Leaked document reveals that Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto plans for private taxation, private roads, charter schools, corporate cops and judges, and punishment for people who choose privacy

Cory Doctorow:

Tomorrow, Toronto’s City Council will hold a key vote on Sidewalk Labs’s plan to privatize much of the city’s lakeshore in the name of creating a “smart city” owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Today, the Globe and Mail published a summary of Sidewalk Labs’s leaked “yellow book”, a 2016 document that lays out Sidewalk Labs’s vision for Toronto and future projects in Detroit, Denver, and Alameda.

The plan lays out a corporate-owned city similar to Lake Buena Vista, the privately owned municipality established by the Walt Disney Company on a massive tract of central Florida land that contains the Walt Disney World resort.

The plan calls for the creation of privately owned and regulated roads, charter schools in place of publicly administered schools, the power to levy and spend property taxes without democratic oversight, a corporate criminal justice system where the cops and judges work for Sidewalk Labs, and totalizing, top-to-bottom, continuous surveillance.

Torontonians who decline to “share” information with Sidewalk Labs will not receive the same level of services as those who do.

Sidewalk Labs says that the document does not reflect its current ambitions.

Gaggle Knows Everything About Teens And Kids In School


All of it is monitored by student surveillance service Gaggle, which promises to keep Santa Fe High School kids free from harm.

Santa Fe High, located in Santa Fe, Texas, is one of more than 1,400 schools that have taken Gaggle up on its promise to “stop tragedies with real-time content analysis.” It’s understandable why Santa Fe’s leaders might want such a service. In 2018, a shooter killed eight students and two teachers at the school. Its student body is now part of the 4.8 million US students that the for-profit “safety management” service monitors.

A college student whose middle school used Gaggle told BuzzFeed News that the tool taught them that they would always be watched. “I feel like now I’m very desensitized to the threat of my information being looked at by people,” they said.

Using a combination of in-house artificial intelligence and human content moderators paid about $10 an hour, Gaggle polices schools for suspicious or harmful content and images, which it says can help prevent gun violence and student suicides. It plugs into two of the biggest software suites around, Google’s G Suite and Microsoft 365, and tracks everything, including notifications that may float in from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts linked to a school email address.


Joanne Jacobs:

States are moving away from requiring students to show they’ve mastered the content in core courses, writes Fordham’s Adam Tyner, who co-authored a new Fordham study on end-of-course exams (EOCs).

Mississippi, which requires students to pass a U.S. history exam to earn a diploma, is considering dropping the requirement. “Even New York, where the high school Regents Exams have been central to raising high school standards, is debating whether to keep them,” writes Tyner.

Wisconsin school choice advocates sue education department for timing of test score release

Scott Girard:

“This Court should declare the Defendants’ conduct unlawful and permanently enjoin its future occurrence,” the plaintiffs wrote. “The Defendants can easily comply with state law by ensuring that when they publicly release qualifying school choice data, they release all of the data to everyone at the same time and do so without any ‘spin.’”

DPI and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor are named as defendants in the lawsuit. In an emailed statement, DPI spokesperson Benson Gardner said the department released all of the data publicly at the same time on Sept. 12.

“The department provided complex assessment data to the news media one day earlier simply to allow them lead-time to write their stories, including in-depth print articles,” the statement read. “The department followed the law in the public release of this information.”

The embargoed news release did include aggregated data on the choice program, which the lawsuit alleges shows “a deliberate attempt to shape the news narrative of the assessment results so as to make public schools appear in a more positive light and choice schools appear in a more negative light.”

K-12 Tax & SPENDING Climate: The Emerging Millennial Wealth Gap

Reid Cramer, Fernaba R. Addo, Colleen Campbell:

The Millennial generation is on a much lower trajectory of wealth accumulation than their parents and grandparents. Dramatically so. Their generational balance sheet, tabulating assets and liabilities, is historically poor. Despite its dramatic emergence and real world consequences, the Millennial wealth gap has received scant attention to date. This publication is an attempt to address that. By examining the data, identifying trends, and exploring the underlying dynamics of the generational distribution of wealth in America today, the authors included in this volume have committed to participating in a constructive policy discourse to address the misalignment between public policy and the lived experience that threatens to undermine the potential of an entire generation. It is time to incubate large-scale policy interventions to respond to the economic vulnerability of the Millennial generation and create new pathways to progress. Absent a concerted policy response, the troubling disparities in wealth and opportunity will persist for years to come.

Breaking: The Bookworm Bookstore to Close

The Beijinger:

After almost two decades in the business of providing the city’s book enthusiasts with food for thought, beloved Sanlitun institution The Bookworm will close its doors on Monday, Nov 11

A statement issued via the bookstore’s official WeChat account on Tuesday afternoon describes how, “Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of ‘illegal structures,’ and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease,” adding, “This is particularly disappointing given that, despite many challenges, at this time The Bookworm remains a thriving business with stronger, more diverse links to the wider Beijing community than ever before.”

According to the announcement, management is currently attempting to find a new location, but for now you can support the store by heading in and buying books at a  “heavily discounted” price.

The closure marks the end of a rich chapter in Beijing’s literary history. Over the years, countless expats and locals climbed the store’s iconic staircase, lured inside by one of the venue’s many events or the warm glow of the red lanterns in their dining area. As well as providing a welcoming space for bibliophiles, The Bookworm stood as a beacon of hope in an era where countless independent bookstores and established publishing houses have long since fallen under the axe.


I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can, Too.

Kashmir Hill:

Every so often, journalists lament these systems’ inaccessibility. They’re “largely invisible to the public,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “Most people have no inkling they even exist,” The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal’s Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. “Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted,” he wrote, “yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request.”

As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.

What Admiral Grace Hopper really meant when she said, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”

Ron Evans:

If all we do is restrict biohacking completely, like “No man’s land. You can’t go there”, then it’s going to be done elsewhere. It’s like saying, “You can’t do computing on the internet, because you might transfer an internet virus.”

So one extreme means we remain in ignorance, and then it’s like The Demon-Haunted World of Carl Sagan – we don’t understand what’s going on, and it’s affecting us.

The other extreme is every human for themselves with no control and no care over the implications (which I think has been a very common attitude in tech). This is poorly interpreting Grace Hopper’s, “Ask forgiveness, not permission.”

First of all, many people don’t know that Admiral Grace Hopper said that; the attribution. But also, they don’t realize what she was talking about.

For Sale: SAT-Takers’ Names. Colleges Buy Student Data and Boost Exclusivity

Douglas Belkin:

Jori Johnson took the practice SAT test as a high-school student outside Chicago. Brochures later arrived from Vanderbilt, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Chicago.

The universities’ solicitations piqued her interest, and she eventually applied. A few months later, she was rejected by those and three other schools that had sought her application, she said. The high-school valedictorian’s test scores, while strong by most standards, were well below those of most students admitted to the several schools that had contacted her.

“A lot of the rejections came on the same day,” said Ms. Johnson, a 21-year-old senior film major at New York University, one of three schools that accepted her out of 10 applications. “I just stared at my computer and cried.”

The recruitment pitches didn’t help Ms. Johnson, but they did benefit the universities that sent them. Colleges rise in national rankings and reputation when they show data suggesting they are more selective. They can do that by rejecting more applicants, whether or not those candidates ever stood a chance. Some applicants, in effect, become unknowing pawns.

Feeding this dynamic is the College Board, the New York nonprofit that owns the SAT, a test designed to level the college-admissions playing field.

The board is using the SAT as the foundation for another business: selling test-takers’ names and personal information to universities.

That has helped schools inflate their applicant pools and rejection rates. Those rejection rates have amplified the perception of exclusivity that colleges are eager to reinforce, pushing students to invest more time and money in preparing for and retaking exams College Board sells. Colleges say the data helps them reach a diverse pool of students they might have otherwise missed.

Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week. Productivity jumped by 40%

Kari Paul:

Microsoft tested out a four-day work week in its Japan offices and found as a result employees were not only happier – but significantly more productive.

For the month of August, Microsoft Japan experimented with a new project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, giving its entire 2,300 person workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay.

The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers, and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. As part of the program, the company had also planned to subsidize family vacations for employees up to ¥100,000 or $920.

“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”

US debt surpasses $23 trillion for first time

Niv Elis:

The federal government’s outstanding public debt has surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history, according to data from the Treasury Department released on Friday.

Growing budget deficits have added to the nation’s debt at a speedy rate since President Trump took office. The debt has grown some 16 percent since Trump’s inauguration, when it stood at $19.9 trillion. It passed $22 trillion for the first time just 10 months ago.

Of the $23 trillion figure, just under $17 trillion was in the category of debt held by the public, which is a more useful gauge of the debt the government has to pay down, and the number typically used in calculating the nation’s debt burden. The other $6 trillion comes from loans within government bodies.

Separating ‘gifted’ children hasn’t led to better achievement

Jo Boaler:

When New York City’s mayor began a move to revamp the program of selective schools last year, a public outcry ensued, and the issue has yet to be resolved.

Objections echoed those in the San Francisco Unified School District, which six years ago began in earnest the elimination of advanced mathematics classes until after 10th grade. Parents created Facebook groups to oppose the changes.

Many believe that children learn more effectively in schools or classes with similar learners, but are they right? It is a question that has long intrigued and divided people. When learners show different achievement levels, should we teach them separately or together? I have spent my career studying this question and, although the logic of separate classes seems strong, evidence leads us in a different direction.

For instance, after San Francisco Unified de-tracked math, the proportion of students failing algebra fell from 40 percent to 8 percent and the proportion of students taking advanced classes rose to a third, the highest percentage in district history. Until 10th grade, students take the same mathematics classes. From 11th grade on, students can choose different pathways.

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

A Racially “Woke” Agenda Is Now Hardwired in Public Schools

George Leef:

Many college professors and administrators are eager to turn their students into ideological clones of themselves in hopes of ensuring that the U.S. will have the kind of governmentally controlled, collectivistic society they desire.

Sometimes their “success” in that becomes spectacularly evident, such as the furious, vitriolic attack by the Oberlin College community against a small bakery in town over its alleged racism – for trying to prevent an underage black kid from stealing wine. That supreme exercise in “wokeness” led to a lawsuit and $33 million jury verdict against the college. (I recommend “O Oberlin, My Oberlin” by retired professor Abraham Socher for a comprehensive study in the way zealous leftists have come to dominate the school.)

Unfortunately, the job of academic leftists in training young activists is getting easier and easier. That is because public schools are doing more and more to condition students to accept a wide array of leftist notions — notions that make them highly receptive to further leftist teaching and calls for them to act against perceived enemies of the social justice agenda.

In decision certain to draw fire, journal will publish heavily criticized paper on gender differences in physics

Dalmeet Singh Chawla:

In a move likely to attract criticism, a peer-reviewed journal has agreed to publish an Italian physicist’s highly contested analysis of publications, which concludes that female physicists don’t face more career obstacles than their male colleagues. The journal says it will also simultaneously publish critiques of the paper, which one member of the journal’s editorial board says is “flawed” and contains “unsubstantiated claims.”

Last year, physicist Alessandro Strumia received widespread criticism after presenting a talk at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, where he was a guest professor. During the presentation, he asserted that physics was built and invented by men, and stated on a slide that “Physics is not sexist against women.” Thousands of physicists signed a letter voicing concerns about Strumia’s views and some researchers published detailed critiques of his findings and methods, which focused on published papers in the field of “fundamental physics” that includes theoretical and experimental studies of fundamental particles, cosmology, and astrophysics. Some of Strumia’s critics have argued that such literature analyses are not sufficient to support his claims. Both CERN and Strumia’s employer, the University of Pisa in Italy, launched investigations. Earlier this year, CERN cut all ties with Strumia and the university released a statement condemning his comments.

Why White Privilege is Wrong—Part 2

Vincent Harinam and Rob Henderson:

Many people enjoy invoking race as an explanation for all sorts of things. It is a shared pastime for both the far-left and the far-right. The media expend vast sums of money and effort to ensure we don’t escape discussions about race as something that is or should be important. This vocal minority of political extremists and news broadcasters has directed our attention away from more powerful causal explanations that underlie group outcomes. Perverse incentives for these two groups have made race a more a prominent feature of our lives.

As a consequence, white privilege has become the favoured explanation for differences in group outcomes among many educated people. But unintentional or otherwise, by attributing success to white privilege, affluent individuals who invoke this mistaken idea thwart the ambitions of those who are seeking success but who are also lacking in privilege. If we want to not only understand differences in group outcomes but also mend them, then we need a more robust and less ideological framework.

The Pitfalls of One-Thing-ism

The presumption that social groups should be proportionally represented in all activities and institutions is a fallacy that goes against key statistical laws. In nature, there is nothing resembling representatively equal outcomes. Grossly unequal distributions of outcomes are the rule, not the exception.

Here are a few examples. More than 80 percent of the doughnut shops in California are owned by people of Cambodian ancestry. During the 1960s, although the Chinese minority in Malaysia was only 36 percent of the population, they comprised between 80 and 90 percent of all university students in medicine, science, and engineering. In the early twentieth century, Scots made four-fifths of the world’s sugar-processing machinery. In 1937, 91 percent of all grocers’ licenses in Vancouver, Canada, were held by people of Japanese ancestry.

Rethinking Encryption

Jim Baker:

From 2012 to 2014, I worked for Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund located in Connecticut. Bridgewater seeks to operate consistent with a set of principles articulated by its founder, Ray Dalio. Over the years, Dalio has written hundreds of principles and has now put them into a book. The first principle described in the book—one that has had a significant impact on me even after leaving Bridgewater—is “[e]mbrace reality and deal with it.”

What follows are reflections on my efforts to embrace reality with respect to some aspects of several interrelated subject areas that have comprised a substantial part of my career: national security, cybersecurity, counterintelligence, surveillance, encryption and China. Those efforts have caused me to rethink my prior beliefs about encryption and to better align those beliefs with the reality that (a) Congress has failed to act—and is not likely to act—to change relevant law notwithstanding law enforcement’s frequent complaints about encryption, and (b) the digital ecosystem’s high degree of vulnerability to a range of malicious cyber actors is an existential threat to society.

How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

David Dudley:

You might say, “Yes, of course I love the library.” We do, too. But I’m not sure anyone loves libraries quite like the Finns do.

In a country that boasts one of the world’s highest literacy rates, the arrival of the new central library in Helsinki last year was a kind of moon-landing-like moment of national bonding. The €98 million facility, whose opening in December 2018 marked the centenary of Finnish independence, has since been widely celebrated internationally as a model reimagining of these critical pieces of social infrastructure. At the CityLab DC conference this week, Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director for culture and leisure, offered his own, more personal take on exactly why this building is so important to Finland’s future.

Information is Beautiful shortlist 2019

Dan Kennedy:

The 2019 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards Shortlist came out this week – these are some of our favourites.

The Room Of Change

As data visualisations go, they don’t come much more epic than this. Commissioned for the Milan Design Triennale, the Room of Change (pictured above) is a 30-metre long visualisation of how the world has changed over multiple centuries, conceived by Milan/New York based datavis studio Accurat (@accuratstudio).

The chart covers everything from environmental changes to technology, eclipses and social change, with each custom chart getting a band that stretches the entire wall. The unusual charts have a strong graphic quality, like art or fashion design:

You’re very easy to track down, even when your data has been anonymized

Charlotte Jee:

The data trail we leave behind us grows all the time. Most of it isn’t that interesting—the takeout meal you ordered, that shower head you bought online—but some of it is deeply personal: your medical diagnoses, your sexual orientation, or your tax records.

The most common way public agencies protect our identities is anonymization. This involves stripping out obviously identifiable things such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on. Data sets are also altered to be less precise, columns in spreadsheets are removed, and “noise” is introduced to the data. Privacy policies reassure us that this means there’s no risk we could be tracked down in the database.

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However, a new study in Nature Communications suggests this is far from the case.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Louvain have created a machine-learning model that estimates exactly how easy individuals are to reidentify from an anonymized data set. You can check your own score here, by entering your zip code, gender, and date of birth.

On average, in the US, using those three records, you could be correctly located in an “anonymized” database 81% of the time. Given 15 demographic attributes of someone living in Massachusetts, there’s a 99.98% chance you could find that person in any anonymized database.

“As the information piles up, the chances it isn’t you decrease very quickly,” says Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a researcher at Imperial College London and one of the study’s authors.

The tool was created by assembling a database of 210 different data sets from five sources, including the US Census. The researchers fed this data into a machine-learning model, which learned which combinations are more nearly unique and which are less so, and then assigns the probability of correct identification.

This isn’t the first study to show how easy it is to track down individuals from anonymized databases. A paper back in 2007 showed that just a few movie ratings on Netflix can identify a person as easily as a Social Security number, for example. However, it shows just how far current anonymization practices have fallen behind our ability to break them. The fact that the data set is incomplete does not protect people’s privacy, says de Montjoye.

It isn’t all bad news. These same reidentification techniques were used by journalists working at the New York Times earlier this year to expose Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994. However, the same method could be used by someone looking to commit ID fraud or obtain information for blackmail purposes.

“The issue is that we think when data has been anonymized it’s safe. Organizations and companies tell us it’s safe, and this proves it is not,” says de Montjoye.

For peace of mind, companies should be using differential privacy, a complex mathematical model that lets organizations share aggregate data about user habits while protecting an individual’s identity, argues Charlie Cabot, research lead at the privacy engineering firm Privitar.

The technique will get its first major test next year: it’s being used to secure the US Census database.

Surveillance State

Finn Brunton & Helen Nissenbaum:

Consider a day in the life of a fairly ordinary person in a large city in a stable, democratically governed country. She is not in prison or institutionalized, nor is she a dissident or an enemy of the state, yet she lives in a condition of permanent and total surveillance unprecedented in its precision and intimacy.

As soon as she leaves her apartment, she is on camera: while in the hallway and the elevator of her building, when using the ATM outside her bank, while passing shops and waiting at crosswalks, while in the subway station and on the train — and all that before lunch. A montage of nearly every move of her life in the city outside her apartment could be assembled, and each step accounted for. But that montage would hardly be necessary: Her mobile phone, in the course of its ordinary operation of seeking base stations and antennas to keep her connected as she walks, provides a constant log of her position and movements. Her apps are keeping tabs, too.

This article is adapted from Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum’s book “Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest.”

Any time she spends in “dead zones” without phone reception can also be accounted for: Her subway pass logs her entry into the subway, and her radio-frequency identification badge produces a record of her entry into the building in which she works. (If she drives a car, her electronic toll-collection pass serves a similar purpose, as does automatic license-plate imaging.) If her apartment is part of a smart-grid program, spikes in her electricity usage can reveal exactly when she is up and around, turning on lights and ventilation fans and using the microwave oven and the coffee maker.

Surely some of the fault must lie with this individual for using services or engaging with institutions that offer unfavorable terms of service and are known to misbehave. Isn’t putting all the blame on government institutions and private services unfair, when they are trying to maintain security and capture some of the valuable data produced by their users? Can’t we users just opt out of systems with which we disagree?

Before we return to the question of opting out, consider how thoroughly the systems mentioned are embedded in our hypothetical ordinary person’s everyday life, far more invasively than mere logs of her daily comings and goings. Someone observing her could assemble in forensic detail her social and familial connections, her struggles and interests, and her beliefs and commitments. From Amazon purchases and Kindle highlights, from purchase records linked with her loyalty cards at the drugstore and the supermarket, from Gmail metadata and chat logs, from search history and checkout records from the public library, from Netflix-streamed movies, and from activity on Facebook and Twitter, dating sites, and other social networks, a very specific and personal narrative is clear.

If the apparatus of total surveillance that we have described here were deliberate, centralized, and explicit, a Big Brother machine toggling between cameras, it would demand revolt, and we could conceive of a life outside the totalitarian microscope.
If the apparatus of total surveillance that we have described here were deliberate, centralized, and explicit, a Big Brother machine toggling between cameras, it would demand revolt, and we could conceive of a life outside the totalitarian microscope. But if we are nearly as observed and documented as any person in history, our situation is a prison that, although it has no walls, bars, or wardens, is difficult to escape.

Which brings us back to the problem of “opting out.” For all the dramatic language about prisons and panopticons, the sorts of data collection we describe here are, in democratic countries, still theoretically voluntary. But the costs of refusal are high and getting higher: A life lived in social isolation means living far from centers of business and commerce, without access to many forms of credit, insurance, or other significant financial instruments, not to mention the minor inconveniences and disadvantages — long waits at road toll cash lines, higher prices at grocery stores, inferior seating on airline flights.

It isn’t possible for everyone to live on principle; as a practical matter, many of us must make compromises in asymmetrical relationships, without the control or consent for which we might wish. In those situations — everyday 21st-century life — there are still ways to carve out spaces of resistance, counterargument, and autonomy.

Professors, Beware. A ‘Student Information Officer’ Might Be Watching

Javier Hernandez:

With a neon-red backpack and white Adidas shoes, he looks like any other undergraduate on the campus of Sichuan University in southwestern China.

But Peng Wei, a 21-year-old chemistry major, has a special mission: He is both student and spy.

Mr. Peng is one of a growing number of “student information officers” who keep tabs on their professors’ ideological views. They are there to help root out teachers who show any sign of disloyalty to President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party.

“It’s our duty to make sure that the learning environment is pure,” Mr. Peng said, “and that professors are following the rules.”

China Revamps Undergraduate Studies, Tapping Controversial Talent Program

Dave Yin:

China’s wants the country’s top experts to remember its younger minds.

China’s Ministry of Education called for a three-year revamp of the higher education system, aiming to devote vast resources to undergraduate studies, including the expertise of those who are part of the controversial Thousand Talents Program.

By 2021, the ministry wants 10,000 national-level courses and 10,000 provincial-level courses of “top quality,” taught online, offline, via virtual reality and in practical settings, according to a Thursday directive (link in Chinese).

Those courses will be designed by “high level talent” such as scholars of the renowned Chinese academies of sciences and engineering, recipients of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and Chang Jiang Scholars Program fellows. They will also draw on experts from the Thousand Talents Program, a government-backed recruitment project to lure scientific talent from foreign countries to work in China, and a similarly named Ten Thousand Talents Program.

China introduces exit system for political educators

Wang Qi:

A withdrawal mechanism and severe punishment was proposed for political teachers at Chinese primary and secondary schools who are found to damage the Party’s authority and violate professional ethics, a new guideline on strengthening the political education teacher team showed.

The guideline issued by China’s Ministry of Education (MoE) on Monday proposed to introduce a withdrawal mechanism for unqualified political teachers, and those who damage the authority of the Communist Party of China (CPC) or go against the Party’s policy during teaching will be subject to punishment.

Teachers who violate professional ethics or lack the teaching capabilities should be transferred to other posts or quit their positions as a political teacher, according to the guideline published on the ministry’s website on Monday.

The guideline also mentioned a mechanism to motivate teachers to improve their comprehensive abilities.

Distinguished teachers will have the chance to teach model classes nationwide and further their studies abroad. They should be favored in promotion and commendation.

The guideline followed in March when Chinese top leader called for ideological and political teachers to uphold firm Marxist belief and boost creativity in teaching to cultivate talent to build socialism.

Schools that lack political teachers should recruit enough personnel and assign enough class hours. Teachers are selected according to their ethics, morality and teaching capacity, the guideline said.

The link between savantism and autism

Linda Marsa, via a kind Amos Roe email:

This cherubic young man was born blind, due to a congenital condition called septo-optic dysplasia. He had serious cognitive disabilities as a child, and severe symptoms of autism: Even the faintest noises would make him scream, and he was so sensitive to touch that he kept his hands balled up in fists. “On his third Christmas, we had to go out of the room to open presents because he couldn’t stand the ripping sound of the wrapping paper,” recalls Lewis. “He wouldn’t eat solid foods and pretty much lived off liquids for his first few years. It seemed like he was a prisoner in his own body.” His doctors predicted he would never walk or talk.

When he was 2, Lewis-Clack’s father gave him a piano keyboard. It became his gateway to the outside world. Lewis-Clack taught himself to play the piano, says Lewis, “and would play until he dropped from exhaustion.” When he began formal lessons at age 5, his teacher noticed his remarkable gifts. Lewis-Clack has perfect pitch, a phenomenon that occurs in about 1 in 10,000 people: He can identify a musical note immediately, even when he hears it completely out of context. Although he cannot see and cannot read music, he only needs to hear most songs once to play them back perfectly. And he has whole libraries of music stored in his brain. “One day, Rex sat down and played through all 21 of Chopin’s nocturnes, and played them perfectly even though he had only studied or played six of them [before],” says Lewis. Unbeknownst to her, he had memorized the other 15.

University Of Maryland To Restructure, Terminate Contracts Of 100 Faculty Who Can ‘Recompete’ For Their Jobs

Emma Pettit:

The global campus, which used to be known as the University of Maryland University College, serves tens of thousands of students and is one of the nation’s biggest players in distance learning. The institution focuses on educating adult students and veterans.

The new structure is necessary, Smith said, to prepare for the rest of the 21st century, as employer and adult-learner needs evolve, and to prepare for challenges to come, before it’s too late.

“Most colleges wait until they’re really in the soup,” Smith added. “We’re not even close to the soup.”

But some faculty members said that they and their colleagues had been stunned by what they considered an unwelcome and jarring announcement. It was devastating for some people who no longer felt secure in their employment, said three faculty members who spoke to The Chronicle on the condition of anonymity, because they did not want to harm their job prospects or their reputations.

Synthetic Content

Przemek Chojecki:

Fake News vs Synthetic Content
As an AI entrepreneur and a scientist I follow machine learning research on a daily basis. With the recent outcry about fake news and deepfakes, I wanted to test what is really possible if you were to generate an entire website with every piece of content on it by artificial intelligence. The whole process, which I describe below, let me arrive at a concept of a synthetic content, a content which is made purely through AI and machine-generation.

First of all, not every synthetic content is a fake news and vice versa. Secondly, it is almost impossible to determine whether a given piece of content is synthetic, especially if it was generated in a narrow knowledge domain. Hence a basic criterion for evaluating a piece of content should be its quality and whether it’s true or not.

If you think about it, a synthetic content is not necessarily bad. Imagine synthetic research, new science discoveries made by machines, which would only enrich our civilisation and boost our growth. This is the good side and this should be a true goal of building complex AI systems.

The global fertility crash

Andre Tartar, Hannah Recht, and Yue Qiu:

While the global average fertility rate was still above the rate of replacement—technically 2.1 children per woman—in 2017, about half of all countries had already fallen below it, up from 1 in 20 just half a century ago. For places such as the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, which historically are attractive to migrants, loosening immigration policies could make up for low birthrates. In other places, more drastic policy interventions may be called for. Most of the available options place a high burden on women, who’ll be relied upon not only to bear children but also to help fill widening gaps in the workforce.

Related: abortion data.

‘We’re cosseting our kids’ – the war against today’s dangerously dull playgrounds

Oliver Wainwright:

In the decades after the second world war, the celebrated architect Aldo van Eyck designed more than 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam, filling bomb sites with dazzling constellations of tumbling bars, leapfrog posts and climbing domes. His idea was that by providing children with a range of elemental forms and open-ended structures – rather than swings, roundabouts and other playground staples – their creativity would be stimulated and they would invent new games.

These “tools for the imagination”, as he called his kit of sandpits, frames and posts, became a familiar part of Amsterdam’s streetscape, a connected galaxy of playtime fragments that spread across the city, from public spaces and even to roadside verges, never fenced off. It was a vision of play without walls, the protected domain of the child thrown open and spilling over into the rest of the city.

Parenting & Panic

Agnes Callard:

Parenting starts out lonely, because newborn babies do not know that you exist. No one in my social circle—grad students in their twenties—had children, so I joined a new moms group at my local hospital. You know the drill: sit in a circle, tell birth stories, swap sleep advice, etc. I quit the group after a few sessions, because everyone there was boring. So I started my own group, via Craigslist. But everyone there was boring, too. So I started another one. Were all the mothers in Berkeley boring? It was around the time I abandoned my third or fourth new moms group that I began to consider the possibility that I might be the problem.

After Abuse Allegations, Oregon Brings Back Foster Kids Sent Out of State

Zusha Elinson:

Foster children in Oregon who were sent to privately run group homes out of state are now being brought back following numerous allegations of abuse.

Oregon is one of several states that in recent years began relying on faraway residential treatment centers to house children with severe behavioral and psychiatric issues for whom adequate care couldn’t be found nearby. But the state’s child welfare agency didn’t regularly monitor their treatment and now two of the largest companies in the field have closed down facilities in Utah and Montana after staff members were accused of physical abuse and frequent use of drug injections to control the children, according to state regulators.

In Oregon, the issue has become a flashpoint for the child welfare agency. Lawmakers have held public hearings, Gov. Kate Brown installed a new agency director, and declared the agency in crisis. The reversal, which is also occurring in neighboring Washington, highlights the ways in which states lacking resources for foster children have turned to private companies to handle their most challenging cases without providing much oversight.

Disinheriting your children might be for their own good

Rhymer Rigby:

More recently, Lane Fury, a woman in her twenties who has begun to inherit significant sums and eventually stands to inherit $6m, told the New York Post: “There is this sense of shame or embarrassment, like maybe some of the problems in the world are my fault.”

In his book Inherited Wealth, John Levy identifies how some of those who are bequeathed a large sum are afflicted. These include a lack of self-esteem, guilt (from not having earned it), delayed maturity (from not having to overcome life challenges), paralysis (brought on by not knowing what to do with it) and boredom, which can lead to the type of self-destructive behaviour we see with Roman in Succession. So, should we disinherit our children for their own good?

Well, maybe not. There are plenty of ways to use wealth positively. Inheriting a large sum of money can free your descendants from the shackles of everyday work and give them the choice to do what they want with their lives. They can, to dip into the self-help lexicon, find their passion and purpose. It can allow them to become leaders in the battle against climate change or exponents of female empowerment in developing countries. It can provide them with a launch pad to found empires of their own. Or it can turn them into the next Paris Hilton. “Money is a magnifier and can enhance problems as well as good instincts,” says Carol Sherman, managing director of the Institute for Preparing Heirs, a California-based wealth adviser.

Civics: The FBI is Tracking Our Faces in Secret. We’re Suing.


The FBI is currently collecting data about our faces, irises, walking patterns, and voices, permitting the government to pervasively identify, track, and monitor us. The agency can match or request a match of our faces against at least 640 million images of adults living in the U.S. And it is reportedly piloting Amazon’s flawed face recognition surveillance technology.
Face and other biometric surveillance technologies can enable undetectable, persistent, and suspicionless surveillance on an unprecedented scale. When placed in the hands of the FBI — an unaccountable, deregulated, secretive intelligence agency with an unresolved history of anti-Black racism — there is even more reason for alarm. And when that agency stonewalls our requests for information about how its agents are tracking and monitoring our faces, we should all be concerned.

That’s why today we’re asking a federal court to intervene and order the FBI and related agencies to turn over all records concerning their use of face recognition technology.

Credentialism vs. Merit

Victor Davis Hanson:

What explains the bankruptcy of the elite?

We have confused credentials with merit—as we learned when Hollywood stars and rich people tried to bribe and buy their mostly lackadaisical children into named schools, eager for the cattle brand BAs and without a care whether their offspring would be well educated.

Graduating from today’s Yale or Harvard law school is not necessarily a sign of achievement, much less legal expertise. Mostly, entrance into heralded schools is a reminder of past good prep school grades and test scores winning admittance—or using some sort of old-boy, networking, athletic, or affirmative action pull.

Being a “senior” official at some alphabet government agency also means little any more outside of the nomenklatura. Academia, the media, and entertainment industries are likewise supposedly meritocratic without being based on demonstrable worth. Otherwise, why would college graduates know so little, the media so often report fantasies as truth, and Hollywood focus on poor remakes? Take all the signature brand names that the Baby Boomers inherited from prior generations—Harvard, Yale, the New York Times, NPR, CNN, the Oscars, the NFL, the NBA, the FBI, the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, and a host of others. And then ask whether they enhanced or diminished such inheritances?

A country over $22 trillion in debt, with an open border, an existential conflict with China, and a West in cultural and demographic decline, for two years was told falsely that Donald Trump supposedly knew of a meeting in advance at Trump Tower, that James Comey would supposedly testify that he never told Trump he was not under investigation, and that Trump would soon be indicted, resign, or impeached. The amount of elite energy spent replaying the embarrassing progressive 2016 loss and trying to abort the Trump presidency before the 2020 election, remember, was the product of our best and brightest, the top echelon of our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and our most esteemed political and media elite.

Gloucester County School Board appeals federal judge’s decision in favor of Gavin Grimm

John Riley:

The Gloucester County School Board has appealed a federal judge’s decision finding that its restroom policy discriminates against transgender students.

The lawsuit against the school board, originally filed in 2015 by then-student Gavin Grimm, a transgender male barred from the boys’ restroom, continues to be a point of contention — not only among residents of Gloucester County, but nationally, as the nation is deeply divided when it comes to issues of transgender people’s ability to access shared public facilities.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the restroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination. The policy was imposed by the board after almost all of its members caved to public pressure and complaints from enraged parents.

Allen also ordered the school board to change the gender on Grimm’s school transcripts to accurately reflect his gender identity, as Grimm has both changed the gender marker on his birth certificate to male and obtained a Virginia court order in 2017 legally recognizing him as a male.

First Common Core High School Grads Worst-Prepared For College In 15 Years

Joy Pullman:

Students in the U.S. made significant progress in math and reading achievement on NAEP from 1990 until 2015, when the first major dip in achievement scores occurred,” reported U.S. News and World Report. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2015 is the year states were required by the Obama administration to have fully phased in Common Core.

Common Core is a set of national instruction and testing mandates implemented starting in 2010 without approval from nearly any legislative body and over waves of bipartisan citizen protests. President Obama, his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, and myriad other self-described education reformers promised Common Core would do exactly the opposite of what has happened: improve U.S. student achievement. As Common Core was moving into schools, 69 percent of school principals said they also thought it would improve student achievement. All of these “experts” were wrong, wrong, wrong.

“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”.

Company drops lawsuit against parent who has led opposition to Wake’s math curriculum

T Keung Hui:

The provider of Wake County’s controversial high school math curriculum had dropped its lawsuit against a Cary parent who is leading the fight to get the program dropped from the district’s schools.

The Mathematics Vision Project had filed a lawsuit in July in a Utah state court accusing Blain Dillard of making false and defamatory statements about the MVP Math program that the company says harmed its business. Dillard had responded with his own countersuit, charging that MVP was trying to chill free speech rights.

In a joint settlement released Tuesday, both parties said that they had agreed to dismiss their lawsuits.

Related: Madison’s math task force and forum.

Civics: Meghan Daum’s merciless take on modern feminism, woke-ness and cancel culture

Rosa Brooks:

Part memoir and part jeremiad, “The Problem with Everything” is replete with examples of what Daum views as intolerant, self-righteous woke-ness: She highlights the young-adult fiction authors forced to withdraw their books “when social media mobs attacked them” for purported “racial insensitivity” or cultural appropriation, for instance, and the “self-congratulatory reverence” displayed by white liberal admirers of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the “unofficial paterfamilias of the wokescenti.” Commenting on the controversies surrounding Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Daum writes that although she found Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault “moving, compelling and entirely credible,” she was “less moved by the sloganeering that rose up around them.” The “Believe Survivors” trope, she argues, draws no distinction between violent rape and lesser forms of male creepiness (groping, leering), and sacrifices due process for the accused to outraged assertions of male sinfulness.

Eastman to Remove Koreans from Top Orchestra For China Tour. Update: Tour postponed

Joseph Galamba:

China refused to issue visas for Korean students, forcing Eastman to either remove them or cancel their tour. Eastman has shockingly chosen to go with the former.

Even more stunning, the students in the orchestra themselves voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the tour by leaving their peers behind. Under such tremendous pressure from their fellow students and school administrators, the Korean students could never have voiced any objections that they may have had.

There have been countless times in history where musicians have been called to stand up for their colleagues in the face of discrimination. In the Civil Rights era white jazz musicians would refuse to tour when their black colleagues were unwelcome. In World War II, which musicians chose solidarity with their colleagues and which chose collaboration is forever linked to their legacy.

By bowing to Chinese demands and enabling them to dictate exclusion on the basis of nationality in their orchestra, the students and administrators of Eastman have shown a remarkable lack of character and have put a black mark on the reputation of classical music when we can ill afford it, as the corruption and misconduct at institutions such as the Cleveland Symphony and Metropolitan Opera is fresh in the public mind.

Hollywood Reporter:

Taylor Swift is heading to China to perform at Alibaba Group’s annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza next month.

The pop star will perform at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on the evening of Nov. 10, along with a lineup of prominent stars and personalities from China and other parts of Asia. Among the acts slated to shill online shopping for Alibaba are Chinese singer-songwriter and actress G.E.M., local pop star Hua Chenyu, Japanese singer Kana Hanazawa and over a dozen others.

More than a few U.S. sports and entertainment figures — including Scarlett Johansson, David Beckham, Mariah Carey and Daniel Craig — have flocked to the Alibaba-produced spectacle in years past to build their brands among Chinese consumers. But in recent months, U.S. celebrities’ eagerness to please the Chinese government and the country’s enormous consumer base have begun to be viewed with more skepticism by the U.S. public.

America’s Schools Flunk Despite more spending, test scores fall and the achievement gap grows.

Wall Street Journal:

The highest-achieving students are doing better and the lowest are doing worse than a decade ago. That’s one depressing revelation from the latest Nation’s Report Card that details how America’s union-run public schools are flunking.

The results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered to students around the country every two years, were published on Wednesday. There isn’t much to cheer. Only 35% of fourth graders rated proficient in reading, which is about the same as in 2009. Worse, students have backslid in reading over the last two years.

While median math and reading scores have stayed about the same over the last decade, achievement gaps are increasing. Since 2009 scores for the lowest 10% of students fell by about as much as they improved for the top 10%. The 90th percentile of eighth graders in math scored about four points higher while the bottom tenth scored five points lower.

The teachers unions’ answer to every education deficit is more spending. But between 2012 and 2017—the last year of available Census Bureau data—average per-pupil education spending increased by 15%. Spending has been growing at an even faster clip over the last couple of years as government revenue has recovered from the recession.

States that are spending more haven’t shown improvement. In California annual K-12 spending has increased by more than half since 2013 to $102 billion. Yet student test scores have been flat since 2013. It’s a similar story in New York, Illinois and New Jersey where Democrats have raised taxes for schools.


Privileged Poor vs. Doubly Disadvantaged at Elite Schools

Andre Archie:

As a professor at a fairly large state university, I have noticed a pattern during my years of teaching. Students who consistently avail themselves of office hours, to seek clarification on course content, to chat, or to do both, have attended, on average, private preparatory, parochial, or high performing public high schools.

The moment these students walk into my office, it is clear that they were prepped to see professors as allies, not adversaries. At a minimum, they are admiringly self-possessed.

Having casually kept in touch with these students throughout their undergraduate years, I have found that they often excel in the classroom and confidently take advantage of the many opportunities around campus to learn and engage. There are two questions that arise from these observations: first, are they correct? And second, if so, what is it about high performing high schools that make the difference?


Kashmir’s Gander:

The team looked at answers from 49,050 parents of young people aged between six and 17 years old, who took part in the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health. The parents detailed how much their child slept.

The survey also measured what are known as flourishing markers, such as whether the child was curious about new things; if they did all their homework; cared about doing well at school; were committed to finishing tasks; and stayed calm and in control while faced with a challenge.

The under-12s who didn’t have enough sleep were less likely to be curious about learning, care about school, do their homework and finish tasks. Those in the older category had similar problems, but were also less likely to stay calm when encountering a challenge.

The authors wrote: “Chronic sleep loss amongst youth is a major public health crisis globally and is associated with a multitude of physical and mental health issues.”

How to Get a World-Class Education for Free on the Internet

Amy Wang:

As crucial as a university degree has become for working in the modern economy, it is not the only route forward into a wildly lucrative and satisfying career—just ask famous dropouts Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.

In the future, a single bachelor’s degree in a particular subject will no longer suffice for many of us anyway. As robots and automation sweep the global workforce, hundreds of millions of people—the majority of whom do not have the time or money to go pick up a brand-new four-year degree—will have to “re-skill” in order to land new jobs. The question that employees and employers alike face is how to get that done quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly to many, cheaply.

The internet, luckily, is already a booming resource. Whether you find yourself seeking new employment mid-career, curious about alternatives to a college education, or simply are interested in learning for learning’s sake, Quartz At Work has compiled some of the most dependable, high-quality materials you can access to learn anything on the internet.

UNH Law School Budget Deficit Exceeds 100% Of Revenues


In the 2018-19 year, the law school’s total operating budget was $5.5 million, but it spent $11.9 million. That’s more than double its operating budget, with a total loss of $6.4 million in that year alone.

The most dramatic year to date was the 2017-18 year, with a total loss of $6.7 million, and an operating margin of negative 130 percent. …

Enrollment did increase this academic year, up to 145 students in the incoming class. But in 2016, there were only 71 incoming students, according to numbers provided by current UNH Law Dean Megan Carpenter.

In fact, the law school is losing millions of dollars in an era when the state’s university system is receiving some of the lowest state funding in the country. UNH doesn’t see these losses as a barrier, but rather, as an investment.

M Is Not For Picture Clues


You may be familiar with “The Reading Wars,” a global literacy teaching conversation which seemingly pits the simple view of reading against the complex view of reading.

The simple view of reading maintains that accurate decoding leads to comprehension. Therefore, in instructional models based on this theory, students are first systematically taught phonics through a series of explicit lessons beginning with the smallest word units to the largest. Teaching often includes decodable texts with controlled vocabulary and an isolated focus on phonemes.

Congressional Ignorance Leaves the U.S. Vulnerable to Cyberthreats

Jackson Barnett:

In the last U.S. presidential election, Russian hackers penetrated Illinois’s voter-registration database, viewing voters’ addresses and parts of their social security numbers. Election results were not affected, but the attack put intruders in the position to alter voter data, according to a report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The incursion was part of hacking attempts against all 50 states, and intruders will try even more vigorously in 2020, yet experts say Congress is doing little to improve defenses. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says states will need just more than $2.1 billion to upgrade election computer systems, yet last month the Senate approved only a fraction of that amount: $250 million.
One reason for the inadequate response is that elected representatives and their staffs are not tech savvy enough to understand the scope of the problems, says Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center and co-author of the cost analysis. His sentiments are echoed by other cybersecurity specialists. “I just didn’t have the tools,” recalls Meg King, director of the Digital Futures Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who worked on a cyberdefense bill a decade ago as a senior staff member on a House homeland security subcommittee. She now describes that bill as “too little, too late.” Today her think tank has begun to offer staffers short courses in cybersecurity issues, but security researchers worry that step will not be enough.

While substantially changing the outcome of an election by hacking into voting machines is extremely unlikely because those machines and the ballot counting process are very decentralized, altering voter rolls could block people from voting. If the system is even slightly exploited, says David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, it could trigger public distrust in elections. “I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our election system,” said Joseph Maguire, the U.S. acting director of national intelligence, during recent congressional testimony.

Elizabeth Warren Pledges To Crack Down On School Choice, Despite Sending Her Own Son To Elite Private School

Peter Hasson:

“I do not blame Alex one bit for attending a private school in 5th grade. Good for him,” said Reason Foundation director of school choice Corey DeAngelis, who first flagged Alexander’s private schooling Monday. “This is about Warren exercising school choice for her own kids while fighting hard to prevent other families from having that option.”

It’s unclear whether 1987 was the only year Warren sent any of her children to private school. Warren’s campaign didn’t return emailed questions by press time. (RELATED: Dem Senator Bashing Betsy Devos Had No Problem Personally Profiting From Charter Schools)

Warren praised charter schools as recently as 2016, when she said charter schools “are producing extraordinary results for our students” in Massachusetts. Warren’s crackdown on elite charter schools would leave elite private schools like Kirby Hall unscathed, while greatly eliminating charter schools as a parallel option for lower-income families.

The senator’s plan to crack down on charter schools drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, including from The Washington Post’s editorial board, which described Warren’s reversal as transparent catering to teacher’s unions.

“The losers in these political calculations are the children whom charters help,” the Post’s editorial stated. “Charters at their best offer options to parents whose children would have been consigned to failing traditional schools. They spur reform in public school systems in such places as the District and Chicago. And high-quality charters lift the achievement of students of color, children from low-income families and English language learners.”

Medical librarian talks about rare books, spooky subject matter, and Halloween plans

Sallyann Price:

How do you manage all these projects, both practically and psychologically?

I think having a therapist is a great idea; I recommend that for everyone who can manage it. I am also the mother of a toddler, and that experience completely changed the way I look at my projects. Having a toddler is a super intense circle-of-life experience. There is big joy, but it also brings up a ton of mortality questions.

Part of death positivity—I don’t know if it’s a side effect or maybe the whole point—is that when you engage in mortality and know that life is finite, you tend to value your life more, because you know how precious it is.

Google CEO, in leaked video, says company is ‘genuinely struggling’ with employee trust


Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the tech giant is struggling with how to deal with internal debate over controversial topics and the company defended hiring a former government official who backed the Trump administration’s travel ban, according to video of an all-hands meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

At the closed-door meeting Thursday, a weekly gathering known as TGIF, Pichai and other top executives sought to quell employee discontent and defended the hiring of Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security official, while chastising employees for airing their gripes publicly.
Pichai acknowledged the company had violated some employees’ trust. “We are genuinely struggling with some issues — transparency at scale,” he said, according to the video.

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

Will cursive become a lost art form? Not if these Wisconsin lawmakers can help it

Sharon Roznik:

The Nesvacil sisters of Ashwaubenon take their handwriting seriously.

Grace Nesvacil, now a freshman in high school, was named the nation’s top fifth grade hand-writer in the 2016 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. Her sister Evelyn was a semifinalist as a third grader, and another sister, Claire, earned a state award in the competition.

All three of the siblings attend Ashwaubenon schools, where curriculum instructor Jill Kieslich says they still teach cursive to students in second through fifth grade, although it’s not required as part of Wisconsin’s Academic Standards.

The sponsor of the contest, Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser company, is a longtime producer of writing, penmanship and grammar materials for schools. During the 1800s, founders Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser developed a cursive style that dominated classrooms for decades.

But cursive has been on the decline since the rise of personal computers. In 2010, when most states adopted Common Core curriculum standards meant to equalize education in America, nothing about cursive was mentioned. Today, teaching cursive has declined to the point that it’s not unusual to find teens and twenty-somethings barely able to decipher it. Often, children master typing on a computer, tablet or mobile phone before they feel comfortable writing by hand.

The price of teacher Mulligans, continued: Wisconsin Proficiency Rates Flat Despite Spending Increases

Will Flanders:

While DPI is willing to acknowledge the gravity of the achievement gap, the agency remains stubbornly opposed to proven solutions. Year after year and study after study reveal that public charter schools, freed from the mandates of bureaucracy and unionization, do a better job educating exactly the type of students that need the most help. Giving lie to the claims that public schools are starved for cash, charters accomplish this task with thousands of dollars less per student. If those on the left are truly concerned about improving academic outcomes for minority students, they must stop demonizing the charter and private schools that get the job done.

The Price of Wisconsin’s Elementary Reading Teacher Mulligans


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

“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”

“36 people” on madison’s 2020 superinteNdent search

Logan Wroge:

“The challenges of the district are actually not completely known because of a lack of transparency in how the district is doing with respect to several critical and urgent matters,” Chan Stroman, a West Side resident and education advocate said, adding she wants to see honesty and competence in the next leader of the state’s second-largest school district.

The input session was facilitated by BWP and Associates — an Illinois-based, education-focused search firm contracted by the School Board to help solicit feedback, advertise the position and vet candidates, among other responsibilities.

A second community input session is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Follette High School, and a survey on the superintendent position is available online until Nov. 5.

While in town Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives of BWP also had a marathon of meetings planned with elected officials, community groups, advocacy organizations, business leaders and others.

Among those scheduled to meet with the BWP consultants are black student unions, social justice advocacy organization Freedom Inc., the heads of American Family Insurance and Exact Sciences Corp., school principals, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Debra Hill, a managing director for BWP, said throughout nearly 20 meetings held Tuesday, a theme of trust was already emerging.

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”

Former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; what will be different, this time?

Mayor Lightfoot’s 2020 budget requires Chicago Public schools repay $60 million for pensions

Fran Spielman:

The historic about-face is buried in the mayor’s budget overview.

It states: “In 2020, an additional $60 million is expected from Chicago Public Schools to cover a portion of its share of the city’s annual contribution to the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund.”

For years, City Hall has covered the school system’s annual contribution to the largest of four city employee pension funds.

This year, Lightfoot needs the money to chip away at the city’s $838 million shortfall triggered, in part, by the city’s own rising pension payments.

And, according to a Chicago Teachers Union official, Lightfoot also wants CPS to repay the city for $33 million in security costs, although the city says that’s not a new demand this year.

The dark and white flours of ideology

Nicolaia Rips:

Bread as a symbol of material and physical fulfillment was also invoked in the US suffrage movement, but there the opposition between bread and freedom was dismissed as a false choice. A rallying cry of suffragists was “Bread and Roses,” a slogan coined by Helen Todd in the early 1910s for speeches that she would give while traveling through Illinois advocating for women’s rights. In an essay published in The American Magazine in September 1911, Todd, a factory inspector, further explained the phrase, adding that women’s suffrage “will go toward helping forward the time when life’s Bread, which is home, shelter and security, and the Roses of life, music, education, nature and books, shall be the heritage of every child that is born in the country, in the government of which she has a voice.”9 Simply put, Todd acknowledges that while bread may be the staff of life, freedom and the pleasures it entails are just as critical.

And how do I like my bread? I prefer it sliced thick and slathered with butter, and as free as possible of political symbolism. But even that, sadly, cannot be, as it turns out that I am gluten- and lactose-intolerant.

Money, Politics and Adult Employment/School Choice

Collin Anderson:

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren raked in tens of thousands of dollars from teachers’ unions before reversing her past support for student vouchers and education reform.

In 2004, Warren argued that vouchers “relieve parents” from relying on failing public schools. Her campaign’s newly-released education plan attacks charter schools and school choice. Warren’s reversal comes after the Massachusetts senator took more than $2.5 million in campaign cash from the education industry throughout her political career, including nearly $70,000 from the country’s most powerful teachers’ unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Civics: Comcast is Lobbying Against Encryption that Improves Privacy

Joseph Cox:

Internet giant Comcast is lobbying U.S. lawmakers against plans to encrypt web traffic that would make it harder for internet service providers (ISPs) to determine your browsing history, according to a lobbying presentation obtained by Motherboard.

The plan, which Google intends to implement soon, would enforce the encryption of DNS data made using Chrome, meaning the sites you visit. Privacy activists have praised Google’s move. But ISPs are pushing back as part of a wider lobbying effort against encrypted DNS, according to the presentation. Technologists and activists say this encryption would make it harder for ISPs to leverage data for things such as targeted advertising, as well as block some forms of censorship by authoritarian regimes.

Harvard Admits Its Preferences

Heather Mac Donald:

Students for Fair Admissions’s suit against Harvard presented a new twist on anti-preference litigation: rather than arguing that Harvard’s preferences discriminate against whites in favor of blacks, sffa argued that Harvard discriminates against Asians in favor of whites. This shift reflected both reality and legal strategy. Asian students everywhere are the most penalized when meritocratic admissions are scrapped for a race-based system, since their academic qualifications surpass those of all other racial and ethnic groups.

But litigation calculus also influenced the changed focus. SFFA v. Harvard was filed in 2014, when Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the Supreme Court. Kennedy had been a pivotal vote for upholding racial preferences. If sffa’s attorneys could convince him that his pro-preference jurisprudence was now harming Asians—themselves a minority and thus part of the student “diversity” that preferences were supposed to enable—they would have a better chance of persuading him to reverse that jurisprudence, their thinking went. And using whites, rather than blacks, as the benchmark for anti-Asian discrimination avoided the appearance of pitting one minority group against another, a charge which left-wing preference supporters routinely make.

Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children

Amanda Barroso, Kim Parker & Richard Fry:

The share of young adults who could be considered “financially independent” from their parents by their early 20s – an assessment based on their annual income – has gone down somewhat in recent decades. A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that, in 2018, 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with 32% in 1980.

Looking more broadly at young adults ages 18 to 29, the share who are financially independent has been largely stable in recent decades. Overall, young men are more likely than young women to be financially independent, but this gender gap has diminished significantly.

The new survey findings underscore the extent to which many young adults are financially reliant on their parents. Some 45% of adults ages 18 to 29 (with at least one living parent) say they have received a lot of or some financial help from their parents in the past 12 months.1 According to parents of young adults, those shares may be even higher. About six-in-ten parents with children ages 18 to 29 (59%) say they have given their kids at least some financial help in the past year. The study is based on two nationally representative surveys. The first survey of 9,834 adults was conducted online from June 25 to July 8, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The second survey of 1,015 adults was conducted on the telephone June 25-30, 2019.2

‘Toxic’ lab lasted for years. UW-Madison had little idea until a student died by suicide

Kelly Meyerhofer:

University officials said the circumstances surrounding Brady’s suicide three years ago this month were an extreme and isolated incident that does not represent the daily work conditions of the nearly 5,000 graduate students employed as teaching assistants, research assistants and project assistants, many of whom develop positive lifelong relationships with their mentors.

Mental health also played an important role in the case, university officials said, an area in which UW-Madison has invested significant resources in recent years.

Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan to Hurt Wisconsin Schools

CZ Szafir Libby Sobic:

Presidential candidate — and 2020 Democrat frontrunner — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her vision for K-12 education in America this week. While the document contains plenty of hyperbolic language (combating the “corruption” associated with charter schools), Warren, who likes to say “she has a plan for that”, does offer policy details on what she would do as President. At a minimum, it shows what her priorities will be.

In short, her plan calls for massive spending increases to the tune of $800 billion over ten years (funded by her wealth tax), more federal intrusion into the classroom, an all-out assault on school choice, and overturning collective bargaining reform laws.
We breakdown what it could mean for Wisconsin:

Overturning Walker’s Act 10 collective bargaining reform law
Warren pledges to “make it easier for teachers to join a union, bargain collectively or strike” and work to pass legislation that would “ensure that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state and authorize voluntary deduction of fees to support a union.” In other words, she wants the federal government to overturn collective bargaining reform laws — like Governor Walker’s 2011 Act 10 law that limits collective bargaining for public employee unions.

This would be a major set-back to Wisconsin students, teachers, and school district administrators. A reminder:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Home Affordability; Property Tax Growth

Ryan Dezember, Laura Kusisto and Shane Shifflett:

“Houses are the democratic assets, roughly half of housing wealth is owned by the middle class,” said Moritz Schularick, a professor of economics at the University of Bonn and one of the authors.

It isn’t unusual for high-earners to rent in pricey coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, where sky-high real-estate prices have long limited homeownership. Yet these markets account for less than 20% of the new six-figure renters, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Vanishing Library

Johnny Rodgers

The library at Glasgow School of Art has—or had—special status for connoisseurs of the work of architect-artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Its ineffably graceful timbers garnered a totemic value as a symbol of the workaday genius of their creator. It was said that this exquisite room could be created by any competent craftsman under instruction from the architect’s drawings; no special craft skills were needed. Indeed in the aftermath of the fires that destroyed Mackintosh’s masterwork and all its contents in 2014, and again in 2018, the School authorities claimed, evidently by way of reassuring those connoisseurs and others, that the Library would be rebuilt ‘as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimetre’—‘It is absolutely coming back.’footnote1

The implicit suggestion—and indeed often the explicit claim at the time—was thus that Mackintosh’s conceptions, or in other words, his models in the form of architectural drawings, are the real art, and the physical manifestation of that graphical genius in the timbers of the Library can be recreated by any joiner the School cares to appoint. We might then begin to wonder about that relationship between the drawings and the materially constructed Library, whereby Mackintosh’s very plans seem to operate like some type of magical incantation, and take possession of the hands of a dayjobbing tradesman to conjure them into the execution of a work of supreme artistic merit. This might in turn bring us to ask if, in the post-fires era of destruction, the Library does, in fact, still exist? The actual timbers of the room are gone, but those plans, the original prime movers in the creation of the space, and the formulae that will be used to put the material version back into place—they still exist. So what is the relative ontological status of these two components, which both have some evident claim to be Mackintosh’s Library? Can the Library still exist after it has been destroyed by fire? Does its putative totemic status indeed entail something of a magical, or fantasy, ideal or utopic quality, something beyond those everyday material qualities already annihilated twice in the fires?

Civics: Lack of transparency may keep public from knowing truth about campaign spending

Sherry Peif:

Under Colorado campaign finance laws candidates cannot use their funds for “personal purposes not reasonably related to the election of the candidate except that a candidate committee may make expenditures to reimburse the candidate for reasonable and necessary child or dependent care expenses the candidate incurs in connection with their campaign during the election cycle.”

Although recall expenses could be considered an allowed expense, Matt Arnold, director of Campaign Integrity Watchdog sees problems with Galindo’s filing

Parenting & Panic

Agnes Callard:

Parenting starts out lonely, because newborn babies do not know that you exist. No one in my social circle—grad students in their twenties—had children, so I joined a new moms group at my local hospital. You know the drill: sit in a circle, tell birth stories, swap sleep advice, etc. I quit the group after a few sessions, because everyone there was boring. So I started my own group, via Craigslist. But everyone there was boring, too. So I started another one. Were all the mothers in Berkeley boring? It was around the time I abandoned my third or fourth new moms group that I began to consider the possibility that I might be the problem.

The women in these groups had bent over backwards to be welcoming. They validated my childbirth choices; they praised my babywearing skillz; they made touching and concerted efforts to embrace my parenting idiosyncrasies. Let me give just one example. It was inevitable, in that world, that I would be asked why I was feeding my baby formula. My answer was not that I was unable to breastfeed, or that I was on some necessary medication that would taint the breast milk, but simply that breastfeeding didn’t appeal to me: “And there’s this other food available, so…” If you know something about the earth-mother babyculture of Berkeley in the early 2000s, you know that that should not have been an acceptable answer. And yet they accepted it, and me. (One woman praised me for having the “courage” to bottle feed in public, confessing she did not dare do the same!)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: More deaths than births in Wisconsin? It could happen within 15 years

Riley Vetterkind:

That comes as the fertility rate for women in their childbearing years has fallen to the lowest level since 2002, prompting concerns Wisconsin within the next decade could see an unprecedented natural population decline, in which the number of deaths in the state exceeds births.

It’s unclear whether a natural population decline is certain to lead to a loss in Wisconsin’s total numeric population, which stood at about 5.7 million after the 2010 U.S. Census.

But because Wisconsin already faces difficulty attracting immigrants and new residents, the state is at risk of seeing its total population fall if more out-of-state residents and immigrants don’t move into the state.

A population decline could have significant implications for economic growth, Wisconsin’s political representation and revenue for key state programs.

Related: abortion data.

KCLS boycotts Macmillan Publishers’ eBook embargo


Effective November 1, 2019, the King County Library System (KCLS) will no longer purchase newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers, one of five major publishers in the U.S. This decision comes after months of discussion and advocacy to urge Macmillan to reconsider instituting a new library eBook embargo, set to go into effect on November 1. Under Macmillan’s new lending model, public libraries of any size will only be allowed to purchase one copy of a newly released eBook for the first eight weeks after publication.

As a large library system, KCLS maintains a “Holds to Copy” ratio of 5-to-1 to minimize wait times for popular titles. This means that for every five holds on a title, KCLS purchases one copy to ensure a maximum wait time of only three months. If KCLS is limited to one digital copy of each new title, and then has to wait eight weeks before being able to purchase more, patrons could conceivably wait years rather than months for their eBook.

“Digital equity and access to information is at stake,” states KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “KCLS’ central mission is to provide free and equal access to information, and libraries must be able to perform this essential role in the digital realm as well. We do not want other publishers to follow the example of Macmillan and embargo books. To do so profoundly changes the public library.”

For KCLS, a library system with 50 libraries, serving more than one million residents, the new embargo hits King County patrons particularly hard. KCLS has been the top digital-circulating library in the U.S. for the last five years and third worldwide. According to Rakuten OverDrive, KCLS patrons downloaded nearly five million eBooks and audiobooks last year.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind

Costica Bradatan:

Do you know what happened in Lyon in AD 177? Or in Milan in 1300? Or in Baroda in 1825? You probably don’t, but you shouldn’t worry: few do. Whatever happened, it was, by ordinary standards, something quite humble. In Dominion, Tom Holland explores such happenings for precisely that reason. Yet in his telling, the humbleness disguises something more consequential. For all their seeming insignificance, these events – the persecution of Christians in Lyon, a case of heresy in Milan, an instance of suttee in Baroda – proved to be shapers of things to come. In the great scheme of history, they put grander happenings to shame. Holland uses such events (twenty-one in all, one for each chapter) as entry points into the complex narrative of his book, which examines the role of Christianity in shaping the Western mind.

This device reveals one of this book’s finest accomplishments. What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holland’s an all-absorbing story. He did something similar in his earlier books Rubicon, Persian Fire, Dynasty, Millennium. But whereas those works were primarily about events, people and movements, which lend themselves naturally to storytelling, Dominion is concerned with things that normally resist simple narration: philosophical ideas and religious doctrines, theological controversies and intellectual debates, the dissemination and transformation of beliefs. It takes a master storyteller to translate the development of a philosophical notion into a captivating story, and Holland proves to be one.

An expert on the classical world, Holland has a good sense of the fundamental historicity that structures and shapes his subject matter. For all their commonly shared ‘human nature’, people do change in space and time, and it would be wrong to judge behaviour in the ancient past by 21st-century norms. And yet Holland can recognise a meaningful historical connection when he sees one: ‘For a self-professed materialist,’ he writes, Karl Marx was ‘oddly prone to seeing the world as the Church Fathers had once done: as a battleground between cosmic forces of good and evil’. He also has a keen feeling for human psychology. Like Abelard, he notes at one point, Luther was ‘a theologian whose capacity for daring speculation was combined with a quite exceptional talent for self-publicity’. In general, Holland has a knack for making the most of the sheer ludicrousness of the human material he is working with. To give one example, in his assessment, Galileo ‘was no Luther’. The astronomer was a compromiser, a self-aggrandiser and, ultimately, a very worldly man. His ‘instincts were those of a social climber, not a rebel’. It takes a gifted writer to detect dark spots like these from such distance.

Inside the “Most Incarcerated” Zip Code in the Country

Caleb Gayle:

Keisha Robinson’s family came to Milwaukee from Chicago in the 1980s because, as Robinson put it, “Chicago was getting out of pocket.” With crime rising and jobs disappearing in the Windy City, she told me, “my mom wanted a better place for us to live.” But Robinson’s mother could never have anticipated the crucibles awaiting her daughter in Wisconsin—the array of social and political deficits associated with the five numbers that came at the end of her listed address: 53206, now notoriously known as the most incarcerated zip code in the country.

The neighborhood’s rectangular outline sits like a brick just north of the Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks in downtown Milwaukee, where the 2020 Democratic National Convention will be held next summer. In addition to its high incarceration rates, 53206, a heavily African American district, suffers from every manner of social ill, from socioeconomic stagnation to poor health. The Democratic primary field is teeming with proposals to address these ingrained injustices, and the party’s eventual candidate will also have a personal incentive to pay attention to what is happening in 53206: Its residents, among others in Milwaukee, may well prove to be the key to Democrats’ hopes of winning the battleground state of Wisconsin and unseating Donald Trump in the presidential election.

The transition to electric and autonomous vehicles is leaving a generation of workers behind.


Amanda Kalhous and Rebecca Keetch joined General Motors Canada within a year of each other. Over the past 15 years, they’ve survived layoffs, a government bailout, and the company’s bankruptcy. Today, they’re living through something more fundamental: the biggest shift the auto industry has seen since the invention of the assembly line.

This time, only one of them has a future in it.

In any other generation, the thousands of employees being laid off by GM in Oshawa, Ontario, could easily be retrained for work elsewhere in the sector. But hard work and a solid education are no longer enough to hold onto a job in an industry that technology is upending.

GM knows what it needs to secure its future, and it’s not Rebecca, a production operator at the Oshawa factory with a community college diploma, plus 18 months of university, who places two belts on an engine every 108 seconds. It’s Amanda, an electrical engineer with two university degrees and 24 patents to her name who oversees a team that designs software for the next generation of vehicles.

Can controversial entrepreneur Chris Whittle create a new model for private schools?

Jim Rendon:

It’s opening day at the Whittle School and Studios, a brand-new pre-K-through-12 private school in Northwest Washington founded by Chris Whittle, the Coca-Cola-sipping man at the curb. Four years in the making, the school and its 185 enrollees represent the first phase of a global institution that Whittle plans to expand over the next decade into more than 30 campuses worldwide, serving more than 2,000 students each, with 150 to 180 in each grade. Two days before the scene in Washington, he was in Shenzhen, China, at the opening of the sister inaugural campus there. Rain came down in sheets like a monsoon, “but in China,” Whittle says, “it’s auspicious for it to rain.”

The Whittle School can use the auspicious sign. The school is the latest iteration of its founder’s long-standing vision of a new paradigm for education: international, individualized, experiential — and unabashedly for-profit. At 72, Whittle has a lifetime of these types of projects behind him, as well as a lifetime of not quite fulfilling the grand expectations that launched them. Like the Whittle School, his previous ventures — the Edison Schools, a for-profit charter school company; and Avenues: The World School in New York, a private institution — were begun with great fanfare and enthusiasm. But they never achieved their loudly trumpeted ambitions.

Now Whittle wants to reinvent private education from the ground up — to throw out old assumptions and build a private school that’s bigger, better and more in tune with contemporary life than any in the world. Students, Whittle believes, need a global education, so he has created a school where students will collaborate on projects with peers in other countries. Teachers will be able to transfer from continent to continent, bringing their lessons and experiences to the classroom. Students will be encouraged to spend about two years boarding at Whittle Schools overseas, immersing themselves in new cultures. “If all our students are not highly proficient in at least a second and hopefully a third language, that is really what we’d call a failure,” he told me. The company has offices and staff not just in the United States and China, but in India, the Middle East and the United Kingdom as well.

Perhaps Whittle’s biggest innovation is his business model. Like his previous educational ventures, and unlike the vast majority of American independent schools, the Whittle School will be run for a profit. Whittle insists it won’t affect the education. It’s simply, he says, the only way to raise the huge sums of capital needed to build and staff so many schools so quickly. So far, he has raised more than $900 million in direct investments and development costs borne by the real estate firms that will build and own his campuses. Yet that’s just a fraction of what this new network is projected to cost. Whittle has already been spending for years, recruiting top administrators and staff from the best private schools in the United States, China and the United Kingdom. Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano’s firm is designing every building (sophisticated — and expensive — architecture is another Whittle obsession).

Chris Whittle interview.

America’s Delusional Elite Is Done

Bronze Age Pervert:

The purpose of my book is to provide samizdat in the tradition of what Solzhenitsyn was doing in the Soviet Union and to bring into view, unapologetically, the reality of nature that is denied by our regime; a reality that it seeks to repress, increasingly with coercion and violence. If you fail to see that you live in the Soviet Union of the 1970’s or 1980’s, or rather something slightly even more repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that time, it may be you don’t know about the threats, financial ruin, and mob violence that Trump supporters and anyone really who steps out of line has been subject to since at least 2016—but actually since some time before that. To give just one egregious example, there is a group, Hamilton 68, that is a plain front for the American security state establishment, dedicated to calling Americans who criticize the state of things Russian agents, and to forcing their identities to be revealed so as to subject them to violent harassment and physical attacks. This is the same function that the figure of the sycophant had in ancient Greece. These attacks are carried out by so-called “antifa,” but what in fact appears to be the establishment’s paramilitary force—the last Democrat vice presidential candidate’s son was a violent member (an impossibility as a “coincidence” for anyone remotely familiar with how Washington DC works)—abetted by police “stand-downs,” as at San Jose in 2016.

A New Aristocracy

Daniel Markovits:

Thanks, Robert, for that introduction; and thank you enormously to the Yale Law School class of 2015 for inviting me to speak here. It’s been a pleasure to teach you; and it’s a privilege to address you now.
Countless conversations with you have made vivid that although this is a marvelous occasion, your mood is not triumphalist. You’ve seemed to me not simply celebratory, but also contemplative. I’ll therefore take this opportunity—this point of inflection in your lives— to offer a diagnosis of your (and our collective) condition, not to propose a cure but, more modestly, in the hope that it shines a new light on your own introspection.

Now, the Dean has just observed, that you are “by acclimation the finest new law graduates in the world.” I don’t rehearse this praise just as a bromide, to set a mood and swell a speech’s emotional progress. Rather, I’ll take the fact of your excellence as my starting point today and then recover its causes and pursue its consequences. Some of these are bright and happy; others lower more darkly, both over the broader world and over your distinctive futures. It will be the task of your generation to disperse these clouds and to reclaim the sunshine, including for yourselves.

When I say that you are the country’s best new lawyers, I assert a concrete, determinate, and determinable fact; and a fact whose demonstration has dominated a large portion of your lives for a very long time.

Consider how you got to Yale. In the Autumn of 2011 perhaps 75,000 candidates applied to American law schools. Perhaps 3000 of these applied to Yale Law School. The law school takes admissions very seriously—three faculty members independently evaluate each file— and following this process, Yale admitted about 8 percent of JD applicants. Our LLM program similarly admits only about 9 percent of those who apply. Finally, almost 9 out of every 10 people whom we admit eventually enroll. In other words, you are sitting here today because you ranked among the top 3/10ths of one percent of a massive, meritocratic competition; and one in which all the competitors conspicuously agree about which is the biggest prize.

Data is a poor judge of opportunity

Lincoln Wilcox:

In 2018 Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company. Had the executives at Hewlett-Packard not made a critical mistake a few decades earlier, that title might have belonged to them.

It’s well known that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in a tiny garage in Los Altos, California. However, what many people don’t know is that when Wozniak designed the first prototype of the Apple I personal computer, he wasn’t working for Apple, but for HP. In fact, Wozniak proposed the idea for the Apple I to executives at HP and was rejected not once, not twice, but five separate times.

As painful as it must be for the executives at HP to look back on the episode with Wozniak, their experience isn’t an anomaly. In fact, history is full of examples of companies that overlooked or even rejected what turned out to be lucrative business ventures. Just look at how Blockbuster passed on an opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000, how AT&T decided it wasn’t worth investing in personal cellphones in the early 1980s, or how telecommunications executives laughed at Mo Ibrahim in the late 1990s when he proposed building a cellular network in Africa. The list goes on.

“You win some and you lose some,” HP cofounder Bill Hewlett later remarked about the company’s missed opportunity with the personal computer. But were HP’s executives simply unlucky? Or did something actually prevent them from seeing the opportunity in front of them, causing them to repeatedly pass on the idea?

Richard Askey


Richard Allen “Dick” Askey, of Madison, passed away on Oct. 9, 2019, at age 86. He was born to Philip E. Askey and Bessie May Askey on June 4, 1933, in St. Louis, Mo. Dick devoted his life’s work to mathematics and improving K-12 math education. He joined the University of Wisconsin Mathematics department in 1963 and retired in 2003. Dick was the world’s foremost authority on Special Functions. He traveled the world giving talks on mathematics and teaching the work of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. In the 1968/69 academic year, Dick worked in Amsterdam and brought his family. Dick helped many mathematicians around the world with their careers. He was a man of integrity and lived his life to help others and share knowledge.

My first meeting with Dick began with these words: “there are some things you should know”.

Notes and links on Dick Askey.

The cautionary tale of Hampshire College and the broken business model of American higher education

Eliza Gray:

Two days before classes started at Hampshire College in September, the school’s incoming first-year students — all 13 of them — attended a welcome reception in the campus’s new R.W. Kern Center. A motley mix of plaids, khakis and combat boots, the group lined up to shake hands with the college president and receive small bells — symbols of the large brass bell they’ll ring upon completing their “Division III,” the epic independent project required to graduate. If, that is, Hampshire survives long enough for them to graduate.

Nine months earlier, the Massachusetts college — mired in financial trouble — had launched a search for a partner to merge with and announced that it might not admit a new freshman class in the fall. Coming after a series of mergers and closures of New England schools, the announcement provoked alarm in the world of higher ed. Eventually, Hampshire offered a place to 70-odd students it had accepted early or who had taken a gap year before enrolling — but warned that there was no guarantee it would stay open.

Judge: District Wrongly Put Student In Special Needs Program To Avoid State Testing

Ryan McKinnon:

An administrative law judge ruled this week that the School District of Sarasota denied a student of a “free and appropriate public education” by forcing him into a specialized program for students with the lowest IQ’s for the majority of his time in elementary and middle school.

The judge also ruled that the school district must cover the cost of intensive tutoring and private school to help “DJ,” the student in question, make up for more than six years of lost time.

“The district failed to provide an appropriate education to the student for over six years,” administrative law judge Diane Cleavinger wrote in her findings.

“The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control”

Karma Peiro:

Three decades ago, the Internet promised to be a democratising place to be turned to in the flight from the inequalities of the analogue world. It was presented to us a field in which to find freedoms, boundless creation, communication that transcended frontiers and free education for all. “We were promised an open Internet – and it was a trap”, says Renata Ávila, annoyed. “We believed that we were building something collective, but we ended up being the unsalaried slaves of the new digital world”. We take advantage of the awarding of the CCCB III Cultural Innovation International Prize, to talk with one of the most influential and lucid voices in the world of technology and human rights.

Melee at Oakland school board meeting as teachers jump barrier, clash with cops

Victor Skinner:

Teachers and parents in Oakland are crying police brutality after they stormed a recent school board meeting to protest privatization and charter schools in the district.

Oakland Unified School District officials erected metal barriers between the public and school board members ahead of a meeting Wednesday after several prior protests, but the temporary structures weren’t enough to hold back the mob of parents, teachers, and union members who easily blasted past and stormed the stage, the East Bay Times reports.

More than dozen police officers and security guards attempted to keep the crowd under control with billy clubs and pepper spray. Officers eventually arrested six of the protestors, including some who are now alleging police attacked unprovoked and left them with serious injuries.

Federal Prosecutors Are Punishing Actor Lori Loughlin for Exercising Her Right To Defend Herself

Scott Shackford:

Department of Justice attorneys turned the screws on actor Lori Loughlin and 10 other parents this week by bringing new charges against them for attempting to use their wealth to buy their kids spots at selective colleges.

The new charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, filed Tuesday, came just a day after four other parents caught up in the “Varsity Blues” scandal accepted plea deals in Boston. This is not a coincidence. As USA Today’s reporting makes abundantly clear, the parents who pleaded guilty did so because prosecutors had threatened them with these additional charges. Loughlin and the other parents face harsher criminal punishment now entirely because they are insisting on their innocence:

How meritocracy harms everyone — even the winners

Sean Illing:

Here’s a clarifying stat: At two Ivy League schools that Markovits surveyed, “the share of students from households in the top quintile of the income distribution exceeds the share from the bottom two quintiles combined by a ratio of about three and a half to one.” The point: Meritocracy is a mechanism for transferring wealth from one generation to the next. Call that what you want, but you can’t call it fair or impartial.

What makes Markovits’s book so interesting is that he doesn’t just condemn meritocracy as unfair for non-elites; he argues that it’s actually bad for the people benefiting from it. The “trap” of meritocracy ensnares all of us, he says, in ways that make life less satisfying for everyone.

I spoke to Markovits about how meritocracy works, what it’s doing to us, and what a post-meritocratic society might look like. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Americans Need to Get Over Their Fear of Math

Siam Beilock:

In a competitive global market, careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are continuing their meteoric rise in strategic importance, making America’s long-documented math phobia more of a liability than ever. If math-capable students shy away from careers involving calculation and computation, that weakens the U.S. workforce and hurts its position in a global economy.

Math anxiety is a nagging fear of or apprehension about math, and it affects the classes college students select and the careers they pursue. As a cognitive scientist, I am concerned that it prevents students who otherwise have the ability to succeed in STEM from doing so. And as president of Barnard College, a school focused on empowering young women, I also worry about the fact that girls and women tend to have more math anxiety and are less confident in their math abilities than boys, which probably helps explain why they continue to be underrepresented in many STEM fields.

Math anxiety starts at a young age for both sexes. My research team and I found that as early as first and second grade, nearly half of students indicate they are “moderately nervous” to “very, very nervous” about math. In the United States, it is estimated that a quarter of students attending four-year colleges experience moderate or high levels of math anxiety. And one study found that, for 11% of American university students, the anxiety is severe enough to warrant counseling.

The subversive practice of a canonical composer.

Ted Gigi’s:

You can hardly find a more sanctioned and orthodox insider than Johann Sebastian Bach, at least as he is typically presented. He is commemorated as the sober bewigged Lutheran who labored for church authorities and nobility, offering up hundreds of cantatas, fugues, orchestral works, and other compositions for the glory of God. Yet the real-life Bach was very different from this cardboard figure. In fact, he provides a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity.

“Suppose instead we start to view him as an unlikely rebel,” suggests conductor John Eliot Gardiner in his revisionist study Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven. Musicologist Laurence Dreyfus, in a spirited 2011 lecture, even goes so far as to label our stolid church composer “Bach the Subversive.” Yet there is tremendous pushback to those who dare taint the atmosphere of respectability and propriety attached to this towering figure, a cultural icon who remains, even today, the poster boy for “serious music.” Amidst the celebrations linked to the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death in 2000, Bach scholar Robert L. Marshall sounded a cautionary tone when admitting that the availability of new information demands a reinterpretation of the composer’s life and works, but he and his fellow experts were “avoiding this challenge and we knew it.” As Dreyfus has pointed out, much of the current writing on Bach comes across as if it is “modeled on the lives of saints.”

Math Breakthrough Speeds Supercomputer Simulations


Simulated virus
Simulation of a virus particle created with LAMMPS molecular dynamics software. New work from UC Davis will allow faster and more accurate simulations of atoms and molecules. (Image by Eindhoven University of Technology via Sandia National Lab.)
One of the new algorithms has been incorporated into the Sandia National Laboratory molecular dynamics suite, LAMMPS, which is used worldwide for studies in biochemistry, materials science and other fields.

Newton’s equations describe how systems change over time. In the early twentieth century, physicist Paul Langevin developed equations that add friction and noise to Newton’s equations in order to describe a system in thermal balance. But it was only with the development of computers that it became practical to use these equations to study how large ensembles of atoms and molecules behave. That methodology, called molecular dynamics, was pioneered by, among others, Edward Teller and Bernie Alder of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the UC Davis Department of Applied Science.

Molecular dynamics simulations are now widely used in applications such as materials science and pharmaceutical research.

Biological male wins women’s cycling world championship for 2nd consecutive year


Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon defended her sprint title at the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester.

The 37-year-old, competing in the female 35-39 sprint category, had set a new world best time in qualifying.

The Canadian beat American Dawn Orwick for the gold, with Denmark’s Kirsten Herup Sovang claiming the bronze.

McKinnon’s victory adds to the silver she won in the 500m time trial earlier this week.

On “Quantum Supremacy”

Edwin Pednault, John Gunnels, and Jay Gambetta:

Quantum computers are starting to approach the limit of classical simulation and it is important that we continue to benchmark progress and to ask how difficult they are to simulate. This is a fascinating scientific question.

Recent advances in quantum computing have resulted in two 53-qubit processors: one from our group in IBM and a device described in the leaked preprint from Google. In the preprint, it is argued that their device reached “quantum supremacy” and that “a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task.” We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity. This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate, and we expect that with additional refinements the classical cost of the simulation can be further reduced.

Because the original meaning of the term “quantum supremacy,” as proposed by John Preskill in 2012, was to describe the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers can’t, this threshold has not been met.
This particular notion of “quantum supremacy” is based on executing a random quantum circuit of a size infeasible for simulation with any available classical computer.

Specifically, the preprint shows a computational experiment over a 53-qubit quantum processor that implements an impressively large two-qubit gate quantum circuit of depth 20, with 430 two-qubit and 1,113 single-qubit gates, and with predicted total fidelity of 0.2%. Their classical simulation estimate of 10,000 years is based on the observation that the RAM memory requirement to store the full state vector in a Schrödinger-type simulation would be prohibitive, and thus one needs to resort to a Schrödinger-Feynman simulation that trades off space for time.

The concept of “quantum supremacy” showcases the resources unique to quantum computers, such as direct access to entanglement and superposition. However, classical computers have resources of their own such as a hierarchy of memories and high-precision computations in hardware, various software assets, and a vast knowledge base of algorithms, and it is important to leverage all such capabilities when comparing quantum to classical.

Geometry, Algebra, and Intuition

Jason Merrill:

I have a confession to make: I have always found symbolic algebra more intuitive than geometric pictures. I think you’re supposed to feel the opposite way, and I greatly admire people who think and communicate in pictures, but for me, it’s usually a struggle.

For example, I have seen many pictorial “proofs without words” of the Pythagorean Theorem. I find some of them to be quite beautiful, but I also often find them difficult to unpack, and I never really think “oh, I could have come up with that myself.”

Here’s Pythagoras’ own proofImage by William B. Faulk, lifted from the Pythagorean Theorem Wikipedia Page. It’s worth looking at some of the many other visual proofs given there.:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

Derek Thompson:

T The idea that companies like Uber and WeWork and DoorDash don’t make a profit might come as a shock to the many people who spend a fair amount of their take-home pay each month on ride-hailing, shared office space, or meal delivery.

There is a simple explanation for why they’re not making money. The answer, for finance people, has to do with something called “unit economics.” Normal people should think of it like this: Am I getting ripped off by these companies, or am I kinda-sorta ripping them off? In many cases, the answer is the latter.
Let’s say you buy a subscription to a meal-kit company, which sends you fresh ingredients and recipes to cook at home. You pay $100 a month. The ingredients are tasty, so you renew for the second month. And the third. But by the fourth month, you’ve decided that you’ve learned enough basic tricks around the kitchen to handle roasted chicken or sautéed cod by yourself. You cancel the subscription.

Your lifetime value to this company is $400—or $100 for four months. Since you quit, the meal-kit company has to find the next “you” to keep growing. So they advertise on podcasts. Let’s say that, on average, this company can expect to add 100 new users if it spends $50,000 on podcast advertising—or $500 per new user.

If the company spends millions on podcast ads, its user base and revenue base will grow and grow. Outside analysts will gasp and marvel: This meal-kit thing is on fire! But look closer: If it costs $500 to add a new user, and the typical marginal user—like you—only spends $400 on meal kits, there is no path to profitability. The road leads to the red.

Madison’s $500M taxpayer supported school district plans a substantial tax increase via 2020 referendum.

Politifact joins the Wisconsin Reading mulligan party

Wisconsin’s new Governor, Democrat Tony Evers, recently acknowledged his support for thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge exam mulligans.

Now comes Politifact:

As proof, Thiesfeldt’s staff pointed to the most recent Wisconsin Student Assessment System results. The annual tests include the Forward Exam for grades three to eight and ACT-related tests for grades nine to 11.

In the 2018-19 tests, 39.3% of students were rated as proficient or advanced in English Language Arts, and 40.1% reached those levels for math, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

For starters, calling 60% the “vast majority” is overstating things quite a bit.

But let’s focus on the “grade level” part of Thiesfeldt’s claim. Is it reasonable to say anyone below proficient is also below grade level?

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Politifact is correct to say that proficiency on state txams don not necessarily align with grade level performance, a nebulous term which means different things at different times in different contexts. This means Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt was technically incorrect when he equated the two during a radio interview.


But Thiesfeldt was not being technical. He was not having a conversation about psychometrics and cut-scores, how to set them and how to anchor them from one year to the next so scores can be compared over time. He was making the point that we’re not doing very well. He was pointing to the bar and making sure we know how few students get over it. We can forgive him If that complex story is hard to tell in the kind of one sentence sound bites the media both requires and then dissects.

It might help to know that before 2013, before we were required to set our categorical cut-scores for proficient. advanced, etc., at new, more rigorous levels aligned with national standards.

Wisconsin set them at laughably low levels. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel missed this part of the story when it reviewed

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement)

“the majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate.

“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”.

More on our long term, disastrous reading results, here.

“an emphasis on adult employment”.

‘We have a blind spot about how the pill influences women’s brains’

Zoe Corbyn:

We know a lot about the small but serious health risks associated with the pill – things like stroke and blood clots. Why have we been kept in the dark about the effects on the brain?
Until very recently, there has been little research. And the research that is out there doctors often aren’t aware of because it isn’t being published in the medical journals they look at, but rather in psychology and neuroscience journals. Then society has taboos about talking about it. The best defence against the sexist notion that women’s hormones make them less rational than men seemed to be to deny hormonal involvement in the brain. And the pill is so useful, no one is motivated to examine it too critically. But our hormones, especially our sex hormones, are a key part of what creates the experience of feeling like ourselves. And talking critically about the pill doesn’t mean that the benefits aren’t going to outweigh the cost. It’s not antithetical to women’s rights to talk about this stuff.

A record number of colleges drop SAT/ACT admissions requirement amid growing disenchantment with standardized tests

Valerie Strauss:

For students who fear they can’t get into college with mediocre SAT or ACT scores, the tide is turning at a record number of schools that have decided to accept all or most of their freshmen without requiring test results.

Meanwhile, two Ivy League schools have decided that many of their graduate school programs do not need a test score for admissions, fresh evidence of growing disenchantment among educational institutions with using high-stakes tests as a factor in accepting and rejecting students.

Seattle Public Schools Will Start Teaching That Math Is Oppressive

Robby Soave:

Math is a deeply frustrating subject for many elementary and high school students. But Seattle public schools are gearing up to accuse math of a litany of more serious crimes: imperialism, dehumanization, and oppression of marginalized persons.

The district has proposed a new social justice-infused curriculum that would focus on “power and oppression” and “history of resistance and liberation” within the field of mathematics. The curriculum isn’t mandatory, but provides a resource for teachers who want to introduce ethnic studies into the classroom vis a vis math. According to Education Week:

Discovery Math and the Seattle Public Schools.

New Jersey Plans to Reduce Standardized Testing

Raven Santana:

In an almost unanimous vote, the New Jersey State Board of Education advanced a proposal that would reduce the number of standardized tests and graduation requirements for high school students.

Under the measure, math and English exams would be eliminated for 10th graders starting for the class of 2023, and instead of 11th graders taking two tests, which they do currently, the state would create one test that would include English 10, algebra 1 and geometry.

The proposal received a mixed reaction yesterday from board members, including board president Kathy Goldenberg, who said that while adding geometry is a compromise, she is concerned that without certain requirements some skills could fall by the wayside.

“This assessment that we just agreed to eliminate is a three-hour test in mathematics and an end-of-course assessment and a three-hour test in language arts,” said Goldenberg. “I find it interesting that six hours of a student’s life within their junior year is too much to look as a state, which is our responsibility on the state board, to see how we’re doing delivering information.”

The Harvard Crimson on Journalism

Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume:

A few days after the event, Act on a Dream and others expressed disagreement with The Crimson’s request for comment to ICE. It is our practice to meet with student groups whenever they have questions or concerns about our coverage, and — as a result — we contacted Act on a Dream shortly after seeing their criticisms on social media. We met with them to listen to their concerns and share our perspective by explaining our policies and the fundamental journalistic principles behind them.

A week later, Act on a Dream published a petition calling on The Crimson to change its policies so that it never contacts ICE for comment again and apologize for the “harm [it] inflicted on the undocumented community.” In this, the organization has called on other student groups to boycott speaking to The Crimson until the paper complies with their demands.

At stake here, we believe, is one of the core tenets that defines America’s free and independent press: the right — and prerogative — of reporters to contact any person or organization relevant to a story to seek that entity’s comment and view of what transpired. This ensures the article is as thorough, balanced, and unbiased toward any particular viewpoint as possible. A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources — a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage — is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world.

School inclusion failed 15-year-old Jayden Moore, but he has finally found a place he belongs

Vanessa Blanch:

When Jayden was in Grade 5, Roberts said, she had no choice but to quit her job to stay home with her son. He was spending most of his school day in a seclusion room, or else the principal was calling her to pick him up because of his poor behaviour​​​​​​.

Roberts explained that while her son scored in the 98th percentile in testing for block design, which measures your ability to mentally manipulate both two and three-dimensional figures, his overall processing speed was so slow it couldn’t be measured.

Curated Education Information