in another laboratory two years later, she made an abrupt switch from medicinal chemistry to computational chemistry. With the additional side jobs, long hours in the lab, and the total overhaul of her research and area of focus, Kovačević epitomizes the overworked, overextended PhD student with an uncertain future.

And yet she could hardly be happier. “I think I’m exactly where I need to be,” she says. “I love going to work each day. I have lots of things to do, but I’m not stressed. I can’t imagine anything else that would bring me this much joy.”

Information wants to be free

Alice Herman:

For individuals and organizations seeking state records, Wisconsin law is clear: the state guarantees public access to government business, barring “exceptional cases,” and identifies a lack of transparency as “generally contrary to the public interest.”

Despite the fact that the public right to state information is baked into Wisconsin legal code, freedom of information advocates say that state agencies frequently block or otherwise delay records requests.

“I would say that in recent years, we’ve seen more bad faith assertions of reasons to deny access [to public records],” says Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (and an Isthmus contributor).

To address the issue of transparency in government, Tom Kamenick, a former counsel for the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), has founded a law firm specifically to handle open records cases in the state.

“The way the law’s written is pretty good among the states. Our definition of what’s covered by a record is quite broad, there’s very few exceptions to it similar to when it comes to meetings. A lot of governmental bodies are covered by open meetings law … but the enforcement is difficult,” says Kamenick. Many states — including Illinois, Connecticut and Hawaii — have created state commissions to handle records disputes. Wisconsin possesses no such organization, and furthermore, says Kamenick, “the attorney general and district attorneys can bring lawsuits but they rarely do, so it’s up to individuals to enforce it with lawsuits, which doesn’t happen often.”

Pity the poor avocado-eating graduates University-educated millennials have absorbed elite values but will never enjoy the lifestyle

Mary Harrington:

For young people, home ownership is now an unattainable dream for all but a few, and so in 2017 when Aussie millionaire Tim Gurner said that millennials would be better able to buy homes if they spent less on avocado toast, the BBC calculated that it would take 67 years of renouncing avocado toast on a daily basis to save enough for a property in London at today’s prices. Why, then, would young people be so grimly devoted to the EU when a house price crash would benefit them at the expense of all those selfish Brexit-voting oldies?

Countless articles have rehearsed the classinsecurities of the “left behind” Brexiters. Generally these unfortunates are depicted fulminating over pasties and ale in shabby market towns and grim post-industrial cities outside the London area. The object of their antipathy is the shiny “elite”, plugged into a promise-filled, multicultural urban life and the knowledge economy, seemingly buoyant in the new, frictionless modern world.

Vote on Edgewood master plan, whether to allow games on athletic field, delayed again

Emily Hamer:

After a lengthy meeting Monday, the Madison Plan Commission again put off a decision on whether to allow Edgewood High School to repeal its master plan, which would open the door for the school to host games on its athletic field.

The Commission failed to get enough votes to pass or reject Edgewood High School’s request to repeal, and instead unanimously decided to delay until Dec. 9, when more members are expected to be present for a vote.

Commission members initially voted 3-2 to keep the master plan, but the measure needed at least four votes to pass. Five members of the commission were absent.

The Lonely Burden of Today’s Teenage Girls

Mary Pipher and Sara Pipher Gilliam

Many girls report that their mothers are their best friends. The close-knit family unit has, for the most part, rebounded as divorce rates have dropped to a 40-year low.

But girls today aren’t as self-sufficient as their counterparts in earlier decades: They are less likely to possess driver’s licenses, work outside the home or date.

They are also more solitary. Research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future project shows that, since 2007—the dawn of the smartphone era—girls have dramatically decreased the amount of time they spend shopping, seeing friends or going to movies. We found that many girls spend their Saturday nights home alone, watching Netflix and surfing social media.

Civics: From Surveillance Communism To Surveillance Capitalism And Beyond

John Torpey

Having acquired the freedom to protest openly, one of the first things the East Germans did was to descend upon the headquarters of the Ministry for State Security, universally known by its German acronym, the Stasi.  The Stasi was the “sword and shield of the party,” as its motto had it, and was widely hated for its frightening control over people’s lives. Everyone knew, or at least thought, that the Stasi was spying on ordinary East Germans all the time, and that they had to constantly be on their guard about what they could say and where.  To many people, the secret police were the essence of Communist rule.

When they stormed the Stasi’s headquarters in the Normannenstrasse (another nickname for the Stasi), they discovered miles of files on individuals who were the subjects of the Stasi’s attention.  At first there was much destruction of files, but it then dawned on the outraged citizens that they would want to understand what the Stasi had done during the forty years of the GDR’s existence and that they would need the files in order to do so.  This led to the creation of an agency charged with helping people sort through the files and hence to “come to terms with the past.” The Stasi agency was first headed by the charismatic pastor and dissident Joachim Gauck, who would later become President of the re-united Federal Republic of Germany.

500 Years Later, The Spanish Conquest Of Mexico Is Still Being Debated

James Fredrick:

Five-hundred years ago, two men met and changed much of the world forever.

About 500 Spanish conquistadors — ragged from skirmishes, a massacre of an Indigenous village and a hike between massive volcanoes — couldn’t believe what they saw: an elegant island city in a land that Europeans didn’t know existed until a few years before.

“It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before,” wrote conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo.

The date was Nov. 8, 1519. Bernal’s leader, Hernán Cortés, walked them down a causeway leading into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, and was greeted by this land’s most powerful man: Emperor Montezuma II. (Montezuma was Mexica, but the term Aztec is often used to denote the triple alliance of civilizations that made up his empire.)

According to Cortés, Montezuma immediately recognized the divine right of the Spanish and the Catholic Church to rule these lands and he surrendered his empire.

But according to historian Matthew Restall, author of the book When Montezuma Met Cortés, this is simply wrong.

Is Automated Journalistic Writing Less Biased? An Experimental Test of Auto-Written and Human-Written News Stories

&angang Wu:

By administering an online experiment, this study examined how source and journalistic domains affect the perceived objectivity, message credibility, medium credibility, bias, and overall journalistic quality of news stories among an adult sample (N = 370) recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) service. Within the framework of the cognitive authority theory, the study found auto-written news stories were rated as more objective, credible (both message and medium credibility), and less biased. However, significant difference was found between a combined assessment condition (news stories with source and author information) and a message only assessment condition (news stories without source and author information) in the ratings of objectivity and credibility, but not bias. Moreover, significant differences were found in the objectivity and credibility ratings of auto-written and human-written news stories in the journalistic domains of politics, finance and sports news stories. In auto-written news stories, sports news stories were rated more objective and credible, while financial news stories were rated as more biased. In human-written stories, financial news stories were rated as more objective and credible. However, political news stories were rated as more biased among human-written news stories, and in cases where auto-written and human-written stories were combined.

Commentary on the Madison School District 2020 Superintendent Search

Scott Girard:

The full report was not made available to the public Monday night, but was expected to be posted Tuesday afternoon.

Board members voted to accept a leadership profile that will be used to help develop interview questions and screen candidates with a 6 to 1 vote, with Nicki Vander Meulen voting against, having requested more time to read the full report before making that choice.

The profile includes qualities like seeking a visionary team-builder who has experience with diverse populations and an understanding of MMSD’s commitment to high levels of academic achievement for all students. Other parts of the profile included a background as an educator, student-centered and personal qualities like confidence, dedication, sincerity, honesty and organization.

Hill said the district needs to make itself stand out to the “small pool” of candidates who fit the profile and have experience in a district at least as large as Madison.

“Lots of districts are looking for the same people,” Hill said. “The competition is much higher at this particular point.”

Notes and links on previous taxpayer supported Madison School district Superintendent searches.

Commentary on a planned 2020 Taxpayer supported Madison K-12 School referendum

Logan Wroge:

If a new operating referendum is passed, the School Board could then permanently raise property taxes over the next four school years, potentially using all $36 million of authority.

In 2016, voters passed a $26 million operating referendum, which similarly was phased in over four years, ending in 2019-20. Over the four years, the School Board raised property taxes by about $22 million, or about $4 million short of its full authority.

Without the additional money from an operating referendum next year, there could be a $10 million funding gap if certain costs, such as the employee salary schedule, are maintained, district officials have said.

A $36 million operating referendum could raise property taxes on an average-value house by $198 over four years.

The district began gathering input on the referendums in September, and it will continue to do so through next month. A report on the feedback is slated to be given to the School Board in January.

Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

Scott Girard:

A report from the district’s Research and Program Evaluation Office presented Monday to the School Board indicated people who have attended one of the 31 sessions, some targeted to specific buildings or communities and some for the general public, have agreed the district has targeted areas of need in the $310-315 million proposal being discussed now. That would add an estimated $69 per $100,000 of property value to a tax bill.

“We’re not seeing at this point any major red flags that would cause you to shift course,” district executive director of research, accountability and data use Andrew Statz said. “We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Government Tax, spending and borrowing practices.

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li

Local governments borrowed for years to create jobs and keep factories humming. Now China’s economy is slowing to its weakest pace in nearly three decades, but Beijing has kept the lending spigots tight to quell its debt problems. 

In response, a growing number of Chinese cities are raising money using hospitals, schools and other institutions. Often they use complicated financial arrangements, like lease agreements or trusts, that stay a step ahead of regulators in Beijing. 

“Whether it is a financial lease or trust, they are just all tools for local governments to borrow,” said Chen Zhiwu, director of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong. “Officials stop one today, and they come up with another tool tomorrow.”

“That’s why China has been talking about curbing local government debts for many years and it’s still not solved,” Mr. Chen said.

Increasingly these deals are going sour, as they did in Ruzhou, and the loans are going unpaid. Lenders have accused three of Ruzhou’s hospitals and three investment funds tied to the city of not paying back their debts.

Madison, which has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K – 12 school districts is planning a large referendum for 2020.

How Washington keeps America sick and fat

Catherine Boudreau and Helena Bottemiller

Take NIH. In 2018, the agency invested $1.8 billion in nutrition research, or just under 5 percent of its total budget. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service spends significantly less; last year, the agency devoted $88 million, or a little more than 7 percent of its overall budget, to human nutrition, virtually the same level as in 1983 when adjusted for inflation. That means USDA last year spent roughly 13 times more studying how to make agriculture more productive than it did trying to improve Americans’ health or answer questions about what we should be eating. 

Nutrition science has become such a low priority at NIH that the agency earlier this year proposed closing the only facility on its campus for highly controlled nutrition studies — a plan that is on hold after pushback from outside groups.

Civics: Staff shields Governor Tony Evers’ emails from public access

Amanda St. Hilaire:

Governor Tony Evers’ office is denying open records requests for his emails. The governor’s attorney says the decision saves taxpayer resources; transparency advocates say they’re worried about the erosion of the public’s right to know.

“If you want to see what government is up to, you have to see the emails that they are sending,” Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders said. “I don’t think [this denial] is a legal interpretation of our open records law.”

Civics: Unsustainable California

Joel Kotkin

The future, if Sacramento gets its way, likely will resemble Jerry Brown’s old “era of limits” on steroids. It will become more expensive to get around, even in electric cars that rely on what are already among the country’s highest rates, almost twice as high as competitors like Texas, Arizona, Washington and Oregon, electricity that is rightfully seen as often unreliable as well. Our ability to buy housing, particularly the family-friendly variety, will also be restricted by a planning regime that seeks to cram most into small apartments.

This future appeals to some predictable voices, like The New York Times and The Atlantic, which see the fires on the urban edge as a reason to pack more people into our already congested, unaffordable cities. But these observations fail to distinguish between the heavily wooded areas on the hilly fringes of the metropolis — which are indeed fire-prone — and largely flat expanses of rangeland adjacent to both the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin. If we don’t find safe places to build the kind of housing most people, notably families, need, our diminished housing choices will accelerate the rising tide of people and companies leaving the state.

These ruinous policies are not necessary. They are based largely on intense “virtue-signaling,” which might also provide the basis for Gavin Newsom’s eventual run for the White House. But he may consider what the rest of the country might think about the kind of bifurcated, dystopic society California now presents; it certainly did not help the failed presidential candidacy of Kamala Harris and was bad enough to keep the disaster that is L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti out of the presidential sweepstakes.

Title VII Disparate Impact Liability Makes Almost Everything Presumptively Illegal … It Gives the Federal Bureaucracy Extraordinary Discretionary Power. But What Does It Do to the Rule of Law? And Who Benefits?

San Diego Legal Studies RPS Submitter andGail L. Heriot:

Abstract: In Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971), the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went far beyond prohibiting intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. According to the Court, it also presumptively outlawed job actions that have a “disparate impact,” regardless of whether the employer had an intent to discriminate.

The evidence that this was a misinterpretation of both the text and Congressional intent is overwhelming. Up until 1991, Griggs would have been an excellent candidate for an outright and explicit overruling. But the Civil Rights Act of 1991’s backhanded recognition of the disparate impact cause of action makes that more
difficult than it otherwise might be.

This article discusses various ways in which disparate impact liability has been bad policy and various arguments for its unconstitutionality.

Elizabeth Warren’s Education Plan Is Exactly What We Need — If Our Goal Is to Make the Achievement Gap Permanent

Chris Stewart:

Finally, a Democratic presidential candidate brave enough to focus less on classroom instruction and more on factors outside of schools; a candidate informed enough to know there is nothing wrong with teaching and learning that won’t be fixed by big-budget infrastructure upgrades along with housing grants and health care.

For unions, this must feel like Christmas. For Democratic school reformers, Pearl Harbor.

Especially since Warren’s fiscal generosity ends where reform begins. Her plan would end the federal Charter School Program, a source of support for charter school expansion. It’s a baffling choice, given the popularity of charters with parents of color and Democrats; they often have waiting lists to get in and they provide urban students with an opportunity to learn at higher levels than neighboring district schools.

I’ll never understand how a plan to limit choices for families living in low-opportunity education deserts is a winner in a political campaign. Further, why would any leader attack annual testing that produces the data that civil rights groups use to illustrate the disparities disadvantaging students?

I’ll stop here and admit that Warren does present something of a solution: She wants to balloon taxpayer support for “sustainable community schools,” an old idea cynically renewed by the American Federation of Teachers and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, which have strategically proposed these feel-good district schools as an alternative to charters.

Warren’s plan states, “Studies show that every dollar invested in community schools generates up to $15 in economic return to the community,” and to prove it she links to an article in neaToday, a National Education Association publication. That article elevates as a model the Milwaukee’s Community Schools Partnership, a United Way-backed project to develop community schools, but looking at their schools raises questions.

For example, there’s Auer Avenue Community School, where fewer than 5 percent of students are proficient in math or reading; Hopkins Lloyd Community School which scores 7.6 points out of 50 in English and 5.9 out of 50 in mathematics; and Browning Elementary, which gets one star (out of five) from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction because it “fails to meet expectations.” And, ironically for Warren, who bemoans segregation, these schools she touts are not just separate and unequal, they’re hypersegregated (for example, Browning Elementary is over 95 percent “economically disadvantaged”).

Madison schools drop winter reading and math test for elementary and middle school students

Logan Wroge

Given this, it was decided the winter MAP test is something the district doesn’t really need, Peterson said.

Instead, district officials want to move to more formative assessments, which generally cover shorter time frames of learning, can come in more informal manners, such as asking students by a show of hands if they understand a concept, and gives a teacher a better ability to determine what areas individual students needs further help on, Peterson said.

“We’re working to continue to build up information that teachers can use right away in their classrooms,” Peterson said. “While testing fatigue plays in the background, that’s not a driver of what this decision was.”