Germany’s Leading Magazine Published Falsehoods About American Life

James Kirchick:

The word spiegel means “mirror” in German, and since its postwar founding, Der Spiegel has proudly held a mirror up to the world. When the magazine published top-secret information about the dire state of West Germany’s armed forces in 1962, the government accused it of treason, raided its offices, and arrested its editors. The resulting “Spiegel affair” led to mass demonstrations against police-state tactics and established an important precedent for press freedom in the young democracy. Throughout its history, the newsweekly has helped set the national agenda, like Time in its heyday.

Over the past weeks, however, the name of the magazine has assumed a new relevance. Der Spiegel has cracked, and revealed ugliness within the publication as well as German society more broadly.

On December 19, the magazine announced that the star reporter Claas Relotius had fabricated information “on a grand scale” in more than a dozen articles. Relotius has been portrayed as a sort of Teutonic Stephen Glass, the 1990s New Republic fabulist. “I’m sick and I need to get help,” Relotius told his editor. While that may very well be the case, his downfall is about more than just one writer with a mental-health problem.

A motif of Relotius’s work is America’s supposed brutality. In one story, he told the macabre tale of a woman who travels across the country volunteering to witness executions. In another, he related the tragic experience of a Yemeni man wrongly imprisoned by the United States military at Guantánamo Bay, where he was held in solitary confinement and tortured for 14 years. (The song that American soldiers turned on full blast and pumped into the poor soul’s cell? Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”) Both stories were complete fabrications.

Routing Around Madison’s Non-Diverse K-12 Governance Model

Chris Rickert:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

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

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

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

Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Madison School Board candidate Skylar Croy said in an interview with the Cap Times Friday that he would suspend his campaign and withdraw from the Seat 3 race, citing personal reasons.

Because Croy turned in his verified nomination signatures on Wednesday to the city clerk’s office, the third-year University of Wisconsin law student’s name will still appear on the ballot during the Feb. 19 primary election.

“Once you turn in signatures and they’re all proper, you’re on the ballot and can’t withdraw,” Eric Christiansen, an official at the City Clerk’s office said. He noted that even if a candidate died after their nomination signatures were turned in, their name would still appear on the ballot.

Croy serves in the Army National Guard and worked as an engineer before entering law school. Croy, 26, told the Cap Times on Wednesday that he was excited to have a chance to bring a younger voice to the seven-seat School Board.

His parents worked in schools, which Croy said helped developed his interest in education issues.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

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

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

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

University seminar teaches faculty not to judge ‘quality’ of writing when grading

Jeremiah Poff:

American University is hosting a seminar next month to teach faculty how to assess writing without judging its quality. In the seminar’s own words: “grading ain’t just grading.”

It’s led by Asao Inoue, a University of Washington-Tacoma professor, and the purpose is to pursue “antiracist ends” through writing assessments.

A national scholarly organization that preaches its “commitment” to academic excellence came out swinging against the seminar, telling The College Fix that Inoue’s ideas are “destroying the very idea that composition classes should teach all students to write well.”

In an email, National Association of Scholars spokesperson Chance Layton said Inoue is “substituting social justice ideologues’ bigotry for instruction in composition”:

It’s probably time to learn Chinese

Eric Meltzer:

For over a century, learning English has been one of the highest ROI things a non-English speaker could do. English went from being a language spoken by a few million people on an island to the the language of a world-spanning empire to a de-facto global language in a few centuries. I think, despite accusations of provincialism from polyglot Europeans, English is still by far the most useful language in the world and that being a monolingual English speaker isn’t the worst thing in the world. I say that as someone who loves learning languages; realistically, there are many interesting things to learn in the world and our time is pretty limited.

However, the benefits of learning Mandarin have grown a lot over the past two decades. We’re in a critical period where the demand for bilingual English/Mandarin speakers is extremely high from maturing Chinese institutions looking to go abroad, but the supply of those speakers remains relatively low. The world also seems to be moving from a unipolar America-led situation towards a bi-or-multipolar one where China assumes a lot more importance, so speaking Chinese is a good hedge in that sense.

Learning Mandarin has been one of the most rewarding I’ve ever done, up there with learning how to program.

Before I explain how to quickly learn Mandarin, here are a few explicit reasons why you may want to:

Indian technology talent is flocking to Canada

Economist:

The starting-point is pretty promising. Toronto already has expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and an array of promising firms such as Wattpad, a storytelling platform with 65m readers. The city added more tech jobs in 2017 than the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington, DC, combined. Ottawa is home to Shopify, a publicly traded e-commerce platform valued at C$19bn ($14bn). Montreal, another AI hotbed, has Element AI, a lab co-founded by Yoshua Bengio, a specialist in deep learning—and newish labs opened by Facebook and Samsung.

Yet Canada is in the third tier of destinations globally, says a study on venture-capital investment, “The Rise of the Global Start-Up City”, co-authored by Richard Florida, an urbanologist. To move up, the government has tweaked both its permanent and temporary immigrant programmes. Applicants for permanent residence get extra points for tech skills. Temporary visa holders are told their spouses will be allowed to work. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, often underlines that in multicultural Canada, diversity is welcomed. Publicly funded health care sometimes gets a mention. “All of this is designed to pivot Canada away from the nativist policies of Trump,” says Ravi Jain, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has many tech clients.

Such tactics seem to be working, especially with Indians, a mighty force in Silicon Valley, where they form the largest group of immigrant tech workers. Indians from America and elsewhere snapped up almost half of the new temporary visas (processing time: two weeks) that Canada began issuing in June 2017 at the behest of the tech industry. The number of Indian nationals taking the slightly longer route to permanent residency surged between 2016 and 2017—up by 83% for those who entered under a federal skills programme, up by 122% for those selected by provinces to fill specific vacancies, and up by a whopping 538% for those who entered based on work experience. “I can clearly see the reason why people are shifting to us,” says Allen Lau, the chief executive of Wattpad. “The US is becoming less friendly.”

What We Learned From a Year of Americans ‘Risking It’ Without Insurance

John Tozzi:

For many Americans, 2018 was the year that health care reached a breaking point.

Insurance was still too expensive to buy. It didn’t cover nearly enough. And as the country’s politics festered, the government once again failed to solve the insurance conundrum, even as a large majority of Americans who flocked to voting booths said health care was their top concern.

My colleagues and I spent much of this year talking to people who had weighed the health benefits against the financial burden of purchasing insurance. Most decided to risk it, betting that going without made more sense than paying for coverage.

Max Planck Society discontinues agreement with Elsevier; stands firm with Projekt DEAL negotiations

Max Planck:

The President and scientific council members of the Max Planck Society (MPS), one of the world’s largest research performing organizations, counting 14,000 scientists who publish 12K new research articles a year—around 1500 of which in Elsevier journals, have mandated the Max Planck Digital Library to discontinue their Elsevier subscription when the current agreement expires on December 31, 2018. With this move the Society joins nearly 200 universities and research institutions in Germany who have already cancelled their individual agreements with Elsevier in the course of 2016 and 2017 and affirmed their support of the national licensing framework Projekt DEAL, led by the German Rector’s Conference.

In response to the untenably increasing cost of access to scholarly journals and, more importantly, the stifling effect of the antiquated paywall system on the research process, Projekt DEAL was established to negotiate nationwide transformative agreements as a means to transition from the current subscription system to one based on open access publishing models that enable complete and immediate access to the latest research for scholars and citizens alike, free of cost or other barriers. “DEAL is fully in line with the objectives of the OA2020 Initiative, which is strongly supported by the Max Planck Society,’ emphasized MPS President Martin Stratmann.

The transformative agreement that the DEAL negotiators propose to the major academic publishers is a “publish and read” model covering open access publication of all scholarly articles by authors affiliated with German institutions and, at the same time, grant reading access for German institutions to the publisher’s entire portfolio of electronic journals still behind paywalls.

“Perhaps the real pipeline is that the Madison School District is unable to teach too many students of color basic reading skills”

Merrilee Pickett:

I attended a Madison City Council police oversight committee meeting and was surprised that I was one of only a handful of citizens in attendance. The others in attendance were the usual people who are quoted in the local media, and who evidently have great influence over members of the City Council.

Was the poor attendance because of the location or the time of the meetings? Are Madison residents apathetic about police issues? Or is it because the majority of residents (black, white, brown and members of the LGBT community) think the Madison Police Department is run well and well-staffed? Are they generally very supportive of a fine police department?

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Civics: Is the Virginia Education Association Running Its Own “Wildcat” Group?

Mike Antonucci:

The Virginia Educators United web site states the group is a grassroots organization and “Our structure does not report to other organizations.”

That may be true, but VEU has enough links to VEA to make you wonder whether it matters who’s reporting to whom.

The one-day “strike” just happens to coincide with VEA’s lobby day at the state Capitol. VEA doesn’t mention anything about VEU, and VEU doesn’t mention anything about VEA, which is odd since they must have coordinated the date. Plus the VEU march ends at the Capitol just as the VEA rally is set to begin.

It bears mentioning that VEU says nothing about a strike or a walkout, and VEA advises members to “secure leave” for the event.

Some digging turned up four people who are deeply involved in running VEU. At least three of them are office-holders in a VEA affiliate. At least one of them recruits members for a VEA local.

Oh, and the January 28 rally ends with an open house at VEA headquarters.

2019 Madison School Board Candidates; Competitive Races!

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

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

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

China Thwarts U.S. Effort to Promote American Culture on Campuses

Jane Erlez and Luz Ding:

The American ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, wanted to make what in most nations would have been a routine trip.

One of his favorite schools, Iowa State University, had opened a center to promote American culture in an inland Chinese province, and the laid-back former governor of Iowa was eager to take questions from Chinese students.

The center’s program, largely financed by the State Department, was deliberately benign so as not to offend Chinese government sensibilities. Politics was off the agenda. English lessons focused on fashion, music and sports. An essay-writing contest was called “Bald Eagle & Panda” after well-known fauna in both countries.

But Henan Normal University, a campus set on the Yellow River with a prominent statue of Mao Zedong out front, denied Mr. Branstad permission to visit the center this fall — and offered no explanation.

Madison La Follette High School principal Sean Storch set to step down at end of school year

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Storch, who previously attended and served as a teacher at La Follette prior to becoming a principal, said he would continue to work for the Madison School District at the district level.

Storch’s decision to leave La Follette follows what has been a rocky year for the high school. In early November, MMSD placed its executive director for curriculum and instruction, Marcey Sorensen, on a special assignment at the school, where she is set to serve until June 30.

Sorensen was placed at La Follette to help reinforce the leadership team, according to the November announcement from MMSD officials.

The added administrator came after feedback from parents in October called on school officials to find proactive approaches to deal with ongoing climate and behavioral issues, which escalated after several gun-related incidents early in the school year.

A 16-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the leg by another student on a Madison Metro bus near the school on Sept. 19. Just a week later, a teen was shot several blocks away from the school.

After approval from the Madison School Board in November, the district is set to install electronic locks on classroom doors at La Follette before rolling out upgraded classroom locks at Madison East, West and Memorial high schools by the start of next school year.

Much more on Madison LaFollette High School, here.

Civics: Security flaws threaten our privacy and bank accounts. So why aren’t we fixing them?

Cooper Quintin:

America’s cellular network is as vital to society as the highway system and power grids. Vulnerabilities in the mobile phone infrastructure threaten not only personal privacy and security, but also the country’s. According to intelligence reports, spies are eavesdropping on President Trump’s cellphone conversations and using fake cellular towers in Washington to intercept phone calls. Cellular communication infrastructure, the system at the heart of modern communication, commerce and governance, is woefully insecure. And we are doing nothing to fix it.

This should be at the top of our cybersecurity agenda, yet policymakers and industry leaders have been nearly silent on the issue. While government officials are looking the other way, an increasing number of companies are selling products that allow buyers to take advantage of these vulnerabilities.

Spying tools, which are becoming increasingly affordable, include cell-site simulators (commonly known by the brand name Stingray), which trick cellphones into connecting with them without the cellphone owners’ knowledge. Sophisticated programs can exploit vulnerabilities in the backbone of the global telephone system (known as Signaling System 7, or SS7) to track mobile users, intercept calls and text messages, and disrupt mobile communications.

These attacks have real financial consequences. In 2017, for example, criminals took advantage of SS7 weaknesses to carry out financial fraud by redirecting and intercepting text messages containing one-time passwords for bank customers in Germany. The criminals then used the passwords to steal money from the victims’ accounts.

Civics: China’s Bizarre Program to Keep Activists in Check

Jianying Zha:

Recently, the Beijing police took my brother sightseeing again. Nine days, two guards, chauffeured tours through a national park that’s a World Heritage site, visits to Taoist temples and to the Three Gorges, expenses fully covered, all courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security. The point was to get him out of town during the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, held in early September. The capital had to be in a state of perfect order; no trace of trouble was permissible. And Zha Jianguo, a veteran democracy activist, is considered a professional troublemaker.

While President Xi Jinping played host to African dignitaries in the Great Hall of the People, the police played host to my big brother at various scenic spots in the province of Hubei, about a thousand kilometres away. A number of other Beijing activists and civil-rights lawyers, including several whom Jianguo knows well, were treated to similar trips. Pu Zhiqiang headed for Sichuan, Hu Jia to the port city of Tianjin, He Depu to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, and Zhang Baocheng to Sanya, a beach resort on Hainan Island. Kept busy in the midst of natural beauty and attended to closely, they had no chance to speak to members of the foreign media or post provocative remarks online.

This practice is known as bei lüyou, “to be touristed.” The term is one of those sly inventions favored by Chinese netizens: whenever law enforcement frames people, or otherwise conscripts them into an activity, the prefix bei is used to indicate the passive tense. Hence: bei loushui (to be tax-evaded), bei zisha (to be suicided), bei piaochang (to be johned), and so on. In the past few years, the bei list has been growing longer, the acts more imaginative and colorful. “To be touristed” is no doubt the most appealing of these scenarios, and it is available only to a select number of troublemakers. In Beijing, perhaps dozens of people a year are whisked off on these exotic trips, typically diehard dissidents who have served time and are on the radar of Western human-rights organizations and media outlets. Outside the capital, the list includes not just activists but also petitioners (fangmin)—ordinary people from rural villages or small towns who travel to voice their grievances to high government officials about local malfeasances they have suffered from.

Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record

Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath:

Teachers and other public education employees, such as community-college faculty, school psychologists and janitors, are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record, government data shows.

A tight labor market with historically low unemployment has encouraged Americans in a variety of occupations to quit their jobs at elevated rates, with the expectation they can find something better. But quitting among public educators stands out because the field is one where stability is viewed as a key perk and longevity often rewarded.

The educators may be finding new jobs at other schools, or leaving education altogether: The departures come alongside protests this year in six states where teachers in some cases shut down schools over tight budgets, small raises and poor conditions.

Effects of range restriction and criterion contamination on differential validity of the SAT by race/ethnicity and sex.

Dahlke, Jeffrey A. Sackett, Paul R. Kuncel, Nathan R.:

We illustrate the effects of range restriction and a form of criterion contamination (individual differences in course-taking patterns) on the validity of SAT scores for predicting college academic performance. College data facilitate exploration of differential validity’s determinants because they (a) permit the use multivariate range-restriction corrections to more accurately account for differential range restriction across subgroups and (b) allow for separate examinations of composite performance and specific performance episodes, the latter of which controls for ecological contamination of composite performance due to individuals’ choices of performance opportunities. Using data from 363,004 students at 107 U.S. institutions, we found that controlling for course-taking patterns resulted in validity coefficients that were appreciably larger than predictors’ correlations with obtained grade point averages (GPAs). The validities of SAT scores for predicting the first-year college performance of Black and Hispanic students were not significantly different from the validity for White students after correcting for both course-taking patterns and differential range restriction, but significant Black–White differences were detected for predicting 4-year cumulative performance. Validity estimates for predicting both first-year and 4-year cumulative performance were significantly smaller among Asian students than White students after making these corrections. The SAT’s observed validity for predicting college GPAs was substantially lower for males than females and, unexpectedly, controlling for course-taking patterns increased male-female validity differences. Implications for personnel selection research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

How Apps on Android Share Data with Facebook

Privacy international:

Previous research has shown how 42.55 percent of free apps on the Google Play store could share data with Facebook, making Facebook the second most prevalent third-party tracker after Google’s parent company Alphabet. In this report, Privacy International illustrates what this data sharing looks like in practice, particularly for people who do not have a Facebook account.

This question of whether Facebook gathers information about users who are not signed in or do not have an account was raised in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal by lawmakers in hearings in the United States and in Europe. Discussions, as well as previous fines by Data Protection Authorities about the tracking of non-users, however, often focus on the tracking that happens on websites. Much less is known about the data that the company receives from apps. For these reasons, in this report we raise questions about transparency and use of app data that we consider timely and important.

Facebook routinely tracks users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools. App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system. Using the free and open source software tool called “mitmproxy”, an interactive HTTPS proxy, Privacy International has analyzed the data that 34 apps on Android, each with an install base from 10 to 500 million, transmit to Facebook through the Facebook SDK.

All apps were tested between August and December 2018, with the last re-test happening between 3 and 11 of December 2018. The full documentation, including the exact date each app was tested, can be found at https://privacyinternational.org/appdata.

In America, we’ve deified “intelligence.”

Interview with Adam Robinson:

And the problem with “intelligence” is that it works against you. If you’re intelligent, you shouldn’t have to work too hard. Things should come pretty quickly, and if you aren’t intelligent, what’s the point? The better belief is that your success is determined by how hard you work. Then, it’s just a matter of choice. If you want something, work for it, and you will if you want it.

I think it’s important that parents let their children know, just to talk about parents for a sec, that learning is hard. You need to know that learning is hard. It’s not easy. Right? The reason you need to know it’s hard is that if you think it’s easy, as soon as you encounter difficulty, you’re going to think the problem is you. So you need to know it’s hard, going in.`

NEA and Its State Affiliates Are a $1.62 Billion Enterprise. Here’s a Breakdown of Their Membership and Finances

Mike Antonucci:

What if I told you there was a corporation with franchises in every state — and one overseas — that collected $1.62 billion in revenues annually and paid virtually no federal, state, or local income taxes? That corporation is the National Education Association, whose 3 million members send contributions every paycheck.

The one price NEA does pay for its tax exemption is that it must file an annual financial disclosure report with the Internal Revenue Service detailing its income and expenditures. These reports are public records. They are filed well after each affiliate’s fiscal year is complete, leaving us to examine disclosures that are now 18 months old.

I have compiled information from the filings of NEA and all its state affiliates except Missouri for the 2016-17 school year. If we include an estimate for Missouri NEA based on its previous year’s filings, the total revenue collected by the union exceeded $1.62 billion, a $20 million increase over 2015-16.

Related: WEAC – $1,570,000 for four Wisconsin State Senators.

Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful

Gabriel Weinberg:

Around 2003 I came across Charlie Munger’s 1995 speech, The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, which introduced me to how behavioral economics can be applied in business and investing. More profoundly, though, it opened my mind to the power of seeking out and applying mental models across a wide array of disciplines.

A mental model is just a concept you can use to help try to explain things (e.g. Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.”). There are tens of thousands of mental models, and every discipline has their own set that you can learn through coursework, mentorship, or first-hand experience.

There is a much smaller set of concepts, however, that come up repeatedly in day-to-day decision making, problem solving, and truth seeking. As Munger says, “80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly‑wise person.”

This post is my attempt to enumerate the mental models that are repeatedly useful to me. This set is clearly biased from my own experience and surely incomplete. I hope to continue to revise it as I remember and learn more.

The Coming Commodification of Life at Home

Joe Pinsker:

As internet-connected devices and appliances accumulate, one academic foresees “the monetization of every move you make.”

“Imagine this,” says an advertising consultant named Barry Lowenthal. “I’m a smart toaster, and I’m collecting data on how many times the toaster is used.”

I’ve just asked Lowenthal what he, as an advertiser, would be able to do with data transmitted from an internet-connected appliance, and I happened to mention a toaster. He thought through the possibility of an appliance that can detect what it’s being asked to brown: “If I’m toasting rye bread, a bagel company might be interested in knowing that, because they can re-target that household with bagel advertising because they already know it’s a household that eats bread, toasts bread, is open to carbs. Maybe they would also be open to bagels. And then they can probably cross that with credit-card data and know that this is a household that hasn’t bought bagels in the last year. I mean, it’s going to be amazing, from a targeting perspective.”

A year of staggering revelations is a reminder of how much Facebook has corrupted life online, with the effect of making the internet seem a little less bearable and a little less human

Brian Phillips:

What’s on your mind? Right now, as I’m writing this, The New York Times is breaking the news that Facebook, after a year of staggering revelations concerning everything from misuse of private data to enabling Russian election interference to knowingly providing inflated metrics publishers used to remake the media landscape, has been caught giving other big companies access to its users’ information outside the framework of its normal privacy rules. “Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent,” the Times reports. It gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read users’ private messages. It allowed Yahoo to view real-time feeds of friends’ posts, despite the fact it publicly claimed to have ended that kind of snooping years ago and despite the fact the feature in whose service Yahoo supposedly required this information had been discontinued in 2011.

What’s on your mind? I keep thinking that as bombshells go, this one has the distinction of being both outrageous and utterly unsurprising. When someone shows you who they are, believe them, as Oprah used to say. (Oprah might not be famous as a tech analyst, but she knows a thing or two about getting people to share their personal data.) Facebook has long since shown itself to be a conspiracy of moral ghouls harvesting human intimacy for ad dollars; as sickening as it is to imagine Netflix browsing your private messages, these new disclosures don’t change your basic understanding of the operation any more than, say, a snowstorm changes your understanding of December. But each new Silicon Valley betrayal has the effect of making the internet seem a little less bearable, a little less human.

Chinese Gene-Editing Experiment Loses Track of Patients, Alarming Technology’s Inventors

Preetika Rana and Wenxin Fan:

Chinese scientists have raced ahead in experimenting with gene-editing on humans in the last few years, using a powerful new tool called Crispr-Cas9 to edit the DNA of dozens of cancer patients.

Information gathered by The Wall Street Journal shows one such trial has lost touch with patients whose DNA was altered, alarming some Western scientists who say subjects should be monitored for many years.

In another trial, an Indian man’s cancer improved but he suffered a heart attack and brain stroke; Chinese doctors didn’t investigate the cause, the deceased man’s family said.

The Scandal That Reveals the Fiction of America’s Educational Meritocracy

Will Stancil:

T. M. Landry is in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a high-poverty town of fewer than 10,000. The school’s graduates are overwhelmingly black, poor, or both—a socioeconomic segment that, due to pervasive discrimination, is notoriously underrepresented in higher ed. Statistically speaking, when a poor black student is admitted to a Harvard or a Yale, it’s a minor miracle. The odds of an institution sending graduate after graduate to the Ivy League and similar schools are infinitesimal. Watching T. M. Landry’s viral videos was akin to watching lightning strike the same spot not twice, but over and over again. Had the Landrys cracked the educational code?

Read more: Why the myth of meritocracy hurts kids of color

At the end of November, in a blockbuster story, The New York Times solved part of the puzzle. The Landrys’ school seems to have been a fraud all along—faking transcripts, forcing students to lie on college applications, and staging rehearsed lessons for curious media and other visitors. According to the Times, an atmosphere of abuse and submission helped maintain the deception, with Michael Landry lording over his flock of children like a tyrant. In the Times story, Landry admitted to helping children with college applications while denying any fraud. The school did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Still, a mystery remains. Even taking the alleged fakery into account, how did T. M. Landry seem to fool so many of America’s most prestigious universities for years? The work of admissions officers is notoriously secretive, but what little is known about the Landry affair threatens foundational assumptions about American higher education.

Teach Yourself Logic: A Study Guide (and other Book Notes)

Logic Matters:

Most philosophy departments, and many maths departments too, teach little or no serious logic, despite the centrality of the subject. Many students will therefore need to teach themselves, either solo or by organizing study groups. But what to read? Students need annotated reading lists for self-study, giving advice about the available texts. The Teach Yourself Logic Study Guide aims to provide the needed advice by suggesting some stand-out books on various areas of mathematical logic. NB: mathematical logic — so we are working a step up from the kind of ‘baby logic’ that philosophers may encounter in their first year courses. You can also find here some supplements and further Book Notes of various kinds.

The main Guide and its Appendix are in PDF form, designed for on-screen reading. Learning mathematical logic involves a serious time commitment, and different people have different backgrounds/requirements, so you’ll want detailed advice from which you can work out which books might be suitable for you. That’s why the full Guide is rather long. But it is (I hope) approachable written and informative. Try it out here:

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ann Gibbons:

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Unions Did Great Things for the Working Class

Noah Smith:

Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys, but they often leave the working class fragmented and divided — between different companies, between union and non-union workers, and even between different ethnic groups.

Economists, too, have long puzzled about how to think about unions. They don’t fit easily into the standard paradigm of modern economic theory in which atomistic individuals and companies abide by rules overseen by an all-powerful government. Some economists see unions as a cartel, protecting insiders at the expense of outsiders. According to this theory, unions raise wages but also drive up unemployment. This is the interpretation of unions taught in many introductory courses and textbooks.

If this were really what unions did, it might be worth it to simply let them slip into oblivion, as private-sector unions have been doing in the U.S.:

How the Artificial-Intelligence Program AlphaZero Mastered Its Games

James Somers:

A few weeks ago, a group of researchers from Google’s artificial-intelligence subsidiary, DeepMind, published a paper in the journal Science that described an A.I. for playing games. While their system is general-purpose enough to work for many two-person games, the researchers had adapted it specifically for Go, chess, and shogi (“Japanese chess”); it was given no knowledge beyond the rules of each game. At first it made random moves. Then it started learning through self-play. Over the course of nine hours, the chess version of the program played forty-four million games against itself on a massive cluster of specialized Google hardware. After two hours, it began performing better than human players; after four, it was beating the best chess engine in the world.

The program, called AlphaZero, descends from AlphaGo, an A.I. that became known for defeating Lee Sedol, the world’s best Go player, in March of 2016. Sedol’s defeat was a stunning upset. In “AlphaGo,” a documentary released earlier this year on Netflix, the filmmakers follow both the team that developed the A.I. and its human opponents, who have devoted their lives to the game. We watch as these humans experience the stages of a new kind of grief. At first, they don’t see how they can lose to a machine: “I believe that human intuition is still too advanced for A.I. to have caught up,” Sedol says, the day before his five-game match with AlphaGo. Then, when the machine starts winning, a kind of panic sets in. In one particularly poignant moment, Sedol, under pressure after having lost his first game, gets up from the table and, leaving his clock running, walks outside for a cigarette. He looks out over the rooftops of Seoul. (On the Internet, more than fifty million people were watching the match.) Meanwhile, the A.I., unaware that its opponent has gone anywhere, plays a move that commentators called creative, surprising, and beautiful. In the end, Sedol lost, 1-4. Before there could be acceptance, there was depression. “I want to apologize for being so powerless,” he said in a press conference. Eventually, Sedol, along with the rest of the Go community, came to appreciate the machine. “I think this will bring a new paradigm to Go,” he said. Fan Hui, the European champion, agreed. “Maybe it can show humans something we’ve never discovered. Maybe it’s beautiful.”

Why you should care about the Nate Silver vs. Nassim Taleb Twitter war

Isaac Faber:

Here we can say, with some confidence that FiveThirtyEight predictions are not reliable probabilities. However, they masquerade as one, being between 0 and 1 and all. This is Taleb’s primary argument; FiveThirtyEight’s predictions do not behave like probabilities that incorporate all uncertainty and should not be passed off as them.
I do not want to suggest that FiveThirtyEight is bad at their craft. They are, likely, the best poll aggregator in the business. If we only look at the last reported probabilistic forecast and use the public’s decision boundary, they are more successful than any other source attempting the same task. However, positioning yourself to appear correct regardless of the outcome, making users infer their own decision boundaries, over-reporting of predictions, and ignoring epistemic uncertainty should not be overlooked. How goes FiveThirtyEight’s reputation, so goes much of the data community’s reputation.

Be clear on your suggested decision boundary, probabilistic statements, assumptions about uncertainty and you’ll be less likely to misguide

Your Intuition Is Wrong, Unless These 3 Conditions Are Met

Emily Zulz:

From research, Kahneman, who wrote The New York Times bestseller “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” said that most people guess that Julie has around a 3.7 GPA.

“You might think that this is a good answer,” he said. “It’s a terrible answer. It’s an intuition, and it’s absolutely wrong. If you were to do it statistically, you would do it completely differently. Actually, the age that people read is very little information about what student they will be 20 years later.”

According to Kahneman, this is an example of an intuition that is generated automatically with high confidence, and it’s wrong statistically.

“In general, confidence is a very poor cue to accuracy. Because intuitions come to your mind with considerable confidence and there is no guarantee they’re right.”

As UC Santa Barbara enrolls more students from China, professors complain about cheating and English skills

Teresa Watanabe:

When UC Santa Barbara art professor Kip Fulbeck visited a colleague’s class as a guest lecturer last year, he grew fed up with students who slept, played with their phones or left for the restroom and didn’t come back. He noticed that many of the offenders seemed to be international students from China.

So when he came to that class again this fall to speak about his artistic journey, he opened with a PowerPoint set of rules:

Turn your phones off. Go to the bathroom now. He spelled out his expectations in English — and Chinese.

Some students gasped. Others shrugged it off. Several snapped photos of the list and posted them on Chinese-language social media. Soon, a Chinese student group had raised the specter of discrimination and launched a petition drive, demanding an official explanation.

David Marshall, UC Santa Barbara executive vice chancellor, said he saw both sides and asked all parties to sit down to discuss the incident. The course’s professor apologized in class and in a statement to the student group.

Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

Kashmir Hill:

Back in 2015, a woman named Imy Santiago wrote an Amazon review of a novel that she had read and liked. Amazon immediately took the review down and told Santiago she had “violated its policies.” Santiago re-read her review, didn’t see anything objectionable about it, so she tried to post it again. “You’re not eligible to review this product,” an Amazon prompt informed her.

When she wrote to Amazon about it, the company told her that her “account activity indicates you know the author personally.” Santiago did not know the author, so she wrote an angry email to Amazon and blogged about Amazon’s “big brother” surveillance.

I reached out to both Santiago and Amazon at the time to try to figure out what the hell happened here. Santiago, who is an indie book writer herself, told me that she’d been in the same ballroom with the author in New York a few months before at a book signing event, but had not talked to her, and that she had followed the author on Twitter and Facebook after reading her books. Santiago had never connected her Facebook account to Amazon, she said.

Amazon wouldn’t tell me much back in 2015. Spokesperson Julie Law told me by email at the time that the company “didn’t comment on individual accounts” but said, “when we detect that elements of a reviewer’s Amazon account match elements of an author’s Amazon account, we conclude that there is too much risk of review bias. This can erode customer trust, and thus we remove the review. I can assure you that we investigate each case.”

Cognitive Training Does Not Enhance General Cognition

Giovanni Sala:

Due to potential theoretical and societal implications, cognitive training has been one of the most influential topics in psychology and neuroscience. The assumption behind cognitive training is that one’s general cognitive ability can be enhanced by practicing cognitive tasks or intellectually demanding activities. The hundreds of studies published so far have provided mixed findings and systematic reviews have reached inconsistent conclusions. To resolve these discrepancies, we carried out several meta-analytic reviews. The results are highly consistent across all the reviewed domains: minimal effect on domain-general cognitive skills. Crucially, the observed between-study variability is accounted for by design quality and statistical artefacts. The cognitive-training program of research has showed no appreciable benefits, and other more plausible practices to enhance cognitive performance should be pursued.

“Folks, we have a huge reading crisis”

Alan Borsuk:

20 percent. That is roughly the percentage of Milwaukee students, both in public and private schools, who were rated proficient or advanced in reading in tests in spring 2018 — and it’s about the same figure as every year for many years. Folks, we have a huge reading crisis. There may be more attention being paid to this, but there is little sign so far of more action.

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Notes and links on the 2019 Madison School Board election:

Kaleem Caire

Cris Carusi

Dean Loumos

TJ Mertz

Ed Hughes

Ananda Mirilli

Ali Muldrow

David Blaska

Kate Toews

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. Fiscal Imbalance over Time: This Time Is Different

Jeffrey Miron:

The U.S. fiscal imbalance—the excess of what we expect to spend, including repayment of our debt, over what government expects to receive in revenue—is large and growing. And with politicians proposing large new expenditures, little is being done to rectify the country’s fiscal health. Although some policymakers argue that fiscal meltdowns have never happened in U.S. history and that therefore “this time is no different,” the reality is that the nation’s fiscal situation has been deteriorating since the mid-1960s, is far worse than ever before, and could lead to a fiscal crisis if no major spending adjustments occur in the next few decades.

To demonstrate this argument, this paper projects fiscal imbalance as of every year between 1965 and 2014, using data-supported assumptions about gross domestic product (GDP) growth, revenue, and trends in mandatory spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. The projections reveal that the United States has faced a growing fiscal imbalance since the early 1970s, largely as a consequence of continuous growth in mandatory spending. As of 2014, the fiscal imbalance stands at $117.9 trillion, with few signs of future improvement even if GDP growth accelerates or tax revenues increase relative to historic norms. Thus the only viable way to restore fiscal balance is to scale back mandatory spending policies, particularly on large health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Law Schools Are Bad for Democracy

Samuel Moyn:

Power players and grizzled veterans often do not understand how profoundly newcomers or outsiders to elite law schools — I count myself a little of both, but I mean first-year students — are prone to worry about why they are there. Students engage in constant self-questioning: Can I reconcile my politics with my self-interest? Am I really devoting myself to a career that will lead to systemic change, or to one that will reproduce hierarchy instead? The ethical struggles of elite law students might seem the pinnacle of first-world problems, but they are real nonetheless.

And while the question of whom law school really serves can haunt individual consciences, it drives rationalization at the institutional level, too. Every year, law schools produce glossy booklets and press releases advertising their social virtue. Nowhere is this image management more troubling than when it mystifies the real function of law schools in reorienting the hopes and even reshaping the personalities of the young people who enter them. Having entertained inchoate dreams about social transformation, the students themselves are transformed the most, especially when they accept a set of beliefs about how the world is likeliest to change — through a politics of marginal legal reform by insiders to the system. That is, if the world can change at all.

Data show that large numbers of students entering law school say that they hope to work in the public interest, but then end up working for large firms instead — though debate rages about when precisely they defect and why. Debt burden is one explanation, but informal expectation and institutional pressures are probably more to blame. And the realities of this “public-interest drift” fit very poorly with the self-advertised rationales about how legal training in its current form serves social justice.

Parents Are Biased Against Even Quality ‘Urban’ Schools

Alia Wong:

Many of these schools are improving, but the persistent stigma against them contributes to segregation.

In recent years, many of America’s urban schools have improved significantly. A 2016 report from the Urban Institute found that while all the country’s public-school students improved in the decade starting in 2005, the gain for those in large cities was double that of the U.S. average; the advances are especially pronounced in kids’ reading scores. With these strides, the achievement gap between city districts and their suburban and rural counterparts closed by roughly a third during that same period.

In some cases, the gap is all but nonexistent. Take, for example, Chicago, which in the late 1980s was notoriously deemed the country’s “worst school system” by then-Education Secretary William J. Bennett. A number of recent studies have shown that while standardized-test scores across Illinois have been flattening for the past decade or so, achievement in Chicago’s public-school district (CPS) has been steadily rising.

American Universities’ China Problem

Robert Precht:

According to a report released last month by a group of distinguished China scholars, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses vague threats to induce US professors and students to avoid topics that might offend Chinese government sensitivities—research or discussions on Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, human rights, and Chinese politics, for example. It denies visas to scholars who criticize the regime, uses Chinese students in the US to inform on one another, and punishes universities for hosting controversial speakers. After a university hosted the Dalai Lama, Beijing retaliated by banning Chinese students and scholars with funding from the Chinese government from attending the university. When the institutions we entrust to pursue the truth start avoiding the truth—particularly academic research that few of us can do on our own—we all suffer.

The importance of universities’ truth-seeking role cannot be overstated. Medical researchers produce data on effective and ineffective therapies. Economists measure the impacts of different policy options. Sociologists study how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. Political scientists analyze governments. The integrity of American universities has rarely been questioned because it was assumed scholars enjoy academic freedom.

In contrast, Chinese scholars inhabit a very different world. When I worked in Beijing 10 years ago, I frequently met scholars who had to be careful about what they said. In 2010, I co-hosted a program with a well-respected professor at Peking University—China’s finest. He became agitated and angry when one of the speakers just mentioned the name of a critic of the regime, Liu Xiaobo. The professor feared he would be demoted or have his salary cut. The incident gave me renewed gratitude for the freedom on US campuses.

How a Dubious Forensic Science Spread Like a Virus

Leora Smith:

The prosecution’s star witness — a forensics specialist named Herbert MacDonell — set out an array of props before the jury: a medicine dropper, a mirror hastily yanked from the wall of the courthouse bathroom and a vial of his own blood, drawn that day at a nearby hospital.

It was a strange sight in the 1985 Texas courtroom, and the jurors, the judge and even the defense attorneys watched, rapt, as MacDonell laid the mirror flat and then climbed up on a chair, holding the vial and dropper.

MacDonell’s expertise lay in an obscure discipline known as bloodstain-pattern analysis. He claimed he could reconstruct the events of a crime by reading the bloodstains left behind.

Like a professor performing a classroom demonstration, he dipped the dropper’s tip into the blood and, with a practiced hand, released a single drop onto the mirror. It landed with a muted thud, forming a perfect crimson circle.

Blood landing on a flat surface should not spatter, MacDonell told the jurors with satisfaction. He let another drop fall onto the white shirt he was wearing. Blood lands differently on fabric, he showed them.

A defense attorney shot up from his chair in protest. This was a murder trial. There was no mirror at the crime scene. No medicine dropper. The demonstration was not reliable science, he argued. The judge disagreed.

MacDonell’s testimony would be pivotal to proving the Fort Bend County prosecutor’s theory that 21-year-old Reginald Lewis had murdered his family, shooting his mother and two brothers, and setting his father on fire. MacDonell had identified dozens of minuscule blood spots on Lewis’ clothing, and he said they placed Lewis at the scene during the crime

College Bloat Meets ‘The Blade’

Tunku Varadarajan:

Mitch Daniels teaches a course on World War I at Purdue University, where he is president, and loves to talk about Woodrow Wilson. Wilson left the presidency of Princeton in 1910 and was elected governor of New Jersey the next year—“sort of the opposite of the thing I did,” says Mr. Daniels, who served two terms as Indiana’s governor (2005-13) before taking his current job on campus: “Explaining his decision to abandon the academy for a statehouse, Wilson said, ‘I can’t take the politics anymore.’ ”

I’ve just asked Mr. Daniels—who, unlike Wilson a century earlier, decided against seeking the U.S. presidency in 2012—how running a university differs from running a state. The silver-tongued Mr. Daniels offers a quip that must play well at the meet-and-greets that clog up a college president’s calendar. “I use an old line,” he says without missing a beat, “which is that in my last job it was dog-eat-dog, and here it’s just the opposite.”

Mr. Daniels, 69, is the most innovative university president in America. Like his counterparts at other schools, he believes higher education has been “a competitive advantage” for the U.S.—“a nice little export industry, if you add up all the dollars that come here to purchase the education of students from other places.” He regards the rumbling in Washington about curbing visas for foreign students to be “very shortsighted.” But he also thinks American higher education has grown fat and complacent. He’s making inventive, even radical changes in the way his institution finances itself and imparts an education.

Mr. Daniels kicks off our conversation with a morality tale: “I’ll speak to an audience of businesspeople and say: Here’s the racket that you should have gone into. You’re selling something, a college diploma, that’s deemed a necessity. And you have total pricing power.” Better than that: “When you raise your prices, you not only don’t lose customers, you may actually attract new ones.”

For lack of objective measures, “people associate the sticker price with quality: ‘If school A costs more than B, I guess it’s a better school.’ ” A third-party payer, the government, funds it all, so that “the customer—that is, the student and the family—feels insulated against the cost. A perfect formula for complacency.” The parallels with health care, he observes, are “smack on.”

The vanished grandeur of accounting

Jacob Soll:

In Washington’s National Gallery of Art hangs a portrait by Jan Gossaert. Painted around 1530, at the very moment when the Dutch were becoming the undisputed masters of European trade, it shows the merchant Jan Snouck Jacobsz at work at his desk. The painter’s remarkable gift for detail is evident in Jacobsz’s dignified expression, his fine ermine clothes and expensive rings. Rendered just as carefully are his quill pen, account ledger, and receipts.

This is, in short, a portrait of not only wealth and material success, but of accounting. It might seem strange that an artist would lavish such care on the nuts and bolts of something so mundane, like a poet writing couplets about a corporate expense report. But the Jacobsz portrait is far from unique: Accounting paintings were a significant genre in Dutch art. For 200 years, the Dutch not only dominated world trade and portrayed themselves that way, but in hundreds of paintings, they also made sure to include the account books.

This was not simply a wealthy nation crowing about its financial success. The Dutch were the leading merchants of their time, and they saw good accounting as the key to both their wealth and the moral health of their society. To the audience of the time, the paintings carried a clear message: Mastering finance was an achievement requiring both skill and humility.

For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/first-time-20-years-copyrighted-works-enter-public-domain-180971016/#lfyBvktzDTmgetkt.99 Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Glenn Fleishman:

The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years, and we’re reaching the 20-year thaw,” says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. The release is unprecedented, and its impact on culture and creativity could be huge. We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one—in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond—predated Google. “We have shortchanged a generation,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “The 20th century is largely missing from the internet.”

For academics fearful of quoting from copyrighted texts, teachers who may be violating the law with every photocopy, and modern-day artists in search of inspiration, the event is a cause for celebration. For those who dread seeing Frost’s immortal ode to winter used in an ad for snow tires, “Public Domain Day,” as it is sometimes known, will be less joyful. Despite that, even fierce advocates for copyright agree that, after 95 years, it is time to release these works. “There comes a point when a creative work belongs to history as much as to its author and her heirs,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.

The Education Essays That Sparked Debate This Year: Our 19 Most Shared Columns and Commentaries From 2018

The 74:

Here at The 74, we love a good debate. Just about every day, we publish an array of essays that take critical looks at, or offer innovative approaches to, schools, standards, practice, and policy. They’re often our most shared, circulated, and debated links of the week. We went back through the archive to look at which essayists stirred up the most discussion across 2018; here are the nine top standouts of the year, along with the following 10 runners-up. (Get every 2019 op-ed delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter)

Academic climate commentary

Sabine:

To second approximation, however, increasing the number of publications does not necessarily also lead to more good science. Two short papers don’t fit as much research as do two long ones. Thus, to second approximation we could take into account the length of papers. Then again, the length of a paper is only meaningful if it’s published in a journal that has a policy of cutting superfluous content. Hence, you have to further refine the measure. And so on.

This type of refinement isn’t specific to science. You can see in many other areas of our lives that, as time passes, the means to reach desired goals must be more carefully defined to make sure they still lead where we want to go.

Take sports as example. As new technologies arise, the Olympic committee has added many additional criteria on what shoes or clothes athletes are admitted to wear, which drugs make for an unfair advantage, and they’ve had to rethink what distinguishes a man from a woman.

Or tax laws. The Bible left it at “When the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh.” Today we have books full of ifs and thens and whatnots so incomprehensible I suspect it’s no coincidence suicide rates peak during tax season.

Why American cities are so weirdly shaped

The Economist:

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, is shaped like a kidney, taller than it is wide, curving eastwards slightly on its longer sides. It is contiguous, blob-like, sensible. Birmingham, Alabama, founded in 1871 and named after its English ancestor, looks as if it was imagined by a deranged computer, straight lines and sharp angles and missing bits in the middle (see illustration above). One pseudopodium extends to the west, long and thin, until it widens out a bit and ends in a box. To the east is a tumorous outgrowth, thin, then wide, then thin again, doubling back on itself several times.

From San Jose in the west to Savannah in the east, and from tiny Minot in North Dakota to sprawling Fort Worth in Texas, odd city maps can be found all across America. With some exceptions, these boundaries are administrative confections that make few allowances for geography, population density or common sense.

10 Amazing Tales Of The Conquistadors Left Out Of History Books

Tristan Shaw:

The conquistadors were Spanish and Portuguese soldiers who explored much of the world during the Age of Discovery. They are best remembered for their conquests and exploration of the Americas. Conquistadors like Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro became legendary for their conquests of the Aztec and Inca Empires, honored as national heroes for centuries after their deaths.

In modern times, people have taken a more skeptical view toward the conquistadors, dismissing them as greedy and careless barbarians interested only in gold. While this was true of many of them, the conquistadors were certainly a fascinating lot of adventurers, filled with larger-than-life characters whose dreams, failures, and occasional triumphs—overshadowed by the big, successful names like Cortes and Pizarro—make for some fascinating stories.

De-Nazifying the “DSM”: On “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna”

Andrew Scull:

FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES now, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, or DSM for short, has exercised a stranglehold of sorts over the mental health sector in the United States, and indeed around the world. Since the publication of the manual’s third edition in 1980, psychiatrists have used a symptom-based approach to name and categorize varieties of mental disturbances — which essentially mirrors the 18th century’s approach to physical illness. As was also true then, there do not exist today any technologies that lend authority to psychiatric diagnoses: no x-rays or MRIs, no blood tests or laboratory analyses that would allow us to make even the most basic distinctions between mental health and mental illness. This unsatisfactory situation has invited controversy and led some misguided souls to deny the very reality of mental illness.

The fact that the DSM has passed through three editions and two interim revisions since 1980 is eloquent testimony to the psychiatric profession’s struggle with delineating its territory. Yet, however haphazard, the diagnostic category or categories to which patients are assigned have profound social and medical ramifications. And American professionals — even clinical psychologists who reject the DSM’s model — have no choice but to use (and thereby uphold) these categories if they expect to be paid by insurance companies.

Congress votes to make open government data the default in the United States

Alex:

“The bipartisan passage of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act is a significant step toward a more efficient, more effective government that uses evidence and data to improve results for the American people,” said Michele Jolin, CEO and co-founder of Results for America, in a statement. “We commend Speaker Ryan, Senator Murray and their bipartisan colleagues in both chambers for advancing legislation that will help build evidence about the federally-funded practices, policies and programs that deliver the best outcomes. By ensuring that each federal agency has an evaluation officer, an evaluation policy and evidence-building plans, we can maximize the impact of public investments.”

“The OPEN Government Data Act will ensure that the federal government releases valuable data sets, follows best practices in data management, and commits to making data available to the public in a non-proprietary and electronic format,” said Daniel Castro, in a statement. “Today’s vote marks a major bipartisan victory for open data. This legislation will generate substantial returns for the public and private sectors alike in the years to come.”

“The passage of the OPEN Government Data Act is a win for the open data community”, said Sarah Joy Hays, Acting Executive Director of the Data Coalition, in a statement. “The Data Coalition has proudly supported this legislation for over three years, along with dozens of other organizations. The bill sets a presumption that all government information should be open data by default: machine-readable and freely-reusable. Ultimately, it will improve the way our government runs and serves its citizens. This would not have been possible without the support of Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1-R), Senators Patty Murray (WA-D), Brian Schatz (HI-D), Ben Sasse (NE-R), and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6-D). Our Coalition urges the President to promptly sign this open data bill into law.”

What did Jesus really look like?

Joan Taylor:

Everyone knows what Jesus looks like. He is the most painted figure in all of Western art, recognised everywhere as having long hair and a beard, a long robe with long sleeves (often white) and a mantle (often blue).

Jesus is so familiar that he can be recognised on pancakes or pieces of toast.

But did he really look like this?

Probably not.

In fact this familiar image of Jesus actually comes from the Byzantine era, from the 4th Century onwards, and Byzantine representations of Jesus were symbolic – they were all about meaning, not historical accuracy.

They were based on the image of an enthroned emperor, as we see in the altar mosaic of the Santa Pudenziana church in Rome.

Spotlight on Due Process 2018

the fire:

Colleges and universities across the country are failing to afford their students due process and fundamental fairness in their disciplinary proceedings. These institutions investigate and punish offenses ranging from vandalism and housing violations to felonious acts of sexual assault, handling many cases that are arguably better left to courts and law enforcement. But their willingness to administer what is effectively a shadow justice system has not been accompanied by a willingness to provide even the most basic procedural protections necessary to fairly adjudicate accusations of serious wrongdoing.

In November 2018, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights proposed new federal regulations that would require schools to provide many procedural safeguards in sexual misconduct cases. If the regulations are enacted as proposed, a fairer status quo might be on the horizon. But for now, most institutions of higher education maintain disciplinary policies and procedures that fail all students involved.

The Der Spiegel journalist who messed with the wrong small town

Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn:

In February 2017, my husband and I attended a concert at our local theater, and were sipping some wine in the lobby before the show started. Several people came up to us at separate times excitedly, and asked, ‘did you meet the German guy yet?!’

I hadn’t, but my spider senses perked up when I heard that he worked for Der Spiegel, a magazine based in Hamburg, and that he was writing about the state of rural America in the wake of Trump’s presidency.

I know I’m not the only rural advocate and citizen that is wary about the anthropological gaze on rural America in the wake of the 2016 elections, and has struggled with how or whether to respond to the sudden attention and questions, when before we really didn’t matter to mass media at all.

Suddenly we do matter, but only because everyone wants to be the hero pundit that cracks the code of the current rural psyche. There are only two things those writers seem to have concluded or are able to pitch to their editors  —  we are either backwards, living in the past and have our heads up our asses, or we’re like dumb, endearing animals that just need a little attention in order to keep us from eating the rest of the world alive.

With that in mind, I was slightly reassured to hear that Der Spiegel’s journalist, Claas Relotius, had met some of the people that could represent the true complexities of Fergus Falls  —  people that love a good intellectual debate about both local and national issues, people that own small businesses, who grew up here but also had global experience and perspectives, and people who collaborate consistently across political lines because the simple reality of living in a small town is that everyone at some point has to work together if they want anything to function properly.

How Google Tracks Your Personal Information

Patrick Berlinquette:

When lazy journalists are pessimistic about Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, they say stuff like: “Even Orwell couldn’t have predicted that we’d willingly bring Big Brother into our own homes.”

What they fail to mention is our willingness to exchange privacy for convenience didn’t start with the advent of virtual assistants. It started in the early 2000s, when people—in return for having access to Google products and seeing more relevant ads—allowed Google to have all their data.

Today, Google provides marketers like me with so much of your personal data that we can infer more about you from it than from any camera or microphone.

There have never been more opportunities for marketers like me to exploit your data. Today, 40,000 Google search queries are conducted every second. That’s 3.5 billion searches per day, 1.2 trillion searches per year.

When you search on Google, your query travels to a data center, where up to 1,000 computers work together to retrieve the results and send them back to you. This whole process usually happens in less than one-fifth of a second.

Most people don’t realize that while this is going on, an even faster and more mysterious process is happening behind the scenes: An auction is taking place.

For as long as you’ve been using Google, Google has been building a “citizen profile” on you.
Every internet search contains keywords, and the keywords you just entered into Google are fought over by advertisers. Each advertiser who offers a product related to your keywords wants its ad to be seen and clicked.

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

You find, for example, an obsessive attention to what today we would refer to as ‘literacy’ and ‘critical thinking skills’”

Jeff Sypeck:

But when you look at the manuscripts, the classroom texts, and the teaching methods of the early Middle Ages, you find habits and practices that I think would warm the hearts of pretty much everybody in this room. You find, for example, an obsessive attention to what today we would refer to as “literacy” and “critical thinking skills.” We find a true love of learning—even more admirably, a love of language, the nuts and bolts of language: how language works, how you put words together, how you put sentences together, how you communicate with other educated people. And you find that underlying all of this is an incredible sense of purpose, a real sense of mission. Thanks to the efforts of the monks of this era, within a generation or two, literacy was spreading, old books were being copied and preserved at unprecedented rates, and new books were being written for educational use.

So there are really a few things to discuss here this morning: What was this educational curriculum and where did it come from? And also, what made it so successful in such an uncertain and illiterate era?

The answers to those questions contain real lessons for those of us who teach writing, composition, and literature, and in the end I think they leave us with further interesting questions to ponder as well.

Hamilton is Madison’s least diverse (Madison K-12 statistics) middle school, yet, we recently expanded it.

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

You mad they cut his hair, but not that his school is killing mindset

Citizen Stewart:

Less than 1% black proficiency (as opposed to a startling 9% for the state overall)?

Man, y’all better keep the eye on the prize and put the outrage where it is supposed to be. Student achievement this bad paints a picture of the future none of us want.

Yes, I think it’s terrible that a referee with history of racism required a black student athlete to cut his hair or forfeit his match, I’m more bothered by the fact that we’re outraged at that and not at the fact that his school is failing students like him so spectacularly.

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

Police: Semiautomatic weapon found at home of Providence student who posted ‘threatening’ video

Amanda Milkovits:

Authorities said they found an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at the home of a student who posted a “threatening” video Tuesday night on YouTube.

The teenage boy, who attends Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, is being evaluated and will not return to school until the investigation is complete, police said.

Neither Providence school officials or the police would describe the video, but said it was enough to prompt an investigation. Providence police met with the teen and his guardians Wednesday morning.

“Due to the swift actions of PPD, in collaboration with the resource officers at the school, the weapon has been secured and there remains no threat to Alvarez or any Providence Public School,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré and Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. said in a joint statement Wednesday night. “We take matters like this very seriously and given national trends, investigate every credible threat thoroughly.”

This Parkland dad blamed gutlessness, not guns, for tragedy. For that he faced vile abuse

Glenn Garvin:

The sprawling, ranch-style home in Coral Springs is nearly vacant now — Andrew Pollack and his wife, Julie, will be leaving for good in a couple of days, and there’s not even a chair for him to sit in during this interview — and when Pollack plays videos from his cell phone, they give off a hollow, distant echo that make the place sound haunted. Which, of course, it is.

Sirens. Static. “Shots fired! Shots fired!” The sounds crackle forth as a blurry set of images unspool on the phone’s screen. A roadway, then a locked car trunk, then a pair of hands, leisurely retrieving a vest that’s stenciled SHERIFF. A series of spinning, unstable views as the law officer — it’s now obvious this footage is from a cop’s body cam — shrugs the vest over his shoulders and fastens it. More pictures of hands moving onto and off of the camera. Ninety seconds have elapsed and the car trunk is still visible; the deputy has not moved an inch toward Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a scene of terrible carnage.

And throughout that 90 seconds, a series of sharp retorts have sounded in the background of the video.

“Hear that? Hear those noises?” says Pollack, snapping the video off. “Those are gunshots. That’s my little girl being shot. That’s my little girl being murdered. While this deputy gets dressed. It took them 11 minutes to get to the hallway where she died.”

For avant-garde poets, audio recording was both a breakthrough and a threat.

Evan Kindley:

In the winter of 1965, Allen Ginsberg hit the road in a Volkswagen camper. The trip was a speaking tour, of sorts, as Ginsberg was scheduled to read his poetry in cities all over the West Coast and the Midwest, but it was also an experiment in composition. Ginsberg brought with him a portable Uher tape recorder, then an expensive novelty (bought with $600 given to him by Bob Dylan), and used it to dictate what eventually became part of The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965–1971 (1973). Moving “through a range of shifting American environments,” Lytle Shaw writes in his new book Narrowcast: Poetry and Audio Research (2018), “Ginsberg could capture his own voice, and make almost instantaneous notations, without having to scrawl in a notebook or type on a typewriter.” He could also record radio transmissions, effortlessly incorporating the transistor buzz of contemporary history into his pocket epic. Here, for instance, is the opening of “Hiway Poesy L.A.–Albuquerque–Texas–Wichita”:

The Myth of Education

Darren Allen:

Education in the system means compulsory schooling in a world of artificial scarcity · · · Schooled activity stunts maturity, punishes experience, corrupts initiative and cuts the individual off from the world, making self-sufficiency and self-confidence all but impossible · · · The most schooled people on earth are generally the most stupid; the most heavily indoctrinated, the most insensitive, the most conceited and the most helpless.

The purpose of education is to socialise human beings into a life of complete institutional dependency. School teaches you that justice must come from someone in institutional authority, that meaningful activity must come from a ‘career path,’ that if you want to express yourself you must first gain access to centralised speech platforms,1 that if you want to do something, you must first of all gain a licence or a qualification and that, above all, your own desires and instincts are invalid.
General incompetence, self-alienation and permanent childishness is the purpose of education; indeed the stated purpose. The designers of the modern school were chillingly explicit about what school is supposed to do.2 Self-knowledge, self-confidence, peace-of-mind, sensitivity, spontaneity and autonomy do not figure; indeed they are existential threats of the highest order which must be repeatedly exterminated.

The purpose of education is to train students in techniques required by the market-system; managing large amounts of useless data, doing the same thing over and over and over and over again, doing things you don’t actually want to do, under extreme time pressure, for no better reason than because someone in authority tells you to, paying no attention to the world around you and unquestioningly accepting given myths. So called ‘objective’ exams fulfil this purpose perfectly, weeding out those who insist on doing things their own way, in their own time, without any need of overt coercion; although there are plenty of other ways that systemic threats and defective units can be identified. Inability to sit still, staring out of the window, refusal to do ludicrous assignments, hatred of authority, bunking off, asking the wrong kinds of questions, ‘inappropriate’ behaviour and offensive language are all grounds for suspicion, tranquillisation, ridicule, failure or expulsion.

Some Madison schools sign on to Black Lives Matter event that calls for dumping police

Chris Rickert:

Some Madison schools will participate next year in a Black Lives Matter event that features a call to “fund counselors, not cops” — despite the School Board’s decision this week to keep police officers in the Madison School District’s four main high schools.

Hamilton Middle School said in an email to community members Thursday that it would participate in Black Lives Matter at School week Feb. 4-8. “Other schools in Madison” are also participating in the event, according to the email.

The BLM at School movement began in 2016, according to the group’s website, and its first “week of action” was in February of this year. In addition to cutting funding for school-based police officers — commonly known as educational, or school, resource officers — the movement’s other three goals are to:

End “zero tolerance” discipline and implement more restorative justice programs.

Hire more black teachers.
Mandate black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum.
Andrew Waity, president of the Madison teachers union, Madison Teachers Inc., said in a Friday email that “MTI members have been interested in participating in this event for a while and first brought it forward last year.”

But that “does not change our existing position of support for Educational Resource Officers in (Madison School District) high schools,” he said. “We believe that it is the responsibility of the district and (the Madison Police Department) to develop a contract that defines the roles and responsibilities of these officers.”

Hamilton is Madison’s least diverse (Madison K-12 statistics) middle school, yet, we recently expanded it.

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Venezuela Forcibly Converts Pensions into Petro

Jeff Francis:

What this means is that the government decided to convert the pension payments into the Petro cryptocurrency. This was done without any prior notice or the consent of the people receiving the pensions.

Senior citizens who get a pension now have to navigate through the carnet de la patria system and find the process that allows them to convert the Petro into bolivars and then send the fiat to a local bank. (This is necessary as you can’t use the Petro for anything currently.) Needless to say, the site does everything possible make this as hard as it can be.

Compounding the issue is that people who had not signed up to be part of the carnet de la patria system found their pensions converted. This means that they have to create an account and deal with the official government website in order to access the funds they’re entitled to.

We’re teaching young women to embrace resentment dressed up as liberation and agency.

Marilyn Simon:

The orthodox line of feminism is that women don’t need men, and that it is men who keep women in a state of dependence. This is the doctrine of women’s liberation: we are trying to liberate ourselves from our dependency on men. Pragmatically speaking, the notion that we don’t need men is largely true. (As a single mother and single woman, I’m certainly poorer than my married counterparts, but I am running a family household successfully, if chaotically.) Paradoxically, however, the rhetoric of orthodox feminism implies the reverse: we need men in order to prove to ourselves that we don’t. I don’t need to sleep with a stuffed animal at night, but were I to insist on mentioning this at every opportunity, it would become abundantly clear that the idea dominated me. At a time when Western women have achieved economic independence, control over their reproductive rights, legal equality, and equal professional opportunities, the continued obsession with the need to win independence from the thing that we are, in every measurable way, already independent from, reveals just how subservient we are to the idea of powerful men. After all, only a child still dependent on the comfort of a stuffed toy needs to insist to herself that she isn’t.

Yes, but—my detractors might say—women only insist that they don’t need men, because men assume that we do need them. We are fighting the tacit understanding of male privilege and power, and we need to prove to them that their archaic assumptions are not only incorrect, but unethical. Or, they might object that women need to assert that they don’t need men so loudly and consistently because, historically, we’ve been raised to believe we do need them under the rule of the patriarchy and its constructed gender roles, so we must now de-program our sisters and daughters. These objections, however, fall back into the familiar pattern of making The Patriarchy the centre of female identity and ignore what is perhaps the most important fact of the relationship between men and women: although women may not need men, men still need women.

Let me say that again: men need us. It’s silly to enter into a conversation about women and men without acknowledging the basic biological drives of our species. I’ve never known a heterosexual man who isn’t constantly preoccupied with thoughts of women. Their own nature is at work against self-possession: the sight or the thought of a woman can overturn a man’s thoughts, his will, and seriously compromise his reason and unbalance his ability to make decisions. At times, this preoccupation can manifest as anger and even hatred. Nobody is suggesting that misogyny isn’t real. Most of the time, however, men’s need of women results in clumsy attempts at flirtation or awkward and unwanted advances. From what I can tell, a large proportion of the #Metoo complaints are of this nature.

The Case for Creative Play in a Digital Age

Perri Klass:

All the excesses of my own childhood are, of course, available on eBay, priced for the vintage market. There are the accessories for the 1960s Thingmaker, from Mattel, with its metal molds to be poured full of plastigoop (I can smell it now) and cooked to a nice soft solid texture on the square little electrical stove, then lifted out of the mold with a pin and assembled into Creepy Crawlers or Creeple People. I saw a vintage 1965 Thingmaker available for a mere $25, but full sets run to a couple of hundred dollars.

I don’t know if you’ll actually be able to find Chop Suey, a 1967 board game in which a bowl is filled with small plastic food items, and you have to pick them out with (wait for it) chopsticks as the bowl spins. Culturally insensitive, perhaps, but very good for learning how to handle chopsticks; in the interests of defeating my brother in the contest for slippery little pieces of plastic, I developed reliable skills that have served me well.

Let’s not even talk about Barbie and her dream house. Most evocative of all for me, there on eBay are the 1960s vintage Easy-Bake Ovens, and as I look at the photo, a jingle starts to play insistently in my brain: “Be a Betty Crocker baker, make a Betty Crocker cake, in your Betty Crocker Easy-Bake oven!”

Former BOE member Jill Ortman-Fouse exposes extremely dysfunctional staff

Jill Ortman-Fouse:

Do you have any idea how many processes there are? From changing bus routes for road work to turning in hours for home teaching staff—both done on paper. What is your obsession with names? There are around 800 people in central office. Many have been working there decades. They are unfamiliar with the processes used by outside institutions including other school systems. Humans fear change.

You don’t change processes by bullying. It takes time and energy. You commit to the work to make it happen. You can’t pass a resolution if you don’t have the votes. You don’t get the votes if staff don’t trust your idea and aren’t supportive to your colleagues. I started to write a response to your other question I can’t find now, but my phone died.

There are two ways to get questions answered. One, board members ask follow-up questions at the board table, if staff don’t answer it at the table, board staff record it and eventually you get a staff response. Two, board members submit questions to the chief of staff of the board office, that person “bucks the question”to the appropriate department. You may or may not get an answer eventually to your question as it was asked.

I recommended that we have a tracking system like other school systems use where all board members questions are openly recorded so that all board members can see what questions their colleagues are asking, and ensure that those questions were answered. Our chief of staff did not implement that process while he was serving our office as they had other processes I guess he preferred.

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

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques:

Dear Editor: We read “The new math: how data is changing the way teachers teach” with great interest. We learned that for freshmen at East High School, coming to school 90 percent of the time, having a 3.0 grade point average, and having no more than two failing grades is enough to put them “on track” for high school graduation.

What about core academic skills, we wondered? Do students at East need, for example, to be able to read in order to graduate?

To answer our question — and in keeping with the spirit of the article — we went to the data.

Here are the ninth-, 10th-, and 11th-grade reading proficiency and graduation rates for the East classes of 2016 through 2019. (Note: missing proficiency data is because students were not tested in those years; missing graduation data is because DPI has not reported it yet.)

Click or tap for larger versions

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at East, especially if you are black or Hispanic. But when 70 percent of your minority students earn diplomas and fewer than 20 percent of them are able to read at grade level, what does that high school diploma mean?

East ninth-graders who don’t know how to read might not want to go to school (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might be chronically absent. They might not want to go to class (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might engage in disruptive activities elsewhere. And they might not be able to keep up (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might fail.

Rather than focus so heavily on attendance, behavior, and socioemotional learning, as described in the article, teachers and administrators should prioritize teaching students how to read. Students who know how to read are more likely to come to school, go to class, work hard, and have a meaningful and rewarding post-high school life.

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

School Board member James Howard not running for re-election (2019)

Negassi Tesfamichael:

The three-term School Board member said he is most proud of helping further MMSD’s work on diversity and inclusion. Howard said he wished the School Board could have approved several more major initiatives that he said would have helped students of color.

Howard, the only black man on the School Board, is currently its longest serving member. He was first elected to Seat 4 in 2010 after defeating Tom Farley by nearly a two-to-one margin. Howard captured 76 percent of the vote when he was re-elected in 2013. He ran unopposed in 2016.

Howard, an economist for the USDA Forest Service, was widely expected to not run for re-election this spring. He said during his 2016 campaign that his next term would be his last.

Still, even as recently as earlier this month when several challengers announced School Board runs, Howard told the Cap Times he was still deciding if he would run again.

Notes and links:

Ali Muldrow

David Blaska

James Howard

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

The Role Of Antitrust Laws In An Era Of Big Banks, Pharma, And Tech

J Carlisle Larsen:

In the late 19th century, the United States implemented laws to prevent corporations from growing too large and stifling competition in the market. While these rules have been around for more than a century, Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu argues that it’s time to revisit them in order to better regulate massive companies like Amazon and Google. He joins us to talk about antitrust laws and how concentrated corporate power can lead to massive inequality, nationalism, and populism.

Does It Matter Where You Go to College?

Derek Thompson:

But what appears obvious may not be true. In November 2002, the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a landmark paper by the economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger that reached a startling conclusion. For most students, the salary boost from going to a super-selective school is “generally indistinguishable from zero” after adjusting for student characteristics, such as test scores. In other words, if Mike and Drew have the same SAT scores and apply to the same colleges, but Mike gets into Harvard and Drew doesn’t, they can still expect to earn the same income throughout their careers. Despite Harvard’s international fame and energetic alumni outreach, somebody like Mike would not experience an observable “Harvard effect.” Dale and Krueger even found that the average SAT scores of all the schools a student applies to is a more powerful predictor of success than the school that student actually attends.

This finding suggests that the talents and ambitions of individual students are worth more than the resources and renown of elite schools. Or, less academically, the person you’re becoming at 18 is a better predictor of your future success than the school you graduate from at 22. The takeaway here: Stress out about your habits and chill out about college.

That’s kind of inspiring. It also implies that all the angst and time devoted to the infamous admissions process is a wasteful pageant for the vast majority of its participants. Could that really be true? Or were Dale and Krueger off somehow?

A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — So She Lost Her Job

Glenn Greenwald:

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told she can no longer work with the public school district after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

Reading Plato’s Interpreters

Sreejith Sugunan:

LIKE MOST MIDDLE-CLASS INDIANS I was primed from early childhood to value a practical life over a contemplative one. The assumption was that only an education in science can develop one’s reasoning capabilities and, more importantly, solve the world’s pressing problems. So when I decided to enroll for a master’s degree in philosophy, the question that troubled me was less about whether the subject would lead me to the truth and more about how effectively it would help me use my reason. I was conditioned to believe that “reasoning” meant solving complicated mathematical and scientific problems, or figuring out the issues of poverty and development. So I chose politics over philosophy. Most contemporary problems are political, and the solutions to even non-political problems depend on politics, the best example being climate change. Yet, having made this decision, I continued to wonder how we could live well in the world without investigating what a good life is. And that is when I discovered the centrality of this question to the ancient Greeks and to classical Western philosophy, and these philosophers’ belief that reason was crucial to living the good life.

Greece had produced philosophers such as Heraclitus, Parmenides and Protagoras before Plato, the protagonist of this essay. But despite the variety in their thought—from the metaphysical to the cosmological—Plato’s predecessors are often clubbed together and referred to as the “Pre-Socratics.”

Plato was deeply influenced by his teacher Socrates, and Plato’s writings are referred to as Socratic dialogues. This is not merely because these works featured Socrates as the main character but also because they were written in a “dialectical” mode—a form of discourse in which characters are in conversation with each other, acknowledging what is worthwhile in the other’s argument, while at the same time productively criticising it. Most of Plato’s dialogues, including his most famous one, Republic, were written to counter some of the philosophical positions advocated by the Pre-Socratics. In taking on such a wide range of ideas, Plato ended up commenting on almost every possible philosophical subject. And it is this immensely rich contribution to the discipline that the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead had in mind when he said, “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Almost every major western philosopher, from Aristotle to Heidegger, has written about his ideas, and Platonic studies is a substantial field within Western philosophy. Some, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, saw Plato as the quintessential philosopher, while others, such as Nietzsche, felt his ideas represented everything that philosophy should not be.

Madison School Board backs contract that would keep police officers in high schools

Logan Wroge:

The Madison School Board on Monday backed a proposed contract that would keep police officers at Madison’s four main high schools.

Board members voted 4-2 in favor of the proposed contract, which would emphasize alternative disciplines instead of arresting or citing students, lay the groundwork for a new complaint procedure against the officers and require more training in areas such as autism, adolescent brain development and implicit bias.

The board, though, added contract language that would give the Madison School District the ability to require an officer be replaced for cause.

“The reality is things that we don’t control make having (police officers) in our schools absolutely the best decision,” said board president Mary Burke. “Unfortunately yes, there are downsides, unintended consequences.”

Members T.J. Mertz, James Howard, Dean Loumos and Burke supported the contract, Nicki Vander Meulen and Kate Toews voted against it, and Gloria Reyes was not present for the vote.

Earlier in the meeting, the school board approved by a vote of 5-2 a new specialized learning track for its Personalized Pathways program to go in effect at East, La Follette and Memorial high schools during the 2019-20 school year.

Facebook and presidential campaigns: 2008, 2012 and 2016

Dave Lee:

As well as this lawsuit, Facebook is being probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice.

In the UK, the company was fined £500,000 over the Cambridge Analytica scandal , the maximum fine the British data regulator could impose.

Bigger trouble may arise from the Irish data protection regulator, which is investigating Facebook for multiple admissions of security flaws, in what is being seen as the first major test of Europe’s new privacy rules as dictated by the General Data Protection Regulation.

According to the Post, the DC attorney general’s action could be amended to include more recent data security admissions, including more revelations published on Wednesday by the New York Times

Related: the Obama campaign’s 2008 and 2012 Facebook relationship.

For black students in the suburbs, challenging interactions with peers, teachers are routine

Justin Murphy and Georgie Silvarole:

Federal data shows black students in particular face serious obstacles to advancing education

Black and Latino students spoken to for this report say they thrive on opportunities, but still run into instances of racism

In 10 districts with significant black populations, those students were more than a year behind

Suburban school districts are growing increasingly diverse, with 40 percent of the county’s minority students attending

Will Barrett, an 11th-grader at Fairport High School, has avoided the pitfalls of many other suburban students of color. He takes several Advanced Placement classes and doesn’t have any disciplinary problems.

Even so, he said he is constantly confronted by the sort of overt racism that many white people believe disappeared generations ago.

He recalled one instance where another student said that black people come from the jungle. Black people commit the vast majority of crimes, the white student continued, so the country would be better off without them.

Millions Of Comments About The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Were Fake. Now The Feds Are Investigating.

Kevin Collier and Jeremy Singer-Vine:

The Justice Department is investigating whether crimes were committed when potentially millions of people’s identities were posted to the FCC’s website without their permission, falsely attributing to them opinions about net neutrality rules, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Two organizations told BuzzFeed News, each on condition that they not be named, that the FBI delivered subpoenas to them related to the comments.

The reports are the first that federal investigators are taking in interest in the case, which was already subject to an investigation previously announced by the New York attorney general’s office.

Both organizations had previously been subpoenaed by New York and said the scope of those subpoenas were similar.

NY Times Columnist Nick Kristof Led The Charge To Get Facebook To Censor Content, Now Whining That Facebook Censors His Content

Mike Masnick:

We’ve talked in the past about NY Times columnist Nick Kristof, who is a bit infamous for having something of a savior complex in his views. He is especially big on moral panics around sex trafficking, and was one of the most vocal proponents of FOSTA, despite not understanding what the law would do at all (spoiler alert: just as we predicted, and as Kristof insisted would not happen — FOSTA has put more women at risk). When pushing for FOSTA, Kristof wrote the following:

Even if Google were right that ending the immunity for Backpage might lead to an occasional frivolous lawsuit, life requires some balancing.

For example, websites must try to remove copyrighted material if it’s posted on their sites. That’s a constraint on internet freedom that makes sense, and it hasn’t proved a slippery slope. If we’re willing to protect copyrights, shouldn’t we do as much to protect children sold for sex?

The Liberal Arts Weren’t Murdered – They Committed Suicide

Victor Davis Hanson:

The great culture wars on the campuses of the 1980s were largely lost by traditionalists. And the question then became not if but when the liberal arts would die off as a result. What is strange nearly 40 years later is that the apparent outrage over what was clearly foreordained is now becoming fact. What did academia expect, given its years of academic specialization and politicized indoctrination?

Recently the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point announced plans to drop liberal-arts majors in geography, geology, French, German, two- and three-dimensional art — and history. The Atlantic ran a well-meaning essay by Adam Harris on the controversial move, “The Liberal Arts May Not Survive the 21st Century” — again, a topic much in the news recently. The article’s chief thrust is that insidious efforts to promote STEM vocationalism — the need to prepare young people for careers requiring extensive math and science skill sets — has driven out the need for more in-depth focus on the liberal arts, in a climate in which crass Republican state legislators, in allegedly vindictive and short-sighted fashion, demanded catastrophic cuts in state public higher-education budgets.

The Stevens Point campus highlighted a popular perception that emphases in literature, history, or languages lead nowhere for cash-strapped graduates but to more debt and fewer jobs. Yet what the article on official university policy misses is why students do not concentrate in the liberal arts in the fashion of the past.

After all, only that fact of declining enrollments allows the university to institutionalize the unspoken reality of eroding student interest. In other words, the university is simply burying liberal-arts majors that were already killed off not by bottom-line-minded state legislators but by the choices of either students or faculty or by university policies, or by combinations of all three.

Get Ready for the Coming War Against Merit

Robert Weissberg:

What if the Supreme Court rules decisively against Harvard in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College? Will racial preferences fade into history as has Prohibition? Or will universities employ legally safe proxies such as social class to admit less qualified minorities?

Let me suggest one resistance tactic not yet on the agenda but, rest assured, it will show up: challenging the definition of “merit” that underlies the SAT, MCAT, GRE’s and similar tests. To be sure, racial and ethnic differences in these scores are probably intractable but developing new tests to replace old “racist” ones might narrow gaps sufficient for judges to conclude “close enough” to escape the verdict of racial discrimination.

For fans of preferences, this quest is relatively simple, and I suspect that woke Education Testing Service (ETS) psychometricians are already at work, given the firm’s financial incentives.

Let me try to predict the possible transformation of “merit.”

Chess, AI and Asia’s future Game offers lessons for region’s technological and economic development

James Crabtree:

Global chess enthusiasts are sitting enthralled this week as the sport’s latest World Championships head toward a tense finale in London. $600,000 in prize money awaits the victor of the 12-game clash between Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian wunderkind and current titleholder, and his younger challenger Fabiano Caruana, a combative U.S.-born grandmaster of Italian descent.

Yet while this long-anticipated contest is being fought out between an American and a European, rapid developments in modern chess hold intriguing lessons — technologically, geographically and institutionally — for the future of Asia too.

For starters, chess is a corrective to those who fret that new technologies, and in particular artificial intelligence, will render human beings redundant. Basic smartphone apps can now easily beat Carlsen, Caruana or indeed any flesh-and-blood player. Despite this, interest in the game is thriving.

The expensive superficiality of M.F.A. programs

Charlie Tyson:

In April, 51 of the 54 students slated to graduate from Columbia University’s visual-arts M.F.A. program came to the provost with an unusual demand: a full tuition refund for the 2017-18 academic year. These candidates had reportedly been working in decrepit conditions. Limestone had fallen from studio ceilings and hallways had flooded, damaging works of art. Room temperatures often dropped below 40 degrees. The environment outside the studio was equally chilly: Star professors took repeated sabbaticals. The university had cheated the students out of an education, they claimed. (One year of tuition at Columbia’s fine-arts program is $63,961.)

The state of Columbia’s highly ranked program — a “disgrace,” the provost acknowledged as he declined their refund request — may be unusual. But the ceiling has yet to crumble on the M.F.A. market more broadly. The degree has increasingly become a prerequisite for people trying to break into the art world, especially those seeking the attention of the leading New York galleries. More than half of the 500 most successful American artists at auction hold M.F.A.s. But what is really happening inside these programs? And what effects do they have on contemporary art?

Deconstructing cultural codes

Tyler Cowen:

As I continue to do Conversations with Tyler, more people ask me about “the Tyler Cowen production function.” Well, here is one piece of it I don’t think I’ve written about or talked about before. I’m going to bring you there in slightly long-winded fashion, long-winded for a blog post that is.

I’ve long been convinced that “matters of culture” are central for understanding economic growth, but I’m also painfully aware these theories tend to lack rigor and even trying to define culture can waste people’s time for hours, with no satisfactory resolution.

So I thought I would tackle this problem sideways. I figured the best way to understand culture was to try to understand or “crack” as many cultural codes as possible. As many styles of art. As many kinds of music. As many complex novels, and complex classic books, and of course as many economic models as well. Religions, and religious books. Anthropological understandings. I also learned two languages in my adult years, German and Spanish (the former better than the latter). A bit later I realized that figuring out how an economic sector works — if only partially — was really not so different from cracking these other cultural codes. For instance, once I spent three days on a boat (as keynote speaker), exclusively with people from a particular segment of the shipping trade. It was like entering a whole new world and every moment of it was fascinating.

Eventually it seemed to me that problems of management were themselves a kind of cultural code, each one different of course.

And travel was the most potent form of this challenge, every new place a new culture to be unraveled and partially understood, and how much time was there to do that anyway?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “This approach literally guarantees an upward cycle of rising pay, based solely on the banal observation that, by definition, half of the agencies surveyed must be below the so-called market midpoint.”

Richard Halstead:

Robert Fellner, executive director of Transparent California, which posts information on the compensation of California public employees on the internet, questions the use of salary surveys to justify raises.

“Wages should be set on market conditions and reflect whether the county is able to attract and retain talent,” Fellner wrote in an email.

“Governments deploy misleading salary surveys limited to only other government agencies, and whenever an agency is at or near the bottom half of agencies surveyed, cite this as proof for the need to raise pay,” Fellner continued. “This approach literally guarantees an upward cycle of rising pay, based solely on the banal observation that, by definition, half of the agencies surveyed must be below the so-called market midpoint.”

Mimi Willard, founder and president of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, said, “Our elected public officials are always telling us that pensions are completely out of their control. Well, every time you do something like this it increases the pension burden.”

Additional pension costs will account for nearly $44,000 of the $220,000 in annual additional ongoing county costs that will result from the equity raises.

Responding to Fellner’s comments in an email, Hymel wrote, “We survey other public agencies of similar size and scope because those are the agencies that we are competing with for talent. During the last recession, our department heads and our assistant department heads went several years with no salary increases.”

Hymel said because the salary increases won’t average more than 3 percent annually they won’t add to the county’s unfunded pension liability. He said that is because the county’s pension board has already factored a 3 percent annual increase in employee costs into its projections.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Nearly 156 People Leave Chicago Daily: Demographic Trends

Alexandre Tanzi and Wei Lu:

Even migration is bigger in Texas. Dallas leads all U.S. cities as the largest net gainer with 246 people arriving daily, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 2017 Census data on migration to the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. In 2014, the crown belonged to Houston with 269 migrants per day.

After Dallas, Sun Belt beacons Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta and Orlando round out the top five. Seattle, at number six with a gain of 116 people daily, is the only cold-weather destination in the top 10. The daily influx surpassed 100 people in nine cities, while Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles saw an exodus of more than 100 people every day.

These figures exclude the natural increase in population, which is the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths.

Civics: Oakland changes election rules after ballots are counted

East Bay Times:

The Oakland City Council has suddenly declared that Mayor Libby Schaaf’s “Children’s Initiative” passed in last month’s election even though it failed to receive the required two-thirds voter approval.

The seemingly unprecedented decision to effectively move the election goal posts closer after the ballots were counted constitutes a stunning breach of trust with the voters.

This decision is headed to court, where it should be stopped. Voters were told by the city attorney before the election that Measure AA required two-thirds approval. It fell short with 62.5 percent support. Suddenly, the council says it only needed majority backing. The time to make that argument was before the campaigning began.

Why Chinese is so hard

David Moser:

The first question any thoughtful person might ask when reading the title of this essay is, “Hard for whom?” A reasonable question. After all, Chinese people seem to learn it just fine. When little Chinese kids go through the “terrible twos”, it’s Chinese they use to drive their parents crazy, and in a few years the same kids are actually using those impossibly complicated Chinese characters to scribble love notes and shopping lists. So what do I mean by “hard”? Since I know at the outset that the whole tone of this document is going to involve a lot of whining and complaining, I may as well come right out and say exactly what I mean. I mean hard for me, a native English speaker trying to learn Chinese as an adult, going through the whole process with the textbooks, the tapes, the conversation partners, etc., the whole torturous rigmarole. I mean hard for me — and, of course, for the many other Westerners who have spent years of their lives bashing their heads against the Great Wall of Chinese.

Concussion concerns prompt more Badgers to leave football

Emily Hamer:

The hit that put Walker Williams’ brain over the edge — leaving him with ongoing headaches, mood swings, ringing in his ears, depression, anxiety and short-term memory problems — was nothing out of the ordinary.

The University of Wisconsin football team had the ball and was lined up against Northwestern’s defense during a November 2015 game in Camp Randall Stadium. With 13:29 left in the second quarter, the ball was snapped, and the Badgers’ offensive line sprang into motion.

The clock ticked down to 13:28, and Williams, an offensive lineman, blocked a Northwestern player from moving toward the ball carrier. Their helmets collided — something that happens all the time in football.

A second later, Williams’ mind went blank. He stayed in for the next four plays, but he is not sure why. He does not remember any of them.

When Williams came over to the sidelines, “it was quite clear that I was not okay,” he said. His “speech was off” and he “wasn’t all there,” so associate head coach Joe Rudolph took him out of the game. Williams remembers bits and pieces of the episode, such as sitting on the bench and getting evaluated in the training room.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is funded by a variety of organizations.

A Pleasure to Read You

Arthur Krystal:

If we are to believe Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, her father, Lord Redesdale, read only one book in his life and that was White Fang. “He loved it so much he never read another. … ‘Dangerous good book,’ he used to say, ‘no point in trying any more.’ ” I also loved White Fang, but instead of desisting from books, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on more of them. Of course, I was barely a teenager at the time, and since then I’ve come across a few novels even better than White Fang—and some worse.

Nonetheless, Lord Redesdale, father of the notorious Mitford sisters, whose daughter Nancy wrote novels that he presumably opened, had a point. Reading ought to be pleasurable, so why waste time on poems or novels that don’t provide any? A plausible enough conceit that becomes bothersome only when we attempt to define reading pleasure. Should we even begin, or is the subject a spiraling Escheresque staircase whose ending is everywhere and nowhere? Pleasure? Surely no sane critic would approach the subject, not anymore, not today.

Frank Kermode was eminently reasonable and almost dishearteningly well read, but he took it on, in 2001, in two lectures delivered at the University of California–Berkeley. The lectures were later published as Pleasure and Change: The Aesthetics of Canon, boosted by commentaries from professors Geoffrey Hartman and John Guillory and theater director Carey Perloff. All too aware that the canon, as the product of privilege, is suspect by the very qualities that have traditionally defined literature, Kermode uses the word “canonical” advisedly, tapping books known in part because of the pleasure that is “a necessary though not obvious requirement of the canonical.”

The Dictionary and Us

David Skinner:

The chairman of the usage panel, Edwin Newman, was on hand. His book Strictly Speaking was the Eats, Shoots & Leaves of its day, a number-one bestseller. In it, Newman lodged the usual complaints against hopefully, malapropisms, redundant phrasing, and cliché-mongering (marathon talks, swank hotel, uneasy truce). He asked in the book’s first sentence, “Will American be the death of English?”

American English, however, was not really the problem, as any careful reader would have discerned. What truly bothered Newman was the scripted melodrama of press secretaries, speechwriters, and journalists. He disapproved of how these spokesmen of the educated class recycled favored tropes and hyped their own minor insights into major revelations. And he reserved a special contempt for the legalese of the Watergate proceedings, not just the infamous banality “at that point in time,” but the whole pompous subspecies of circuitous Nixonian blather.

“In Watergate,” Newman observed, “nobody ever discussed a subject. It was always subject matter. The discussion never took place before a particular date. It was always prior to. Nor was anything said, it was indicated; just as nothing was done, it was undertaken. If it was undertaken, it was never after the indications about the subject matter; it was subsequent to them.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Debt Worldwide Hits Record $184 Trillion, or $86,000 Per Person

Katia Dmitrieva:

Global debt hit a record $184 trillion last year, equivalent to more than $86,000 per person — more than double the average per-capita income.

Borrowing is led by the U.S., China, and Japan, the three biggest economies, the International Monetary Fund said Thursday, highlighting potential risks to global expansion given that their share of debt exceeds that of output. Overall, the amount of worldwide public and private debt is equal to about 225 percent of gross domestic product.

The IMF debt figure is $2 trillion higher than the fund’s previous estimate released in October, adding end-2017 data and several countries that had not previously reported updated numbers. The agency uses data for 190 countries dating back to the 1950s.

Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019

Negassi Tesfamichael:

The Madison School Board’s general election is still nearly five months away, but candidates have been jumping into the race the past few weeks at a rapid pace. Three seats on the seven-person School Board will be on the ballot this spring, and each seat will be contested. Here’s what you need to know about the race so far:

Seat 3

Seat 3, currently held by Dean Loumos, will have a new member this April. Loumos announced earlier this month that he would not seek re-election, citing medical concerns that would take him away from the campaign trail.

Cris Carusi, a district parent and volunteer, is running against education activist and One City Schools founder Kaleem Caire. Carusi ran for Seat 6 in 2017. She fell short in the three-person primary in that race.

Carusi told the Cap Times that she learned a lot from her first-ever campaign for public office.

Caire also has run for School Board. He lost the race for Seat 4 in 1998.

One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early Learning Center earlier this year, is one of the state’s first 4K and kindergarten charter options authorized by the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Educational Opportunity.

Caire went to the UW System to get One City Schools chartered after an earlier attempt to get a charter school, Madison Prep, approved by the Madison School District failed on a 5-2 vote in 2011.

He has previously said that he won’t have a conflict of interest if he serves on the School Board because One City Schools isn’t chartered through MMSD.

Notes and links:

Kaleem Caire

Cris Carusi

Dean Loumos

TJ Mertz

Ed Hughes

Ananda Mirilli

Ali Muldrow

David Blaska

Kate Toews

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

I’m here for restorative justice practices until your son punches my daughter at school

Citizen Stewart:

To be specific, one of my sons is a daily witness to minor and major forms of bullying between races and classes of students in his new school. Some of it amounts to the kids-will-be-kids variety of abuse like relentlessly making fun of ears or nose sizes or other immutable characteristics.

Other times its nuisance crimes like having his personal property purposefully broken by other people’s children.

And, too often for my comfort, it is the threat of violence or actual violence.

In most of those cases, I give my kids all the bad advice I was given back in the era of disco.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“Never start a fight, but always finish one.”

“If you feel you’re going to lose a fight, make sure your opponent gets so many scars they never want to try you again.”

And, most famously, “respect everyone, but if they put their hands on you punch them in the throat.”

Luckily I’m married and my wife offers our kids responsible strategies to use when they encounter trouble at school.

The fact that we need to focus so intently on working with our kids on navigating don’t wild school environments where adults have too little control is a sign that has “exit” written all over it.

But, it gets worse. My elementary school-age daughter reports to us she has been punched has had her hair pulled, and was spit on by a boy in her class.

Playtime is over.

This is where the SIS transforms into the SIT and SID.

Joanne has more.

Madison School Board needs Blaska’s voice (2019 election)

Gary L. Kriewald:

It appears we are headed toward a School Board election that promises something new: a candidate whose voice will do more than add sound and fury to the liberal echo chamber that is Madison politics.

David Blaska has the background, experience and most importantly the courage to expose the abuses and neglect of those in charge of our schools.

Having been shouted down and bullied at several meetings of the Madison School Board over the past several months, Blaska is uniquely qualified to expose the pusillanimous hand-wringing that passes for decision-making by those who shape educational policy in this city. He has seen firsthand how a small cadre of vocal extremists, called Freedom Inc., have cowed the current School Board with their unique brand of cop-hating venom.

When ordinary citizens are afraid to attend meetings for fear of being harassed by a mob of fanatical ideologues, we are witnessing a system that has shamelessly abandoned its mandate.

If elected, Blaska may be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but at least it will be a voice unafraid of speaking truth to power.

Gary L. Kriewald, Madison

Chris Rickert:

It starts with safety and discipline,” said Blaska, who on his blog has been sharply critical of the district’s deliberations over whether to continue stationing Madison police officers in the high schools.

Despite raucous protests by the activist group Freedom Inc., a committee of the board recommended on Sept. 26 that the police officers, called educational resource officers, or EROs, remain in the schools. Protests against EROs by the same group shut down a School Board meeting on Oct. 29 to approve the budget. It was approved two days later in a special meeting.

Blaska also criticized the district’s Behavior Education Plan as “too bureaucratic” and the “product of too many administrators and too many meetings.” The plan — which was rolled out in 2014 and runs to 77 pages for elementary schools and 82 pages for middle and high schools — is largely an attempt to move away from “zero tolerance” policies and reduce the disproportionately high number of students of color who are expelled or suspended. It is undergoing revisions this year.

He said he would try to get the BEP down to about eight pages while giving teachers and administrators more discretion over how they handle student behavior in their schools.

Incumbent Dean Loumos, who chaired the ERO committee, said he was “not at all” vulnerable to criticism about the way he has handled security issues.

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Blaska has frequently criticized members of Freedom Inc., the local social justice advocacy group that has spoken out at recent School Board meetings against the use of educational resource officers in the city’s four comprehensive high schools.

Protests that broke out during the public comment period at the School Board’s October meeting led to a vote to adjourn the meeting early. Blaska has lamented that some do not feel safe attending School Board meetings because of the “far-left mob.”

Blaska in recent blog posts has called on Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to prosecute the the protesters who shut down the October meeting.

Notes and links:

Dean Loumos

Cris Carusi

David Blaska

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Civics: Sweden’s Decades-Long Failure to Integrate

Leonod Bershidsky:

Burhan Yildiz, a leader of more than 4,000 Kurds living in the Stockholm suburbs of Tensta and Rinkeby, claims he knows people who voted this year for the Sweden Democrats, the nationalist party whose improving electoral performance has thrown Swedish politics into disarray.

“They are angry about the criminality,” Yildiz said of the nationalists’ local voters. “They think where every other party has failed, the Swedish Democrats will manage to kick those who don’t respect the law out of the country.”

Yildiz has lived in the area for 29 of his 55 years and knows everyone, but a search for those who backed the Sweden Democrats in the September parliamentary election would be a tall order even for him. In the nine electoral districts in Tensta, where Yildiz and I spent part of an afternoon drinking Turkish-style tea, just 302 people out of the 5,907 who cast valid ballots supported the nationalists. More than 19,000 people, most of them immigrants or children of immigrants, live in Tensta. Many of them aren’t entitled to vote, and even those who are often don’t: While the turnout was 87 percent nationwide, it only reached 56 percent in Tensta.

From Diverse Professors to Professors of Diversity

John Rosenberg:

Ever since Justice Powell’s lone opinion in Bakke allowed the camel’s nose of “diversity” under the anti-discrimination tent, controversy has raged over preferential treatment awarded to college applicants of certain races.

Just as hurricanes often change direction after landfall, the diversity movement has recently taken off in some surprising new directions that deserve public attention.

Diversity Statements

First came the “diversity statements,” introduced by a smattering of institutions for promotion or tenure and sometimes for all new hires.

Both the prevalence and the required content of these diversity statements has expanded dramatically.

UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, for example, recently released Version 2.1 of a comprehensive “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Statement FAQs” attempting to justify why equity, diversity, and inclusion should “figure into faculty hiring and promotion” and laying out chapter and verse of what should be included in EDI statements.

Propaganda and the Pundit Mind

Chris Lehmann:

In whatever remains of our weirdly didactic civic culture, the death of a statesman is supposed to impart a lesson. John F. Kennedy’s assassination was held to be a solemn set piece about the loss of American innocence—something that occurred in the actually existing world roughly an hour or so after the first settlers in Jamestown set about scouring the New World for gold, at the expense of the basic rigors of sustenance. John McCain’s passing was naturally treated as a sermonette on the waning martial character of our once-great republic, which was somehow failing to heed the stirring example of a true patriot’s fealty to imperial war-making and supply-side dogma.

So it was anything but surprising that the loss of George H. W. Bush sparked a vigorous round of pundit nostalgia for an America of noble elite public service and self-sacrifice. “President, patriot, gentleman,” read the headline about Bush’s funeral in my hometown Washington Post. This selfless Brahmin “made our lives, and the lives of nations, freer, better, warmer, nobler,” marveled Jon Meacham, the spirit of potted consensus history made flesh, from his eulogist’s pulpit.

Meacham’s effusive tone poem would certainly have been discordant to thousands of Iraqis on the Highway of Death—and to thousands of stateside AIDS sufferers to whom Bush expressed a wan patrician indifference while in office. But the actual record of leadership and history counts for no more in Bush’s case than in Kennedy’s. No, what matters is the image of the civitas we project onto the dead leader—and in Bush’s case, the obvious thing to mourn was the passing of our stately WASP establishment into the boorish Guignol of the Trump era.

Organization vs Mission: Madison’s legacy K-12 Governance model vs Parent and Student choice; 2018

Chris Rickert:

Meanwhile, in a sign of how the Madison district is responding to subsequent charter applications, former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes said he went before the Goodman Community Center’s board on the district’s behalf on Sept. 24 to express the district’s opposition to another proposed non-district charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Arbor has not entered contract negotiations with OEO yet, according to incoming OEO director Latoya Holiday, but has been approved for a charter contingent on finding a location. Goodman executive director Becky Steinhoff said the school first approached the center in early summer about using space there and possible other, later collaborations.

Hughes said he delivered a letter from Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, and told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

In the letter to UW System president Ray Cross, which is dated Sept. 24, Cheatham points to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s application, and accuses OEO of not sharing information with the district about the proposed school.

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

Steinhoff said partnering with a charter school such as Arbor would likely be controversial in Madison but that even in the absence of the district’s opposition to the school and Hughes’ appearance before the board, the board “probably” would not have authorized further discussions with Arbor.

Fascinating.

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Mertz said he will look to highlight his record during the campaign, and also talk about building trust and accountability in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

“In order for us to provide our students the education they deserve, we need to work to repair the breakdowns of trust we see manifested in the divisions within our schools, within our community, and between too many of our families and our schools,” Mertz said. “We need to respect each other, assume the best intentions, and work together with honesty and hope.”

Notes and links:

TJ Mertz

Ed Hughes

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

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

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

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

Ed Hughes (2005): Madison Teachers union and the school board.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and ] do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

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

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

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

The Forgotten Legend of Silicon Valley’s Flying Saucer Man

Ashlee Vance:

An idyllic ease permeates California’s Carmel Valley. Wealthy people have built ranch-style houses into the mountains, giving them views of the Pacific on one side and pine and cypress forests on the other. It’s neither too hot nor too cold, and the fresh ocean air makes you feel calm inside. These conditions, which give big ideas room to grow, have attracted artists to the area, as well as retirees who want to meditate on the good life. But every now and then, the gentle rhythm of this place gets disturbed. Someone’s perfectly manicured existence goes in a turbulent, unexpected direction.

For some people, it’s a real estate shock. For others, it’s an earthquake or—God knows—a wildfire. For Randy Hunter, a local art dealer, that moment arrived in 2008. The financial crisis had come to paradise. Artists and galleries accustomed to a steadyish stream of wealthy collectors fell on hard times. Things got bad enough that Larry Fischer, the owner of a sculpture foundry, decided to auction off pieces he’d held on to for years to help make ends meet. Ahead of the auction, he invited Hunter to come see if there was anything he liked. He guided his friend through the gritty warehouse toward a collection of bronze sculptures he thought might be of particular interest.

Civics: Hundreds of journalists jailed globally becomes the new normal

Elena Beiser:

Fresh waves of repression in China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia sustained the global crackdown on press freedom in 2018 for the third consecutive year. In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 251 journalists in jail in relation to their work, as Turkey–still the world’s worst jailer of journalists–released a small number.

The past three years have recorded the highest number of jailed journalists since CPJ began keeping track, with consecutive records set in 2016 and 2017. Turkey, China, and Egypt were responsible for more than half of those jailed around the world for the third year in a row.

The majority of those imprisoned globally–70 percent–are facing anti-state charges such as belonging to or aiding groups deemed by authorities as terrorist organizations. The number imprisoned on charges of false news rose to 28 globally, compared with nine just two years ago. Egypt jailed the most journalists on false news charges with 19, followed by Cameroon with four, Rwanda with three, and one each in China and Morocco. The increase comes amid heightened global rhetoric about “fake news,” of which U.S. President Donald Trump is the leading voice.

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