Category Archives: Uncategorized

Schools without discipline will fail

Peter Anderson:

Jennifer Cheatham’s tenure, to a not-insignificant extent, became increasingly defined by her efforts to deflect vocal pressure from Freedom Inc., by how those efforts affected her determination to convince opinion leaders of her commitment to racial justice, and by her inability to actually reduce the black achievement gap.

To reinvigorate her bona fides, she caved in to unsubstantiated claims of racism and sacrificed teachers with no record of bias. 

But that undermined teachers’ ability to discipline disruptive students who are African-American, and, in consequence, significantly contributed to schools becoming increasingly dysfunctional, which leads to middle class flight. Then, because her efforts also proved misdirected to reduce the black achievement gap, Dr. Cheatham misrepresented performance data by lowering expectations in order to artificially inflate the reputation she cultivated.

Behavior Education Plan

The debilitating problems began with the roll out or Dr. Cheatham’s Behavior Education Plan in 2014. The plan itself was a well-intentioned replacement of the earlier zero tolerance policy, which had a disparate impact on black students from troubled homes. The Plan provided for a progressive approach to discipline, and restorative justice in lieu of punishment, that was intended to keep misbehaving students in classrooms.

Problems arose in the Plan’s implementation that led students to conclude that there no longer any consequences for bad behavior.

No consequences for misbehavior

For the Plan’s positive approach to work, it was critical that students continued to believe that there were real consequences for bad behaviors, which meant they had to see positive reinforcements and restorative practices as something serious, and not as a free pass to continue misbehaving. Otherwise, discipline will break down and the other students will increasingly be unable to learn, and will convey that fact to their parents.

Additional Commentary.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Planning: School Board Rhetoric Ko

Scott Girard:

During a board retreat Saturday to discuss strategies for both a capital and an operating referendum in April, board members generally agreed they wanted to vote in March — before board member Kate Toews’ term is over and a new board member takes her place.

Toews is not running for re-election to Seat 6 in April, and some board members said it could be a complex topic for a new board member to walk into. Board president Gloria Reyes also said she wants the outreach and communication process to begin as soon as possible.

“I do strongly believe that if we’re going to start a process and strategy we should all have voted,” Reyes said.

Public input on the projects, presented Monday night during an Operations Work Group meeting, shows overall support for both, though there are some concerns about how the operating funds would be used.

Board members and district staff have been working with a plan for a $315 million capital referendum to renovate the four high schools, build a new school in the Rimrock Road neighborhood and relocate the alternative Capital High School to the Hoyt building. The same ballot could ask voters for up to $36 million in operating funds over four years. That would allow the district to exceed state revenue caps by $8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24, though some board members asked to go lower than that at least for the first school year.

That complicates this summer’s budget process, as the board will have to approve two budgets — one for if the operating referendum passes and one in case it fails — but it also presents an opportunity for the board to show voters its priorities and the cost to the district if it fails, board members said.

Much more on the planned 2020 tax and spending increase Madison referendum.

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2.

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

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Eric Thomas stresses success for ‘all students’ in Madison School District is key

Scott Girard:

“My background is very much anchored on supporting all students,” Thomas said. “That’s sort of why I wake up every morning. The notion that all students are able to achieve at a high level, I truly not only believe it, but I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. I know it’s possible.”

He will be the third and final candidate for the Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent position to visit for his Day in the District. Thomas will be here Thursday to meet community members, interview with the School Board and hold a public session from 6-7:30 p.m. at La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road.

Various news reports have listed him as a finalist for multiple superintendent positions in recent years, as well as being among 51 applicants for the superintendent position in Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Florida. An Atlanta Journal Constitution article says there has been “long running tension between (Thomas’) office and that of state school Superintendent Richard Woods, who has always wanted control” over the turnaround program Thomas leads.

Thomas began his career as a high school social studies teacher in Cincinnati in 1994, and after four years moved into a district coordinator position for a program supporting “overaged” eighth graders (those older than their peers) until 2002. He then moved to the nearby Middletown City School District to be an administrator at an alternative high school.

More on Eric Thomas.

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard

Logan Wroge:

She also highlighted the importance of having teachers know the cognitive process of how children learn to read to improve literacy outcomes.

When asked about school-based police officers, a divisive topic in the Madison School District, Vanden Wyngaard said she doesn’t have a problem with police being in schools but thinks they should only be involved if a felony-level crime is suspected.

She also spoke to giving teachers the ability to “fail forward” when they make mistakes, allowing them to learn and adjust.

To increase the number of teachers of color, Vanden Wyngaard said the district can try to recruit directly from historically black colleges, expand a district program that encourages minority students to become teachers and change the culture of the district to be more welcoming for teachers of color.

People can provide online feedback for each candidate until 8 a.m. Friday. For Vanden Wyngaard, the website is:

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Ramanujan’s First Letter to G.H. Hardy

Jorgen Veisdal:

By the second paragraph however, Ramanujan was already getting to the point of his inquiry by suggesting that he could give meaning to negative values of the so-called  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>gamma function:

Just as in elementary mathematics you give a meaning to aⁿ when n is negative and fractional to conform to the law which holds when n is a positive integer, similarly the whole of my investigations proceed on giving a meaning to Eulerian Second Integral for all values of n. My friends who have gone through the regular course of University education tell me that

A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse

Thomas Teasdale and David Owen:

In the 1980s reviewed evidence indicated that, through the preceding decades of the last century, population performance on intelligence tests had been rising substantially, typically about 3–5 IQ points per decade, in developed countries. The phenomenon, now termed the ‘Flynn Effect’, has been variously attributed to biological and/or to social and educational factors. Although there is some evidence to suggest a slowing of the effect through the 1990s, only little evidence, to our knowledge, has yet been presented to show an arrest or reversal of the trend. Substantially replicating a recent report from Norway, we here report intelligence test results from over 500,000 young Danish men, tested between 1959 and 2004, showing that performance peaked in the late 1990s, and has since declined moderately to pre-1991 levels. A contributing factor in this recent fall could be a simultaneous decline in proportions of students entering 3-year advanced-level school programs for 16–18 year olds.

Life at the End of American Empire

Richard Lachmann:

Student achievement at the primary, secondary, and university levels has fallen from the top ranks. US students, who attend ever more decrepit schools, are performing less well than their peers in countries with much lower levels of income or educational spending. The United States, which pioneered mass higher education with the GI Bill of 1944 and held the lead in the percentage of its population with university degrees for the following five decades, has now fallen to fourteenth among developed nations.

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

Fieldston, Elite Private School, Faces Backlash From Jewish Parents

Eliza Shapiro:

The episode comes at a highly charged moment for the school, and for New York.

Fieldston spent much of last year trying to contain a rebellion by its students, some of whom locked themselves in buildings on the school’s campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in March to protest what they said was a racist school culture.

The school agreed to many of the students’ demands, including anti-bias training and a commitment to hire more teachers of color.

Our Tax Dollars at Work: Wisconsin DPI loses School Choice Case


Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Bohren issued a summary judgement order Tuesday in favor of School Choice Wisconsin Action (SCWA), a WILL client, that sued the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the state education agency, for their unfair, illegal treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs. WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of SCWA in March after DPI denied private choice schools the opportunity to fully utilize online, virtual learning as part of classroom instruction.

Judge Bohren wrote in his decision, “There is not a legitimate government interest in denying Choice Schools the opportunity to use “virtual learning” as Public schools do. The denial is harmful to the Choice Schools and its students.”

The Quotes: Libby Sobic, Director of Education Policy at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said, “Today, the Waukesha Circuit Court ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction broke the law when it denied private schools in the choice program the opportunity to fully utilize online learning as part of classroom instruction. For too long, DPI has been unfair in their treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs and today’s decision affirms that when they break the law, they will be held accountable.”

Terry Brown, Chair of School Choice Wisconsin Action said, “State statutes are created and changed by elected officials accountable directly to the public. State agencies run by unelected bureaucrats are not allowed to modify or interpret those laws without legislative oversight.”

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

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

Parent union forming to combat power of public school teachers unions; “The tyranny of low expectations”

Nick Givas:

Keri Rodrigues and Alma Marquez said they were so appalled by the low standards of America’s public school teachers unions, they formed the National Parents Union (NPU), so families could have a greater say in their children’s education.

Rodrigues, a mother of three from Boston, and Marquez, a mother of one from Los Angeles, are no strangers to public-sector unions. Rodrigues worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), while Marquez grew up in a union household and worked for Green Dot Public Schools — a public charter organization

“I worked in labor, working for the SEIU, and I spent a big chunk of my career in politics,” Rodrigues told Fox News. “But at the same time, I’m a single mom with three little boys. My oldest son has Asperger’s and ADHD. So we knew from a very young age that he was going to need help.”

Her son had been suspended from kindergarten 36 times and was supposed to be aided by an individualized education program (IEP). Instead, Rodrigues said she was met with indifference and ineptitude from instructors who were supposed to be helping her boy.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

“The tyranny of low expectations.

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel

Charlotte Higgins:

To visit Dr Dirk Obbink at Christ Church college, Oxford, you must first be ushered by a bowler-hatted porter into the stately Tom Quad, built by Cardinal Wolsey before his spectacular downfall in 1529. Turn sharp right, climb a flight of stairs, and there, behind a door on which is pinned a notice advertising a 2007 college arts festival, you will find Obbink’s rooms. Be warned: you may knock on the door in vain. Since October, he has been suspended from duties following the biggest scandal that has ever hit, and is ever likely to hit, the University of Oxford’s classics department.

An associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford, Obbink occupies one of the plum jobs in his field. Born in Nebraska and now in his early 60s, this lugubrious, crumpled, owlish man has “won at the game of academia”, said Candida Moss, professor of theology at Birmingham University. In 2001, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award for his expertise in “rescuing damaged ancient manuscripts from the ravages of nature and time”. Over the course of his career, he has received millions in funding; he is currently, in theory at least, running an £800,000 project on the papyrus rolls carbonised by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.

Since he was appointed in 1995, Obbink has welcomed many visitors into his rooms at Christ Church: dons, undergraduates, researchers. Less orthodox callers, too: among them, antiquities dealers and collectors. In the corner of Obbink’s study stands a pool table, from which two Egyptian mummy masks stare out impenetrably. Its green baize surface is all but obscured by papers and manuscripts – even, sometimes, a folder or two containing fragments of ancient papyrus. One bibliophile remembers a visit to this room, “like the set of an Indiana Jones movie”, a few years ago. He was offered an antique manuscript for sale by a man named Mahmoud Elder, with whom Obbink owned a company, now dissolved, called Castle Folio.

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin Legislature:

–State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance and State Representative Jeremy (R-Fond du Lac), Chair of the Assembly Education Committee released the following statement calling for an audit of the Department of Public Instruction:

“Representing nearly one-fifth of the entire state budget, the Department of Public Instruction budget has increased by nearly $3 billion since 2012,” said Rep. Nygren. “Despite providing more resources than ever for public schools, student achievement in reading, unfortunately, continues to decline.”

“Wisconsin’s overall test scores are headed in the wrong direction. Especially concerning is the downward trend in reading scores, the core of education attainment,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Recent Forward Exam results show that 60% of Wisconsin students cannot read or write at grade level. Taxpayers and students deserve better.”

The proposed audit would examine approaches to reading instruction and resulting student achievement. Specifically, LAB would examine methods of reading instruction utilized in Wisconsin’s schools, the impact of the Foundations of Reading Test on teacher licensure, and whether DPI consistently measures student achievement. A similar audit was conducted in 1998.

“Given the significant level of taxpayer resources dedicated to education, the need for oversight and accountability could not be clearer,” said Reps. Nygren and Thiesfeldt. “It is our hope that this audit will provide long overdue oversight of funding provided to DPI and help inform legislative action to improve student outcomes.”

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

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

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Gutiérrez hopes to be ‘uniter’ for Madison School District

Scott Girard:

Are we able to be laser focused on a number of a initiatives?” Gutiérrez said. “When you really do the research, the most highly successful systems have just three or four initiatives that they’re focused on, and you can do them really well.”

He also brings recent experience with one of the likely immediate roles he would take on, having seen Seguin voters approve a bond referendum last spring. He said he learned the importance of “proactive” communication throughout a referendum process, especially given the “conservative community” that had “a large amount of distrust in the school district” a few years before the successful referendum.

“To be able to have a referendum pass with those challenges I believe is pretty huge and something I’m very proud of,” he said. “When you can really take a proactive approach to community, a transparent approach to communication, really put yourself out there to meet with people, meet with different groups, you can certainly accomplish that goal.”

More on Matthew Gutiérrez

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

The Disgusting New Campus Novel

Kristina Quynn:

If contingent faculty were being killed at your university at the rate of one per day, how many days would it take for someone in your administration to notice?” That’s the question asked by Geoff Cebula’s murder-mystery novel Adjunct (2017), set at fictional Bellwether College. The mysterious disappearance of faculty members compels Elena Malatesta, an adjunct professor in the modern-language department, to unravel budget cuts from murder and uncover the real cause behind the disappearance of Bellwether’s adjuncts. In the end, Malatesta also disappears from campus. She quits teaching to pursue a life of the mind outside academe. She will, however, advise a part-time colleague to continue teaching. Because a full-time position may — just may — open up in the future. Thus the crisis continues.

Cebula’s novel contributes to a new trend in American campus fiction that features contingent faculty and staff as protagonists seeking to understand the changing nature of higher education and to gain job security, professional recognition, and promotion. Such novels and short fiction — instances of what Jeffrey Williams has called the “Adjunctroman” — include Julia Keefer’s How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling (2006), J. Hayes Hurley’s The Adjunct (2008), Alex Kudera’s Fight for Your Long Day (2010), A.P. O’Malley’s “Vagrant Adjunct” (2012), and Gordon Haber’s “Adjunctivitis” (2013).

Feces, vomit, blood, amputated limbs, corpses — these are some of the motifs by which the new campus fictions announce their difference from the old.
These small-press or self-published narratives of contingency frustrate the most recognizable mode of campus fiction, the “Professorroman,” with a saga of Sisyphean lack of progress. If the Professorroman is a version of Bildungsroman that substitutes a story of coming into tenure for a coming-of-age narrative, in the Adjunctroman no one achieves professordom or even gets close: These are cautionary tales of academic drudgery and professional woe.

Civics: disinformation, “surveys” and Madison’s proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendum

Michael Ferguson:

In October 2019, select U.S. officials offered closed-door congressional testimony regarding their knowledge of events surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Fiona Hill, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, testified it was very likely Russian disinformation influenced the documents used to acquire a surveillance warrant on members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign. A January 2018 Wall Street Journal editorial by the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Moscow station chief, Daniel Hoffman, appears to support her assessment.

If even partially true, this is a significant development. It would force the national security enterprise to amend its understanding of disinformation’s potential to shape the national consciousness—a conversation that until recently has been defined by references to social media bots and Internet trolls.

Reporting on disinformation generally focuses on either violent extremists or hostile states deploying carefully crafted lies to influence portions of the civilian population by distorting their perception of the truth. But this was not always the case. In fact, this emphasis on public opinion is a rather nascent phenomenon. How did we get to this point, why is disinformation so prevalent, and what should the world expect from it going forward? The following analysis explores these increasingly important questions, and concludes that the skyrocketing volume, reach, and subtlety of disinformation from both states and non-state actors will make it harder to combat at the policy level in the future.

The taxpayer supported K-12 Madison School District continues to push the proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendums.

The district acknowledges, though, that survey results are “not fully indicative of the general population,” because 85% of those who responded either currently have a student in Madison schools or work for the district.

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

Civics: Younger Americans more likely than older adults to say there are other countries that are better than the U.S.

Hannah Harris and Hannah Gilberstadt:

However, slightly more than a third (36%) of adults ages 18 to 29 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., the highest share of any age group.

Age differences in these views are evident within both partisan coalitions but are particularly wide among Democrats. Nearly half (47%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents under 30 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., as do roughly a third (34%) of those ages 30 to 49. By comparison, just 20% of Democrats ages 50 and older say this.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 19% of adults under 30 say there are other countries that are superior to the U.S. In contrast, just 4% of Republicans 50 and older take this view.

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

South Korea’s fertility rate falls to a record low

The Economist:

FOR MUCH of its history, South Korea worried about having too many babies. In the 1960s and 1970s the government set targets for family size. South Koreans were told that “even two are a lot”. Sterilisation was subsidised. Today the country has the opposite problem. In 2006 the government set a goal of raising the total fertility rate—a measure of births per woman—from 1.2 to 1.6 by boosting child-care subsidies and cutting taxes for families. Yet instead of rising, the figure tumbled even lower. On August 28th new data showed that the fertility rate fell to 0.98 in 2018, from 1.05 in 2017. South Koreans are having fewer babies than ever.

Civics: Paging Dr. Google: How the Tech Giant Is Laying Claim to Health Data

Rob Copeland, Dana Mattioli and Melanie Evans

Roughly a year ago, Google offered health-data company Cerner Corp. an unusually rich proposal.

Cerner was interviewing Silicon Valley giants to pick a storage provider for 250 million health records, one of the largest collections of U.S. patient data. Google dispatched former chief executive Eric Schmidt to personally pitch Cerner over several phone calls and offered around $250 million in discounts and incentives, people familiar with the matter say.

Google had a bigger goal in pushing for the deal than dollars and cents: a way to expand its effort to collect, analyze and aggregate health data on millions of Americans. Google representatives were vague in answering questions about how Cerner’s data would be used, making the health-care company’s executives wary, the people say. Eventually, Cerner struck a storage deal with Inc. instead.

The failed Cerner deal reveals an emerging challenge to Google’s move into health care: gaining the trust of health care partners and the public. So far, that has hardly slowed the search giant.

Google has struck partnerships with some of the country’s largest hospital systems and most-renowned health-care providers, many of them vast in scope and few of their details previously reported. In just a few years, the company has achieved the ability to view or analyze tens of millions of patient health records in at least three-quarters of U.S. states, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of contractual agreements.

In certain instances, the deals allow Google to access personally identifiable health information without the knowledge of patients or doctors. The company can review complete health records, including names, dates of birth, medications and other ailments, according to people familiar with the deals.

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

Special sunglasses, license-plate dresses, Juggalo face paint: How to be anonymous in the age of surveillance

Melissa Hellman:

Cory Doctorow’s sunglasses are seemingly ordinary. But they are far from it when seen on security footage, where his face is transformed into a glowing white orb.

At his local credit union, bemused tellers spot the curious sight on nearby monitors and sometimes ask, “What’s going on with your head?” said Doctorow, chuckling.

The frames of his sunglasses, from Chicago-based eyewear line Reflectacles, are made of a material that reflects the infrared light found in surveillance cameras and represents a fringe movement of privacy advocates experimenting with clothes, ornate makeup and accessories as a defense against some surveillance technologies.

Some wearers are propelled by the desire to opt out of what has been called “surveillance capitalism” — an economy that churns human experiences into data for profit — while others fear government invasion of privacy.

Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.

Dana Goldstein:

The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

Civics: ‘Richard Jewell,’ Nicholas Sandmann and the media mob

John Kaas:

Nicholas Sandmann, the kid from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. He suffered the same kind of agony and humiliation.

It was only a year ago that Sandmann was all over the news, branded as a hateful racist in a MAGA hat. The media got it wrong. Sandmann was in the news again the other day, after CNN settled that $275 million libel suit he filed. Terms were not disclosed.

Jewell and Sandmann were each publicly stripped of their honor through no fault of their own. Yes, “honor” is a terribly old-fashioned word, a bizarre medieval concept to some, but others can’t live without it.

Jewell was a security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He spotted a bomb in Olympic Park and police began pushing people away. If it weren’t for Jewell, many would have died. But he was torn apart by the media mob in wild, speculative stories pinning him as the prime suspect in the bombing.

But Jewell wasn’t the bomber. The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was eventually caught.

I’ve been a reporter most of my life, and “Richard Jewell” was unsettling. I’ve been in media packs staking out a story on some front lawn, the people frightened and unprepared and hiding inside.

Still, I’m glad I watched it. All of us need to be reminded.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Growth Dilemma

Joel Kotkin:

For much of the last seventy years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns.

This sharp break from the past is occurring as growth in Europe, Japan, and the United States has fallen to half or less of what it was just a generation ago, and while fertility rates are at levels not seen since the medieval era. This promises to create a tsunami of retired people whose retirements can only be addressed by economic growth.

A new way to make quadratic equations easy


The ancient Babylonians were a remarkable bunch. Among many extraordinary achievements, they found a now-famous mathematical solution to an unpleasant challenge: paying tax.

The particular problem for the ordinary working Babylonian was this: Given a tax bill that has to be paid in crops, by how much should I increase the size of my field to pay it?

This problem can be written down as a quadratic equation of the form Ax2+Bx+C=0. And it is solved with this formula:

Why Copying Successful People Can Backfire

Scott Young:

Many animals exhibit what’s known as a dominance hierarchy. The alpha picks on the beta, all of whom pick on the omega. These hierarchies are asserted through force and they exist in human beings as much as they do in others. Bosses, commanders and kings all formalize the notion of a dominant individual being higher up in status.

Interestingly, however, human beings have a second, separate status hierarchy that doesn’t seem to exist in other animals: prestige hierarchies. A prestige hierarchy isn’t maintained through force and alliances, but through respect. Artists, academics, celebrities and intellectuals are higher up on prestige hierarchies.

A competitive Wisconsin DPI superintendent election in 2021?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor announced her decision today not to run in the 2021 election for state superintendent of public instruction. Gov. Tony Evers appointed Stanford Taylor to the office in January 2019, and her term ends July 2021.

“I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Evers to lead the Department of Public Instruction and will always be grateful to the governor for the trust he placed in naming me as his successor,” Stanford Taylor said. “I promised Governor Evers I would commit to completing the 2 1/2 years left in his term as state superintendent and to continue the work we had started together at the DPI, and I will maintain that commitment while I serve this office.”

Stanford Taylor says she is making her decision public at this time so others interested in being the state’s chief education officer and leading the department will have sufficient time to organize their campaigns. The state superintendent says she hopes her successor will continue to maintain a focus on educational equity and ensure all of Wisconsin’s students graduate college and career ready.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass the Foundations of Reading content knowledge examination (based on Massachusetts MTEL).

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Vanden Wyngaard wants to focus on social justice, equity in MMSD if selected

Scott Girard:

She noted successes while she was in Albany, mentioning the graduation rate, increased attendance rate and lower disproportionality in its special education programming among them, and said maintaining the programs that helped lead to those was part of the resignation decision.

“I work from a philosophy of students first, and I always will ask the question, regardless of what the subject is, what impact will this have on student success?” she said. “When those philosophical differences started to emerge, I knew that in order for all of those programs to stay in place, in order for all of that work to be continued and in order for me to make sure my students were still successful, I had to not continue.”

‘I truly love the work’

She said her three years and four months in the Albany job showed her how much she enjoyed a position with “the ability to try and influence people, to try to help people, to gather the resources to build the networks.”

“I truly love the work,” she said. “Social justice is my passion and my calling and how I live my life. That role provided me the opportunity to do that work. For me, it showed me who I was and it showed me what impact I could have on the community at large.”

She said, while acknowledging she hopes to hear more during her visit here, that her initial impression is Madison needs to tackle trust and transparency, communication, parental involvement opportunities and “obviously equity.”

“Equity for me means that the students and the staff have what they need in order for them to be successful,” she said.

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School District superintendent finalists visit this week

Scott Girard:

The three finalists to be the next leader of the Madison Metropolitan School District will visit the city this week.

Their “Day in the District” will begin at 8 a.m. with meetings with community and staff groups until 11, followed by lunch with students until noon. The afternoon will include school visits, meetings with the School Board and community leaders and end with a public forum from 6-7:30 p.m.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard will visit Tuesday, Jan. 14, Matthew Gutiérrez will visit Wednesday, Jan. 15, and Eric Thomas will visit Thursday, Jan. 16. Both Vanden Wyngaard and Gutiérrez’s forums will be at East High School, while Thomas’ will be at La Follette High School.

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

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School Board would make decision on staff ‘racial incident’ discipline under proposals

Scott Girard:

On Jan. 11, the Madison School Board began evaluating new responses to staff racial incidents that would have the board make discipline decisions.

The conversation came at the end of a week in which the district’s communication on staff use of racial slurs received criticism from an independent hearing officer, who advised the district to overturn a disciplinary suspension given to a Nuestro Mundo social worker last year following her use of the N-word in a staff meeting.

The “zero tolerance” practice the district began using during the 2018-19 school year. Seven staff members were disciplined. The practice came under international scrutiny last fall when West High School security assistant Marlon Anderson was fired for using the N-word while telling a student not to call him that.

Ideas discussed Saturday included the School Board making decisions on any discipline related to a racial incident, focusing on a restorative process rather than a punitive one.

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

Outlaw Universities: Discrimination in Academia

Probably everyone in the academy knows that affirmative action is widely practiced: racial minorities (except Asians) and women are commonly given preference in hiring and admission decisions at American universities. I would guess, however, that some academics — and many more non-academics — are unaware that typical university hiring practices are blatantly illegal. So I’m going to talk about that for a while, in case you find that interesting.

Job advertisements commonly say things like that the university rejects discrimination, supports equal employment opportunity, and considers all applicants “without regard to” race, sex, religion, etc. What they actually mean by this is that they only discriminate in certain specific ways. E.g., they don’t discriminate against blacks or Hispanics, but only against whites and Asians. They don’t discriminate against women, only against men. And so on. (This sounds to me like a rather Orwellian use of “equal opportunity”. But what do I know? I’m just some crazy libertarian philosopher.)

I think pretty much everyone in the academic subculture knows this. I don’t know if this is widely known outside academia, though.

Here are a couple of examples:

Why does a highly-educated university town (Madison) need a charter school?

Greg Richmond:

Richmond: Madison is a university town. It is highly educated and pretty solidly middle class. Why does it need One City?

Caire: Madison has been harboring an achievement gap, that they knew about, since they first learned about it in 1965. Back then, there was a 27-point difference between black and white students in reading. That was in a Master’s thesis written by a woman named Cora Bagley, whose work was cited in a report called, “The Negro in Madison.” It was reported on again in 1965 by Dr. Naomi Lede who was responsible for the National Urban League’s assessment of whether or not a chapter of the Urban League should be established in Madison.

But there wasn’t a push to do anything about it until more reports came out in the 1970s that said, not only do we have an achievement gap, we also had a large gap in high school completion rates where only 44% of African-American students graduated with their senior class.

Madison had a surge of African-Americans that came to the university in the 1970s and many were activists. These students began living and teaching in the community and they took on social and economic disparities along with the NAACP and the Urban League. But the activism would die down because the school district would throw some money at it and, out of graciousness, people would wait and see. And then 5 years later it would come up again, and again, and again.

In 1991 or 1992, there was a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute titled, “Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District” that said there were two school districts, one serving black students and one serving everybody else.

About 5 years before that, I myself was part of a data set that showed disparities. I graduated from high school in 1989 and was a sophomore in 1987 when the Urban League looked at sophomores’ course taking patterns.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Detroit homeowners overtaxed $600 million

Christine MacDonald:

Detroit overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million after it failed to accurately bring down property values in the years following the Great Recession, according to an investigation by The Detroit News.

City Hall completed a state-ordered reappraisal of every residential property in 2017 to correct the problem, but the pain of its past mistakes remains with thousands who today face foreclosure over back taxes. 

Of the more than 63,000 Detroit homes with delinquent debt as of last fall, more than 90% were overtaxed—by an average of at least $3,700—between 2010 and 2016, according to calculations by The News. The debt owed on about 40,000 of those homes is less than the properties were overtaxed over those seven years. 

The inflated bills have been an added burden to homeowners in the poorest big city in the nation, and call into question a tax system that has foreclosed on a third of city properties since 2008. 

‘I have a chance now to have a life’: Navy vet who won watershed student loan ruling tells his story

Arthur Swaminathan:

For nearly 15 years, U.S. Navy veteran Kevin Rosenberg owed six figures in student loans.

But on January 7, 2020, a New York judge ruled that the $221,385.49 in student loan debt owed by Rosenberg as of November 2019 was dischargeable under chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“I have a chance now to have a life,” the 46-year-old Rosenberg told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

A bankruptcy expert told Yahoo Finance that Rosenberg’s case is a watershed in that it dispels the notion that student loans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

“What I found most fascinating, and I think heartening, is the very strong language that the judge used to call out on what she calls this quasi-mythic status of student loan non-dischargeability,” Jason Iuliano, an assistant professor of law at Villanova University and an expert on bankruptcy, told Yahoo Finance. “I’ve never seen it put quite so pointedly before in a judicial opinion like that.”

After more than a decade of going through the student loan system — making on-time payments, following up with loan servicers, keeping up with the paperwork —  he was finally free of his student debt.

Civics: 2019: A Year the News Media Would Rather Forget

Matt Taibbi:


The 2019 portion of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle was marked by a crisis of pundit confidence. Old practices like the “invisible primary” were rendered meaningless, thanks to an electorate that no longer flocks to media-endorsed frontrunners. Nonetheless, outlets spilled enormous quantities of ink and devoted oceans of airtime hyping establishment candidates whose “electability” arguments were mostly fictional. The magazine covers for Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were one thing, but there was real weirdness in the mania over “momentum” for Amy Klobuchar, whose recent “Klobucharge” a whole point or so up in the polls recalled some of the sillier stories of the 2016 cycle (i.e. “Marcomentum”).

Bernie Sanders in particular led a Trotsky-like existence in coverage in 2019, i.e. he was often all but physically cut out of headlines. When he held a huge rally in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times headline was about Biden winning the “electability primary.” CNN ran five stories about a New Hampshire poll showing Sanders in the lead, and none mentioned Sanders in the headline. These things can be in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of innocent oversights look intentional when you’ve invested hopes in a campaign, but the clearest evidence of how the media shaded Sanders coverage (to say nothing of often-detestable treatment of some other, lesser-polling candidates) is that he hasn’t yet suffered the backlash that usually comes with being hyped as a possible nominee. Brace yourself for an avalanche of insane propaganda if the wrong candidate does well in New Hampshire or Iowa.

LGBTQ history lessons will soon be mandatory in NJ classrooms; 12 schools to pilot program

Hannah Adley:

Twelve New Jersey schools will begin piloting a new LGBTQ-focused curriculum this month, the first wave of a requirement that will soon be mandated across the state. 

The pilot sites to be announced by the state Tuesday – including schools in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark and Asbury Park – are intended to be proving grounds for new lessons in history, economics and even grammar designed to improve awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender contributions and issues. The instruction, approved by the state last year, will be a requirement for all of New Jersey’s public schools starting in the fall. 

“We want students to see themselves in the stories that are told,” said Ashley Chiappano, safe schools and community education manager for Garden State Equality, the advocacy group leading the pilot program. “We want to make sure they are getting accurate, appropriate and historically relevant information about the community and the strides that have been made.”

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LGBTQ people but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons. School boards must update standards in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Stirring on Milwaukee’s south side, a building boom of growing and popular choice schools

Alan Borsuk:

Notre Dame School of Milwaukee opened on Milwaukee’s south side in 1996 with a student body of 26 middle school girls.   

It grew steadily — 90 students in 2001, 130 in 2006, 201 in 2012. It added co-ed elementary grades and a middle school for boys, as well as a second building.   

It now has 535 students, a five-star (“significantly exceeds expectations”) state report card, and a lot of construction equipment in what was previously a paved area adjacent to its building at West Greenfield Avenue and South Layton Boulevard as it builds a $7 million addition.  

Three blocks from that Notre Dame building is Nativity Jesuit School. It opened with 14 middle school boys in 1993 and grew within several years to about 60. In recent years, its enrollment has quadrupled to 252, including boys and girls in elementary grades. It also has a five-star report card and it recently completed $3 million in improvements. 

And in four buildings on the south side, there are Carmen charter schools with about 1,400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade (plus another 663 at a northwest side Carmen school). The first Carmen school, which opened in 2007, got a five-star report card this year for the second year in a row. 

Milwaukee parents and students have extensive school options.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 school district has long resisted school choice, rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (2011) and lobbying against a proposed University of Wisconsin system charter school (2019).

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

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment

Sarah Zhang:

By then, the scientists who dreamed up this 500-year experiment—Charles Cockell at the University of Edinburgh and his German and U.S. collaborators—will be long dead. They’ll never know the answers to the questions that intrigued them back in 2014, about the longevity of bacteria. Cockell had once forgotten about a dried petri dish of Chroococcidiopsis for 10 years, only to find the cells were still viable. Scientists have revived bacteria from 118-year-old cans of meat and, more controversially, from amber and salt crystals millions of years old.

All this suggests, according to Ralf Möller, a microbiologist at the German Aerospace Center and collaborator on the experiment, that “life on our planet is not limited by human standards.” Understanding what that means requires work that goes well beyond the human life span.

The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

Constance Grady:

So what happened? How did the apparently inevitable ebook revolution fail to come to pass?

To figure out the answers, we’ll have to dive in deep to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2012 against Apple — newly entered into the ebook market with the advent of the iPad — and five of what was then the Big Six publishing houses. The Department of Justice accused Apple and the publishers of colluding to fix ebook prices against Amazon, and although the DOJ won its case in court, the pricing model that Apple and the publishers created together would continue to dominate the industry, creating unintended ripple effects.

The case of US v. Apple encapsulates the dysfunction of the last decade of publishing. It’s a story about what we’re willing to pay for books — and about an industry that is growing ever more consolidated, with fewer and fewer companies taking up more and more market share. What happened to the ebook in the 2010s is the story of the contraction of American publishing.

2020 Madison school board election: Candidate “suspends campaign”

Scott Girard:

When he initially filed papers to run, Strong said he considers school safety and racial disparities in discipline and achievement to be the top issues facing MMSD.

“We have to make sure that our schools are safe and that they’re safe learning environments for our kids to learn and for our teachers to teach in,” Wayne Strong said. He stressed the importance of “tackling the achievement gap and just making sure that all of our students are given the best possible opportunity to get the quality education they deserve.”

The end of his campaign leaves Seat 6 as the only contested election, with three candidates running. Incumbent Kate Toews is not running for re-election, leaving newcomers Maia Pearson, Christina Gomez Schmidt and Karen Ball set for a Feb. 18 primary election. The top two vote-getters will move onto the April general election.

Curiously, this has occurred several times in recent years: Ed Hughes, after 3 unopposed campaigns withdrew from a competitive 2017 campaign after the primary!

2016 commentary.

Similarly, Sarah Manski withdrew after the 2013 primary

Mr Hughes name resurfaces occasionally, lobbying against parent and school choice in the form of the 2019 Arbor school charter proposal and in the taxpayer supported Madison school administration’s 2020 spending increase referendum slides.

Finally, despite spending far more than most K-12 school districts, and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results, Mr. Hughes voted against the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school (2011).

Chinese students aren’t brainwashed


The CSSA-gate at McMaster has triggered an interesting online debate between members of the Chinese community at McMaster and the rest of campus. Many non-Chinese students mistakenly believe that the Chinese students who questioned the procedures and implications of the McMaster Students Union’s decision are brainwashed as their life before coming to Canada was behind China’s “Great Firewall”. Some of them seem to perceive such Chinese students to be victims of an absolute information barrier, which supposedly leaves them no choice but to accept the government’s propaganda. Therefore, it seems righteous to “enlighten” those Chinese students with patronizing questions or bombardment of pictures of historical incidents like the Tiananmen Square Protest. These gestures, although they may have good intentions, are pretty amusing to this new generation of Chinese students who were born and raised in China, including me. Let me explain why.

First, Chinese people have access to the largest ever-increasing reservoir of information and news on China — in Chinese. Such information not only comes from state-owned media channels, but also non-official channels, social media platforms, online chatting groups and other online platforms. Contrary to what many people in the West may believe, state-run news stories about China, although heavily censored, are in fact quite accurate when they do get published. Due to the rise of social media platforms as well as the anti-corruption campaign, it has become increasingly difficult and costly for government officials to cover up catastrophic or controversial stories. Therefore, most people, if curious enough, can get a pretty good grasp of what is going on simply by combining information from state media and other channels.

Second, while China’s “Great Firewall” does block a few websites, such as Google and Facebook, it does not block all Western media. In fact, Chinese people have access to a majority of Western media channels through state and non-state owned media. Some include the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, CBC, The Globe and Mail and CNN. Selected news coverage on China and international affairs are translated into Chinese from tens of languages. In any country in the world, a larger blockade to absorbing foreign information is usually the barrier of a foreign language rather than the “Great Firewall”. Therefore, translated news stories offer a very informative picture of the world to the Chinese people.

Flyers urge teachers in Spokane, statewide to opt out of union

Jim Allen:

The flyers, tens of thousands of them, arrived during the holidays at the homes of educators in Spokane and throughout the state.

“Give yourself a raise this Christmas and every Christmas to come!” they read.

At first glance, the brightly-colored flyer looks like a last-chance sale advertisement from a retailer, including a chance to “save up to $1,200.” A website,, shows you how.

Actually, it’s an invitation from an Olympia-based conservative think tank to save that money by opting out of paying membership dues to the Washington Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union.

“They’ve been doing this every year, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Jeremy Shay, who as a teacher simply tossed them in the trash.

Now, as president of the Spokane Education Association, he fields occasional questions from new teachers about the flyers.

They are part of an intensifying battle between the state’s labor unions and the Freedom Foundation, which states on its website that it’s “working to reduce the stranglehold unions have” on state and local laws and policies.

Following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus vs. AFSCME case, public employees are free to opt out of paying dues to their unions.

Budding computer scientists should learn to collaborate, not go it alone.

Nathan Equenazi:

Any tech breakthrough is almost always a joint effort. To add a single feature to an iPhone app, teams of front-end engineers, user experience designers and graphic designers must work with cyber security specialists, back-end developers and iOS developers — just for starters. That means that today’s best engineers are prodigious collaborators and communicators. And yet we still train too many prospective coders to work alone.

From their first day in the classroom, computer science students are nudged to value individual successes over team victories. Most assignments are completed and submitted solo. While liberal arts majors are drilled in methods of communication, and vocational programs like business and medicine feature tons of group work, many computer science programs prize technical output over so-called “soft skills” like collaboration and communication. Conflict resolution and critical thinking get short shrift.

Madison K-12 Administration & Board 2020 Referendum Rhetoric, Consulting and Planning

Documents from the January 11, 2020 taxpayer supported Madison School Board retreat:

Administration slides (pdf)

Hanover Research Consulting Summary (PDF)

Hanover Research: duckduckgo www

Illinois (!) Association of School Boards referendum summary (pdf)

Much more on the planned 2020 taxpayer supported Madison School District referendum, here.

2019: Madison increased property taxes by 7.2%.

Commentary on Madison’s very large property tax increase, and the desire for more spending

David Blaska;

This is sad news to the “higher taxes” crowd. But take heart, our acquaintances. Like most folks in Orchard Ridge, the Stately Manor’s property tax bill for this year (2020) increased 9.0% thanks to a 12% increase in school taxes, which account for nearly half the total local tax bill.

In what the Policy Forum calls “raw dollars” Madison’s $22.1 million property tax hike was the largest in the state and twice that of the much larger Milwaukee’s $11.6 million. (As percentage, Madison asked 7.2% and Milwaukee 4.6% more from their taxpayers.)

Of course, our … acquaintances could always move to Democrat-controlled Illinois. They need the headcount. No state lost more population in the last decade. The independent think tank called Illinois Policy reports:

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivers personal message to SF’s new DA, Chesa Boudin

Evan Sernoffsky:

The following is a transcript of Sotomayor’s message to Boudin:

Chesa, my court sessions resume next week so I am unable to join your inauguration ceremony. I sent you this message to tell you how much I admire you, and to wish you well in your new endeavors.

A little over ten years ago, I was visiting the public housing project where I grew up in the Bronx. A film crew was following me around. As I left the building in which I had lived, I stood next to a young child, about 10 years old, whose mother was looking down from one of the apartments above us.

The child asked me why all the people surrounding us were making such a fuss about me. And I paused to think and finally said, “I grew up in this building where you live now and there are many people who think that kids like us can never become something important in life. They think because we may be poor in money, we are poor in spirit too. You’re not and I’m not that way. We can make something of ourselves. And my becoming the first Latina justice of the United States Supreme Court is proof that people like us have a chance in life.

Well Chesa, you too are an example that gives hope to so many. It is uncommon for a former public defender to become a district attorney of a major city like San Francisco. Especially a district attorney who spent his childhood visiting parents incarcerated for committing serious felonies.

As you described it to me, the difficulties you faced as a child, including that you did not read until age nine, are common among children of prisoners. You have lived the stigma of anger, shame and guilt that so many such children in the criminal justice system experience. By your own admission, you were fortunate that friends of your parents had the means to help you get back on track. But your parents’ friends could not supply you with the strength of character and moral composure that ultimately led you to graduate from Yale college with high honors, become a Rhodes scholar, clerk for two respected federal judges, be awarded a Liman fellowship and publish scholarly and important social justice pieces.

Wikipedia on Chesa Boudin.

Kimberly Guilfoyle:

On top of quickly dismantling the violent crime division of his office, Boudin seeks to end the prosecution of what he deems “quality of life crimes,” including public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, and blocking a sidewalk. Instead of handcuffing criminals, Boudin is handcuffing the prosecutorial process and Lady Justice herself.

These firings weren’t based on any incompetency within the department; they were just a transparent effort to cripple the department’s prosecutorial ability. Boudin is advancing a radical ideology that’s focused on completely redesigning the city’s — and the nation’s — criminal justice system.

This dangerous reality is also being peddled by a new brand of Bernie Sanders-endorsed Democrats across the country. And, worse yet, the ideology is seemingly inspired by American communist revolutionaries who gained notoriety during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

For Boudin, the ties that bind him to the violent leftist movement of the last century couldn’t be closer.

His adoptive parents are none other than Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the notorious leaders of the communist-driven domestic terrorist group Weather Underground. Ayers was involved in the bombings of a New York police station, the U.S. Capitol, and the Pentagon in the early ’70s.

As a young adult pursuing a career in law, Boudin didn’t abandon the radical ideology of his upbringing; he embraced it by moving to Venezuela. Boudin served as a translator for Hugo Chavez, the communist dictator who dismantled the nation’s democracy and set the country on the path to its current state of socialism-induced economic collapse.

Now, as a Yale-educated attorney, Boudin has inexplicably found himself believing that he himself is the victim of a broken criminal justice system. As a result, he’s committed to radically transforming that system.

The universality of music

Philip Ball:

Christmas, as everyone knows, officially begins the first time—often now in mid-November—you hear the ancient refrain: “So here it is, Merry Christmas…”

It may be guaranteed this year that plenty of British people of one political persuasion or another (maybe all) will certainly not be having fun at all. But you might still muster up the spirit to sing a few carols, because Christmas is arguably the most musically codified of all western festivals. It is a demonstration of one of music’s universal functions as an essential aspect of ritual.

That music possesses a global universality is often asserted (“Music is a universal language”), yet proving it is challenging. The predicate is rather ill-defined in any case. Yes, every culture that we know of has some kind of music—but do these diverse musics share anything in common, for example in terms of function, affect and content? An extensive ethnographic study published in Science in November presented the case that they do.

Exercises like this are nothing new, but the latest study, conducted by an international team led by data scientist Samuel Mehr of Harvard University, is notable for both the breadth of its cultural coverage and the depth of the analysis that looked for shared properties. Using two databases—audio recordings of songs from 315 societies, and ethnographic texts from 60 that document the uses of songs in that culture—the researchers were able to mine rich cross-cultural resources to compare both the musical characteristics and the social contexts and functions of music. They found that the variations are greater within than between societies—for example, hip hop might be more different from western sacred music than the latter is from Tibetan sacred music. The study found that most music has a “tonal centre”—in western terms, a key, or a sense of a “home note” that the melody will return to—on which naïve listeners can generally agree. And the acoustic features of music—the pitches and tempos, say—are rather systematically linked to the emotional goals and responses of the performers and audiences across cultures: “sad” music, say, tends always to be softer and slower.

How to Keep Criticism From Sinking Your Confidence

Maria Popova:

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,” Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) wrote in offering his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life in the preface to Leaves of Grass. When Whitman first published his masterpiece in 1855, it was met with indifference punctuated by bursts of harsh criticism. It is difficult to imagine just how insulting to the young poet’s soul such reception must have been, or what it took for him to dismiss it and carry on writing. What buoyed his spirit through the tidal wave of negativity was an extraordinary letter of appreciation from Ralph Waldo Emerson — the era’s most respected literary tastemaker and Whitman’s greatest hero, whose 1844 essay The Poet had inspired Leaves of Grass. The young poet wore Emerson’s praise of “incomparable things said incomparably well” like an armor, almost literally — he carried the letter folded in his shirt-pocket over his heart, regularly reading it to friends and lovers.

Minnesota teachers union opposes constitutional amendment to address achievement gap

Mary Lynn Smith:

The largest organization representing Minnesota educators announced Wednesday that it opposes a plan to change the state Constitution in an effort to narrow the state’s persistent academic achievement gap.

Education Minnesota, the union representing 80,000 members who work in pre-K and K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, announced its opposition as the authors of the proposal launched a public effort to woo support for their “out-of-the-box” idea.

Alan Page, a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, want to make quality public education a civil right for all children. To do that, they propose amending the Constitution’s current language on education, which has remained largely the same since it was written in 1857.

But the teachers union argues that the change would pave the way for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, which they’ve long opposed.

“The public schools paid for by the taxpayers should be available to every Minnesota family no matter where they are from, how they pray, whether their children have special needs, or who they love,” Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a written statement.

The proposal would remove the mandate for a uniform system of public education, creating even wider inequities between wealthy and poor districts, Specht wrote in a series of tweets.

Related: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Administrative Commentary on the taxpayer supported Palmyra-Eagle School District (and the relevance of many smaller districts)

Chris Rickert:

Five of the six other board members, all representing other local school districts, agreed. Only the state superintendent of public instruction’s designee to the board, David Carlson, voted against keeping the district open.

District employees, students and community members packing the district’s middle school gymnasium where the board was meeting erupted in applause when the fourth vote in favor of keeping the district open was announced, and then again when the final vote was tallied.

“I am just happy to give this to our students. … and to know that our juniors are going to graduate next year as Panthers means the world to me and their families,” said Tara LeRoy, a mother of two students in the district and a main force behind a citizens group working to preserve the district, named the Panther Community Network after the district’s mascot.

Palmyra-Eagle has seen its enrollment drop over the last 14 years from 1,154 students to 769 in 2018-19. It’s lacked commercial and industrial development to drive property tax revenues and seen an increase in the number of students in the district — up to 40% — opting to go to school in other surrounding districts under the state’s open enrollment program.

Related: An emphasis on adult employment.

A battle over gifted education is brewing in America

The Economist:

The debate over whether education of gifted children segregates them on the basis of pre-existing privilege rather than cognitive ability is neither new nor uniquely American. The number of selective, state-run grammar schools in Britain reached its zenith in 1965, before the Labour government of Harold Wilson embarked on a largely successful effort “to eliminate separatism in secondary education”. The three-tiered German education system—which sorts children on the basis of ability at the age of ten into either university-preparatory schools or vocational ones—has always been criticised for fostering social segregation. The fact that the children of Turkish migrants are now disproportionately sorted into lower-tier secondary schools instead of selective Gymnasien adds a disquieting racial divide.

In America the debate is kicking up anew. The issue is national: the most recent statistics show that whites are 80% more likely than black students to take part in programmes for the gifted, and Asians are three times as likely. But the principal battleground has been New York City.

Madison, 2006: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

NEA and Its State Affiliates Took In $1.6 Billion in 2018, Federal Disclosures Show

Mike Antonucci:

As #RedForEd strikes hit West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and a handful of other states, 2018 was dubbed the year of teacher protests. It was also the year of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which promised to have a profound effect on teacher union finances.

In between those events, the National Education Association and its state affiliates completed their annual financial disclosure reports for the Internal Revenue Service detailing their income and expenditures. These reports are public records, because all these unions are exempt from federal income taxes. The reports are filed well after each affiliate’s fiscal year is complete, leaving us to examine disclosures that are now 18 months old. Even so, one affiliate, NEA New Mexico, has apparently not filed yet.

I have compiled information from the filings of NEA and its state affiliates for the 2017-18 school year. Their revenues totaled more than $1.66 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent over the previous year.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

The most radical prediction for America’s future

Larry Kammer:

I have written thousands of posts about our problems and possible solutions (the former are much more popular than the latter, which is part of our problem). But the Millennials I know, mostly Scouts I led (now in 24-30), say that my solutions are inadequate to the problems I described. Far too small. They are right. I believe we have passed the exits leading to easy or pleasant solutions.

So what lies ahead? We might get horrific outcomes, the dystopian or collapsitarian solutions Americans love so much (“everything is doomed, so my passivity is AOK”). Or we might stumble into stable but dark solutions (in the jargon, “non-optimal”). Or we might make harsh choices and take difficult actions to build a better America. So I have accepted their challenge to abandon consensus thinking behind and try to imagine what radical futures might lie ahead.

The point of this exercise is not to make predictions (like those listed on my Forecasts page) but to help people open their imaginations to the possibility of strange futures for America. All we know that in ClownWorld the unexpected is tomorrow’s news.

Observing, funding and interacting with the “we know best” K-12 education infrastructure reveals a great deal, from endless spending growth to diminishing results for future generations.

Chrome Scans PC’s and reports data to Google

Martin Brinkman:

Software Reporter Tool, the executable file is software_reporter_tool.exe, is a tool that Google distributes with the Google Chrome web browser.

It is part of the Chrome Cleanup Tool which in turn may remove software that causes issues with Chrome. Google mentions crashes, modified startup or new tab pages, or unexpected advertisement specifically.  Anything that interferes with a user’s browsing experience may be removed by the tool.

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

The world is not enough

Samuel Graydon:

It’s no secret, however, that light does act like a wave as well – which is very much where the questions start. And, in fact, wave-particle duality exists not just as a phenomenon of light, but, seemingly, of all matter as well. One of the most famous experiments in all quantum theory is the double slit experiment. It relies on diffraction, which most of us are familiar with from school. Pass a water wave through two slits close to each other and ripples will propagate from them both; as the two sets of ripples encounter one another you will see a pattern of constructive and destructive interference between them, as they either enhance or attenuate the oscillations. The same is true of other at least nominally more corpuscular things. Fire a beam of electrons towards two slits and you will also see peaks and troughs spread out on the wall behind them.

Moreover, if you fire one electron at a time through the slits, so that they cannot interfere with any other particle, you still get peaks and troughs at the other end. An interference pattern emerges over time as you fire electrons one by one through the slits, though individually they arrive on the other side of the slits in a defined place. We are forced to conclude that electrons can interfere with themselves like waves. They pass through both slits at once.

But this isn’t the strangest thing about the experiment. Every attempt – every attempt – to measure an electron passing through the slits has destroyed the interference pattern, and produced a definitive answer to which path the electron took. Without a measurement there is concrete evidence for a wave-like nature; but as soon as one is made, however it is made, all evidence of it disappears and we are just left with particles.

A Brooklyn school district tackles school segregation

The Economist:

New york city is famous for its diversity. Yet the 1.1m pupils in the city, who are mostly non-white, attend some of the most segregated schools in the country. They are even more segregated than schools in some southern cities such as Atlanta. Complacency has reigned for decades. But a school district in Brooklyn is showing early signs of success in a drive towards integration.

District 15 encompasses expensive brownstone houses in Park Slope, immigrant enclaves in Sunset Park and one of the country’s largest public-housing projects in Red Hook. Despite that, it remained intensely segregated. The more affluent—and usually white—school-age children flocked to the district’s “good schools”. Last year, after a parents’ campaign, the district eliminated admission screens, which included test scores, attendance and behaviour records, for its 11 middle schools. Parents still rank their preferred schools, but now the district uses a lottery, with 52% of places at each school set aside for pupils who come from poor families, are still learning English or are homeless.

Eight of the 11 schools are now hitting integration-rate targets. Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a think-tank, calls it “one of the most exciting educational-reform efforts in the entire country”. One school, MS51, was 47% white last year. It is now 28% white.

It is still early days for District 15. But so far, integration appears to be stable. Fears of “white flight” out of the public-school system have not been realised. The middle schools’ incoming classes remain 31% white, roughly the same since 2015. MS88, which was only 9% white last year, is now 24% white. Ailene Mitchell, MS88’s principal, says children from different backgrounds are starting to socialise with each other and joining each other’s after-school activity programmes. Jason Hoffner, a teacher, says some of the “new” pupils had near-perfect exam scores, but in classroom discussions there is little difference.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

New Jersey’s Teachers Union: A spider web of political power and influence

Mike Lilley, via a kind reader:

In total, from 2009 to 2016, the NJEA alone has spent over $33 million on the wide variety of non-profits and political action groups mentioned in this report, and in many cases is a major source of funding for these groups. When added to the funding provided by its fellow public sector unions, this massive amount of money is the animating force behind an unrivalled network of progressive and public sector union-backed organizations that reaches every corner of the state. These organizations include a wide variety of civic and political action groups – some directly connected to the NJEA and its fellow unions, some indirectly – but the one characteristic they have in common is that they all assist the NJEA and the public sector unions in their unceasing efforts to shape New Jersey’s political order. Importantly, they help the unions form coalitions that give the unions more political reach and weight. Ultimately, not only do they ensure the continued domination of state politics by deep-pocketed special interests but they help to disguise it as well.

Laura Waters:

The way NJEA funnels money to its allies is complex. You can read the report yourself for the details. But to give a sense of NJEA’s influence throughout the state, their allies (in addition to the others mentioned above) include Education Law Center, New Jersey Policy Perspective, the Abbott Leadership Institute, the Latino Action Network, Paterson Education Fund, BlueWave NJ, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, the NJ arm of NAACP, Paterson Education Fund, Parents Unified for Local School Education, and NJ Communities United. And that’s not the full list.

How does the NJEA’s reach affect our public schools system? The power of its endorsements and cash woo legislators to pass NJEA-friendly bills, its power over the Governor (this didn’t work with Christie) gives NJEA influence on leadership appointments, and its power over its allies initiate lawsuits on issues important to NJEA. Here is an incomplete list:

“Students need exposure to rigorous grade-level curriculum and they need to work at their learning edge.”

Sal Khan:

Back in 2010, my experience tutoring told me that students’ struggles had nothing to do with “innate ability” or subject matter difficulty. Instead, they struggled largely due to knowledge gaps and weak foundations that had been accumulated over time. We needed to meet students where they were, diagnose their gaps, and then allow them to progress at a speed right for them.

I talked about mastery learning a lot back then. By enabling progress through a mastery-based system, we would help students build confidence and challenge them in the most personalized way. In 2015, a major report from the research nonprofit RAND found that personalized learning works, confirming many of our hopes. It also pointed to challenges implementing mastery in the classroom—challenges we’re eagerly making progress on to this day.

I continue to talk about mastery now because I believe more strongly than ever in its power to tailor education for every student. The philosophical core of Khan Academy is mastery learning. 

Yet a tension exists today between the notion of assigning grade-level work and providing a highly personalized, mastery-based learning experience for every student. I’d posit that it’s a false choice, and here’s why: We can have both.

“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”

Wisconsin taxpayers have been protected from high school referendum costs

Benjamin Yount:

Sen. Duey Stroebel of Wisconsin’s 20th District wants taxpayers in the state to know two things.

One, property taxes in Wisconsin are actually down over the past decade. That’s thanks, he says, to Republican lawmakers and former Gov. Scott Walker. And two, Stroebel said the state legislature has protected homeowners from the skyrocketing cost of local school referendums. But that may end. 

“Taxpayers haven’t really felt the pain of those increased [local school] budgets because of the backfill that’s been going on,” Stroebel, R-Saukville, said. 

Stroebel said the Wisconsin legislature spent more than $4 billion on schools across Wisconsin over the past five years to help keep former Gov. Walker’s promise to hold the line on taxes. 

Taxpayer supported K-12 spending transparency is worth a deep dive.

School Spending Data Enables Better Decisions, Better Results

Data Quality Campaign:

Under ESSA, states are required to publish school-level spending data in report cards. This information shines a light on the education investments in communities and how they are used to serve students. DQC’s infographic illustrates what it looks like when leaders – from state and local leaders to principals and community advocates – use school-level spending data in their roles to ensure successful, well-resourced classrooms.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

On facts and thinking


There are two types of facts, and two types of thinking. They can be combined into four techniques for making sense of the world.


A first order fact is one that is immediately relevant to a narrative or subject. It is usually presented as a detail in the description of the narrative or subject. Its purpose is to convey information. An example of a first order fact is that the sky is blue on sunny days.

A higher order fact is a fact that is not immediately relevant to a narrative or subject, but which can influence opinion about the subject.

American dinner tables are home to the most common example of a higher-order fact. A child who will not finish dinner is met with the fact that “there are starving children in Africa”. The subject is dinner, and people in Africa are not immediately relevant. The higher order fact is used to make the child eat, not to communicate information.

How One Person Can Change the Conscience of an Organization

Nicholas W. EyrichRobert E. QuinnDavid P. Fessell:

In December 2000, when Dr. Tadataka Yamada became the new chairman of research and development at Glaxo SmithKline, he was horrified to learn that his company was a complainant in a lawsuit over access to drug therapies for HIV/AIDS patients. GSK was one of 39 pharmaceutical companies charging Nelson Mandela and the government of South Africa with violating price protections and intellectual property rights in their efforts to access lower priced antiretroviral drugs. Close to 25 percent of black South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS and at the time, antiretroviral therapies cost approximately $1000 per month—more than a third of the average South African’s annual salary, putting treatment out of reach for most patients.

Yamada held discussions with his research staff and quickly learned that he was not alone in his opposition to the lawsuit. The team wanted to be a part of the solution to global health issues, not party to a lawsuit preventing such drugs from reaching those in dire need, but they felt they lacked the power to change the company’s direction. Yamada felt differently. In one-on-one meetings with individual board members of GSK, he stressed the company’s moral responsibility to alleviate human suffering and tied it to the long-term success of the company. He stated that GSK can’t make medicines that save lives and then not allow people access to them. He noted the public relations disaster associated with the lawsuit, and set forth a vision, co-created by his team, for how GSK could also become a leader in the fight against TB and malaria, diseases that also were disproportionately impacting third-world populations. The external pressure did not abate, with protests against many drug companies around the world.

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Alvin Chang:

Think about your elementary school. 

If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it.

We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, despite space in nearby facilities.

On the referendum #33: High performance government, ‘cognitive technologies’, Michael Nielsen, Bret Victor, & ‘Seeing Rooms’

Dominic Cummings:

This blog looks at an intersection of decision-making, technology, high performance teams and government. It sketches some ideas of physicist Michael Nielsen about cognitive technologies and of computer visionary Bret Victor about the creation of dynamic tools to help understand complex systems and ‘argue with evidence’, such as ‘tools for authoring dynamic documents’, and ‘Seeing Rooms’ for decision-makers — i.e rooms designed to support decisions in complex environments. It compares normal Cabinet rooms, such as that used in summer 1914 or October 1962, with state-of-the-art Seeing Rooms. There is very powerful feedback between: a) creating dynamic tools to see complex systems deeper (to see inside, see across time, and see across possibilities), thus making it easier to work with reliable knowledge and interactive quantitative models, semi-automating error-correction etc, and b) the potential for big improvements in the performance of political and government decision-making.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

More, here.

An Instant Classic About Learning Ancient Greek

Mary Norris:

WWhen Andrea Marcolongo’s book “La Lingua Geniale,” subtitled “9 ragioni per amare il greco” (“Nine Reasons to Love Greek”), came out in 2016, I bought it, in Italian, and took it with me to Greece. I flashed it at a meeting with some highly accomplished multilingual women. “You read Italian?” one of them asked. Slowly, at a very low level, without full comprehension, I should have said. I had brought the book with me to the island of Rhodes because I thought it would be good practice in both Italian and Greek. I was writing a book on Greek myself, and the difficulty of Greek made Italian seem transparent in comparison. I had made it to page 10 of the first essay, on aspect—a property of verbs by which the ancient Greeks distinguished between the “how” and the “when” of an action—when I got distracted by a sidebar on Greek wine and decided that I really ought to get out more: take a walk in the Old Town, with its streets named after Socrates and Plato, and check to see if that bar called Beer Paradise had opened for the season.

Television viewing and cognitive decline in older age: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Daisy Fancourt & Andrew Steptoe:

There has been significant interest in the effects of television on cognition in children, but much less research has been carried out into the effects in older adults. This study aimed to explore whether television viewing behaviours in adults aged 50 or over are associated with a decline in cognition. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging involving 3,662 adults aged 50+, we used multivariate linear regression models to explore longitudinal associations between baseline television watching (2008/2009) and cognition 6 years later (2014/2015) while controlling for demographic factors, socio-economic status, depression, physical health, health behaviours and a range of other sedentary behaviours. Watching television for more than 3.5 hours per day is associated with a dose-response decline in verbal memory over the following six years, independent of confounding variables. These results are found in particular amongst those with better cognition at baseline and are robust to a range of sensitivity analyses exploring reverse causality, differential non-response and stability of television viewing. Watching television is not longitudinally associated with changes in semantic fluency. Overall our results provide preliminary data to suggest that television viewing for more than 3.5 hours per day is related to cognitive decline.

Accountability? Racine Unified one of two districts being reviewed by joint monitoring

Caitlin Sievers:

This fall, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction began joint monitoring of Racine Unified School District’s improvement efforts required under the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. According to DPI, joint monitoring is only used in districts that are identified as needing support in all aspects of the ESSA and IDEA. Both are federal laws.

“This work is about helping the district develop systems that provide all students an equitable opportunity for success,” said DPI Communications Officer Benson Gardner in a statement.

So far, Racine Unified is only one of two Wisconsin school districts that have been found to need support in all areas of ESSA and IDEA. The other is Milwaukee Public Schools.

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrousreading results.

K12 Tax & Spending Climate: Nine States Face Economic Contraction, Most Since 2009 Crisis

Alexandre Tanzi:

Nine U.S. states’ economies are expected to slide into contraction within six months — the most since the financial crisis ended more than a decade ago, according to the latest projections from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

West Virginia’s economy is forecast to shrink the most, while a decline in neighboring Pennsylvania is anticipated to be the most severe since May 2009 during the tail-end of the Great Recession, figures released this week show. A faltering economic outlook in coming months would likely cast a shadow over President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.

Delaware, Montana and Oklahoma are still expected to face shrinking economies in the next six months, as predicted in the analysis for the prior month. But the list of states was expanded to include contractions on the horizon for Vermont, New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut. The bank no longer expects Alaska to post negative growth.

The $230,000,000 College Admission Scandal America Ignored

Lizzy Francis:

here are countless different ways to pursue educational opportunity — some costly, some less so. Rob Stegall moved 15 miles south from Richardson, Texas, to a new home situated within the Dallas Independent School District to secure his daughter’s admission to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He did this because he sensed that Booker T., which counts the singers Erykah Badu, Edie Brickell, and Norah Jones among its alumni, a $55 million theater, state-of-the-art dance studios, and a 25 percent acceptance rate, might offer an opportunity for a talented teenager interested in pursuing a career in theater. And he was not wrong. In 2019, the 250 seniors making up Booker T. ‘s graduating class received $62 million in scholarships, roughly $250,000 per student, to elite colleges across the country — with Julliard taking half of its incoming dance majors from the one magnet school.

Stegall’s daughter would have had a shot at Booker T. from outside the district — she was initially waitlisted — but the school prioritizes in-district students. Stegall was advised by the school’s theater director that a change in address would likely yield a change in admission status. And it did when his daughter joined the class of 2014.

“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”

An Instant Classic About Learning Ancient Greek

Mary Norris:

When Andrea Marcolongo’s book “La Lingua Geniale,” subtitled “9 ragioni per amare il greco” (“Nine Reasons to Love Greek”), came out in 2016, I bought it, in Italian, and took it with me to Greece. I flashed it at a meeting with some highly accomplished multilingual women. “You read Italian?” one of them asked. Slowly, at a very low level, without full comprehension, I should have said. I had brought the book with me to the island of Rhodes because I thought it would be good practice in both Italian and Greek. I was writing a book on Greek myself, and the difficulty of Greek made Italian seem transparent in comparison. I had made it to page 10 of the first essay, on aspect—a property of verbs by which the ancient Greeks distinguished between the “how” and the “when” of an action—when I got distracted by a sidebar on Greek wine and decided that I really ought to get out more: take a walk in the Old Town, with its streets named after Socrates and Plato, and check to see if that bar called Beer Paradise had opened for the season.

Do You Pay Too Much for Internet Service? See How Your Bill Compares.

Inti Pacheco and Shalini Ramachandran:

Americans in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas get slower broadband speeds even though they generally pay similar monthly prices as their counterparts in wealthy and urban areas.

The country’s biggest broadband provider charges more in markets without competition.

Most people don’t have a choice.

These are among the findings of a Wall Street Journal analysis of America’s internet bills. After a small sample of bills revealed that broadband prices varied drastically across the country, the Journal collected and analyzed information from more than 3,300 bills from homes in all 50 states. Billshark, a company that helps customers negotiate better rates with their cable and telecommunications providers, provided the vast majority of the bills; BillFixers, another such company, and Journal readers also sent in a sizable number.

The Western Canon

Harold Bloom:

• Since the literary canon is at issue here, I include only those religious, philosophical, historical, and scientific writings that are themselves of great aesthetic interest. I would think that, of all the books that are in this first list, once the reader is conversant with the Bible, Homer, Plato, the Athenian dramatists, and Virgil, the crucial work is the Koran…

“I have included some Sanskrit works, scriptures and fundamental literary texts, because of their influence on the Western canon. The immense wealth of ancient Chinese literature is mostly a sphere apart from Western literary tradition and is rarely conveyed adequately in the translations available to us.”

Chicago Public School Data Shows Hundreds of Underutilized Schools

Matt Masterson:

The district’s annual space utilization figures show that nearly 290 schools across the city are considered either overcrowded or underutilized based on space availability and student enrollment.

“As part of a state-mandated process, the district posted its annual space utilization file, which provides schools and district leaders with an understanding of how school communities are using their buildings,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a statement. “The district is committed to making data accessible and space utilization represents one of the many resources the district has available for stakeholders to learn more about the schools in their communities.”

According to the data, 253 CPS school buildings are underutilized, meaning they use less than 70% of their ideal enrollment capacity. Thirty-five schools were classified as overcrowded – meaning they use more than 110% of their ideal capacity – while another 206 schools were deemed “efficient.”

Violence and the Sacred: College as an incubator of Girardian terror

Dan Wang:

I’ve written about René Girard’s ideas once before, to try my hand at identifying mimetic crises in the world of George R. R. Martin. Today I’d like to apply Girard’s ideas to another world in which people are driven to conflict over small differences and personal slights.

(Rather than attempting to explain Girard’s ideas in depth, I leave concessions to the reader, and point instead to discussions from the Raven Foundation and the IEP. If you’re looking for a quick introduction to the life of Girard, take a look at his obituary in the Times.)

Girard presents a model of human conflict that is Shakespearean, not Marxist. That is, he thinks that people are not engaged in class struggle, in which proletarians unite against the bourgeoisie; instead, people reserve horror and resentment for people most like themselves. Consider the origin of the ancient grudge laid out in the opening line of Romeo and Juliet: “Two houses, both alike in dignity…” The Montagues and Capulets fight not because they’re so different but because they’re so alike.

The closer we are to other people—Girard means this in multiple dimensions—the more intensely that mimetic contagion will spread. Alternatively, competition is fiercer the more that competitors resemble each other. When we’re not so different from people around us, it’s irresistible to become obsessed about beating others. Girard’s framework vastly improves Freud’s phrase “the narcissism of small differences.” It’s also a framework for Kissinger’s quip: “Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small.

Gym class without the gym? With technology, it’s catching on.

Carolyn Thompson:

The 14-year-old freshman is getting school credit for virtual physical education, a concept that, as strange as it may sound, is being helped along by availability of wearable fitness trackers.

For students whose tests and textbooks have migrated to screens, technology as gym equipment may have been only a matter of time.

Grace, who lives in Alexandria, wears a school-issued Fitbit on her wrist while getting in at least three 30-minute workouts a week outside of school hours. She has an app on her computer that screenshots her activity so she can turn it in for credit.

While online physical education classes have been around for well over a decade, often as part of virtual or online schools, the technology has made possible a new level of accountability, its users say.

“We’re asking kids to wear this while they do an activity of their choice, and they can change the activity as they desire, as long as it’s something that they understand is probably going to get their heart rate up,’’ said Elizabeth Edwards, department head for online physical education at Fairfax County Public Schools, which includes Grace’s high school.

Taking Stock and Moving Forward: Lessons From Two Plus Decades of Research on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Michael R. Ford & Fredrik O. Andersson:

In this article we review the substantial literature on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), the U.S.’s oldest and largest urban school voucher program, and use the review to propose an agenda for second generation school voucher research. We review research on student-level impacts, public school response, parental decision-making, fiscal impacts, organizational churn, and the larger public policy issues resulting from Milwaukee’s voucher policy. We conclude that the balance of literature on the MPCP shows limited positive effects for voucher users, positive fiscal impacts for taxpayers, substantial numbers of school closures, and various externalities that need to be better understood given the program’s size and prominence. Given this, we suggest a future research agenda focused on the question of how to make voucher policies as successful as possible.

Stubborn Stupidity Vs Hidden Motives

Robin Hanson:

3) The simple theory of random stupidity strongly predicts a random pattern of overspending on some things, and underspending on others. In terms of statistical inference, such a theory is relatively easily beat by any other theories that can explain patterns in over and underspending in any other terms. Yes, you might try to retreat to a correlated-randomness theory, which posits that over versus underspending is correlated in “related” areas. But then you’ll need a theory of “relatedness” of areas.

We also seem to see overspending in medicine, law, school, investment analysis, campaign spending, and much else. A consistent pattern I think I see is overspending in areas where spending lets one associate with prestigious folks. So I suggest that much of this overspending is better explained via motives to gain prestige via association.

Madison taxpayers have long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

How the 1% Scrubs Its Image Online

Rachael Levy:

Jacob Gottlieb was considering raising money for a hedge fund. One problem: His last one had collapsed in a scandal.

While Mr. Gottlieb wasn’t accused of wrongdoing, googling his name prominently surfaced news articles chronicling the demise of Visium Asset Management LP, which once managed $8 billion. The results also included articles about his top portfolio manager, who died by suicide days after he was indicted for insider trading in 2016, and Mr. Gottlieb’s former brother-in-law, an employee of Visium who was convicted of securities fraud. Searches also found coverage of Mr. Gottlieb’s messy divorce in New York’s tabloids.

Expanding Taxpayer Supported Programs amidst long term, disastrous reading results

Scott Girard:

The Madison Metropolitan School District could continue its expansion of the Community Schools program as soon as the 2021-22 school year.

School Board members will receive an update on the program, which offers expanded services at four schools to help serve as a “hub” to their surrounding community, at a Monday Instruction Work Group meeting beginning at 5 p.m. at the Doyle Administration Building.

MMSD began its Community Schools program in 2016-17 at Leopold and Mendota elementary schools, expanding it to Lake View and Hawthorne in the 2018-19 school year. The schools ask parents, students and neighborhood residents to help identify school issues and find solutions to address them. The district website defines them as “a welcoming and inclusive place that builds on the assets of the community to help serve the identified needs of the students, families and community through well integrated and coordinated, strategic partnerships.

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrousreading results.

Madison K-12 administrators are planning a substantial tax & spending increase referendum for 2020.


Madison School District projects loss of 1,100 students over next five years, yet 2020 referendum planning continues.

Madison School Board approves purchase of $4 million building for special ed programs

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

Taxpayer supported Dane County Board joins the Madison School Board in ignoring open meeting laws

Chris Rickert:

Groups of Dane County Board members have since 2014 been meeting privately and without any public notice to discuss government business — a practice that echoes private caucus meetings the liberal-dominated board has conducted in years past.

Meetings between the board’s leadership and leaders of some of its key committees, first reported by a local blogger, raise questions about whether the board is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the state open meetings law, as well as why county leaders feel the meetings need to be secret at a time when the board has been making a concerted effort to interest the public in its work.

Notes and links on taxpayer supported school Board open meeting issues, including Madison.

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrousreading results.

Madison K-12 administrators are planning a substantial tax & spending increase referendum for 2020.


Madison School District projects loss of 1,100 students over next five years, yet 2020 referendum planning continues.

Madison School Board approves purchase of $4 million building for special ed programs

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

A discussion of recent politically correct policies

Katherine Tampf:

A lot has happened in the last decade — including a lot of things being called racist, sexist, offensive, or insensitive.

Here, in no particular order, are 24 of the most absurdly politically correct moments of the decade:

1. A college diversity-training course taught that it was culturally insensitive to expect people to be on time. 

A Clemson University training course taught its attendees that it is offensive to expect people to be on time, because “time may be considered fluid” in other cultures.-

2. The phrase “trigger warning” was deemed a trigger.

According to a piece in Everyday Feminism, “trigger warning” is actually in itself a trigger — because it could “be re-traumatizing for folks who have suffered military, police, and other forms of violence.” (The piece recommended using “content warning” instead.)

Madison School Board races starting to emerge as filing deadline approaches

Scott Girard:

For the past seven months, Strong has been a program associate with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Strong said in an interview Thursday he considers school safety and racial disparities in discipline and achievement to be the top issues facing MMSD.

“We have to make sure that our schools are safe and that they’re safe learning environments for our kids to learn and for our teachers to teach in,” Strong said. He stressed the importance of “tackling the achievement gap and just making sure that all of our students are given the best possible opportunity to get the quality education they deserve.”

He said he dislikes having to choose a seat to run for in Madison’s at-large system, but determined Seat 7 was the “most comfortable” for him at this time. As someone who had children go through Madison schools and will have grandchildren in them in the future, Strong said he thinks he can provide leadership on the board and that he has a “passion for education.”

Vander Meulen said Thursday she was “glad to have a challenger” so that voters can make a choice based on what they value. She said the board’s three jobs are to make a budget, listen to constituents and write policies — and that they need to do more on the last of those.

Logan Wroge:

“We really at a basic level need to figure how to make sure students are gaining the literacy skills that they need to be successful students,” she said.

Pearson wants to make sure students are able to gain academic and social-emotional skills, support teachers in anti-racist work, and increase school and community collaboration. She said school safety is the biggest challenge the district is facing.

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrousreading results.

Madison K-12 administrators are planning a substantial tax & spending increase referendum for 2020.


Madison School District projects loss of 1,100 students over next five years, yet 2020 referendum planning continues.

Madison School Board approves purchase of $4 million building for special ed programs

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

Commentary on Wisconsin Governance, including K-12 (no mention of Mr. Evers teacher mulligans)

Mitchell Schmidt:

The former educator’s first year in office came with its share of partisan battles, including disagreements over his appointed cabinet heads and efforts by Republicans to limit the governor’s power. Divided government stalled attempts to appease constituents on both sides of the aisle: Republicans refused to take up gun control measures and marijuana legalization; Evers vetoed GOP-driven anti-abortion bills and tax cuts.

Evers said he has “partially delivered” on his campaign promises so far. He pointed to the budget, which included an increase in spending on K-12 education and a Republican-supported 10% income tax cut for the middle class, as a positive step.

In addition, a analysis found Evers’ 61 executive orders in 2019 was more than any Wisconsin governor in more than 50 years.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Evers signs record number of executive orders in first year.

Four Corrections to a Context And Fact-Free Article Called “The Democrats’ School Choice Problem.”

Laura Waters:

On New Year’s Eve The Nation published an analysis by Jennifer Berkshire called “The Democrats’ School Choice Problem.” Her piece is instructive because it illustrates a strategy commonly employed by those who regard themselves as warriors against craven privatizing shysters intent on expanding charter schools and/or voucher programs. This is how it works: Ignore context. Ignore math. Ignore inconvenient facts. And hustle together a specious I argument that plays to those who —perhaps responding to the Trumpian lurch to the right by Republican Party leaders in D.C. —believe that the only way to retain decency and moral order is by careening just as far to the left, which seems to me a surefire way to guarantee Trump a second term. (Not sure what these directions mean anyway. Since when is limiting public school choice, which primarily benefits low-income children of color, a value of left-wingers? Since when is it a violation of Democratic Party loyalty to want better schools for your kids?)

To unknowing readers (which apparently includes The Nation’s fact-checking department) Berkshire’s argument, as context and fact-free as it is, holds power. So let’s demystify the mystique and look at some of the ways that Berkshire makes her argument that the Democratic pro-choice coalition is “unraveling” and that no choice is the right choice.

First, to give credit where credit is due, Berkshire  begins with the recent AFT/NEA “school choice forum” last month in Pittsburgh where seven candidates begged for union money and endorsement. She notes that the invitation-only audience was greeted by a Black mother affiliated with the Working Families Party (closely tied in agenda and funding with AFT/NEA) while 250 Black mothers (she says 100 but who’s counting) stood in a cold rain because they were locked out of the “public forum” for wanting quality schools for their children even if they can’t afford to live in Gloucester. (See here.) Why were they outside in the rain? Because the candidates, with the sole exception of Mike Bennett, refused to walk down the block and meet with them in a hotel room paid for by a GoFundMe campaign. Inside, audience members wore “F*%k Charter Schools” tee-shirts.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K – 12 school district has resisted school and parental choice.

A majority of the school board rejected the proposed Madison preparatory Academy ib charter school in 2011.

Madison taxpayers have long spent far more than most K-12 school districts, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Critical Thinking is Nothing Without Knowledge

DJ Buck:

Among high school students, I’ve seen puzzled looks in response to the mention of Adolf Hitler, segregation, Thomas Jefferson, the Cold War, Aristotle and the Bill of Rights—among other things. This shocking lack of knowledge has a noxious effect on student thought. Take a question I gave during a video assignment: to which country did many Americans move during the Great Depression? Seconds before, I had prompted my students to listen as the narrator explained that many Americans moved to the Soviet Union in search of work. Nevertheless, after we had finished watching, very few students had a response.

What caused this? It wasn’t a matter of apathy. One student revealingly asked, “wait, the Soviet Union is a country?” As freshmen, these students had only learned ancient history and a smattering of US history, and were unaware that Russia was once part of the Soviet Union. The issue was one of background knowledge, a schema of known facts and information into which an individual can fit new ideas. 

Education reformers, teachers, politicians, advocates and parents often call for schools not just to teach rote facts—children can look those up on the internet—but to create critical thinkers. Companies say that they are seeking employees with critical thinking skills. As Bryan Caplan puts it, “from kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing?” 

How could I have asked my students, however, to think critically about the Cold War, without knowing that Russia was once part of the Soviet Union? Should we prioritize business and technical writing for students who don’t even know who Martin Luther King Jr. is? How could any college student meaningfully support a cause like socialism if she arguably doesn’t even know what it entails?

So is critical thinking undergirded by a teachable set of skills? Where does it fit within the trite facts versus feelings dichotomy often alluded to on Twitter? To begin to find out, we need to probe an even more foundational skill: reading.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts and tolerates long term, disastrous reading results.

Denying a Professor Tenure, Harvard Sparks a Debate Over Ethnic Studies

Kate Taylor:

The news spread quickly, angering Latino students and others at Harvard: One of the few professors who specialized in Latino and Caribbean studies and devoted time to mentoring students of color had been denied tenure.

The students sprang into action, occupying an administration building last month and also disrupting a faculty meeting. They submitted a letter to administrators demanding transparency about the tenure process and the creation of an ethnic studies department. And on the day in December that early admissions decisions were to be released, black, Latino and Asian students protested in the admissions office, accusing the university of using them as tokens in its professed commitment to diversity, while failing to invest in academic areas critical to their lives.

It is an unsettled moment at Harvard. The university is still fighting a lawsuit challenging its use of race-based affirmative action in admissions; a district court judge ruled in Harvard’s favor in October, but the plaintiffs are appealing.

Campus Bias Blowback

Wall Street Journal:

The infection of speech restrictions on campus has spread nationwide, but some are fighting back. The latest defense of the First Amendment is a lawsuit filed Thursday against Iowa State University.

The Ames, Iowa, school has “created a series of rules and regulations designed to restrain, deter, suppress, and punish speech concerning political and social issues of public concern,” says the suit filed in federal court on behalf of Iowa State students by the nonprofit Speech First.

The suit cites several examples of the school’s bias, such as a policy prohibiting students from “broadcasting email from a university account to solicit support for a candidate or ballot measure.” Another policy limits who can use chalk on pavement. The practice is popular with students on both sides of the abortion debate, and Iowa State recently intervened to say that only registered student organizations could use chalk on pavement and only to promote an event.

The university may be most legally vulnerable for its Campus Climate Reporting System, which is as Orwellian as it sounds. Under the “system,” students are encouraged to report “bias incidents” to a panel that includes the chief and vice chief of the Iowa State University Police Department, the dean of students, and the university counsel.

Google veterans: The company has become ‘unrecognizable’

Jennifer Elias:

Workers told CNBC that 2018 was a pivotal point in the company’s shift away from upfront communication. That was when news of Project Dragonfly, a secret Google plan to develop a censored search engine for possible rollout in China, first broke in The Intercept. Internally, the existence of the project had been kept on a need-to-know basis.

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

Commentary on 2020 Madison School Board Election Candidates

Scott Girard:

For the past seven months, Strong has been a program associate with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Strong said in an interview Thursday he considers school safety and racial disparities in discipline and achievement to be the top issues facing MMSD.

“We have to make sure that our schools are safe and that they’re safe learning environments for our kids to learn and for our teachers to teach in,” Strong said. He stressed the importance of “tackling the achievement gap and just making sure that all of our students are given the best possible opportunity to get the quality education they deserve.”

He said he dislikes having to choose a seat to run for in Madison’s at-large system, but determined Seat 7 was the “most comfortable” for him at this time. As someone who had children go through Madison schools and will have grandchildren in them in the future, Strong said he thinks he can provide leadership on the board and that he has a “passion for education.”

Vander Meulen said Thursday she was “glad to have a challenger” so that voters can make a choice based on what they value. She said the board’s three jobs are to make a budget, listen to constituents and write policies — and that they need to do more on the last of those.

“I’m choosing to run again because I want to continue to be a voice for the voiceless,” Vander Meulen said, citing the achievement gap and graduation rate for students with disabilities. “Things aren’t changing and they need to and the only way that happens is by speaking up and advocating.”

Notes and links on the 2020 Madison School Board Election.

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

Chart of the day: For every 100 girls/women…..

Mark Perry:

The table above is based on some of the items in the list “For every 100 girls….” that I featured last April on CD here. The list was originally created by Tom Mortenson in 2011 and I updated the list earlier this year with Tom’s permission. Special thanks to Gale Pooley for helping create the table.

The data in the table show that on many, many measures of: a) educational, behavioral and mental health outcomes, b) alcohol, drug addiction, and drug overdoses, c) suicide, murder, violent crimes, and incarceration, d) job fatalities and e) homelessness, boys and men are faring much worse than girls and women. And yet despite the fact that boys and men are at so much greater risk than girls and women on so many different measures, those significant gender disparities that disproportionately and adversely affect men get almost no attention. In fact, it’s girls and women who get a disproportionate amount of attention, resources, and financial support, including:

1. There are women’s centers and women’s commissions on almost every college campus in the country, but not a single men’s center or commission that I’m aware of.

The new red scare on American campuses

The Economist:

Early last autumn Alex and Victor, two students from mainland China, sat in the back row of a packed auditorium at Columbia Law School, in New York. They were there for a talk by Joshua Wong, thrice-jailed young hero of the Hong Kong democracy movement, which the two students support. They applauded enthusiastically; they also wore blue face masks.

The masks were in part symbols of solidarity with Mr Wong’s fellow protesters half a world away. But they were also a way of hiding their identities from face-recognition systems in China that might be scanning pictures of the audience, and from Chinese students in the hall less in tune with Mr Wong’s message—such as the ones who sang the national anthem of the People’s Republic in response to the talk. Their names are not, in fact, Alex and Victor; they asked The Economist to give them pseudonyms and not to say where in China they came from. As they talked, other Chinese students quietly observed them, national flags in hand.

There are 19.8m university students in America, of whom just over a million come from other countries. A bit less than a fifth of these foreigners come from India, and 6% from the European Union. Fully a third are Chinese—a much larger fraction than from anywhere else, and more students than China sends to all the other countries in the world put together. At Columbia, half of the nearly 12,000 international students are from China. This is all very good for the students’ future prospects and the universities’ coffers. But it worries the American government, the Chinese Communist Party (ccp) and some champions of academic freedom.

Educated Fools: Why Democratic leaders still misunderstand the politics of social class

Thomas Geoghegan:

Here’s a little thought experiment: What would happen if, by a snap of the fingers, white racism in America were to disappear? It might be that the black and Latino working class would be voting for Trump, too. Then we Democrats would have no chance in 2020. We often tell ourselves: “Oh, we lost just the white working class because of race.” But the truth might be something closer to this: “It’s only because of race that we have any part of the working class turning out for us at all.”

How many of us in the party’s new postgraduate leadership caste have even a single friendship, a real one, of two equals, with any man or woman who is just a high school graduate? It’s hard to imagine any Democrat in either House or Senate who did not go beyond a high school diploma. (And no, I am not talking about Harvard dropouts Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.)

Still, it’s unthinkable that the college-educated base of the party would trust a high school graduate without a four-year degree to run for or hold a serious office. We don’t trust them, and would never vote for one of them. Why should they trust or vote for one of us?

It used to be otherwise. Yes, in the 1940s and 1950s, many a Democrat in the House or Senate had no four-year diploma: Even a president, Harry S Truman, did not. What’s more, those who did frequently went to night law school, or a teachers’ college, and at least still lived, or had a social life, in neighborhoods where no one over a long stretch of city blocks had college B.A.s. This was true even for the profession now cited as a sort of polemic shorthand for rule by the knowledge elite—the “liberal media.” As late as 1970, my friend Steve Franklin joined a city paper and was surprised to learn that most of the editors had never been to college—and of course they lived in neighborhoods all over the city with people who had gone to the same high schools they had.

Back then, many of these people understood that they could trust the Democratic Party for the same reason they could trust the liberal media. The Democratic Party of the 1950s and 1960s was probably much more corrupt and inept than the Democratic Party of today—but back then it lived in the neighborhood, as it no longer does today. Now the Democratic Party relies on think tanks in elite universities to find out what people back in those neighborhoods are thinking

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

China roots out its ‘gaokao migrants’ as university entrance exam nears

Laurie Chen:

With only a month to go until China’s gaokao university entrance exam, education authorities have vowed to crack down on cheating candidates.

More than 10 million students had registered to take the notoriously competitive exam this year, state news agency Xinhua reported. The standardised nationwide test is widely viewed as a key to social mobility that can determine a student’s future prospects for better or worse.

On Sunday, the education bureau in the southern province of Guangdong ordered an investigation into the credentials of all students who had transferred to senior high schools there from elsewhere in the country, in a crackdown on so-called gaokao migrants.

These “migrants” – students who register to take the exam in a different province to boost their chances of scoring higher – are a widely recognised phenomenon in China.

The untapped potential of the ‘longevity economy

Mari Shibata:

In 2018, for the first time in history, those aged 65 or older outnumbered children younger than five globally. And the number of people aged 80 years or older is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.

The population aged 65 and older is growing faster than all other age groups, especially as the global birth rate has been plummeting since the second half of the 20th Century. According to the World Health Organization, fertility rates in every region except Africa are near or below what’s considered the ‘replacement rate’ – the level needed to keep a population stable. In most high-income countries this hovers around 2.1 children per woman.

The population isn’t just ageing, though: people are living longer and increasing their ‘healthspan’ for prolonged health, too. That means that as the population of elders increases, so grows a group of consumers, workers and innovators. In other words, they’re not simply a group that needs services from the ‘silver economy’, which is aimed solely at older and ageing people – rather, the ageing population can continue to be full-service participants in the economy at large.

“We’re now talking about a new life stage which is as long as the latter part of your adult life,” says Dr Joseph Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab and author of Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.

We’ve just had the best decade in human history. Seriously

Matt Ridley:

Let nobody tell you that the second decade of the 21st century has been a bad time. We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history. Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 per cent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 per cent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline.

Little of this made the news, because good news is no news. But I’ve been watching it all closely. Ever since I wrote The Rational Optimist in 2010, I’ve been faced with ‘what about…’ questions: what about the great recession, the euro crisis, Syria, Ukraine, Donald Trump? How can I possibly say that things are getting better, given all that? The answer is: because bad things happen while the world still gets better. Yet get better it does, and it has done so over the course of this decade at a rate that has astonished even starry-eyed me.

Perhaps one of the least fashionable predictions I made nine years ago was that ‘the ecological footprint of human activity is probably shrinking’ and ‘we are getting more sustainable, not less, in the way we use the planet’. That is to say: our population and economy would grow, but we’d learn how to reduce what we take from the planet. And so it has proved. An MIT scientist, Andrew McAfee, recently documented this in a book called More from Less, showing how some nations are beginning to use less stuff: less metal, less water, less land. Not just in proportion to productivity: less stuff overall.

This does not quite fit with what the Extinction Rebellion lot are telling us. But the next time you hear Sir David Attenborough say: ‘Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is either a madman or an economist’, ask him this: ‘But what if economic growth means using less stuff, not more?’ For example, a normal drink can today contains 13 grams of aluminium, much of it recycled. In 1959, it contained 85 grams. Substituting the former for the latter is a contribution to economic growth, but it reduces the resources consumed per drink.

Google collects face data now. Here’s what it means and how to opt out

Dale Smith:

Google’s latest smart display brings with it a controversial new feature that’s always watching. Face Match, introduced on the Google Nest Hub Max, uses the smart display’s front-facing camera as a security feature and a way to participate in video calls. It also shows you your photos, texts, calendar details and so on when it recognizes your face.

This mode of facial recognition sounds simple enough at first. But the way companies like Google collect, store and process face data has become a top concern for privacy-minded consumers. Plenty of people want to know who has their personal information once it makes its way into the cloud.

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

What the World can learn from Hongkong From Unanimity to Anonymity

Katharin Tai:

The people of Hong Kong have been using unique tactics, novel uses of technology, and a constantly adapting toolset in their fight to maintain their distinctiveness from China since early June. Numerous anonymous interviews with protesters from front liners to middle class supporters and left wing activists reveal a movement that has been unfairly simplified in international reporting. The groundbreaking reality is less visible because it must be – obfuscation and anonymity are key security measures in the face of jail sentences up to ten years.

Instead of the big political picture, this talk uses interviews with a range of activists to help people understand the practicalities of situation on the ground and how it relates to Hongkong’s political situation. It also provides detailed insights into protestors’ organisation, tactics and technologies way beyond the current state of reporting. Ultimately, it is the story of how and why Hongkongers have been able to sustain their movement for months, even faced with an overwhelming enemy like China.

What we know about you when you click on this article

Rani Molla:

If you’re reading this story on, we have probably already collected quite a few bits of information about you. We, as well as our third-party advertisers, likely know which type of device you’re on, what browser you’re using, what you do on our site (which articles you read, how long you stay, what ads you visit), and what site you visit next when you click somewhere else. We know where you are based on your device’s IP address — a unique identifier assigned to each device connected to the internet — but don’t use GPS to actively track your location.

Americans and Digital Knowledge

Emily Vogels and Monica Anderson:

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept. While a majority of U.S. adults can correctly answer questions about phishing scams or website cookies, other items are more challenging. For example, just 28% of adults can identify an example of two-factor authentication – one of the most important ways experts say people can protect their personal information on sensitive accounts. Additionally, about one-quarter of Americans (24%) know that private browsing only hides browser history from other users of that computer, while roughly half (49%) say they are unsure what private browsing does.

This survey consisted of 10 questions designed to test Americans’ knowledge of a range of digital topics, such as cybersecurity or the business side of social media companies. The median number of correct answers was four. Only 20% of adults answered seven or more questions correctly, and just 2% got all 10 questions correct.

As was true in a previous Center survey, Americans’ knowledge of digital topics varies substantially by educational attainment as well as by age. Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree and those under the age of 50 tend to score higher on these questions. These are some of the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey of 4,272 adults living in the United States conducted June 3-17, 2019.