I am a Mom. We are in the charter lottery this week. Wish us luck.

Keri Rodrigues :

It’s the first week of March — and once again, I am sitting on a throne of pins and needles that I am forced upon year after year. I don’t like it here. And frankly, I’m tired of it.

The seconds continue to tick past, marching forward toward my moment with destiny — which will happen on Friday afternoon at 3pm sharp.

That’s when the applications I filled out several weeks ago will be pulled out of their files. My children will be assigned random numbers and then one by one given seats at Springfield Prep.

Civics: Silicon Valley and privacy

Joel Kotkin:

Firms like Google, which once advertised themselves as committed to being not “evil,” are now increasingly seen as epitomizing Hades’ legions. The tech giants now constitute the world’s five largest companies in market capitalization. Rather than idealistic newcomers, they increasingly reflect the worst of American capitalism — squashing competitors, using indentured servants, attempting to fix wages, depressing incomes, creating ever more social anomie and alienation.

At the same time these firms are fostering what British academic David Lyon has called a “surveillance society” both here and abroad. Companies like Facebook and Google thrive by mining personal data, and their only way to grow, as Wired recently suggested, was, creepily, to “know you better.”

Selling your location data

Christopher Mims:

As location-aware advertising goes mainstream—like that Jack in the Box ad that appears whenever you get near one, in whichever app you have open at the time—and as popular apps harvest your lucrative location data, the potential for leaking or exploiting this data has never been higher.

It’s true that your smartphone’s location-tracking capabilities can be helpful, whether it’s alerting you to traffic or inclement weather. That utility is why so many of us are giving away a great deal more location data than we probably realize….

Civics: Mother of Accused NSA Leaker Reality Winner: My Daughter Wasn’t Read Her Miranda Rights

Democracy Now:

On Tuesday, former U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Leigh Winner appeared in court in Augusta, Georgia, where her lawyers asked the judge to exclude her statements to FBI agents on the day she was arrested, arguing she was denied her Miranda rights. Winner is a former National Security Agency contractor who has pleaded not guilty to charges she leaked a top-secret document to The Intercept about Russian interference in the 2016 election. She is facing up to 10 years in prison on charges she violated the Espionage Act. For more, we speak with two guests. In Chicago, we’re joined by Kevin Gosztola, a journalist and managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He was in the courtroom in Augusta on Tuesday, and his recent article is titled “In Reality Winner’s Case, Defense Seizes Upon FBI Testimony to Bolster Motion to Suppress Statements.” And in Augusta, Georgia, we speak with by Reality Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis. She’s joining us from her daughter’s house, where Reality Winner was questioned and arrested by FBI agents on June 3.

This Is the Human Driving Manifesto

Alex Roy:

Do you like driving? I do. It’s not about speed. It’s about freedom. It’s about choice. Car in the garage. Keys in hand. Hands on wheel. We choose where we go and when we go, and we choose how we get there. With the rise of self-driving cars, an army of experts would have us believe freedom and choice are a bad thing. From behind the banner of safety, they claim autonomous technology will save us from the tyranny and danger of human control. Their strategy is to claim that autonomous technology creates an either/or scenario where human driving is in conflict with safety.

That strategy is based on a lie.

Despite a storm of clickbait media reports, there is still little evidence that self-driving cars are safer than humans. We don’t know what “safe” or “safer” means. There is no government regulation defining a safety standard, nor has any self-driving car maker declared what that standard might be.

Unless self-driving car technology is demonstrably safer than humans—and even if it is—human freedom and choice must come first. We don’t need to sacrifice safety for freedom. The same technology that enables self-driving cars will allow humans to retain control within the safe confines of automation. Those that say otherwise seek to profit from reducing our freedoms, rather than make us safer while protecting them.

In some respects, Michigan’s continued (reading) decline should come as no surprise

Education Trust- Midwest (PDF):

This decline has come as state leaders have invested nearly $80 million to raise third-grade reading levels — and during the same period when many other states that also adopted higher standards for teaching and learning produced notable learning gains for their students in the same metric.

In some respects, Michigan’s continued decline should come as no surprise. As our organization has documented in recent years through its Michigan Achieves campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state, Michigan student achievement has fallen steeply for every group of students — black, brown and white — compared to other states since the early 2000s. Less well known is the story behind that data: despite the state’s growing educational crisis, Michigan’s achievement efforts to date do not re ect a fundamental shift on how our state approaches improvement strategies, such as educator capacity-building and public reporting — a shift which will be absolutely necessary moving forward. For that reason, the state’s ongoing statewide investment in raising third-grade reading levels provides an important case study to examine how Michigan’s k-12 improvement strategies, design and delivery systems stack up compared to the nation’s top states.

After almost two years of research, including conversations with educators working at the classroom, school, district, intermediate school district and state level, our team found a profound need for far more robust implementation and improvement systems, guided by sustained and visionary leadership. Indeed, the lack of coherent systems and accountability for consistent improvement are holding back third-grade literacy efforts and squandering millions of dollars. As it stands, the only real accountability for Michigan’s third-grade reading investment exists for the state’s students: under the state’s 2016 policy, students are at-risk for retention in third grade if they are unable to meet grade-level reading expectations.1

And while leading states like Tennessee have invested
in strategic improvement systems for ongoing training and support for their teachers and principals — by far the most critical lever for improving literacy outcomes
— no such strategic support system exists in Michigan. Meanwhile, the Legislature has done its part to create better support for educators and approved the creation of Michigan’s rst statewide system of educator
support and evaluation. but weak implementation has sabotaged this high-leverage opportunity for widespread improvement of teaching and learning — the very lever that top states such as Tennessee have used to lift all students’ learning outcomes.


Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

Foundations of Reading Examination Results (Wisconsin’s only teacher content knowledge licensing requirement).


How can families afford children?

Tyler Cowen:

“Afford” is a tricky word here. If the goal is simply to avoid bankruptcy, at the expense of the life satisfaction of the main child rearer (usually the wife), that isn’t so difficult for most Americans and Europeans. But of course people wish to maximize utility. And so here are some trends operating against having large numbers of children:

1. Jobs for women are higher-paying and more satisfying than ever before, and that raises the opportunity cost of having large families.

2. Divorce is these days socially imaginable, and for many people desirable if feasible. The larger the number of children, the harder it is to take advantage of the divorce option, and so that too encourages smaller families.

3. Living space has become especially costly in so many of the major Western cities and suburbs.

4. Given the connection between where you live and your public school system, the very best neighborhoods have become very costly positional goods, in part because of their school systems and the embedded social peers for your kids (even if they bus away to private schools.)

The Looming Capacity Crisis in Computer Science Education

Julia McCandless/a>:

Not long ago, computer science was considered a specialized field for a niche industry. Today, things have changed. As technology continues to grow, it has become more necessary for employees to hone computer skills in nearly all industries. This growing demand has experts like Professor Eric Roberts warning of a looming “capacity crisis” in higher education.

With more than 30 years of experience leading computer science in higher education, Professor Roberts most recently served as a faculty member at Stanford University and associate chair and director of undergraduate studies for computer science. Today he is the Charles Simonyi professor emeritus of computer science and a Bass University fellow in undergraduate education. He has also received many accolades for his research and work in computer science, most recently earning the SIGCSE Award for Lifetime Service to the Computer Science Education Community. As a leading expert in computer science education, he will be speaking at the annual SIGCSE Technical Symposium to present his insights on the field’s most critical challenges and opportunities that we should be paying attention to.

AI Mediated Society: Eight WA high schools use cyber spy program which homes in on ‘early warning markers’ for students

Kate Campbell:

SUICIDAL thoughts and depression, viewing pornography and searches to buy or sell drugs are the most common incidents detected by a global online program used by eight WA high schools to monitor the computer use of about 9000 students.

The WA schools have signed up to UK-based company eSafe Global’s software, which homes in on “early warning markers” — tens of thousands of “red flag” words, phrases, abbreviations, euphemisms and colloquialisms — typed or searched for by students from Year 7-12.

In the past two years, more than 8000 incidents were identified by “behaviour specialists” in the UK and deemed legitimate for intervention.

By far the most prevalent has been students’ mental health — anxiety, depression and self-harm risk — at 38 per cent of all identified incidents last year followed by pornography (20 per cent) and drugs (11 per cent).

She Left Harvard. He Got to Stay.

Tom Bartlett and Nell Gluckman:

Terry Karl lost count of how many times he tried to kiss her. In his office, in her office, at a hotel during a conference. She remembers the night in her car when he confided that he would be the next department chairman, and that he would review the book she was writing. It was unfortunate, he said, that he had to decide the fates of people he liked. He moved his hand to her thigh, beneath her skirt, and leaned in for a kiss.

It was November 5, 1981. Karl had been at Harvard University for less than a year. She was an assistant professor of government, and Jorge Domínguez was her senior colleague. He had tenure; she didn’t. Domínguez would soon be president of the Latin American Studies Association; she studied Latin America. He sat on the editorial boards of prestigious journals like American Political Science Review and Social Science Quarterly. He was already a name in the field, while she was still establishing hers. He could be helpful to her — or not.

For two years, according to Karl, Domínguez made numerous sexual advances, disregarding both verbal and written pleas to stop. It eventually led her to file a complaint, and Domínguez was found guilty by the university of “serious misconduct.” Domínguez was removed from administrative responsibilities for three years and told that any future misconduct could trigger his dismissal. Karl considered his punishment a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, she decided that she couldn’t remain at the same university as Domínguez considering what he’d done, and what she feared he might do.

Performance of Performance Reviews

Steven Sinofsky:

Michael Lynch wrote a fascinating, albeit somewhat disheartening, post on his personal experience with Google’s performance review and promotion process. There was quite a bit of discussion so I thought I’d update this post from 2013 on the topic.

Much has been written recently about performance ratings and management at some large and successful companies. Amazon has surfaced as a company implementing OLRs, organization and leadership reviews, which target the least effective 10% of an organization for appropriate action. Yahoo famously introduced QPRs, quarterly performance reviews, which rates people as “misses” or “occasionally misses” among other ratings. And just so we don’t think this is something unique to tech, at the end of every year Wall St firms begin the annual bonus process which is filled with any number of legendary dysfunctions given the massive sums of money in play. Even the Air Force has a legendary process for feedback and appraisal.

Like so many company processes, when a company is doing “well” then the processes are exactly the right ones and magical. When a company is not doing so “well” then every process is either a symptom or the cause of the situation.

Yale’s David Swensen Gets Into Spat With Student Paper Over Endowment

Janet Lorin:

Now he’s found himself in a spat with the student newspaper over coverage of the endowment and subsequent publication of an email exchange between Swensen and editors.

The dispute flared up over his op-ed column in the Yale Daily News, which he asked the staff to publish without editing. His March 1 piece took exception to the paper’s reporting in February of a teach-in event led by student activists that criticized the endowment’s investments.

He said the student reporter didn’t contact Yale’s investment office for the February article. The newspaper on March 3 issued a correction over the news story.

Editors of the newspaper eliminated what they called an erroneous sentence in Swensen’s piece that said he wasn’t contacted by a reporter, which he deemed as editing.

Related: Open The Books:

Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

Civics: The response was professionalized. That’s not surprising, because this is what organization that gets results actually looks like. It’s not a bunch of magical kids in somebody’s living room.

David Hines:

On February 28, BuzzFeed came out with the actual story: Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz aiding in the lobbying in Tallahassee, a teacher’s union organizing the buses that got the kids there, Michael Bloomberg’s groups and the Women’s March working on the upcoming March For Our Lives, MoveOn.org doing social media promotion and (potentially) march logistics, and training for student activists provided by federally funded Planned Parenthood.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers told BuzzFeed they’re also behind the national school walkout, which journalists had previously assured the public was the sole work of a teenager. (I’d thought teachers were supposed to get kids into school, but maybe that’s just me.)

In other words, the response was professionalized. That’s not surprising, because this is what organization that gets results actually looks like. It’s not a bunch of magical kids in somebody’s living room. Nor is it surprising that the professionalization happened right off the bat. Broward County’s teacher’s union is militant, and Rep. Ted Lieu stated on Twitter that his family knows Parkland student activist David Hogg’s family, so there were plenty of opportunities for grown-ups with resources and skills to connect the kids.

China ‘holding at least 120,000 Uighurs in re-education camps’

Tom Phillips:

At least 120,000 members of China’s Muslim Uighur minority have been confined to political “re-education camps” redolent of the Mao era that are springing up across the country’s western borderlands, a report has claimed.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US-backed news group whose journalists have produced some of the most detailed reporting on the heavily securitised region of Xinjiang, said it obtained the figure from a security official in Kashgar, a city in China’s far west that has been the focus of a major crackdown.

Last year, as Xi Jinping was crowned China’s most powerful leader since Chairman Mao at a politically sensitive congress in Beijing, Xinjiang’s re-education centres were “inundated” by detainees, who were forced to endure cramped and squalid conditions, the report said. Just in the city of Kashgar – which has a population of about half a million inhabitants – tens of thousands of people were allegedly confined. Taking into account the wider region around Kashgar, the number allegedly rose to 120,000.

Civics: The FBI’s secret warrant to surveil Carter Page should scare all Americans and spur reform

Ladar Levisin:

It’s clear that a secret process, and a complacent judiciary which has elevated prosecutors and members of law enforcement onto a dangerous perch, provides no safety.

It has become clear that a secret, non-adversarial system of judicial review is an insufficient check to our intelligence agencies and law enforcement. When express disagreement on a foreign policy issue — namely the current sanctions against Russia — form even part of the basis of an allegation which meets the bar for a probable cause warrant, there is something terribly wrong with the current system. The health of our political system depends on the ability to express an unpopular opinion without official recrimination.

Unfortunately the growing number of transgressions against people, like Carter Page, remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy. Officials speak of safeguards, but it’s clear that a secret process, and a complacent judiciary, which has elevated prosecutors and members of law enforcement onto a dangerous perch, provides no safety. The FISC, where the warrant for Page was issued, has grown particularly notorious for granting broad surveillance authority based on little, or in some cases, no evidence. Out of more than 39,000 applications presented to the FISC through the end of 2016, only 51 have been rejected, with the majority, 34, of those rejections coming in 2016.

While most FISC warrants remain classified, the few which have emerged through leaks, or been forced into the public domain by First Amendment lawsuits, paint a rather bleak picture. These warrants tell us the FISC has issued “mass” warrants which permit government surveillance based on statistical “selectors.”

University of Tennessee faculty: Administrative proposal would essentially eliminate tenure

Rachel Ohm:

What is tenure and how is it awarded?

Tenure is the principle by which faculty can continue in their appointments indefinitely. At UT and elsewhere, it’s based on the expectation that a faculty member will continue to show professional excellence over time and is granted only after rigorous review.

At the same time, tenure also guarantees faculty the right to academic freedom and free speech because they know they won’t be fired for expressing different views.

Currently, 818 of the 1,567 faculty at UT Knoxville are tenured and 313 are tenure-track.

The current policy on tenure dates back to a board review in 1998, though some modifications have been put in place since.

How to persuade a robot that you should get the job

Stephen Buranyi:

The program turns this data into a score, which is then compared against one the program has already “learned” from top-performing employees. The idea is that a good prospective employee looks a lot like a good current employee, just not in any way a human interviewer would notice.

Approaches like vocal analysis and reading “microexpressions” have been applied in policing and intelligence with little clear success. But Mondragon says automated analyses compare favourably with established tests of personality and ability, and that customers report better employee performance and less turnover.

HireVue is just one of a slew of new companies selling AI as a replacement for the costly human side of hiring. It estimates the “pre-hire assessment” market is worth $3bn (£2.2bn) a year.

Language Learning for the Dispassionate


The Passionate

For some people, learning a language is a passion. It is an activity that they could happily do for hours a day for the rest of their lives. I admire those people, but I am not one of them. Like many of you, I like the idea of learning a language in the same way that I like the idea of always eating healthy and exercising every day. I do an okay job of doing those things, but I won’t be running a marathon any time soon or writing a nutritional blog.

Diminishing Returns

If you’ve made it past the honeymoon phase of learning a language (ie, you’ve been working at it semi-consistently for over a year) then you know it can be harder to find the motivation to put the time in every day. It’s not your fault, it’s in large part due to the fact that learning a language is a long tail process. It can be relatively easy to make a lot of progress in the beginning because a large percentage of the words people use every day are made up of a relatively small number of words. As you continue learning a language there is diminishing marginal utility associated with every new word you learn. You may have only seen the word for “spatula” once, but if you suddenly find yourself helping out your friend’s abuelita in the kitchen, it might be a handy word to know. It’s a word that doesn’t have much value until it does.

Madison students get hands-on experience working on city vehicles

Pamela Cotant:

The fleet service high school apprenticeship program was launched this semester at the division’s central repair shop on North First Street.

The students, who are paired with automotive technician mentors, are learning how to inspect and repair equipment like police squad cars, parks department pickup trucks, engineering cargo vans and fire department ambulances. They also work on abandoned vehicles.

The students are working 10 to 15 hours a week during the semester and earning school credit and $13.01 per hour. The students are expected to continue working through the summer to complete 450 hours.

Mark Lilla and the Crisis of Liberalism

Samuel Moyn:

For a long time, a faction of U.S. liberals shouldered the burdens of a fully inclusive social compact. They rightly indicted welfare-state compromises that served some and not others, and that served even the most privileged beneficiaries—white working-class men—only to some extent. Recognizing that the New Deal was a raw one for the neglected poor as well as African Americans and women, some liberals in the early and mid-1960s gave sustained critique to the structural limitations of New Deal liberalism and the Cold War geopolitics that framed the enterprise.

After 1968, disaster set in. Faced with the sins of Vietnam, the Democrats flirted with ending Cold War militarism only to double down on it. The critique of the welfare state, not the demand for its extension, prevailed. A toxic brew of white identity politics, a rhetoric of “family values” and “personal responsibility,” and, above all, anti-statist economics wafted across party lines. Fifty years later, Donald Trump is in the White House, embattled but victorious.

How did we get here? Much depends on how one narrates the path from 1968 to Trump’s election.

Mark Lilla’s book of last year, The Once and Future Liberal—a follow-up to his hugely influential New York Times op-ed “The End of Identity Liberalism,” published days after Trump’s win—has gone far toward defining the terms of that story. But instead of looking carefully at how liberal self-reinvention failed in facing down its scurrilous enemies, Lilla cuts off his enterprise in a dodge. Lilla thinks that U.S. welfare-state liberalism was doomed in the 1970s, when its neoconservative enemies rightly sounded its death knell. He goes on to report that the heirs of the raucous sixties, failing to reinvent liberalism beyond its prior statist limits, embraced the anti- and pseudo-politics of “identity.” For much of the book, indulging his Francophile proclivities, Lilla channels the moralist Alexis de Tocqueville, blaming our contemporary degeneration on a culture of narcissism, adding a whiff of the novelist Michel Houellebecq in unmasking the “real” legacy of the sixties as a journey into the interior. A cult of the self prospered as politics died.

How poverty changes your mind-set

Alice Walton:

The proportion of the global population living on less than $1.90 per person per day has fallen—from 18 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank. In the United States, however, the poverty rate has been more stubborn—41 million people lived below the country’s poverty line in 2016, about 13 percent of the population, nearly the same rate as in 2007. Recent policy initiatives haven’t meaningfully reduced that rate. House Speaker Paul Ryan (Republican of Wisconsin) indicated this past December that the government would make fighting poverty, but also welfare, which many Republicans believe is a failed policy, a priority in 2018.

US lawmakers have expressed frustration when investments such as welfare programs don’t pull people out of poverty. “I believe in helping those who cannot help themselves but would if they could,” said Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican of Utah) this past December, when explaining his views on government spending. “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Hatch’s statement reflects a common view that removing government support would force many poor people to improve their conditions themselves. Without welfare and government assistance, would able-bodied people find a job, get an education, stop buying lottery tickets, and focus on paying bills?

Not quite, indicate researchers, whose work is telling a different story of poverty. Contrary to the refrain that bad decisions lead to poverty, data indicate that it is the cognitive toll of being poor that leads to bad decisions. And actually, decisions that may seem counterproductive could be entirely rational, even shrewd. The findings suggest that to successfully reduce poverty, it would help to take this psychology into account.

California ranks last in quality of life in new report

Sean Rossman:

California ranked last in urban air quality and 45th in “low pollution health risk,” although it was 13th in drinking water quality. The state also found itself second-to-last in voter participation, 44th in community engagement and 38th in social support.

Despite its beaches, redwood trees and Hollywood glam, the state’s blemishes are often highlighted. Los Angeles consistently leads as the world’s most traffic-congested urban area and even its own citizens have tried to secede multiple times.

Rounding out the rest of bottom five in quality of life were Texas, Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey.

Commentary on history, maturity and “Snowflakes”

Victory Girls:

But we’re supposed to listen to Generation Snowflake, because they somehow have the moral authority to speak on domestic policies about which they know exactly jack and shit?

We’re supposed to refrain from criticism about their obviously uninformed opinions, because they’ve been through what had to be a traumatic experience?

We’re supposed to ignore their errors in reasoning, false equivalencies, and flawed analysis fed to them by groups with obvious political agendas, because our Founding Fathers were around the same age when they took up arms and started a revolution?

Hate to tell you this, Snowflakes, but people like Henry Lee, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Lafayette took up actual ARMS – things you want to see banned – and went to war against a tyrannical government. They bled. They fought. Hamilton was an aide-de-camp to General George Washington at the ripe old age of about 21.

Will race issues destroy America?

Joel Kotkin:

In reality, immigrants vary tremendously, but some of their contributions to the economy are very real, with higher levels of labor participation than natives. Newcomers tend to be disproportionately more entrepreneurial than native born Americans — both on Main Street and Silicon Valley — at a time when our startup culture has weakened. There is some evidence that the undocumented commit more crimes than citizens but most research suggests overall newcomers commit less crime. Cities with high numbers of immigrants such as New York and Los Angeles are safer than those, like Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis and Baltimore which have relatively few.

Ironically many smaller cities, particularly in the Midwest and South, where opposition to immigration tends to be strongest, actually could use more immigrants. These are often communities that have a hard time holding onto their local pool of young talent. Earlier this month employers in Springfield, Missouri, a city with thriving blue collar sectors and growing STEM economy, repeatedly complained about labor shortages and spoke of efforts to recruit immigrants from places like the Philippines.

Kumbaya is not a country

The ugliness of nativist rhetoric has also reinforced the self-righteousness with which the progressive left, and their media allies, address immigration and diversity. Yet like their Trumpian foes they have created their own mythology which skips over reality and ignores basic facts.

“Political correctness is the enemy of freedom”

Mario Vargas Llosa::

Mario Vargas Llosa is in good form. The Peruvian Nobel Laureate laughs easily as he expounds on his theories of freedom and the individual and talks about his new book, La llamada de la tribu, or, The Call of the Tribe, which argues in favor of liberal thought in reference to seven influential authors: Adam Smith, José Ortega y Gasset, Friedrich von Hayek, Karl Popper, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin and Jean-François Revel.

These men belong to a school of thought that believes in the individual as an autonomous and responsible being, and freedom as the supreme asset. They defend democracy and the separation of powers as the best system available to reconcile society’s contradictory values. They espouse a doctrine that rejects the “tribal spirit” that has historically fueled fascism, communism, nationalism and religious fanaticism. The Call of the Tribe is also an intellectual autobiography that takes the reader from Vargas Lllosa’s Marxist and existentialist beginnings through to his endorsement of liberalism.

Question. Why are there so many attacks on liberal thought?

Answer. It has been targeted by ideologies that are enemies of freedom and which justifiably consider liberalism to be their most tenacious adversary. And that’s what I wanted to explain in the book. Fascism and communism have attacked liberalism strongly, mainly by caricaturing it and linking it to conservatism. In its early stages, liberalism was besieged primarily by the right. There were papal encyclicals – attacks from pulpits everywhere on a doctrine that was considered the enemy of religion and of moral values. I believe that these adversaries define the close relationship that exists between liberalism and democracy. Democracy has moved forward and human rights have been recognized basically thanks to liberal thinkers.

Q. The authors you analyze in your book all swam against the tide

A. Hayek and Ortega even had two books banned. Are liberals condemned to walk alone? Liberalism doesn’t just embrace, it actually stimulates difference. It recognizes that society is composed of very different kinds of people and it’s important to keep it that way. It’s not an ideology; an ideology is a secular religion. Liberalism defends some basic ideas: freedom, individualism, the rejection of collectivism and nationalism – in other words, all the ideologies or doctrines that limit or annihilate freedom within society.

11 Common Terms That Used To Be “Bad Grammar”

Merriam Webster:

Grammar is technically a pretty narrow term. It includes the categories we put words in—that is, whether a word is a noun or an adjective; inflections—like what the past tense form of a particular verb is; and syntax—why we say “I left it there” instead of “I it there left.”

But in the wild revelry that typically accompanies National Grammar Day celebrations, amid all the fireworks with their shimmering punctuation raining down, the term grammar turns into a giant carnival tent celebrating word choice, spelling, punctuation, and pretty much anything else you can think of that’s language-related.

A $530 tax increase? One-year, 18.4% spike inspires plea to flee school district

Annysa Johnson:

But a $530 increase? Up 18.4%? Just for her school taxes?

“People are livid,” said Neuroth, whose school district taxes have risen nearly 30% over the last decade, though her assessed value has fallen.

Now, Neuroth and all but one of her neighbors on S. Pohl Drive have petitioned to move their tax dollars out of West Allis-West Milwaukee into the New Berlin School District.

New Berlin’s board welcomed the move in a 5-0 vote Monday. But West Allis-West Milwaukee effectively nixed it by refusing to take up the question at its Monday meeting.

Madison K-12 tax and spending practices have grown significantly over the years, with per student expenditures now approaching $20,000 annually.

Despite spending more than most, Madison has long tolerated disastrous results.

Why governments have overestimated the economic returns of higher education

The Economist:

AUTOMATION and globalisation have brought drastic changes to Western labour markets. Middle-skilled jobs are disappearing fast. In America, wages for blue-collar workers have been largely stagnant since the 1970s, whereas those for university graduates have soared. Silicon Valley types frequently warn that advances in technology, especially in artificial intelligence, will be devastating for low-skilled workers. One prominent study, by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University, estimated that 47% of jobs in America could be automated over the next two decades. The spectre of mass unemployment, along with increasing levels of income equality, has led many policymakers to see investment in university as crucial for economic prosperity.

Governments have plenty of reason to be bullish about higher education. Perhaps the best piece of evidence they have of the wisdom of investing more in universities is the graduate-wage premium—the difference in wages between those with university degrees and those without. In their book “The Race between Education and Technology”, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University point out that this premium fell during the first half of the 20th century in America as universities expanded enrolment, but started rising sharply around 1980. Although the premium has started to level off in recent years, the fact that university graduates still make around 70% more than non-graduates suggests that demand for skilled workers still far exceeds supply.

Across the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, 43% of adults aged 25-34 now have tertiary degrees, up from 23% in 1995. Yet it is not clear to what extent these degrees have translated into economic gains. An analysis by The Economist of American labour-market data finds that since 1970 the share of workers with degrees has increased in virtually every occupation. But in around half of occupations with better-educated workers average wages have still fallen in real terms. The ubiquity of the degree means that for many workers going to university is more of an obligation than a choice. Moreover, university does not suit all learners. Estimates of the economic returns to higher education tend to assume that all students will graduate. In practice, around 30% of students in Europe and 40% of students in America will drop out before earning their degrees. This means that the expected economic returns of a university education for average students are far lower than commonly understood. Governments are right to fret about training future workers, but they should look beyond just universities.

Willa Cather, Pioneer

Jane Smiley:

Cather’s early prairie novels were published over the course of six years that were extremely eventful in American and world history—O Pioneers! in 1913, The Song of the Lark in 1915, and My Ántonia in 1918. She did not address the issues of World War I until her next novel, One of Ours, published in 1922. (It won the Pulitzer Prize.) But in all four works, the main characters—Alexandra, Thea, Ántonia, and Claude—wrestle with more or less the same question, maybe the essential question of the twentieth century: to stay or to go, and if so, how and why?

O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia (and also the first half of One of Ours) are linked by place, not by character—unlike Émile Zola’s or Anthony Trollope’s series, Cather does not write about characters who are related to or know each other. As a result, once we have read the early novels, we feel as though we are watching the characters from a distance as they put their lives together and move across the landscape. Other prominent and bestselling authors in the first two decades of the twentieth century were looking at Europe and high society (Henry James, Edith Wharton) or the future (H. G. Wells) or the trials of the urban poor (Upton Sinclair, Winston Churchill—not the Winston Churchill, but a bestselling, now unknown novelist from St. Louis). Authors who wrote about the West wrote books like Zane Grey’s The Lone Star Ranger, disparaged by critics as unrealistic and unnecessarily violent. Cather, who began her career in magazine publishing, knew perfectly well what was popular and what was respected, but like Alexandra, Thea, and Ántonia, she was determined to go her own way. As a result, her novels stick in the reader’s mind as flickering memories of places we may never have seen with our own eyes.

Social Media Use in 2018 A majority of Americans use Facebook and YouTube, but young adults are especially heavy users of Snapchat and Instagram

Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson:

Facebook and YouTube dominate this landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites. At the same time, younger Americans (especially those ages 18 to 24) stand out for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. Some 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.

As has been the case since the Center began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.

But the social media story extends well beyond Facebook. The video-sharing site YouTube – which contains many social elements, even if it is not a traditional social media platform – is now used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds. And the typical (median) American reports that they use three of the eight major platforms that the Center measured in this survey.

Facebook’s Censors

Bre Payton:

Facebook is now saying its decision to threaten to censor a Christian satire site because it was flagged by Snopes for reporting fake news was a mistake. The social media giant apologized, but that doesn’t make the censorship any less disconcerting.

The Babylon Bee set off Facebook’s alarm bells by publishing a satirical piece stating that CNN had purchased an “industrial-size washing machine to spin news before publication.” This is obviously a joke and is clearly marked satire and is published on a site entirely devoted to satire. But the uptight jerks over at Snopes decided to fact check the Bee’s claim, to ensure that no one actually thought that CNN “made a significant investment in heavy machinery.” Uh, okay. Thanks, Snopes! Would’ve totally fallen for that one!

The zine taking you inside Greece’s refugee kingdom

Alex King:

We’re standing on top of a crumbling concrete water tower, looking out over a cloud-covered valley in central Greece. Our guide is Borkin, a 16-year-old artist and photographer, who was forced to flee the violence in Syrian Kurdistan. He points out toward Ritsona camp – a small cluster of containers nestled among the trees below, 75km outside Athens, in the middle of nowhere. With a barbed-wire fence behind us, the limit of his world right now is not even as far as the eye can see.

After the EU shut its borders nearly two years ago, many camps were hastily constructed across Greece to house around 50,000 people who became stuck in the country, and then largely forgotten about. But young people from this camp have produced their own magazine, Ritsona Kingdom Journal, which features original writing, poetry, photography and artwork. It’s a bold statement of their diversity and creative talent – if only people would listen to what they have to say.

How Dyslexia Remains Invisible in Chinese Schools

Cai Yiwen:

Su Yingzi knows this all too well. Her son, 11-year-old Xiaogu, is clever and witty in many ways. He excels at devising new games, cracking jokes comes naturally to him, and he makes friends easily. However, reading and writing Chinese characters seemed an insurmountable obstacle. While some of his classmates needed less than half an hour to memorize a few characters, Xiaogu could spend hours on the task and still forget how to write the words. When it came to exams, he often failed to understand the questions because many characters simply did not make sense to him.

In hindsight, Su believes her son showed early signs of the disability in kindergarten: His handwriting was messy, and he was often the last to finish writing exercises. “But the teacher attributed his performance to laziness, and I believed it, too,” Su said.

When Xiaogu entered primary school, Su spent thousands of yuan to send him to a cram school, but the family saw little improvement. Su started to lose patience. She scolded Xiaogu for his disappointing exam scores and admits to beating him when he wrote characters incorrectly.

Xiaogu could not understand why he struggled so much in something his peers could easily master. His aversion to schoolwork grew. Eventually, he stopped trying altogether, submitting blank exam papers even though he could have answered some of the questions.

Global AI Talent Report 2018


The demand for AI experts has grown exponentially over the last few years. As companies increasingly adopt AI solutions for their businesses, the need for highly experienced, PhD-educated, and technically-adept talent shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

This report summarizes our research into the scope and breadth of the worldwide AI talent pool. Although these data visualizations map the distribution of worldwide talent at the start of 2018, we want to acknowledge that this is a predominantly Western-centric model of AI expertise.

We are submitting our work amidst similar, though much broader, reports such as Tencent’s recent “2017 Global AI Talent White Paper,” which focused primarily on China in comparison to the United States. Tencent’s research found that currently “200,000 of the 300,000 active researchers and practitioners” are already employed in the industry, while some 100,000 are researching or studying in academia. Their number far exceeds the high-end of our measure at 22,000, primarily because it includes the entire technical teams and not just the specially-trained experts. Our report, however, focuses on finding out where the relatively small number of “AI experts” currently reside around the world.

MIT Study: Median Uber and Lyft Profits Less Than Half Minimum Wage; 30% of Drivers Lose Money

Yves Smith:

We’ve said for some time that Uber and Lyft are exploiting the fact that their drivers don’t understand their own economics and don’t factor in the wear and tear on their vehicles. One former Uber driver did a back of the envelope work up and argued that you’d make more than minimum wage only if your car was more than six years old. The fact that only 4% of Uber drivers continue for more than a year suggests that working for these ride-sharing companies is an unattractive proposition.
 A large-scale study confirms these doubts about driver pay, and then some. A team from Stanford, Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research obtained information from 1100 Uber and Lyft drivers using questionnaires and information about vehicle-specific operating costs, such as insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation.
 Their main finding:
 Results show that per hour worked, median profit from driving is $3.37/hour before taxes, and 74% of drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state. 30% of drivers are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included. On a per-mile basis, median gross driver revenue is $0.59/mile but vehicle operating expenses reduce real driver profit to a median of $0.29/mile.
 If you gross up the median hourly profit to gross revenue, using the same ratio for gross revenue versus net profit per mile, median gross revenue is only $6.86 an hour, still below minimum wage. These drivers would be better off doing almost anything else. Consider the safety risks. From Wired:

The Biggest Takeaways from Nassim Taleb’s Book “Skin In The Game”


Academia has a tendency, when unchecked (from lack of skin in the game), to evolve into a ritualistic self-referential publishing game.

Now, while academia has turned into an athletic contest, Wittgenstein held the exact opposite viewpoint: if anything, knowledge is the reverse of an athletic contest. In philosophy, the winner is the one who finishes last, he said.

In some areas, such as gender studies or psychology, the ritualistic publishing game gradually maps less and less to real research, by the very nature of the agency problem, to reach a Mafia-like divergence of interest: researchers have their own agenda, at variance with what their clients, that is, society and the students, are paying them for. The opacity of the subject to outsiders helps them control the gates. Knowing “economics” doesn’t mean knowing anything about economics in the sense of the real activity, but rather the theories, most of which are bullshit, produced by economists. And courses in universities, for which hard-working parents need to save over decades, easily degenerate into fashion. You work hard and save for your children to be taught a post-colonial study-oriented critique of quantum mechanics.

The deprostitutionalization of research will eventually be done as follows. Force people who want to do “research” to do it on their own time, that is, to derive their income from other sources. Sacrifice is necessary. It may seem absurd to brainwashed contemporaries, but Antifragile documents the outsized historical contributions of the nonprofessional, or, rather, the non-meretricious. For their research to be genuine, they should first have a real-world day job, or at least spend ten years as: lens maker, patent clerk, Mafia operator, professional gambler, postman, prison guard, medical doctor, limo driver, militia member, social security agent, trial lawyer, farmer, restaurant chef, high-volume waiter, firefighter (my favorite), lighthouse keeper, etc., while they are building their original ideas.

Civics: TOR and US Taxpayer Funding

Yasha Levine:

The Tor Project, a private non-profit that underpins the dark web and enjoys cult status among privacy activists, is almost 100% funded by the US government. In the process of writing my book Surveillance Valley, I was able to obtain via FOIA roughly 2,500 pages of correspondence — including strategy and contracts and budgets and status updates — between the Tor Project and its main funder, a CIA spinoff now known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). These files show incredible cooperation between Tor and the regime change wing of the US government. The files are released to the public here. —Yasha Levine

How the Washington Post missed the DC schools graduation rate scandal so badly, for so long

Alexander Russo:

The Post’s troubling tendency towards feel-good coverage and a revolving door of reporters obscured what many describe as an ‘open secret’ in DC public schools.

Give the Washington Post credit for being on top of last week’s District of Columbia Public Schools scandal, which led to the resignation of schools chief Antwan Wilson.

From the announcement that Wilson had obtained special treatment for his daughter to transfer to another school to his resignation, Post reporters dogged the trail of fast-breaking events.

Ditto for this week’s scandal, which focuses on revelations that substantial numbers of students were fraudulently enrolled in a highly-coveted DC public school.

If only the Post had been so aware and tenacious about a much broader and more far-reaching scandal facing the DC school system. As it turns out, educators and administrators have been reporting inflated graduation rates on a large scale – committing academic fraud right in the Post’s (and several public agencies’) back yard.

This failure to catch and report what was going on inside DC schools is a serious disservice to local parents, an illustration of how hard it can be for reporters to penetrate dense bureaucracies like DCPS, and an example of how relentless turnover on an important beat can result in missed opportunities.

Most of all, it’s a substantial journalistic failure by a news outlet that should — and could — be doing much better work.

Dr. Howard Fuller Cuts Through the Noise on Parent Choice

Ariana Kiener:

Everyone deserves options

“I’m for whatever kind of school works. And I’m for poor parents having the same type of access that people with money have. Cause all y’all in this room know that if you’ve got money in America, you’ve got choice. If the schools don’t work for you, either you’re going to move to a place where they do work, you’re going to put your kids in private schools, or you’re going to get the most expensive tutor on the planet, or you’re going to do all three…As a black person, one thing I’m absolutely clear about is any time white people tell me I only have one option, we’re in deep trouble.”

The Case Against My Own Education

Neerav Kingsland:

My formal education started at a Montessori pre-k. It’s a little difficult to use introspection to determine whether this was a waste of time and money, as I don’t remember much about pre-k. I do have a vague memory of being confused most of the time. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do there. But perhaps this is the point of Montessori. I don’t know.

But I don’t view this as a waste of time (what else was I supposed to do at the age of 3?) or a waste of money (the pre-k was not that fancy so I assume it was priced just a bit above the cost of babysitting). So seems like a decent use of mine and my parent’s resources. It allowed me to be confused in a safe environment and it allowed my parents to work.

Elementary School: Not wasteful!

At Parkview Elementary, I learned to read and write and do math, which have all been very useful in my life. Me being at school also allowed my parents to work, which provided our family with a home, food, and the comforts of a middle class lifestyle, which made for a happy childhood. If I had not been at school, I can’t really think of many productive uses of my time, so I don’t see many trade-offs in having attended Parkview Elementary. The combination of the school teaching me the basics and providing cost-effective babysitting (Indiana is not an extravagant spender on elementary schools) seem well worth the time and money.

Everybody is basically scared’: After Florida school shooting, Baltimore students talk guns

Kevin Rector:

The students at Excel Academy in West Baltimore don’t fear school shootings.

In a city where bullets pop most everywhere else — when they’re walking home from school, riding a city bus, hanging out with friends, sitting on their porches, even just taking out the trash — their alternative public high school, with its brick walls and metal detector at the door, is one of the only places they feel safe.

The students have lost seven schoolmates to gun violence over the last two school years, and can share stories going back years before that about the havoc guns have wrought in their lives.

Like their peers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman last month shot 17 students and faculty to death, the Excel students have strong thoughts and feelings about the impact of gun violence on their lives, and the changes they want to see locally and nationwide.

And like their peers in Parkland, they want leaders to listen to what they have to say.

Why It’s Time To Raise The Voting Age Back To 21

Robert Tracinski:

The events since the Parkland shooting have convinced me that we need to change the Constitution to eliminate an ill-considered amendment that has done more harm than good. We need to repeal the 26th Amendment and raise the voting age back to 21.

That’s the opposite of what a lot of people are advocating. Seeing Parkland students go on television and agitate for gun control has people on the Left excited at the prospect of lowering the voting age to 16. That is, they’re excited about the small subset of Parkland students opportunistic talk-show hosts have paraded in front of television cameras—not the ones who dropped out of scripted “town halls” when they refused to let CNN tell them what they could say.

Another perspective from John Nichols.

Yet, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

The speakers’ circuit is where original thinkers go to die

Simon Kuper:

I’ve never had great success, which is lucky, because I have seen it ruin many previously excellent writers and thinkers. This is an age-old phenomenon, but it has got worse in our era.

The best business nowadays is selling to the 1 per cent. A caste of pundits has accordingly arisen to supply them with thoughts, or at least talking points. These pundits make decent money themselves, especially on the speakers’ circuit, which is now the place where original thinkers go to die. Here are some case studies:

You are a historian. You spend years in the archives producing good books. You emerge blinking into the light, turn out to be fluent on television, and pretty soon are getting $25,000 to pontificate in Dubai on “What’s next for China?” (The 0.1 per cent want to know the future, because that’s where the money is.) When you aren’t being an oracle, you are explaining why you were right five years ago. Eventually you realise you aren’t a historian any more. You’re a content provider who plays a parody of himself on TV.

You are a reporter. You are multilingual, hardworking and sit in ordinary people’s homes trying to understand what’s going on in their country. But once you are a star, you become a talking head in a complimentary limousine, separated from your material. Now you’re sitting in a prince’s palace trying to understand what’s going on in his country. He’s charming, he loves your work, and over dinner you realise that his ostensibly self-serving power play is in fact intended only to root out corruption.

The work that survives from past eras often wasn’t done by the biggest names. John Galsworthy and JB Priestley were star writers in Britain in the first half of the past century but no longer. Meanwhile, George Orwell went almost unnoticed until 1945, less than five years before his death, when he finally managed to get Animal Farm published. By analogy, today’s most interesting thinker is not the fiftysomething ­multimillionaire giving the keynote address, but the ignored 30-year-old blogger.

Still, who can say no to money and fame? For speaking engagements, do contact my agent.

Forecasts of genetic fate just got a lot more accurate

Antonio Regalado:

When Amit Khera explains how he predicts disease, the young cardiologist’s hands touch the air, arranging imaginary columns of people: 30,000 who have suffered heart attacks here, 100,000 healthy controls there.

There’s never been data available on as many people’s genes as there is today. And that wealth of information is allowing researchers to guess at any person’s chance of getting common diseases like diabetes, arthritis, clogged arteries, and depression.

Doctors already test for rare, deadly mutations in individual genes. Think of the BRCA breast cancer gene. Or the one-letter mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia. But such one-to-one connections between a mutation and a disease—“the gene for X”—aren’t seen in most common ailments. Instead, these have complex causes, which until recently have remained elusive.

$21 Trillion Missing from US Federal Budget

project censored:

A whopping $21 trillion was found to be missing from the US federal budget as of this past year. Michigan State University professor Mark Skidmore and a group of graduate students made the discovery after overhearing a government official say that the 2016 report by the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General (DoDIG) indicated $6.5 trillion in adjustments had not been adequately documented. Attempting to uncover the reasoning behind these adjustments, Skidmore began to dig deeper. He says, “I tried to call and talk to the office of the Inspector General to talk to the people who helped generate these reports. I haven’t been successful, and I stopped trying when they disabled the links.”

How to Learn Piano With Technology

The Next Web:

I’ve spent the past few months trying to teach myself the piano, pretty much from scratch. It’s been tough, and sometimes disheartening, but also hugely rewarding.

You might be wondering by now what an article about learning to play piano is doing on a tech blog. The answer is simple: I might not still be trying if it weren’t for technology.

Though I occasionally feel like I’m in way over my head starting out as a 27-year old, and traditional methods are still the core part of this musical journey, I’m lucky to live in a time where a wealth of resources are available to me at the click of a button.

This is intended to be the first part of a long-term series on learning the piano. It’s primarily a personal account, but I hope it might just help someone else starting out too.

How Does Chicago Make $200 Million A Year On Parking Tickets? By Bankrupting Thousands of Drivers.

Melissa Sanchez and Sandhya Kambhampati:

By last summer, Laqueanda Reneau felt like she had finally gotten her life on track.

A single mother who had gotten pregnant in high school, she supported her family with a series of jobs at coffee shops, restaurants, and clothing stores until she landed a position she loved as a community organizer on Chicago’s West Side. At the same time, she was working her way toward a degree in public health at DePaul University.

But one large barrier stood in her way: $6,700 in unpaid tickets, late fines, and impound fees.

She had begun racking up the ticket debt five years earlier, in 2012, after a neighbor who saw her riding the bus late at night with her infant son sold her her first car, a used Toyota Camry, for a few hundred dollars. She was grateful for the shorter commute to work but unprepared for the extra costs of owning a car in Chicago.

That year alone, Reneau got 15 tickets, including seven $200 citations for not having a city sticker. Later, she received a dozen tickets for license plate violations on another used car that couldn’t pass emissions testing, a state requirement to renew her plates.

“Those tickets have followed me until this freaking day,” said Reneau, who is 25.

Because of the unpaid tickets, the city garnished her state tax refunds. Her car was impounded and she couldn’t pay for its release. Her driver’s license was suspended. Unable to come up with $1,000 to enter a city payment plan, Reneau did what thousands of Chicago drivers do each year: She turned to Chapter 13 bankruptcy and its promise of debt forgiveness.

Secret probe points to widespread enrollment fraud at acclaimed D.C. high school

Peter Jamison, Valerie Strauss, Perry Stein:

An investigation by District officials has uncovered signs of widespread enrollment fraud at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a nationally recognized incubator of theatrical talent and one of the city’s most revered public schools, according to current and former D.C. government officials with knowledge of the probe.

Scrutiny of a sample of the records of roughly 100 students whose families claimed D.C. residency — thus avoiding the annual tuition of more than $12,000 charged to nonresident students — found that more than half may live outside the city, two officials said.

That finding was shared in December at a meeting attended by representatives from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education — which was managing the investigation — and the office of the D.C. attorney general, the officials said.

Shortly after that, a lawyer in the state superintendent’s office told those handling the case in that office to slow-track it because of the risk of negative publicity during a mayoral election year, said the officials with knowledge of the probe. It is unclear how far the investigation has progressed since then.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Brussels’ move on digital taxes raises transatlantic stakes

Bjarke Smith-Meyer, Joanna Plucinska:

According to a 12-page draft report obtained by POLITICO Pro, the European Commission wants to tax digital companies’ gross revenues at rates between 1 and 5 percent, based on where their users are located and how much advertising revenue they bring in.

If implemented, this move is bound to further ratchet up tensions between Europe and the United States.

From its aggressive enforcement of antitrust regulations, most prominently in recent years against Google, to its crackdown on Apple‘s use of Ireland as a tax haven, to its stringent approach on online privacy, Brussels is pushing to set the rules for the global digital economy — often to the dismay of Silicon Valley and Washington.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household Debt Sees Quiet Boom Across the Globe

Josh Zumbrum:

A decade after the global financial crisis, household debts are considered by many to be a problem of the past after having come down in the U.S., U.K. and many parts of the euro area.

But in some corners of the globe—including Switzerland, Australia, Norway and Canada—large and rising household debt is percolating as an economic problem. Each of those four nations has more household debt—including mortgages, credit cards and car loans—today than the U.S. did at the height of last decade’s housing bubble.

At the top of the heap is Switzerland, where household debt has climbed to 127.5% of gross domestic product, according to data from Oxford Economics and the Bank for International Settlements. The International Monetary Fund has identified a 65% household debt-to-GDP ratio as a warning sign.

In all, 10 economies have debts above that threshold and rising fast, with the others including New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Hong Kong and Finland.

Students in Louisiana thought this math symbol looked like a gun. Police were called

Scott Berson:

A discussion among students at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, La., about a mathematical symbol led to a police investigation and a search of one of the student’s homes, according to the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office.

On the afternoon of Feb. 20, detectives investigated a report of terroristic threats at the school, where they learned that a student had been completing a math problem that required drawing the square-root sign.

Students in the group began commenting that the symbol, which represents a number that when multiplied by itself equals another number, looked like a gun.

How To Become A Centaur

Nicky Case:

Garry cringed, like someone just spit in his breakfast. Pawn to f5. Blue remained silent, like it just spit in someone else’s breakfast. Rook to e7: taking Garry’s queen. This was Game 6, but Garry had already lost his nerve when Blue beat him at the end of Game 2, and they’ve been drawing ever since. Garry made the move that would be his last. Bishop to e7: taking the rook that took his queen. Blue responded. Pawn to c4. Garry quickly recognized this was a set-up for Blue to invade with its queen — and knew there was no hope after that.

Garry Kasparov resigned, in less than 20 moves. On May 11th, 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue became the first AI to beat a human World Chess Champion.

You can now download a chess-playing AI better than Deep Blue on your laptop.

Peter Thiel Is a Flawed Messenger With a Crucial Message for Tech

Zachary Karabell:

In this case, though, Thiel’s criticisms are themselves newsworthy. He may be an imperfect messenger, but his message had best be heard.

The size and scale of technology companies now surpasses that of most of the industrial, energy, and finance companies that dominated the American economy during the 20th century. The Valley’s close-knit groups of funders, founders, CEOs, and listed companies seem to think they can remain both insular and dominant without either government or social backlash. That was always far-fetched, and is now utterly absurd. It’s one thing for renegades to reinvent the operating system for society. But once those renegades become the rulers, the rest of society will—and should—demand a greater say in how these technologies and services shape our lives and consume our time, energy, and money.

Once upon a time—and in Valley-land, there is a once-upon-a-time—the tech ecosystem represented not just a small group of companies and funders, but also a relatively small slice of the nation’s economy. The early years of Apple, HP, and Intel may be looked at fondly and mythologized. But as recently as 1985, there was only one Valley company in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list: Hewlett-Packard at No. 60. Xerox, based elsewhere but with a strong research presence in Palo Alto, was No. 38. IBM, based in New York, was then the largest tech company in the world. It clocked in at No. 6, and its rigid corporate culture and focus on selling to other corporations were seen as the antithesis to the Valley’s startup, countercultural vibe.

Even with the internet boom of the 1990s, the ethos of the Valley could rightly claim to be separate, new, and different, propagated by a band of misfits and upstarts, libertarian and utopian. Companies such as HP were more corporate and traditional, but the predominant meme was not just liberal and left, but dismissive of government, avid about a future where technology liberated all, and seemingly bemused by the vast wealth that these new products and services generated.

Today, however, some of those companies are more dominant than even the robber barons of old. At his apex, the oil billionaire J. Paul Getty was the richest man in the world, worth about $11 billion, adjusted for inflation. Today, there are 53 tech billionaires in California alone, and 78 in the United States; Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates (both of course in Seattle), and Mark Zuckerberg each have fortunes in excess of $50 billion. Peter Thiel has an estimated $2.5 billion.

Why 3.5 million Americans in their prime years aren’t working — and no, it’s not video games

Jeffry Bartash:

The sizzling U.S. labor market has knocked the unemployment rate down to a 17-year low, but millions of Americans in their prime who would have been working back then do not have jobs now.

How come? China, robots, disability benefits, minimum wages and jail-time are the biggest culprits, according to a pair of researchers at the University of Maryland.

The percentage of the U.S. population with jobs sank from a record 64.7% in 2000 to a 28-year low of 58.2% by 2011 before beginning a gradual recovery. The brunt of the decline occurred during the 2007-2009 recession, but the problem had been long in the making.

“These worrisome developments were exacerbated by the Great Recession, but their roots preceded its onset,” wrote economists Katharine Abraham and Melissa Kearney at the University of Maryland in a new
report distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Abraham is a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem is still acute among young people and even Americans in their prime working years of 25 to 54, especially men.

Schools are safer than they were in the 90s, and school shootings are not more common than they used to be, researchers say

Allie Nicodemo and Lia Petronio:

The deadly school shooting this month in Parkland, Florida, has ignited national outrage and calls for action on gun reform. But while certain policies may help decrease gun violence in general, it’s unlikely that any of them will prevent mass school shootings, according to James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern.

Madison School Board candidates Anna Moffit and Gloria Reyes meet for their first forum

Amber Walker:

Madison School Board Seat 1 candidates Anna Moffit and Gloria Reyes kicked off campaign season with a forum on arts education, the first of four discussions scheduled so far.

The forum, held at the Arts and Literature Lab in Madison’s Atwood neighborhood was moderated by Oscar Mireles, Madison’s poet laureate and director of Omega School.

Moffit seeks a second term on the board against challenger Reyes.

Moffit said the district as a whole needs to prioritize the arts across mediums, and called out a lack of spoken word and digital art programs available to students. Moffit said she would defer to educators to determine what mediums the district should focus on.

The next scheduled Madison School Board candidate forum — co-hosted by the Cap Times, Delta Sigma Theta Alumnae, Simpson Street Free Press and Mt. Zion Baptist Church — will take place on March 6 at Mt. Zion, 2019 Fisher St.

Civics: The New York Times Fired My Doppelgänger

Quinn Norton:

I was called a Nazi because of my friendship with the infamous neo-Nazi known on the internet as weev—his given name is Andrew Auernheimer; he helps run the anti-Semitic website The Daily Stormer. In my pacifism, I can’t reject a friendship, even when a friend has taken such a horrifying path. I am not the judge of who is capable of improving as a person. This philosophy also requires me to confront him about his terrible beliefs and their terrible consequences. I have been doing this since before his brief time as a cause célèbre in 2012—I believe it’d be hypocritical for me to turn away from this obligation. weev is just one of many terrible people I’ve cared for in my life. I don’t support what my terrible friend believes or does. But I strongly advocate for people with a good sense of themselves and their values to engage with their terrible friends, coworkers, and relatives, to lovingly confront them for as long as it takes, and it would be wrong to not do so myself. I had what I now see as the advantage of coming from a family of terrible people. This taught me that not everyone worthy of love is worthy of emulation. It also taught me that being given terrible ideas is not a destiny, and that intervention can change lives.

Not everyone believes loving engagement is the best way to fight evil beliefs, but it has a good track record. Not everyone is in a position to engage safely with racists, sexists, anti-Semites, and homophobes, but for those who are, it’s a powerful tool. Engagement is not the one true answer to the societal problems destabilizing America today, but there is no one true answer. The way forward is as multifarious and diverse as America is, and a method of nonviolent confrontation and accountability, arising from my pacifism, is what I can bring to helping my society.

“What is the greatest commandment in the law?

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We are La Follette

Amber Walker:

Whether gaining a specialized skill, navigating the college application process, or mastering high- level classes or a language, these four La Follette students are a part of key MMSD initiatives designed to help students succeed academically. Cap Times reporter Amber C. Walker shadowed the four over the course of several days throughout the first semester, which ended Jan. 22. The students were recommended by La Follette principal Sean Storch.

For all La Follette students, the semester had its wins — teachers asked tough questions, students stayed up late studying for exams and close bonds flourished. It also had its low points — tempers flared, police were called and student engagement fluctuated. And during the last two weeks of Feburary, La Follette made headlines for physical altercations involving students, and the discovery of a handgun on campus. As the La Follette community and MMSD administrators strategize to find solutions for the small group of students who need more support, these four students work to thrive despite the challenges.

Americans Blame Government More Than Guns for Florida Massacre

Rasmussen Reports:

Most Americans think government error is more responsible than a lack of gun control for the Valentine’s Day massacre at a Florida high school.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of American Adults believe the failure of government agencies to respond to numerous warning signs from the prospective killer is more to blame for the mass shooting. Thirty-three percent (33%) attribute the deaths more to a lack of adequate gun control. Eleven percent (11%) opt for something else. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Among Americans who have children of elementary or secondary school age, 61% think the government is more to blame. Just 23% of these adults fault a lack of adequate gun control more.

Obama’s Education Legacy Has Been Forgotten. Now He Has to Save It.

Jonathan Chait:

On February 17, 2009, Barack Obama signed one of the most sweeping federal education reforms in American history. You may not have heard of it. His program was a federal grant, called “Race to the Top,” which was doled out on a competitive basis. If states wanted the money, they needed to implement reforms to their education systems: build methods to assess the growth of students and the success of schools, to recruit and reward effective teachers, and to turn around the lowest-performing schools. The total amount of money in the grants, $4.3 billion, was relatively modest, but because it was being dangled in the midst of a historic recession that cratered state budgets, governors were desperate for the cash and eagerly carried out reforms in order to get it. The result was “a marked surge” in school reform, rooted in studying data and spreading best practices. Among other reforms encouraged by Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., adopted a new teacher contract that raised salaries across the board while adding performance pay, and New York City increased its allotment of public charter schools, to cite just two notable examples.

Why did this historic measure attract so little attention? One reason is that it was tucked into a $787 billion fiscal stimulus bill, which was drafted at a time the global economy was hanging by a thread. Another reason is that, since the policy split both parties, nobody had an incentive to talk about it. Teachers’ unions hated the entire premise of the reforms, which spurred states to adopt policies that gave more money to the most effective teachers and allowed schools to replace the least effective ones. Obama was loath to highlight a policy that aggravated a constituency he needed to motivate Democratic voters, so he rarely mentioned his reforms.

Much more on Race to The Top, here.

Enrollment Data, Public Opinion Suggest The College Bubble Is Popping

Greg Jones:

If colleges and universities are to compete, they will need to adapt. But they have become bastions of bureaucracy often beholden to donors and state governments, and are therefore unlikely to do so. Even if they did, such adaptation would require continuing to abandon less-profitable areas of scholarship such as the humanities and social sciences, areas once considered synonymous with “higher education.”

That means an even greater focus on business, legal, and research programs that ensure profitability, morphing America’s great educational institutions into little more than white-collar versions of the trade school model. That will truly be the death knell for American higher education as we have come to know it. American colleges and universities may well continue to exist in some form, but they will no longer be the epicenters of broad knowledge that rightly defined them—a demise that, at least in part, is of their own making.

The hallowed halls of America’s once-great education institutions have become little more than intellectually hollow echo chambers, grand structures that serve little purpose outside the parroting of platitudes from romantic yet impractical philosophies that, despite their repeated historical failures, simply will not die. The sober majority has taken notice, and the free market is responding in kind. Soon America’s ivory tower will be just another rubbled ruin proclaiming its past greatness.

Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology

Ali Winston:

The program began in 2012 as a partnership between New Orleans Police and Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm founded with seed money from the CIA’s venture capital firm.

According to interviews and documents obtained by The Verge, the initiative was essentially a predictive policing program, similar to the “heat list” in Chicago that purports to predict which people are likely drivers or victims of violence.

The partnership has been extended three times, with the third extension scheduled to expire on February 21st, 2018. The city of New Orleans and Palantir have not responded to questions about the program’s current status.
Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process

Civics: government transparency

Tom Kamenick:

I mentioned earlier that public officials carry out the public’s wishes, but only subject to the structural limitations on government power. In America, that begins at the top with our federal and state Constitutions, but also consists of federal limitations placed on states and state limitations placed on municipalities. But those limitations must be more than just paper barriers. The USSR, for example, had a bill of rights giving people even more freedom than we have in America. But there was no enforcement of those rights, so they were worthless.
One of the most precarious problems facing our founders was how to actually ensure that the
limitations they created were enforced. Their solution was the compartmentalization of government
powers, “setting power against power” – division of responsibility not only between the three branches of government, but between the state and federal governments. So unlike Soviet Russia, we have methods of enforcement. But how can people know if those limits are being evaded without access to information about the government? It requires constant vigilance and access to the inner workings of
government to ensure that each portion of government stays in its proper sphere of authority.

All of these benefits of transparency help keep the source of government power where it belongs – with the sovereign people. More information leads to more informed voters. More information of abuses leads to people pushing back. My job at WILL is largely to challenge government officials when they are
violating people’s rights at any level. Government transparency is absolutely vital to that pursuit. It often takes government records to identify and prove government misdeeds.

Mother of invention

Natasha Loder:

Thanks to business’s growing enthusiasm for older models, she seems to be getting more, not less, successful. She has been on a cereal box, featured in a Beyoncé video and starred in a campaign for Virgin America. Once you have seen her unusual face, you find yourself recognising it in adverts.

Today, she is sitting in a pool of bright winter sunlight on the patio of Next Door, Kimbal’s latest venture, in Longmont, Colorado. It is the day before Thanksgiving and tomorrow 30 members of the Musk family will gather for a meal Kimbal is cooking at his home in nearby Boulder.

He, on the other side of the table, has his mother’s easy smile. After starting two technology companies with Elon – Zip2 and PayPal – in 2004 he became a founding father of the farm-to-table movement. He has built 13 restaurants since then and has more on the way. They specialise in unprocessed, locally sourced foods.

Zadie Smith’s Book of Essays Explores What It Means to Be Human

Hermione Hoby:

“If I have any gift at all,” Zadie Smith admits in one of the essays in Feel Free, “it’s for dialogue—that trick of breathing what-looks-like-life into a collection of written sentences.” Smith does voices. Sometimes literally: an audio recording of her reading her story “Escape from New York,” includes the treat that is impressions of its three characters, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, and Elizabeth Taylor. Her fiction, of course, is full of voices, but the rendering of this familiar trio and their escape occupies that fertile gray area somewhere between entirely real and entirely fabricated. It isn’t mimicry, which leads nowhere, but a curious sort of imaginary impersonation, which leads everywhere.

Imaginary impersonation sounds like a purely fictional mode, yet it’s the way she approaches all writing, which brings together “three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self.” It is these three, she tells us in her introduction, that constitute writing “(for me)”. The parentheses are important because it’s the final category that’s the real kicker. Selfhood—other people’s—is what she returns to again and again, through what else but her own shifting and brilliant subjectivity. So it is that instead of a straight “introductory essay for a book of Billie Holiday photos,” Smith writes a bravura monologue, a virtuosic act of ventriloquism. Tellingly, it’s in the second person: Zadie-as-Billie-as-“you”.

Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

Will Knight:

Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.

Quantum computers promise to run calculations far beyond the reach of any conventional supercomputer. They might revolutionize the discovery of new materials by making it possible to simulate the behavior of matter down to the atomic level. Or they could upend cryptography and security by cracking otherwise invincible codes. There is even hope they will supercharge artificial intelligence by crunching through data more efficiently.

Yet only now, after decades of gradual progress, are researchers finally close to building quantum computers powerful enough to do things that conventional computers cannot. It’s a landmark somewhat theatrically dubbed “quantum supremacy.” Google has been leading the charge toward this milestone, while Intel and Microsoft also have significant quantum efforts. And then there are well-funded startups including Rigetti Computing, IonQ, and Quantum Circuits.

Overconfident Students, Dubious Employers

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf:

College students may believe they’re ready for a job, but employers think otherwise.

At least, that’s according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed graduating college seniors and employers and found a significant difference in the groups’ perceptions.

The association surveyed 4,213 graduating seniors and 201 employers on eight “competencies” that it considers necessary to be prepared to enter the workplace. This information comes from the association’s 2018 Job Outlook Survey.

For the most part, a high percentage of students indicated in almost every category they thought they were proficient. Employers disagreed.

“This can be problematic because it suggests that employers see skills gaps in key areas where college students don’t believe gaps exist,” a statement from the association reads.

Security upgrades, behavior fixes pledged by Madison School District

Karen Rivedal:

Police also were sent to West on Feb. 19, when a small group of students “engaged in a loud verbal altercation” in front of the school library, Boran said, even as the “vast majority” of students acted appropriately.

Disturbances like that happen dozens of times a year across the four high schools, according to Madison police call records, but the pattern isn’t very clear. Totals ranged from 68 in 2013 to 54 in 2017, topping out at 94 in 2014, and with 15 so far in 2018.

Fights leading to police calls, however, have shown a steady annual rise, from one in 2013 to 18 in 2017, with six so far this year, for about 12 annually on average.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

A Guide to Law Enforcement Spying Technology


EFF’s “Street-Level Surveillance” project shines light on the advanced surveillance technologies that law enforcement agencies routinely deploy in our communities. These resources are designed for members of the public, advocacy organizations, journalists, defense attorneys, and policymakers who often are not getting the straight story from police representatives or the vendors marketing this equipment.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Finance and Mandatory Union Agency Fees

Daniel DiSalvo and Stephen Eide:

Blue-state Democrats have denounced last year’s tax reform as a partisan attack. Thanks to the new $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes, households in places like California and New York will soon feel the stinging cost of big government. This will make raising taxes more difficult, which is why politicians are lamenting that the cap will limit their fiscal flexibility.

The U.S. Supreme Court may soon ride to the rescue. On Monday the justices will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. If the court rules against government labor unions, as most observers expect, state and local politicians will gain much more control over their budgets, and they will be under less pressure to toe the union line.

The question in Janus is whether it is constitutional that government employees who have decided not to join a union are still required to pay “agency fees.” Under federal law, workers cannot be forced to join a union. But laws in 22 states say that nonmembers must nonetheless pay unions a fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration. The difference usually isn’t much. The agency fee at issue in Janus totals 78% of full union dues.

Related: Act 10.

One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—and It’s Not About Guns

Glennon Doyle Melton:

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can’t think of anyone to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold—the gold being those children who need a little help, who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside her eyeshot and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But, as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

I’ve spent most of the last six years playing around with data and drawing insights from it (a lot of those insights have been published in Mint). A lot of work that I’ve done can fall under the (rather large) umbrella of “data science”, and some of it can be classified as “machine learning”. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve been rather disappointed by what goes on in the name of data science.

Stripped to its bare essentials, machine learning is an exercise in pattern recognition. Given a set of inputs and outputs, the system tunes a set of parameters in a mathematical formula such that the outputs can be predicted with as much accuracy as possible given the inputs (I’m massively oversimplifying here, but this captures sufficient essence for this discussion).

One big advantage with machine learning is that algorithms can sometimes recognize patterns that are not easily visible to the human eye. The most spectacular application of this has been in the field of medical imaging, where time and again algorithms have been shown to outperform human experts while analysing images.

In February last year, a team of researchers from Stanford University showed that a deep learning algorithm they had built performed on par against a team of expert doctors in detecting skin cancer. In July, another team from Stanford built an algorithm to detect heart arrhythmia by analysing electrocardiograms, and showed that it outperformed the average cardiologist. More recently, algorithms to detect pneumonia and breast cancer have been shown to perform better than expert doctors.

Digital nomads are hiring and firing their governments

Danny Crichton:

The nation state has survived wars, plagues, and upheaval, but it won’t survive digital nomads, not if people like Karoli Hindriks have something to say about it. Hindriks is the founder of Jobbatical, a platform that allows digital nomads to find work in other countries and helps with the logistics of getting there.

The company also embodies a new world of highly-skilled, global migratory workers who work wherever they please. “Our own team today is forty people and they have flown in from sixteen different countries,” Hindriks explained about a recent all-hands gathering. “One of our engineers is from Colombia, and living in Talinn, and he was hosting a Couchsurfer who flew in from Malaysia and he was our engineer in Mexico, and he was now moving to Denmark. This is the perfect example of how the world should be, and how it will be in five or ten years.”

Benedict Anderson famously called the population of a nation state an “imagined community,” but today’s global workers have a very different community that they are imagining.

Dynamic word embeddings for evolving semantic discovery

morning paper:

Consider the trajectory of ‘apple’: in 1994 it’s most closely associated with fruits, and by 2000 changing dietary associations can be seen, and apple is associated with the less healthy ‘cake,’ ‘tart,’ and ‘cream.’ From 2005 through 2016 though, the word is strongly associated with Apple the company, and moreover you can see the changing associations with Apple over time, from ‘iTunes’ to Google, Microsoft, Samsung et al..

Likewise ‘amazon’ moves from a river to the company Amazon, and ‘Obama’ moves from his pre-presidential roles to president, as does ‘Trump.’

These embeddings are learned from articles in The New York Times between 1990 and 2016. The results are really interesting (we’ll see more fun things you can do with them shortly), but you might be wondering why this is hard to do. Why not simply divide up the articles in the corpus (e.g., by year), learn word embeddings for each partition (which we know how to do), and then compare them?

What makes this complicated is that when you learn an embedding for a word in one time window (e.g., ‘bank’), there’s no guarantee that the embedding will match that in another time window, even if there is no semantic change in the meaning of the word across the two. So the meaning of ‘bank’ in 1990 and 1995 could be substantially the same, and yet the learned embeddings might not be. This is known as the alignment problem.

The Next 200 Years: A New EdChoice Series

Michael McShane:

Almost any article on Catholic schooling today will have at least one paragraph in it describing the last five decades’ decline in both the number of Catholic schools and the number of students attending them. At this point, the factors are well known: fewer priests and religious staff working in schools, Catholics becoming wealthier and moving to the suburbs for better schools, less overt discrimination against Catholics in the public school system, yada yada yada.

Now, this is not true everywhere. In states that have embraced private school choice programs, like Florida, Catholic schools are seeing a renaissance. New networks of Catholic schools like the Notre Dame ACE Academies are taking advantage of private school choice programs. There are now 15 ACE Academies in three states that are leveraging school choice programs to deliver high-quality Catholic education to children who need it.

The truth of the matter is that if Catholic education is going to continue in America, it is going to be a fight. Traditional public schools are not going to give up market share willingly. Charter schools will offer an easier option, with almost always more money and in many places more political support. Closed schools will make pastors’ lives easier and parish budgets easier to sustain.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Entitlements are driving deficits and debt. Absent reform, the problem will soon become a crisis.

John Logan:

The federal deficit is big and getting bigger. President Trump’s budget estimates a deficit of nearly $900 billion for 2018 and nearly $1 trillion (with total spending of $4.4 trillion) for 2019. Its balance sheet reveals that the public debt will reach $15.7 trillion by October. This works out to $48,081.61 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. That doesn’t count unfunded liabilities, reported by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees, that are four times the current public debt.

How did the federal government’s finances degenerate this far? It didn’t happen overnight. For seven decades, high tax rates and a growing economy have produced record revenue, but not enough to keep pace with Congress’s voracious appetite for spending. Since the end of World War II, federal tax revenue has grown 15% faster than national income—while federal spending has grown 50% faster.

While most Americans are aware of the budgetary importance of entitlements, the accompanying chart clarifies the magnitude of the problem. It shows the importance of entitlements in determining past and present budget trends, and where they will take us if Congress fails to reform them.

Wisconsin labor unions file lawsuit over Act 10, saying it violates free speech

Sarah Hauer:

The filing argues that Act 10 is “a content-based restriction infringing on (the unions’) rights to free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” It says the law infringes upon association rights “to organize as a collective bargaining unit by increasing costs and penalties through its recertification and fair share provisions.”

Under Act 10, public-sector unions must win, every year, support from a majority of employees in the bargaining unit, not just a majority of those voting in the certification election.

“Act 10 is constitutional and it will be upheld as it has been in the past, regardless of the outcome in Janus,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said.

Local 139 comprises people who perform construction, maintenance and repair work for public employers within Wisconsin. It’s headquartered in Pewaukee with other offices in Madison, Altoona and Appleton. Engineers in Local 420 operate and maintain physical plant systems and buildings in the state for public utilities and schools. Local 420 has offices in Green Bay and Oak Creek.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Trump Administration Looking at Bankruptcy Options for Student Debt

Josh Mitchell and Katy Stech Ferek:

The Trump administration indicated Tuesday it is considering allowing more Americans to erase student debt in bankruptcy.

A decades-old federal law prevents Americans from discharging student debt in bankruptcy court unless they prove to a judge’s satisfaction that they face an “undue hardship,” such a stringent standard that few borrowers even try.

The Trump administration can’t change the law without congressional approval. But it can decide how aggressively to fight a borrower’s request to cancel loans in court. The government, the nation’s primary student lender, has traditionally fought such efforts, since any failure to repay loans comes at a cost to taxpayers.

The Education Department said Tuesday it would seek public input on whether the government should clarify when borrowers can discharge loans, a sign the government might ease its stance. The agency pointed to concerns that many student borrowers are being “inadvertently discouraged” from requesting cancellations or getting unequal treatment from judges who use two prevailing methods to define hardship.

Student debt more than doubled over the past decade to nearly $1.4 trillion, and millions of Americans have fallen into default on their loans.

The American Experience of Frederick Douglass

Andrew Delbanco:

February is Black History Month, which happens to coincide this year with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, the most distinguished and influential African-American public figure in the first century of our country. A reformer and writer who thought deeply about the place of African-Americans in the broader American experience, he demands attention today as much as he did in the ominous years leading up to the Civil War and the period of unresolved racial conflict in its aftermath. As he admonished students of American history, “we have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.”

Douglass was born in Maryland in February 1818 to an enslaved black woman and a white father. With the help of his owner’s wife, he learned to read; and at the age of 20, he escaped by train and boat to New England, where he was recruited to the abolitionist lecture circuit.

An imposing man with a booming voice, he had the explosive force, in the words of a contemporary, of a “tornado in a forest.” His experience under slavery had made him an angry man, but he did not confine his anger to the South. Aboard ship on Long Island Sound, he found himself forced to sleep on the freezing deck, and while traveling by railroad through New England, he was “dragged from the cars for the crime of being colored.”

Ohio among top states in education funding for districts with poor and minority students, study finds

Shannon Gilchrist:

Ohio does better than almost all other states in directing school funding to poor and minority students, according to a national report released Tuesday.

According to The Education Trust, a nonprofit education policy group in Washington, D.C. run by former Education Secretary John B. King, Ohio ranks near the top in making sure school districts with high poverty and high concentrations of minority students are getting a bigger piece of the state funding pie.

That might come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of Ohio’s decades-long struggle with how to fund its schools fairly. Complaints are perennial. School funding was even the subject of four Ohio Supreme Court decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, ruling the system unconstitutional.

“This sounds like good news,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. “A lot of the things that the Kasich administration has tried to do … is to direct funds to areas of the most need.”

Madison La Follette parents urge Madison School Board to act on school safety

Amber Walker:

Several dozen parents, students and community members from La Follette High School showed up to Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting to address mounting concerns about safety at the school.

The outcry follows the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month. In the last two weeks, Madison Police have responded to high profile incidents at La Follette, including disarming a student who brought a handgun to campus.

Parents like Jose Pacheco urged the School Board to do more to make students feel safe at school.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

Widespread signatures of positive selection in common risk alleles associated to autism spectrum disorder

Renato Polimanti , Joel Gelernter:

The human brain is the outcome of innumerable evolutionary processes; the systems genetics of psychiatric disorders could bear their signatures. On this basis, we analyzed five psychiatric disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia (SCZ), using GWAS summary statistics from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Machine learning-derived scores were used to investigate two natural-selection scenarios: complete selection.

Inching closer to a DNA-based file system

John Timmer:

When it comes to data storage, efforts to get faster access grab most of the attention. But long-term archiving of data is equally important, and it generally requires a completely different set of properties. To get a sense of why getting this right is important, just take the recently revived NASA satellite as an example—extracting anything from the satellite’s data will rely on the fact that a separate NASA mission had an antiquated tape drive that could read the satellite’s communication software.

NASA confirms: Its undead satellite is operational
One of the more unexpected technologies to receive some attention as an archival storage medium is DNA. While it is incredibly slow to store and retrieve data from DNA, we know that information can be pulled out of DNA that’s tens of thousands of years old. And there have been some impressive demonstrations of the approach, like an operating system being stored in DNA at a density of 215 Petabytes a gram.

But that method treated DNA as a glob of unorganized bits—you had to sequence all of it in order to get at any of the data. Now, a team of researchers has figured out how to add something like a filesystem to DNA storage, allowing random access to specific data within a large collection of DNA. While doing this, the team also tested a recently developed method for sequencing DNA that can be done using a compact USB device.

Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis is a national disgrace

LA Times:

There are few sights in the world like nighttime in skid row, the teeming Dickensian dystopia in downtown Los Angeles where homeless and destitute people have been concentrated for more than a century.

Here, men and women sleep in rows, lined up one after another for block after block in makeshift tents or on cardboard mats on the sidewalks — the mad, the afflicted and the disabled alongside those who are merely down on their luck. Criminals prey on them, drugs such as heroin and crystal meth are easily available, sexual assault and physical violence are common and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and AIDS are constant threats.

Skid row is — and long has been — a national disgrace, a grim reminder of man’s ability to turn his back on his fellow man. But these days it is only the ugly epicenter of a staggering homelessness problem that radiates outward for more than 100 miles throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. There are now more than 57,000 people who lack a “fixed, regular or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in the county, and fewer than 1 in 10 of them are in skid row.

Homelessness burst its traditional borders several years ago, spreading first to gloomy underpasses and dim side streets, and then to public parks and library reading rooms and subway platforms. No matter where you live in L.A. County, from Long Beach to Beverly Hills to Lancaster, you cannot credibly claim today to be unaware of the squalid tent cities, the sprawling encampments, or the despair and misery on display there.

The Misguided Drive To Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’

Bryan Camp:

Here at Texas Tech University School of Law we are gearing up for our ABA site inspection. In the past few years the ABA has required law schools to create “Learning Outcomes.” Here’s the language from Section 3.02:

A law school shall establish learning outcomes that shall, at a minimum, include competency in the following:
(a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law;
(b) Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context;
(c) Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system; and
(d) Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.

This is the first year that the site teams will be evaluating a law school’s compliance with the new standard. We knew it was coming and I have been on a committee for the past three years that has been trying to translate this standard into operation. While I believe we have done a good job with it, I also believe the standard to be of questionable value.

How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads

Antonio García Martínez:

(Speaking of Manhattan vs. Detroit prices, there are some (very nonmetaphorical) differences in media costs across the country that also impacted Trump’s ability to reach voters. Broadly, advertising costs in rural, out-of-the-way areas are considerably less than in hotly contested, dense urban areas. As each campaign tried to mobilize its base, largely rural Trump voters were probably cheaper to reach than Clinton’s urban voters. Consider Germantown, Pa. (a Philly suburb Clinton won by a landslide) vs. Belmont County, Ohio (a rural county Trump comfortably won). Actual media costs are closely guarded secrets, but Facebook’s own advertiser tools can give us some ballpark estimates. For zip code 43950 (covering the county seat of St. Clairsville, Ohio), Facebook estimates an advertiser can show an ad to about 83 people per dollar. For zip code 19144 in the Philly suburbs, that number sinks to 50 people an ad for every dollar of ad spend. Averaged over lots of time and space, the impacts on media budgets can be sizable. Anyway …)

The Teens Will Save Us

Dina Leygerman:

Every year, before I teach 1984 to my seniors, I run a simulation. Under the guise of “the common good,” I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime; I become a dictator. I tell my seniors that in order to battle “Senioritis,” the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has “been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success.” I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is “Senioritis.” I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don’t behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don’t see it, it is the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must “trust the process and not question their teachers.” This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join.

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority. If it seems absurd, it is because our scientific intuitions aren’t calibrated for that (fughedabout scientific and academic intuitions and snap judgments; they don’t work and your standard intellectualization fails with complex systems, though not your grandmothers’ wisdom).

The main idea behind complex systems is that the ensemble behaves in way not predicted by the components. The interactions matter more than the nature of the units. Studying individual ants will never (one can safely say never for most such situations), never give us an idea on how the ant colony operates. For that, one needs to understand an ant colony as an ant colony, no less, no more, not a collection of ants. This is called an “emergent” property of the whole, by which parts and whole differ because what matters is the interactions between such parts. And interactions can obey very simple rules. The rule we discuss in this chapter is the minority rule.

The Robots Are Coming for Garment Workers. That’s Good for the U.S., Bad for Poor Countries


At the Mohammadi Fashion Sweaters Ltd. factory in Bangladesh’s capital, a few dozen workers stand watching as 173 German-made machines knit black sweaters for overseas buyers. Occasionally the workers step in to program designs or clean the machines, but otherwise there is little for humans to do.

It’s a big change from a few years ago, when hundreds of employees could be found standing over manual knitting stations for up to 10 hours a day. Mohammadi’s owners began phasing out such work in 2012, and by last year, the…

Students Ratcheting Up Anti-Gun Protests After School Shooting

Cameron McWhirter:

High-school students are planning marches and school walkouts across the country in the coming weeks and months as the number of protesters on social media grows, galvanized by last week’s school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.—using various social-media platforms and hashtags such as #NeverAgain and #Enough—have encouraged students and antigun activists to organize. A nationwide walkout by teachers and students is planned for March 14, marches for March 24, and a day of protests on April 20, the anniversary of the deadly 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

Smaller events are popping up as well. Students at Douglas High School plan to visit politicians in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, on Tuesday and Wednesday to urge them to tighten gun laws. On Tuesday, Florida officials will hold workshops in Tallahassee focused on safety and security measures at schools, on mental health and child-welfare services, and how police can keep guns from those with mental-health problems, Republican Gov. Rick Scott said.

Inside the OED: can the world’s biggest dictionary survive the internet?

Andrew Dickson:

In February 2009, a Twitter user called @popelizbet issued an apparently historic challenge to someone called Colin: she asked if he could “mansplain” a concept to her. History has not recorded if he did, indeed, proceed to mansplain. But the lexicographer Bernadette Paton, who excavated this exchange last summer, believed it was the first time anyone had used the word in recorded form. “It’s been deleted since, but we caught it,” Paton told me, with quiet satisfaction.

In her office at Oxford University Press, Paton was drafting a brand new entry for the Oxford English Dictionary. Also in her in-tray when I visited were the millennial-tinged usage of “snowflake”, which she had hunted down to a Christian text from 1983 (“You are a snowflake. There are no two of you alike”), and new shadings of the compound “self-made woman”. Around 30,000 such items are on the OED master list; another 7,000 more pile up annually. “Everyone thinks we’re very slow, but it’s actually rather fast,” Paton said. “Though admittedly a colleague did spend a year revising ‘go’”.

Spending 12 months tracing the history of a two-letter word seems dangerously close to folly. But the purpose of a historical dictionary such as the OED is to give such questions the solemnity they deserve. An Oxford lexicographer might need to snoop on Twitter spats from a decade ago; or they might have to piece together a painstaking biography of one of the oldest verbs in the language (the revised entry for “go” traces 537 separate senses over 1,000 years). “Well, we have to get things right,” the dictionary’s current chief editor, Michael Proffitt, told me.

At one level, few things are simpler than a dictionary: a list of the words people use or have used, with an explanation of what those words mean, or have meant. At the level that matters, though – the level that lexicographers fret and obsess about – few things could be more complex. Who used those words, where and when? How do you know? Which words do you include, and on what basis? How do you tease apart this sense from that? And what is “English” anyway?

Read My Lips: No New Administrators

Berber Jin:

Stanford’s bureaucracy has snowballed out of control. Accompanying the increase in university administrators, tuition has risen, student traditions from Full Moon on the Quad to the Stanford Band have been strangled, and accountability in the bureaucracy has decreased. Perhaps most egregiously, over the past few months, FoHo exposed corruption within Stanford’s Office of Community Standards (OCS), charged with implementing the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard.

We should be enraged that the office responsible for enforcing students’ moral standards cannot even follow basic ethics. Only through the investigative reporting of an anonymous newspaper did we learn the full scope of its bureaucratic incompetence: the office has operated without a director for almost a year, and its entire staff vanished at the end of last August, even while it was embroiled in multiple campus probes. The OCS’s investigation of a student’s concussion at “Blood Bath,” a Sigma Nu–Alpha Phi event, was laden with medical privacy violations and poor evidentiary standards.

Though the FoHo’s assiduous coverage of these events was admirable, it raises a much larger question: who is charged with holding the OCS accountable for its hiring and investigative mishaps? The answer is not clear. The recent OCS debacle reveals a much more worrying trend: the rise of an unaccountable, ballooning university bureaucracy that threatens Stanford’s academic commitment to teaching and learning.

Sex and drugs and self-control: how the teen brain navigates risk

Kei Smith:

Science has often looked at risk-taking among adolescents as a monolithic problem for parents and the public to manage or endure. When Eva Telzer, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, asks family, friends, undergraduates or researchers in related fields about their perception of teenagers, “there’s almost never anything positive”, she says. “It’s a pervasive stereotype.” But how Alex and Cole dabble with risk — considering its social value alongside other pros and cons — is in keeping with a more complex picture emerging from neuroscience. Adolescent behaviour goes beyond impetuous rebellion or uncontrollable hormones, says Adriana Galván, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “How we define risk-taking is going through a shift.”

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: Conversation about arming teachers should start at local level

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:

In an often passionate debate that can become a battle between extremes, Robert Butler, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, doesn’t think there’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution. On an episode of the Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Butler suggested asking local police, liability carriers and teachers for input at a local level to make plans for stronger school security.

“Each of our members has unique facilities, a unique location, and what may not be a prudent course of action for a district that has law enforcement nearby, may be a strategy and a tactic that a rural school district with law enforcement available contemplates,” Butler said.


Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Police Calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

Research to Practice Symposium on Reading Proficiency; March 12, 2018

AIM institute:

Join us for this FREE unique professional experience! Hear from the experts, reflect on connections to your own work with students, and explore the benefits and challenges of bridging the gap between the latest literacy research and best practices in the classroom.

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan: Differentiated Language and Literacy Instruction for English Learners

Mark S. Seidenberg: What Can Reading Science Contribute to Better Reading?

Julie Washington: Growth of Language and Literacy in Low-Income African American First through Fifth Graders

Plus, a Panel Discussion on Best Practices for Literacy Development for At-Risk Readers

Madison has long tolerated distrous reading results.

Kansas Has 4 Of 10 Most ‘Middle Of Nowhere’ Towns In U.S., Says Big East Coast Paper

Sam Zeff:

This is just not the kind of news Kansans want to hear, but: Four of the ten most isolated towns in all of the United States are in Kansas.

The Washington Post, using data from something called the Malaria Atlas Project, wanted to know what the middle of nowhere looks like. A 22-member team from Oxford’s Big Data Institute spent years building a global map showing how long it takes to get anywhere on Earth based on roads, elevation and a lot of other things.

The Post scraped the data because (this is such an East Coast thing) it wanted to find the spot in the United States that “best represents the middle of nowhere.” Hint: none of the places it found is on Eastern Time.

The Post used simple criteria: “towns that are farthest from any metro with more than 75,000 people, ranked by travel time in hours.”

The Man Who Saved the World

Maria Michael D’Alessandro:

The Man Who Saved the World” is the gripping true story of a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, Stanislav Petrov, who refused to order the launch of nuclear weapons when the warning system showed — erroneously — incoming U.S.missiles.

The Danish-made film, directed by Peter Anthony, is half-documentary and half-reconstruction.It was released in October 2014 at the Woodstock Film Festival and since then, Anthony, who wrote and directed the movie, has been on the road bringing Stanislav Petrov’s story to audiences all around the world.

“It cannot be called only a feature film or only a documentary,” Anthony told The Moscow Times at a press screening in Moscow earlier this month. “It has its own style and universe.”

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