How Harvard went woke

Ruth Wisse:

I had been delighted when Dean Jeremy Knowles asked me during our first interview whether I would be prepared to teach in Harvard’s version of ‘the Core’, a liberal arts curriculum from which undergraduates were obliged to select 10 courses over their four years. I planned a ‘great Jewish books’ course featuring writers from Franz Kafka and Isaac Bashevis Singer to Primo Levi and Saul Bellow, thus including major international works to represent the multilingual quality of modern Jewish literature and to track the experience of Jews in the 20th century.

At the start of one semester, I noticed a girl wearing a hooded sweatshirt so low over her forehead one could scarcely see she was African American. She told me she was stymied by the first assigned text: Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman (the source of Fiddler on the Roof) in a translation generously sprinkled with transliterated Hebrew quotations. I assured her that almost everyone in the class would need to resort to the glossary provided at the back of the book, and then tried to show her that the game might prove worthwhile if she could just relax and enjoy it. From then on, she came to see me almost weekly and was soon doing most of the talking.

Thanking me for the course at the end of the semester, my student surprised me by singling out Saul Bellow’s Mr Sammler’s Planet, a demanding indictment of the counterculture and permissiveness of the 1960s. It was not a young person’s book, but it had had its effect. ‘When I arrived here,’ the student said, ‘I was the you-go girl! I was going to change everything. I was going to change the world. Well, this book showed me that I could also change it for the worse.’ She articulated better than I had done what a course on modern Jewish fiction could hope to transmit.

I had the opposite experience with a Muslim student from Pakistan who refused to deal with Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s Hebrew novella, In the Heart of the Seas, because he deemed it racist. A student could only find this ‘racist’ if he was raised to disbelieve in the Bible’s formation of the Jewish people and the natural right of the Jews to their homeland. The Arab and Soviet coalition had rammed through the villainous resolution equating Zionism with racism at the United Nations; this highly intelligent young man took that equation as much on faith as Agnon’s travelers believed in their return to Zion.

The student had until then been doing very well. It being too late to withdraw from the course, he demanded to complete it without having to deal with this book. This was technically possible since assignments and exams left him enough to choose from without it. I discussed it with a teaching assistant, and we decided to accede to his request. We had by then experienced enough of Harvard’s swelling bureaucracy to know what it would cost in time and energy if we were to refuse his petition.

Vaccine mandates: a new form of ‘institutional segregation’

Peter Doshi and Aditi Bhargava:

Increasingly, vaccination is no longer a matter of choice. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workplaces and schools are instituting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with more expected following formal FDA licensure of the vaccines. But mandating people and their children who have consciously chosen not to get vaccinated — a group that tends to be younger, less educated, Republican, non-white and uninsured — is a recipe for creating new and deeper fractures within our society, the kind of fractures we may profoundly regret in hindsight.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: This is a new form of institutionalized segregation. Yes, some unvaccinated adults may swallow this bitter pill and comply as a way of doing their part in making America safer. But many will see it — along with requirements that the unvaccinated wear masks or undergo regular COVID testing — as a thinly veiled attempt at public shaming. After all, if the goal is to maximize the interruption of spread, then surely all people should be masked irrespective of vaccination status.

Forced compliance will come with future consequences. The ensuing anger, resentment and loss of trust forms a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Are we ready to add this mandate to the list of issues helping erode the fabric of our society?

Meanwhile, New York City teacher litigation.

Notes and Commentary on the Milwaukee Voucher Program’s first 30 years

Alan Borsuk:

It started out in Fall 1991 with 337 students in seven schools. Religious schools weren’t allowed to participate then and only one of those seven schools (Bruce Guadalupe) still exists. The program grew slowly until 1998, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court became the first high court in the nation to rule that using public money to support students attending religious kindergarten through twelfth grades schools was constitutional.

Voucher use grew strongly after that. By last fall, about 28,000 children, around a quarter of all Milwaukee children receiving publicly funded education, were going to about 115 private schools. That in itself is a big key to understanding the dramatic change overall in the local school landscape, due to vouchers.

Just to be clear, no one has ever been required or assigned to use a voucher to go to a private school. That wouldn’t be legal. Thousands of parents want their kids to attend private and, most cases, religious schools, and vouchers make that possible. Why do parents make such choices?

There are as many answers as there are students, but the best list I can offer includes the belief that, compared to many public schools, environments are safer, discipline is stricter, classes are often smaller, and the Bible is part of the program.

People who trust science are more likely to be duped into believing and disseminating pseudoscience

Denise-Marie Ordway:

People who trust science are more likely to be duped into believing and disseminating pseudoscience, finds a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Pseudoscience is false information that references science broadly or scientific terms, research or phenomena. Across four experiments, researchers asked U.S. adults to read news articles written for the study that intentionally made false claims about two topics: a fictional virus created as a bioweapon or the health effects of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The experiments reveal that study participants who indicated they had higher levels of trust in science were most likely to believe the fake account if it contained scientific references. Those individuals also were more likely to agree that stories spotlighting pseudoscience should be shared with others.

On the other hand, people who demonstrated a stronger understanding of scientific methods were less likely to believe what they read and say it should be shared, regardless of whether the information was attributed to science.

The researchers note their findings conflict with ongoing campaigns to promote trust in science as a way to fight misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, mask-wearing and COVID-19 vaccines. Trust in science alone is insufficient, says the lead author of the paper, Thomas C. O’Brien, a social psychologist who studies conflict resolution and trust in institutions, most recently at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

A girl threatened with charges or jail over her COVID social media posts has won a lawsuit against the sheriff

Bruce Vielmetti

Amyiah Cohoon, then a sophomore, took a spring break trip to Florida with the Westfield Area High School band in 2020. The students returned to Wisconsin on March 15, earlier than planned, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Cohoon posted on Instagram that she thought she had been infected, had been to hospitals, and though she tested negative, her doctors thought she probably had had it earlier. In a final post, she is wearing an oxygen mask and says she’s beaten COVID, and urges others to stay safe.

On March 27, Marquette County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cameron Klump came to the Cohoon home and said Sheriff Joseph Konrath had ordered the posts be taken down, as he didn’t believe there were any confirmed cases of COVID in the county.

Earlier that day, the school district administrator had notified parents there was “no truth” to rumors a student had contracted COVID-19 during the band trip. He called Cohoon’s posts, “a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed.”

Leaked Grant Proposal Details High-Risk Coronavirus Research

Sharon Lerner, Maia Hibbett

A grant proposal written by the U.S.-based nonprofit the EcoHealth Alliance and submitted in 2018 to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, provides evidence that the group was working — or at least planning to work — on several risky areas of research. Among the scientific tasks the group described in its proposal, which was rejected by DARPA, was the creation of full-length infectious clones of bat SARS-related coronaviruses and the insertion of a tiny part of the virus known as a “proteolytic cleavage site” into bat coronaviruses. Of particular interest was a type of cleavage site able to interact with furin, an enzyme expressed in human cells.

The EcoHealth Alliance did not respond to inquiries about the document, despite having answered previous queries from The Intercept about the group’s government-funded coronavirus research. The group’s president, Peter Daszak, acknowledged the public discussion of an unfunded EcoHealth proposal in a tweet on Saturday. He did not dispute its authenticity.

Since the genetic code of the coronavirus that caused the pandemic was first sequenced, scientists have puzzled over the “furin cleavage site.” This strange feature on the spike protein of the virus had never been seen in SARS-related betacoronaviruses, the class to which SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the respiratory illness Covid-19, belongs.

“West High School has abandoned enrolling new freshmen in Pathways”

:

Where does that leave the program, heralded initially as a way to close the district’s graduation rate gap between white and Black students and ensure all students were career- or college-ready when they graduated? It’s uncertain.

From June through early September, the Cap Times made multiple requests for interviews with central office officials about the past and future of the Pathways program. Those requests repeatedly went unfulfilled. An update on the program is likely to come at a future School Board meeting.

Pathways is meant to provide a window into potential career paths in a specific sector through community experiences, job and internship opportunities, early college credit and a curriculum that includes small, thematic focuses through all of a student’s core subjects.

Among the challenges it has faced is being implemented without full buy-in, creating scheduling challenges and skepticism from some staff.

“We’re not going to do stupid stuff,” [Ed] Hughes said. “If this doesn’t work, we’re not going to follow it. We’re not going to turn West into a vocational high school, it’s just not going to happen.”

West did not turn into a vocational high school. But it also didn’t continue enrolling students in Pathways after a bumpy introduction saw lower enrollment numbers than the other schools.

“Funding for K-12 education in Wisconsin is at historic levels”

Representative Robin Vos:

“Funding for K-12 education in Wisconsin is at historic levels, and this year our schools received a massive amount of one-time federal dollars. The Democrats’ singular focus to push more money into schools isn’t a winning strategy for our kids. We need to look at improving how they are being taught and why so many students are struggling with the basics – reading, writing, and arithmetic.

“We’ve seen the consequences the pandemic has played on our kids’ education, we should be focusing on doing assessments so teachers can have a better understanding of where students need to get caught up.

“Throwing even more money at the problem will not fix it. Evaluating curriculum, academic testing, and allowing parents to be a part of the conversation are real solutions Legislative Republicans will continue to fight for in the classroom.”

Mr Vos’s comments were written in response to Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Jill Underly’s recent remarks.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

A new leaked document is stirring up another frenzy over the pandemic’s origins. What does it really tell us?

Daniel Engber and Adam Federman:

As the pandemic drags on into a bleak and indeterminate future, so does the question of its origins. The consensus view from 2020, that SARS-CoV-2 emerged naturally, through a jump from bats to humans (maybe with another animal between), persists unchanged. But suspicions that the outbreak started from a laboratory accident remain, shall we say, endemic. For months now, a steady drip of revelations has sustained an atmosphere of profound unease.

The latest piece of evidence came out this week in the form of a set of murkily sourced PDFs, with their images a bit askew. The main one purports to be an unfunded research grant proposal from Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a global nonprofit focused on emerging infectious diseases, that was allegedly submitted to DARPA in early 2018 (and subsequently rejected), for a $14.2 million project aimed at “defusing the threat of bat-borne coronaviruses.” Released earlier this week by a group of guerrilla lab-leak snoops called DRASTIC, the proposal includes a plan to study potentially dangerous pathogens by generating full-length, infectious bat coronaviruses in a lab and inserting genetic features that could make coronaviruses better able to infect human cells. (Daszak and EcoHealth did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)

The document seems almost tailor-made to buttress one specific theory of a laboratory origin: that SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t simply brought into a lab by scientists and then released by accident, but rather pieced together in a deliberate fashion. In fact, the work described in the proposal fits so well into that narrative of a “gain-of-function experiment gone wrong” that some wondered if it might be too good to be true. Central figures in the coronavirus-origins debate were involved: Among Daszak’s listed partners on the grant were Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an American virologist known for doing coronavirus gain-of-function studies in his lab, and Shi Zhengli, the renowned virus hunter from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. (Shi Zhengli has not responded to a request for comment. A UNC spokesperson responded on behalf of Baric, noting that “the grant applicant and DARPA are best positioned to explain the proposal.”)

There is good reason to believe the document is genuine. The Atlantic has confirmed that a grant proposal with the same identifying number and co-investigators was submitted to DARPA in 2018. The proposal that circulated online includes an ambitious scheme to inoculate wild bats against coronaviruses, carried out in concert with the National Wildlife Health Center, a research lab in Wisconsin. A spokesperson for the U.S. Geological Survey, which oversees the center, acknowledged this connection and affirmed the identifying number and co-investigators, noting that the agency’s involvement in the project ended with DARPA’s rejection of the grant proposal. “This is the proposal that was not funded,” USGS Acting Public Affairs Chief Rachel Pawlitz said after reviewing the PDF. She could not, however, vouch for the document in its entirety.

A monk in 14th-century Italy wrote about the Americas

The Economist:

That vikings crossed the Atlantic long before Christopher Columbus is well established. Their sagas told of expeditions to the coast of today’s Canada: to Helluland, which scholars have identified as Baffin Island or Labrador; Markland (Labrador or Newfoundland) and Vinland (Newfoundland or a territory farther south). In 1960 the remains of Norse buildings were found on Newfoundland.

But there was no evidence to prove that anyone outside northern Europe had heard of America until Columbus’s voyage in 1492. Until now. A paper for the academic journal Terrae Incognitae by Paolo Chiesa, a professor of Medieval Latin Literature at Milan University, reveals that an Italian monk referred to the continent in a book he wrote in the early 14th century. Setting aside the scholarly reserve that otherwise characterises his monograph, Mr Chiesa describes the mention of Markland (Latinised to Marckalada) as “astonishing”.

Nowhere else on the planet has such a long lockdown had to be endured:

Bill Muehlenberg:

Never forget September 23, 2021. On this day a world record was broken. Metropolitan Melbourne has now been in lockdown for a total of 235 days – eight whole months! And along with this broken record we have broken the state, the nation, people, economies, livelihoods, small businesses, the rule of law, basic human rights, and most civil liberties.

And sadly, I have had to live through it all – along with over 5 million other enslaved people. Consider how the records have tumbled:
-Folks in the Czech Republic had spent 201 days in lockdown.
-Citizens of London had spent 207 days in total being locked down.
-The poor sods in Buenos Aires were locked down for 234 days.

But while they are now all free, or at least far more free than some of us, we who have had the extreme misfortune of living in the Melbourne metropolitan region have just marked this mind-numbing and soul-destroying milestone. No other jurisdiction on the planet has been under such hardcore and interminable lockdown.

Civics: Section 230 and a Tragedy of the Commons

Michael Cusumano:

At the center of debate regarding regulation of social media and the Internet is Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act of 1996. This law grants immunity to online platforms from civil liabilities based on third-party content.22 It has fueled the growth of digital businesses since the mid-1990s and remains invaluable to the operations of social media platforms.6 However, Section 230 also makes it difficult to hold these companies accountable for misinformation or disinformation they pass on as digital intermediaries. Contrary to some interpretations, Section 230 has never prevented platforms from restricting content they deemed harmful and in violation of their terms of service. For example, several months before suspending the accounts of former President Donald Trump, Twitter and Facebook started to tag some of his posts as untrue or unreliable and Google YouTube began to edit some of his videos. Nevertheless, online platforms have been reluctant to edit too much content, and most posts continue to spread without curation. The problem with false and dangerous content also seems not to have subsided with the presidential election: Social media is now the major source of anti-vaccine diatribes and other misleading health information.21

Google has locked my account for sharing a historical archive they labeled as “terrorist Activity”

Ed Francis:

Good morning, my name is Ed Francis, the owner, and editor of armored archives. We are a small but growing channel covering the development of Armoured vehicles over the last century.

Until recently I have had no problems with Google Drive which I used to back up all of my data, which has been gathered from archives over the last 7 years or so, this is primarily documents ranging from engineering to mechanical reports 1916-2020. One of these files I suspect has been picked up by the bots which had a wide selection of vehicles from the Middle East. That is its been flagged up in a False Positive by Google’s online bots.

This file was a collection of vehicles and at some point, was to be used to make a video showing the adaption and changes to vehicles used in these conflicts and how the requirements for urban fighting and asymmetrical warfare have shifted the design parameters of vehicles. These files contained no graphic images, no promotion of terrorism, no glorification or recruitment or anything else of the sort. There is the possibility that ISIS and so on painted slogans or daubed their letters on vehicles as this is common practice in that conflict.

There has been no picking of sides, ideological posts, or discussion thereof, and the file contains aspects from all sides in those conflicts and is focused on the vehicles in question, dates they were recorded, locations, and categories. The rest of the google file is similar in supporting context with files from cold war developments, WW2 developments, and of course our videos and research, which has taken over 7 years to collect from British archives.

Many taxpayer supported K=12 school districts use Google services (YouTube), including Madison.

Notes and Commentary on Teacher content knowledge requirements

WAOW:

As classrooms opening up across the country, they notice a shortage. Not in schools supplies, but teachers.

After years of school, student teaching and prepping for the Praxis exam, many teachers across the country still come to the same conclusion: teaching is not for them.

Research shows on average teachers have been leaving the field after five years. The Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty (WILL) says this is a side effect of the job and teachers are tired of all the red tape surrounding the job.

“Teachers often don’t feel supported in terms of discipline and things like that but often there is this continual process of licensure that teachers have to go through as well,” said Will Flanders, a researcher at WILL.

An appeal for an objective, open, and transparent scientific debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2

Jacques van Helden, Colin D Butler, Guillaume Achaz, Bruno Canard, Didier Casane, Jean-Michel Claverie:

On July 5, 2021, a Correspondence was published in The Lancet called “Science, not speculation, is essential to determine how SARS-CoV-2 reached humans”.1 The letter recapitulates the arguments of an earlier letter (published in February, 2020) by the same authors,2 which claimed overwhelming support for the hypothesis that the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic originated in wildlife. The authors associated any alternative view with conspiracy theories by stating: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”. The statement has imparted a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate, including among science journalists.3 The 2021 letter did not repeat the proposition that scientists open to alternative hypotheses were conspiracy theorists, but did state: “We believe the strongest clue from new, credible, and peer-reviewed evidence in the scientific literature is that the virus evolved in nature, while suggestions of a laboratory leak source of the pandemic remain without scientifically validated evidence that directly supports it in peer-reviewed scientific journals”. In fact, this argument could literally be reversed. As will be shown below, there is no direct support for the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, and a laboratory-related accident is plausible.There is so far no scientifically validated evidence that directly supports a natural origin. Among the references cited in the two letters by Calisher and colleagues,1, 2 all but one simply show that SARS-CoV-2 is phylogenetically related to other betacoronaviruses. The fact that the causative agent of COVID-19 descends from a natural virus is widely accepted, but this does not explain how it came to infect humans. The question of the proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2—ie, the final virus and host before passage to humans—was expressly addressed in only one highly cited opinion piece, which supports the natural origin hypothesis,4 but suffers from a logical fallacy:5 it opposes two hypotheses—laboratory engineering versus zoonosis—wrongly implying that there are no other possible scenarios. The article then provides arguments against the laboratory engineering hypothesis, which are not conclusive for the following reasons. First, it assumes that the optimisation of the receptor binding domain for human ACE2 requires prior knowledge of the adaptive mutations, whereas selection in cell culture or animal models would lead to the same effect. Second, the absence of traces of reverse-engineering systems does not preclude genome editing, which is performed with so-called seamless techniques.6, 7 Finally, the absence of a previously known backbone is not a proof, since researchers can work for several years on viruses before publishing their full genome (this was the case for RaTG13, the closest known virus, which was collected in 2013 and published in 2020).8 Based on these indirect and questionable arguments, the authors conclude in favour of a natural proximal origin. In the last part of the article, they briefly evoke selection during passage (ie, experiments aiming to test the capacity of a virus to infect cell cultures or model animals) and acknowledge the documented cases of laboratory escapes of SARS-CoV, but they dismiss this scenario, based on the argument that the strong similarity between receptor binding domains of SARS-CoV-2 and pangolins provides a more parsimonious explanation of the specific mutations. However, the pangolin hypothesis has since been abandoned,9, 10, 11, 12 so the whole reasoning should be re-evaluated.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Rhetoric, amidst long term, disastrous reading results

Rory Linnane:

Though the position is technically nonpartisan, Underly’s campaign was heavily funded by the Democratic Party in a race that saw unprecedented spending. Her campaign spent seven times that of her opponent, former Brown Deer Schools Superintendent Deborah Kerr.

The only action Underly announced Thursday was the creation of a literacy task force to research and advise educators on effective strategies for teaching reading, an issue that has been contentious enough to be called the “reading wars.”

Curiously, Underly campaigned on eliminating Wisconsin’s one teacher content knowledge requirement: elementary reading (Foundations of Reading).

This, amidst our long term disastrous reading results.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

The Upworthy Research Archive, a time series of 32,487 experiments in U.S. media

J. Nathan Matias, Kevin Munger, […]Charles Ebersole

The pursuit of audience attention online has led organizations to conduct thousands of behavioral experiments each year in media, politics, activism, and digital technology. One pioneer of A/B tests was Upworthy.com, a U.S. media publisher that conducted a randomized trial for every article they published. Each experiment tested variations in a headline and image “package,” recording how many randomly-assigned viewers selected each variation. While none of these tests were designed to answer scientific questions, scientists can advance knowledge by meta-analyzing and data-mining the tens of thousands of experiments Upworthy conducted. This archive records the stimuli and outcome for every A/B test fielded by Upworthy between January 24, 2013 and April 30, 2015. In total, the archive includes 32,487 experiments, 150,817 experiment arms, and 538,272,878 participant assignments. The open access dataset is organized to support exploratory and confirmatory research, as well as meta-scientific research on ways that scientists make use of the archive.

Winged microchip is smallest-ever human-made flying structure

Amanda Morris:

About the size of a grain of sand, the new flying microchip (or “microflier”) does not have a motor or engine. Instead, it catches flight on the wind — much like a maple tree’s propeller seed — and spins like a helicopter through the air toward the ground.

By studying maple trees and other types of wind-dispersed seeds, the engineers optimized the microflier’s aerodynamics to ensure that it — when dropped at a high elevation — falls at a slow velocity in a controlled manner. This behavior stabilizes its flight, ensures dispersal over a broad area and increases the amount of time it interacts with the air, making it ideal for monitoring air pollution and airborne disease.

As the smallest-ever human-made flying structures, these microfliers also can be packed with ultra-miniaturized technology, including sensors, power sources, antennas for wireless communication and embedded memory to store data.

John Stossel Sues Facebook for Allegedly Defaming Him With Fact-Check

Eric Gardner:

This era of social media is bringing about a new genre of libel litigation — one where an individual says something, then is corrected, and then goes to court with bruised reputation. The latest complaint comes from John Stossel, the veteran TV journalist who on Wednesday sued Facebook in California federal court over what was affixed to his post about 2020 California forest fires and their cause.

“This case presents a simple question: do Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made?” Stossel’s complaint asks. “The answer, of course, is yes.”

America is substantially reducing poverty among children

The Economist:

It seemed like a blustery overpromise when President Joe Biden pledged in July to oversee “the largest ever one-year decrease in child poverty in the history of the United States”. By the end of the year, however, he will probably turn out to have been correct. Recent modelling by scholars at Columbia University estimates that in July child poverty was 41% lower than normal.

America has long tolerated an anomalously high rate of poverty among children relative to other advanced countries—depending on how it is measured, somewhere between one in six or one in five children counted as poor. The reason why is not mysterious. The safety-net has always been thinnest for the country’s youngest: America spends a modest 0.6% of gdp on child and family benefits compared with the oecd average of 2.1%. What would happen if this were to change? The rush of cash Congress made available to cushion the economic fallout of covid-19 provided an experiment.

Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

J. W. Hammond,Sara E. Brownell,Nita A. Kedharnath,Susan J. Cheng,W. Carson Byrd

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely. Below, we outline five reasons why.

Civics: 2016 Election, censorship and misinformation

Matt Taibbi:

A long list of press figures — from Stelter’s own CNN colleague and shameless intelligence community spokesclown Natasha Bertrand, to reporters from The New Yorker, Time, MSNBC, Fortune, the Financial Times, and especially Slate and The Atlanticwere witting or unwitting pawns in a scheme to sell the public on a transparently moronic hoax, i.e. that Donald Trump’s campaign was communicating mysterious digital treason to Russia’s Alfa Bank via a secret computer server.

The story sounded absurd from the start, and was instantly challenged by experts. Even outlets normally hostile to Donald Trump like the New York Times and the Washington Post correctly steered clear of it initially. However, plenty of other reporters fell for it and kept falling for it, including Stelter’s own CNN. We’ve known this story was false since at least December 9th, 2019, when Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz told us that “the FBI investigated whether there were cyber links between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, but had concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links”: 

Horowitz’s conclusion was particularly embarrassing for CNN, which cited “sources close to the investigation” in March of 2017 — well after the FBI had already decided there was nothing there, according to Horowitz — to report the “FBI investigation continues” into the “‘odd’ computer link.” Moreover, when the original main source for the Alfa story, a “computer expert” who went by the name “Tea Leaves,” refused CNN’s requests for an interview for that piece, the network explained in apparent seriousness that “fear has now silenced several of the computer scientists who first analyzed the data,” as if a combo squad of Russian spies and Trump goons might put bullets in their heads. We find out from this indictment that those sources were terrified, all right, only not of Russians or Trump, but of being found out. In fact, the “academics” who were the sources for Franklin Foer’s original October 31, 2016 Slate article, “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?”, were so concerned a nonsense allegation of secret Trump-Russia communication wouldn’t pass a public smell test that one of them proposed faking the story to make them “appear to communicate,” literally using the word “faking” in an email.They ended up not going that far, but the “research” they did produce was so weak that one of them complained that they couldn’t “technically make any claims that would fly public scrutiny,” even ifreporters and others lived down to their expectations and proved “not smart enough to refute our ‘best case’ scenario.” The researcher’s email went on, in a line that summed up much of the Russiagate phenomenon:The only thing that drives us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump]… Folks, I am afraid we have tunnel vision. Time to regroup?The intrepid reporting heroes who bought this manure-sack from these people were the ones to whom Rachel Maddow said, with a straight face, “We are blessed to have journalists as talented as you… writing about this.”

Notes on Subsidizing “Blue State” local (high property) taxes

Alan Cole:

Kitschelt and Rehm would not be surprised by the anti-tax language deployed by the SALT Democrats. They argue that high-income voters⁠—even the high-education kind that vote for Democrats⁠—are generally skeptical of taxation and redistribution.

So the SALT coalition’s rhetoric makes sense: they are representing their voters in the language that most appeals to them. Gottheimer is the new representative from New Jersey’s 5th, and that’s what somebody from New Jersey’s 5th sounds like on taxes. Gottheimer’s Republican predecessor, Scott Garrett, also liked teeing off on the opposing party’s tax increases. Nobody has necessarily changed their views: it is just that the borders of Blue America have been redrawn slightly.

But given a thin majority in the House (there are only eight more Democrats than Republicans) appeasing the SALT coalition and its constituents is a significant issue for Biden. And it could substantially change what Democratic policy looks like. From Cornerstone Macro’s Don Schneider, here is how the current Ways and Means proposal looks, with and without SALT restoration.

The SALT coalition’s request would have a dramatic direct impact on high-income taxpayers. People making between $100,000 and $200,000 (the average income in Bergen County lies in this range) would get a slightly larger tax cut than they do under the Biden proposal without SALT restoration. Furthermore, people earning between $200,000 and $500,000 (about the 95th to the 98th percentile of the U.S. income distribution) would receive a net tax cut. People in the $500k to $1 million range would see most of their net tax increase under the baseline Ways and Means proposal evaporate.

Finally, taxpayers earning more than $1 million would benefit a great deal from full SALT restoration⁠. But the Democratic commitment to taxing the super-wealthy is strong enough, and built enough into the Ways and Means proposal, that even a bill with full SALT restoration would still hike their taxes.

Lodi, WI teacher compensation and professional development notes

MacIver News:

For most teachers in the Lodi School District last year, the path to their annual raise took them through a professional development program focused on “equity.”

Every year, Lodi teachers are required to meet Performance/Professional Practice Goals (PPG), which includes professional development training. Last year, they had two options for that training: equity or technology.

Even though they did not have to take the equity track, most of them picked it anyway. Out of 112 staff members, 86 choose equity, 22 picked technology, and 4 didn’t pick either. (None of the 4 who did not participate at all were put on an improvement plan, as required by the district’s PPG policy.)

This is the first example identified by the MacIver Institute of a school district making Critical Race Theory part of the calculation for employee compensation. “Equity” is a common euphemism for Critical Race Theory (CRT). Any doubt of that association was dispelled as soon as the district picked the required reading material.

The equity track was built around the book “So You Want to Talk About Race.” The book was written in 2018 by Ijeoma Oluo.

Oluo says she belongs to a “broad and varied group of Democrats, Socialists, and Independents known as ‘the left.’” Her book is typical Marxist fare. Many of the concepts found in “So you want to talk about race,” were used by activists in 2020 to justify the race riots across the country.

Wisconsin: spending more on K-12 Government schools, for less

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Parents and schools, continued

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Civics: Lithuania says throw away Chinese phones due to censorship concerns

Andrius Sytas:

Lithuania’s Defense Ministry recommended that consumers avoid buying Chinese mobile phones and advised people to throw away the ones they have now after a government report found the devices had built-in censorship capabilities.

Flagship phones sold in Europe by China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) have a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as “Free Tibet”, “Long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement”, Lithuania’s state-run cybersecurity body said on Tuesday.

The capability in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G phone software had been turned off for the “European Union region”, but can be turned on remotely at any time, the Defence Ministry’s National Cyber Security Centre said in the report.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius told reporters in introducing the report.

Xiaomi did not respond to a Reuters query for comment.

Relations between Lithuania and China have soured recently. China demanded last month that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall its envoy to Vilnius after Taiwan announced that its mission in Lithuania would be called the Taiwanese Representative Office. read more

Biohacking: “He hopes one day to collect as many as 3,000 faecal samples from donors and share the findings publicly”

Izabella Kamiunska:

For the most part Dabrowa, a 41-year old Melbourne-based Australian who styles himself as a bit of an expert on most things, prefers to conduct his biohacking experiments in his kitchen. He does this mostly to find cures for his own health issues. Other times just for fun.

Despite a lack of formal microbiological training, Dabrowa has successfully used faecal transplants and machine learning to genetically modify his own gut bacteria to lose weight without having to change his daily regime. The positive results he’s seen on himself have encouraged him to try to commercialise the process with the help of an angel investor. He hopes one day to collect as many as 3,000 faecal samples from donors and share the findings publicly.

Much of his knowledge — including the complex bits related to gene-editing — was gleaned straight from the internet or through sheer strength of will by directly lobbying those who have the answers he seeks. “Whenever I was bored, I went on YouTube and watched physics and biology lectures from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” he explains. “I tried the experiments at home, then realised I needed help and reached out to professors at MIT and Harvard. They were more than happy to do so.” 

At the more radical end of the community are experimentalists such as Josiah Zayner, a former Nasa bioscientist, who became infamous online after performing gene therapy on himself in front of a live audience. Zayner’s start-up, The Odin — to which Crispr pioneer and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School George Church is an adviser — has stubbornly resisted attempts to regulate its capacity to sell gene-editing kits online in the idealistic belief that everyone should be able to manage their own DNA.

Charter School Enrollment Growth (Wisconsin up 13%)

Erica Pandey:

Charter schools picked off hundreds of thousands of public school students across the U.S. during the pandemic, according to a new analysis from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Why it matters: The pandemic has weakened America’s public education system, as Zoom classes, teacher fatigue and student disengagement take their toll. And that hobbled system is shedding students to charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.

  • Those dynamics are exacerbating inequities in American education, as it’s typically wealthier and white students who make the switch.

By the numbers: Charter school enrollment increased by 7.1% in the U.S. between the 2019-20 school year and the 2020-21 school year, per the analysis. That’s a jump of about 240,000 students.

  • During the same period, non-charte

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

How indoctrination shortchanges K-12 students.

Bonnie Snyder

At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education(FIRE), our longstanding concerns about the deteriorating free speech culture in higher education led to the suspicion that many of these pernicious problems originate before students ever set foot on campus. This spurred us to expand our organizational aims to include high school outreach, in order to teach younger students the value and importance of their — and their peers’ — precious First Amendment rights.

From coast to coast, we’re seeing documented cases of heavy-handed thought reform efforts in K-12 education that substantiate our long held concerns. A situation that has been festering for decades at a level of low-grade chronicity reached acute levels this past school year, as demonstrated by levels of school board engagement and vituperation that we haven’t seen before in our lifetimes.

Paying attention to the K-12 landscape uncovers problematic patterns ranging from activist educators rebelling against traditional ethical restraints to a willingness to denigrate anyone — including children — who dares to verbalize doubt, disagreement, or even lack of sufficiently enthusiastic proactive agreement. Some assertive teachers are hanging uncomfortably presumptive “We Believe” posters in their classrooms while some schools — mainly private — have adopted highly prescriptive collective belief statements or commitments with insufficient discussion or buy-in from the school community.

It certainly doesn’t help that the training new teachers receive is so precipitously one-sided, as we discussed in a recent podcast episode with English professor Lyell Asher, writer of an important article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the steepening tilt of American Education Schools.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

The Fight Over Tenure Is Not Really About Tenure

Molly Worthen:

Why should universities guarantee jobs to a bunch of elitists who study esoteric subjects and brainwash students with left-wing politics? This critique of tenure in higher education is as old as tenure itself, and it’s gaining ground. In recent years, governing boards and legislators in several states have attempted to ban tenure or curtail its power — sometimes succeeding, as in Wisconsin. In the American labor market, where employers have unusually wide latitude to hire and fire at will, it’s not hard for politicians to channel popular resentment toward a small class of workers with relatively strong protections.

That class is getting even smaller. The proportion of American faculty members on the tenure track has been falling since the 1970s, and today just a third of college professors have tenure or are on track to receive it. Every year more and more teachers join the ranks of contingent faculty, surviving contract to contract with little hope that these debates will ever apply to them.

Over the years, tenure’s defenders have offered up noble pleas for the system. It does not grant a teacher a job for life but simply protection from arbitrary firing and retribution; it safeguards academic freedom; it decreases turnover and creates a more stable learning environment for students; it’s more cost-effective than critics suggest, especially when compared with how much universities spend on new administrative positions and lavish student facilities.

All these arguments are basically right. But they will never persuade tenure skeptics outside the university. That’s because the fight over tenure is not really about tenure. It’s a proxy for a larger debate about the meaning of academic freedom and the priorities of higher education. These are intractable battles in the culture wars, but universities are not helpless to confront them — as long as they grapple with the real problems in the tenure system and academic culture.

David Helfand, an astronomer at Columbia University, began to notice these problems when he was in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He told me he “saw two classes of faculty: one class that was essentially untouchable, no matter productivity or behavior — and this was 50 years ago, so their behavior was not up to modern standards — and another class that was walking on eggshells.” When he arrived at Columbia as a junior professor in the late 1970s, he said, his colleagues told him to focus on research and “minimize my effort in teaching, because it would be detrimental to my future.” Tenure review at Columbia — and at many other universities — continues to focus heavily on a candidate’s scholarly publications.

Notes and Commentary on South Dakota Teaching and Curriculum Practices

Paul Mirengoff:

Earlier this year, Gov. Kristi Noem signed a pledge to bar “action civics” (mandatory political protests for course credit) and critical race theory (attacks on “whiteness,” “Eurocentrism,” etc.) from South Dakota schools. For doing so, she drew praise from conservatives, including Stanley Kurtz, a leader in the fight against action civics.

Stanley warned, however, that Noem had her work cut out for her in order to make good on the pledge. “Even in a deep-dyed red state such as South Dakota, the threats that Noem has just pledged to battle have made shocking progress,” he stated. We discussed Noem’s pledge and Stanley’s warning here.

Has Noem done the hard work required to fulfill her pledge? Stanley finds that she has not. He writes:

Our priorities for public education have shifted—away from academic learning and toward therapy and custody.

Paul Hill:

Our priorities for public education have shifted—away from academic learning and toward therapy and custody. The latter objectives were always present, but today’s movement away from “solid” subjects is a big change. In the late nineteenth century, Americans invested in K–12 education for everyone and made attendance compulsory because of the need for a literate, numerate, and informed workforce and electorate. It’s fair to ask whether public education is really about those things any more.

In previous crises, educators didn’t set aside traditional academic instruction. After the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, when kids returned to school after a year or more of trauma, school leaders thought they needed good teaching above all else, both to preserve their futures and help them regain a sense of purpose.

Adult issues (fear of noncompliance with federal regulations, reluctance to impose scheduling and effort requirements on teachers, union opposition to school reopening even when local infection rates were low) came to the fore after schools shut down in March 2020. Now schools are reopening but teachers in some places are being told that nobody will fuss about how much kids learn this year.

Many parents seem okay with this, settling for schools that keep kids unpressured and content. Other families, not buying this, have shifted to private schools where academic goals are still clear, or are directing their own kids’ schooling. But a lot of parents, educators, and ordinary citizens seem to be going along.

Additional notes and Commentary.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Uncontrolled Spread: Science, Policy, Institutions, Infrastructure

Future:

One thing’s for sure — with this COVID crisis, we’re at an inflection point between old and new technology — whether it’s in how we make vaccines, or how we apply the fields of synthetic biology and genetic epidemiology in public health response. So now’s the time to look both backward, and forward, to really change things…

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and commentary from Scott Girard: 

“While Heinrich allowed schools to use their premises for child care and youth recreational activities, the government barred students from attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion at weekly Masses with their classmates and teachers, receiving the sacrament of Confession at school, participating in communal prayer with their peers, and going on retreats and service missions throughout the area.”

Additional commentary:

“Reasonable” should mean that the public health authorities followed their own internal guidelines for evaluating regulations. These include posting the scientific evidence leading to the regulation, receiving community input, and studying the effectiveness and sustainability of the regulation. In the case of Covid and the schools all this was ignored in Dane County. There was no evidence of transmission in children of school age at the start, the community’s wish to have the schools open was ignored and, over time, it was seen that surrounding counties kept their schools open without increasing Covid transmission – and this last point was completely ignored by Dane County. But the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue of irresponsible public health officials. Perhaps it cannot as Owen pointed out. Perhaps dereliction of duty must be addressed by criminal courts. Instead the Supreme Court answered a different question which might be put as follows: suppose a majority of children in a given community refused the regular vaccines – or refuse the covid vaccine – can the public health authorities close the school? The answer was no. This is significant because racism has been defined as a public health issue. Suppose a majority of parents refused to allow their children to attend a CRT seminar defined as immunization against racism and required for admittance to school. Could the public health authorities close that school. No. In the past certain religious tests have been required before attendance at universities was allowed and non-conforming universites have been closed. If racism is a public health issue the Test Acts may return as public health tests and if that happened we may be sure Dane County would adopt Test Regulations closing non-conforming public schools if it could. Then this Court decision, barring such Test Regulations, would seem far-sighted.

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Alexa leaks your private wishlists

Terence Eden:

So, there’s no way to switch off notifications from private lists. You have to switch them off for everything.

In this case, the harm was minimal. I’ll have to find something else as a surprise gift. But imagine if I had a “private” wishlist for something embarrassing or upsetting? I don’t remember ever switching on the option for my Alexa to announce to my entire household that there is a price-drop on my weird fetish.

I’ve written before about anti-social app design. The tech bros working on apps often don’t consider that people have families. And that they live with people that they want to keep secrets from.

According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics – only 28% of households contain a single occupant. The majority of people live with other people.

Teacher Union seeks to abolish Massachusetts Student Tests…

CBS4 Boston:

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is speaking out against MCAS, saying the state’s standardized test “has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools.” The teachers union is endorsing a bill that would eliminate the MCAS graduation requirement in the state.

The bill scheduled for a committee hearing Monday on Beacon Hill would offer “multiple pathways” for students to demonstrate educational competency, outside of standardized testing.

MTA President Merrie Najimy said the MCAS has been “alienating students who have diverse backgrounds and differentiated learning styles.”

“The implementation of the MCAS and other standardized tests has had the exact opposite effect of what was supposed to occur when the system was introduced more than 20 years ago,” Najimy said in a statement. “Public schools in predominantly Black and brown communities have been taken over by state bureaucrats who have been using standardized testing as a tool not to improve opportunities for students but instead as one to pry public education from the hands of the families and educators who know best what their students need.”

The MTA shared a Twitter video earlier in the week saying, “It’s time to cancel MCAS.”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Civics: The Indictment of Hillary Clinton’s Lawyer is an Indictment of the Russiagate Wing of U.S. Media

Glenn Greenwald:

A lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was indicted on Wednesday with one felony count of lying to the FBI about a fraudulent Russiagate story he helped propagate. Michael Sussman was charged with the crime by Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed by Trump Attorney General William Barr to investigate possible crimes committed as part of the Russiagate investigation and whose work is now overseen and approved by Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Sussman’s indictment, approved by Garland, is the second allegation of criminal impropriety regarding Russiagate’s origins. In January, Durham secured a guilty plea from an FBI agent, Kevin Clinesmith, for lying to the FISA court and submitting an altered email in order to spy on former Trump campaign official Carter Page.

The law firm where Sussman is a partner, Perkins Coie, is a major player in Democratic Party politics. One of its partners at the time of the alleged crime, Marc Elias, has become a liberal social media star after having served as General Counsel to the Clinton 2016 campaign. Elias abruptly announcedthat he was leaving the firm three weeks ago, and thus far no charges have been filed against him.

The lie that Sussman allegedly told the FBI occurred in the context of his mid-2016 attempt to spread a completely fictitious story: that there was a “secret server” discovered by unnamed internet experts that allowed the Trump organization to communicate with Russia-based Alfa Bank. In the context of the 2016 election, in which the Clinton campaign had elevated Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin to center stage, this secret communication channel was peddled by Sussman — both to the FBI and to Clinton-friendly journalists — as smoking-gun proof of nefarious activities between Trump and the Russians. Less than two months prior to the 2016 election, Sussman secured a meeting at the FBI’s headquarters with the Bureau’s top lawyer, James Baker, and provided him data which he claimed proved this communication channel.

Civics: Rules are for the little people.

Robby Soave:

Yet another politician was caught violating her own mask mandate. This time it’s San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who partied maskless at a jazz club on Wednesday despite the city’s requirements.

Breed was spotted at the Black Cat nightclub by Mariecar Mendoza, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was an exciting evening: According to Mendoza, “Oakland’s Raphael Saadiq and D’Wayne Wiggins—two of the three original members of the chart-topping group Tony! Toni! Toné!—did an impromptu late-night performance of ‘Let’s Get Down,’ the hit single from the East Bay trio’s platinum-selling fourth studio album, 1996’s ‘House of Music.'” Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, was also in attendance.

The notion that it’s an unfair burden on the black students of Madison to attend a school with the name Madison on it.

Ann Althouse:

I would add the 22 and the 21 together, which would put Memorial High School in first place. But really, I think 750 comments on what to name that high school is insufficient to justify ousting James Madison from a place of honor in the city of Madison. I am afraid this will begin an unstoppable momentum that will end up depriving us of the traditional name of our city.

Where will this end? With a state capital named Vel Phillipsville? If we must go that way, may I suggest the more sprightly Phillipvelphia?

Opinion: I’m a doctor. Here’s why we should avoid COVID-19 mandates of any kind.

Garrick Stride:

I am an emergency physician and father of three young children. Last month, public health authorities suddenly imposed a two-week at-home quarantine order on two dozen kids from my son’s preschool class due to a COVID-19 exposure. Like all parents of those kids, I lost over $800 in unreimbursed preschool tuition and was forced to rearrange my work schedule. Ironically, these children were probably exposed to more people in those two weeks from attending different day-care and social events than if they had simply remained in their classroom cohort, but, unfortunately, public health orders don’t seem to account for actual human behavior.

Health authorities have two justifications for imposing these kinds of afflictions on the public. Originally, the goal was “to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.” In other words, to prevent suffering and death from lack of access to health care, we discouraged people from going to hospitals, shut down medical clinics to in-person visits, and suspended all non-emergency procedures. The implementation was clearly illogical, but at least the goal was rational.

Now that the vast majority of the country has natural or vaccine-mediated immunity to COVID-19 and our health care systems have improved surge capacity, our hospitals are no longer at risk of being truly overwhelmed. Busy? Sure. Systemically overwhelmed and unable to compensate? No chance.

High School History Classroom: Los Angeles Example

Spencer Brown:

When students at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, returned to class this fall, one teacher’s woke decor went beyond the typical liberal bias that’s become commonplace in public schools.

Photos sent by a concerned parent to national grassroots group Parents Defending Educationshow one wall covered with hanging LGBTQIA+, Palestine, Transgender, and Black Lives Matter flags while an American flag can be seen tossed over a piece of furniture in the corner.

Another photo shows anti-police and anti-American posters on the wall reading “F*** THE POLICE” and “F*** AMERIKKKA. THIS IS NATIVE LAND.”

Color Map Advice for Scientific Visualization

Kenneth Moreland:

This page provides advice for using colors in scientific visualization. More specifically, this page provides color maps that you can use while using pseudocoloring of a scalar field. The color maps are organized by how and where they are best used. Each color map shows some example usage and provides color tables in CSV format so that they can readily be used in rendering system textures or entered into visualization software. For simplicity, the color tables are provided in many different lengths and with colors expressed in both bytes (integers between 0 and 255) and floats (decimals between 0.0 and 1.0). Each color map also has instructions on getting these colors in the ParaView visualization application. Where applicable, Jupyter Python notebooks containing details about how each color map is generated. You can either run the code directly with the appropriate software or copy/paste scripts into your own interpreter. Each color map below is demonstrated on a 2D heat map and 3D surface. The data for both can be downloaded here.

This work originates from the paper “Why We Use Bad Color Maps and What You Can Do About It.” Details about this paper are given below. Another related publication is “Diverging Color Maps for Scientific Visualization,” which describes specifics about one particular type of color map. Details of this paper and the techniques used can be found on its companion page.

The University of Wisconsin Smears a Once-Treasured Alum

John McWhorter:

What is it about the University of Wisconsin and race? The administration’s recent decision to move a rock from view because a journalist referred to it with the N-word almost 100 years ago was goofy enough. But there has been more at the school in this vein.

This week a group including alumni, faith leaders, actors, and the N.A.A.C.P. wrote to University of Wisconsin officials asking them to repeal the tarring and feathering of an alumnus of the school, the renowned actor Fredric March. The letter, which was also sent to the Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, and shared with me, decried the decisions to strip March’s name from theaters on the Madison and Oshkosh campuses, which the writers blamed on “social-media rumor and grievously fact-free, mistaken conclusions” about March.

March has been done a resounding wrong. I have no animus against the University of Wisconsin, but what we are seeing in these two sad episodes — the removal of the rock and the defenestration of March — is how antiracist “reckoning” can, if done without proper caution, detour into mere posturing, even at the cost of justice itself.

Fredric March is not the most famous of names among long-ago movie stars. But he attended the University of Wisconsin more than 100 years ago and went on to become as central in the old Hollywood firmament as Tom Hanks is today.

Despite the conclusion of a report — commissioned by Madison’s chancellor — that there was no evidence linking the Ku Klux Klan organization March belonged to with its more widely known namesake, the student-driven campaign resulted in the removal of the actor’s name from that theater building. Throughout, there was apparently little or no investigation of what the man actually stood for.

But March was, to use our current term of art, a lifelong ally of Black people par excellence.

A Good Statement on Faculty Speech from Syracuse

Keith Whittington:

I’m a believer in positive reinforcement, and when university leaders do the right thing they should get credit for doing so. Kent Syverud, the president of Syracuse University and a former law professor, did the right thing. Other university presidents should take notes.

An assistant professor of political science at Syracuse chose to use the anniversary of September 11th to make a point about “heteropatriarchal capitalist systems.” Her tweet generated some backlash. The university responded as universities should in such cases—by defending free speech and avoiding any temptation to praise or condemn the professorial speech in question. The full statement:

Reading and Economic Expansion: German Edition & Copyright Law

Frank Thadeusz

Höffner has researched that early heyday of printed material in Germany and reached a surprising conclusion — unlike neighboring England and France, Germany experienced an unparalleled explosion of knowledge in the 19th century.

German authors during this period wrote ceaselessly. Around 14,000 new publications appeared in a single year in 1843. Measured against population numbers at the time, this reaches nearly today’s level. And although novels were published as well, the majority of the works were academic papers.

The situation in England was very different. “For the period of the Enlightenment and bourgeois emancipation, we see deplorable progress in Great Britain,” Höffner states.

Equally Developed Industrial Nation

Indeed, only 1,000 new works appeared annually in England at that time — 10 times fewer than in Germany — and this was not without consequences. Höffner believes it was the chronically weak book market that caused England, the colonial power, to fritter away its head start within the span of a century, while the underdeveloped agrarian state of Germany caught up rapidly, becoming an equally developed industrial nation by 1900.

Even more startling is the factor Höffner believes caused this development — in his view, it was none other than copyright law, which was established early in Great Britain, in 1710, that crippled the world of knowledge in the United Kingdom.

Germany, on the other hand, didn’t bother with the concept of copyright for a long time. Prussia, then by far Germany’s biggest state, introduced a copyright law in 1837, but Germany’s continued division into small states meant that it was hardly possible to enforce the law throughout the empire.

Höffner’s diligent research is the first academic work to examine the effects of the copyright over a comparatively long period of time and based on a direct comparison between two countries, and his findings have caused a stir among academics. Until now, copyright was seen as a great achievement and a guarantee for a flourishing book market. Authors are only motivated to write, runs the conventional belief, if they know their rights will be protected.

remove a quote they described as “harmful for some readers.”

Adam Sabes and Robert Schmad:

The Emory University student newspaper edited an article written by the now-U.S. Solicitor General nominee to remove a quote they described as “harmful for some readers.”

Editors at The Emory Wheel, the student newspaper of Emory University, removed a quote given to then-student editor Elizabeth Barchas, whom President Joe Biden nominatedto be the U.S. Solicitor General in August. 

Elizabeth Barchas now goes by Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar.

“It’s really disappointing because we think we live in such a modern culture but there’s still so many primitive people out there who think violence is an effective way to show anger or prove a point,” then-freshman Justin Karp originally told the Emory Wheel in a now-archived version of their story after the September 11, 2001 attacks. “Were better than that.”

CAUT Calls for Pause on U. of Toronto Censure

Hank Reichman

The following is the text of a statement issued today, September 17, by the Council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).  For background on this case see this previous post and CAUT’s statement imposing censure.

On April 22, the Council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) took the unusual measure of censuring the Administration of the University of Toronto over a hiring scandal in the Faculty of Law.  Upon reviewing the matter extensively, Council delegates concluded that the decision not to proceed with the hiring of Dr. Valentina Azarova as Director of the International Human Rights Program, following an intervention by a prominent donor and sitting judge, violated widely recognized principles of academic freedom.  Unless universities and colleges are actively protected from outside interference and intrusion, their integrity and mission are imperiled.

In discussions and correspondence with the University Administration, CAUT has conveyed that the principal condition for the lifting of censure would be for the University to re-offer the position to Dr. Azarova.  It is our understanding that this key condition has now been met.

The University presented Dr. Azarova with an offer of employment.  After careful consideration, however, Dr. Azarova has declined the offer.  Her decision, while unfortunate, is understandable given the University’s initial reaction to the unfounded and scurrilous attacks on her reputation and her research.

Considering this development, the CAUT Executive Committee is advising that the censure of the Administration of the University of Toronto be suspended pending a final decision by CAUT Council at its meeting of November 25 and 26. Until then, the Executive Committee is calling for a pause in all actions related to censure.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans spent more on taxes than food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined

Terrence Jeffrey:

Americans spent more on taxes in 2020 than they did on food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined, according to newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

American “consumer units,” as BLS calls them, spent a net total of $17,211.12 on taxes last year while spending only $16,839.89 on food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined, according to Table R-1 of the BLS Consumer Expenditures Survey.

“Consumer units,” BLS explains, “include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share major expenses.”

COVID-19 and School Closures

UNICEF, via a kind reader:

We are facing a COVID-19 education crisis. As this report finds, schools for more than 168 million children globally have been closed for almost a full year. With every day that goes by, these children will fall further behind and the most vulnerable will pay the heaviest price.

The unique findings presented in this report provide an overview of school closures from March 11, 2020 to February 2, 2021 in more than 200 countries and territories, relying primarily on the data from the UNESCO tracker of school closures and UIS database on school enrolment.

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans. Children cannot afford another year of school closures.

More, here.

“Education is going to be disrupted like music”

Danny in the Valley Podcast:

The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Andy Bird, chief executive of Pearson, to talk about transforming the education giant (5:40), creating textbook “playlists” (8:30), growing up in Manchester (14:45), getting into the entertainment industry (16:10), being recruited by Bob Iger (21:30), remaking Disney’s foreign operations (23:05), cutting ties with Netflix (27:40), failing at Disney’s first streaming attempt (29:10), retiring (34:25), un-retiring and join Pearson {38:00), the backlash over his ‘golden hello’ (41:00), the breakdown of the higher education business model (43:40), the future of Pearson (49:40), overhauling a 177-year-old company (52:40), and learning from failure (57:40).

Curiously, Pearson is lobbying against Wisconsin Assembly Bill 446.

Rhode Island Parent Union

Parents United:

In Rhode Island, they have united to form a group of plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against Governor McKee for executive overreach regarding his unconstitutional and non-science-based state-of-emergency declaration and school mask mandate.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Hudson mayor: School board should resign over material suggesting kids write about sex, drinking

Phil Keren:

The Hudson mayor is asking all five school board members to resign or face possible criminal charges over high school course material that he said a judge called “child pornography.”

Mayor Craig Shubert made the statement during Monday night’s board of education meeting after multiple parents complained about the content of some writing prompts contained in a book called “642 Things to Write About” provided to high school students who are taking a college credit course called Writing in the Liberal Arts II.

Parents said there was a prompt that asked students to “write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom,” and another which said “rewrite the sex scene from above into one that you’d let your mom read.”

Another prompt asked students to drink a beer and describe how it tastes. Parents said they felt these writing prompts and others were not appropriate for high school students.

A new study suggests that almost half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have mild or asymptomatic cases.

David Zweig:

At least 12,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 this month, as the country inches through its latest surge in cases. But another worrying statistic is often cited to depict the dangers of this moment: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States right now is as high as it has been since the beginning of February. It’s even worse in certain places: Some states, including Arkansas and Oregon, recently saw their COVID hospitalizations rise to higher levels than at any prior stage of the pandemic. But how much do those latter figures really tell us?

From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.

If you want to make sense of the number of COVID hospitalizations at any given time, you need to know how sick each patient actually is. Until now, that’s been almost impossible to suss out. The federal government requires hospitals to report every patient who tests positive for COVID, yet the overall tallies of COVID hospitalizations, made available on various state and federal dashboards and widely reported on by the media, do not differentiate based on severity of illness. Some patients need extensive medical intervention, such as getting intubated. Others require supplemental oxygen or administration of the steroid dexamethasone. But there are many COVID patients in the hospital with fairly mild symptoms, too, who have been admitted for further observation on account of their comorbidities, or because they reported feeling short of breath. Another portion of the patients in this tally are in the hospital for something unrelated to COVID, and discovered that they were infected only because they were tested upon admission. How many patients fall into each category has been a topic of much speculation. In August, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical Center, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System decided to find out.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and commentary from Scott Girard: 

“While Heinrich allowed schools to use their premises for child care and youth recreational activities, the government barred students from attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion at weekly Masses with their classmates and teachers, receiving the sacrament of Confession at school, participating in communal prayer with their peers, and going on retreats and service missions throughout the area.”

Additional commentary:

“Reasonable” should mean that the public health authorities followed their own internal guidelines for evaluating regulations. These include posting the scientific evidence leading to the regulation, receiving community input, and studying the effectiveness and sustainability of the regulation. In the case of Covid and the schools all this was ignored in Dane County. There was no evidence of transmission in children of school age at the start, the community’s wish to have the schools open was ignored and, over time, it was seen that surrounding counties kept their schools open without increasing Covid transmission – and this last point was completely ignored by Dane County. But the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue of irresponsible public health officials. Perhaps it cannot as Owen pointed out. Perhaps dereliction of duty must be addressed by criminal courts. Instead the Supreme Court answered a different question which might be put as follows: suppose a majority of children in a given community refused the regular vaccines – or refuse the covid vaccine – can the public health authorities close the school? The answer was no. This is significant because racism has been defined as a public health issue. Suppose a majority of parents refused to allow their children to attend a CRT seminar defined as immunization against racism and required for admittance to school. Could the public health authorities close that school. No. In the past certain religious tests have been required before attendance at universities was allowed and non-conforming universites have been closed. If racism is a public health issue the Test Acts may return as public health tests and if that happened we may be sure Dane County would adopt Test Regulations closing non-conforming public schools if it could. Then this Court decision, barring such Test Regulations, would seem far-sighted.

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Few say that local schools are doing a good job, and most support school choice and charters. Additionally, just over half of those in America’s fastest-growing metros are wary of critical race theory (CRT) in school curriculum.

Michael Hendrix:

Six out of ten say that crime is increasing in their area—including a majority of all racial and ethnic groups. Among those who live in urban cores but who express an interest in moving to a less dense area, crime rates are a top-three motivator. More than two in five respondents also see a lack of police presence as a problem in their area. Community policing and other reforms that would empower police are broadly supported.
Few say that local schools are doing a good job, and most support school choice and charters. Additionally, just over half of those in America’s fastest-growing metros are wary of critical race theory (CRT) in school curriculum.
Still, slightly more than half of respondents think that things in their metro are generally headed in the right direction, with roughly two in three agreeing in Boston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Tampa metros. Similarly, many say that the quality of life in their metro area is good or very good (46%), and somewhat smaller shares say so about local economic conditions and the quality of public schools. But there is little sign of enthusiasm behind these votes of confidence: more than a third still chose “average” across these categories. Public safety, the quality of roads and bridges, and public transportation receive similarly tepid ratings (Figure 2). Though Americans in the fastest-growing metro areas are generally happy with their city’s quality of life, they worry about the costs to live there.
The spread of Covid-19 infections also remains a concern for some 60% of respondents, but nearly equal shares are worried about traffic, public safety and crime rates, and high taxes.
In all, nearly a third said that their local area is on the wrong track, and another 17% are unsure. Minneapolis and Seattle have the highest shares believing that their city is on the wrong track, with some 48% and 46% saying so, respectively. On quality of life, responses varied considerably by metro. Coastal areas such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle were all more likely to have local respondents rating their quality of life as poor, while residents of Sunbelt and Mountain West hubs such as Tampa, Orlando, Charlotte, and Denver were much more likely to have a positive outlook.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Notes on Open scientific discourse at Stanford

Carl Heneghan and Martin Kulldorff:

Open scientific discourse is especially critical during a public health crisis such as a pandemic. Academics should be free to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead, without undue or unreasonable interference. It is deeply troubling when scientists try to limit rather than engage in scientific debate.

Last week, anonymous posters with the portrait of Stanford University Professor of Medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya were plastered on kiosks around the Stanford campus, linking him to COVID deaths in Florida. Even though cumulative age-adjusted COVID mortality is lower in Florida than in most other large states, these smears appeared.

Taking it one step further, the chair of Stanford’s epidemiology department, Professor Melissa Bondy, circulated a petition among faculty members demanding that the university president exercise his obligation “to clarify for the faculty the limits of public pronouncements when proclaiming on public health policy.”

The petitioners are upset that “several Stanford faculty members have publicly advocated for policies for others that are contrary to those the university has adopted” and that “these recommendations are disturbing and contrary to public health standards; they foster uncertainty and anxiety and put lives at risk.”

While insidiously not naming anyone, the petition explicitly targets Bhattacharya by quoting his answer to a question from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about masks on children. He responded that “there is no high-quality evidence to support the assertion that masks stop the disease from spreading.” To deserve trust, scientists must be honest about what is and what is not known, and we agree with Bhattacharya.

Randomized trials provide the best available research evidence to inform health-care decisions and are considered the gold standard for determining intervention effects. But no randomized studies have shown that masks in children are effective. Instead, there are observational studies of uneven quality that reach conflicting conclusions.

Student test scores drop as predicted during pandemic year in Missouri

Blythe Bernhard:

Fewer than half of Missouri students performed at grade level or above in English (45%), math (35%) and science (37%) in the Missouri Assessment Program of standardized tests. In spring of 2019, the last time students were tested before the start of the pandemic, 49% of students scored proficient or advanced in English, 42% in math and 42% in science.

Students who primarily attended school in person far outperformed those in virtual (with online instruction) or distance (limited online instruction) learning. For example, 39% of in-person students scored at grade level in math, compared to 18% of students in distance learning.

“The MAP scores reinforce what we already knew — teaching in person makes a difference,” said Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, in a statement. “And when you can’t teach in person, access to the internet and adequate bandwidth make a difference. Our teachers and students did a fantastic job under the circumstances during this pandemic — we can’t lose sight of that.”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

From Teacher Pay to School Budgets, Ed Policy Is Often Based on Public Perception. But How Much Do People Really Know?

Mike Antonucci:

These and other commonly held beliefs are part of the conventional wisdom of American public life. If you don’t think so, experiment by arguing the opposite on social media. But that’s not what I want to do here.

The question isn’t whether any of these statements is right or wrong, but what people actually know about those issues.

Americans are continually polled on all sorts of matters, but rarely are they asked to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic upon which they are being asked their opinion. On the occasions when it happens, we learn something important about how new knowledge sways opinions.

Like many organizations and media outlets, Education Next conducts an annual survey of public opinion on school-related issues. Unlike most organizations and media outlets, the publication includes one unique and laudable twist to a couple of questions.

On queries regarding teacher salaries and school spending in its 2021 survey, respondents were split into two equally sized, randomly selected groups. One half was told the current levels of teacher pay and school spending in their area; the other was not.

Fifty-seven percent of the uninformed group wanted increased school spending, and 67 percent wanted higher teacher salaries.

Support in the informed group was 39 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Looking Back and Forward on Substantial Government Budget (and debt) growth

Amity Shlaes:

Still, a review of the record of Roosevelt’s New Deal suggests that a sentient voter, slimed or not, might pause before signing up for the newest new deal.

When Roosevelt ran for office in 1932, a shocking one in four workers was unemployed. Roosevelt promised to get employment back to usual levels, which then as now meant one in 20 out of work, or 5 percent joblessness. He blamed the downturn in part on “obeisance to Mammon” — an unwillingness of wealthy Americans to share. To recover, the president suggested, America needed the federal government to provide “more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth.” The gravity of the crisis, Roosevelt argued, warranted emergency authority for the chief executive — license to play around, applying even conflicting theories seriatim through “bold persistent experimentation.”

Once elected, Roosevelt hiked taxes on the rich and kept them high, even pushing an “undistributed profits tax” to eat at business savings. He ramped up tax authorities’ investigations and urged the authorities into punitive audits. The “green” component of the New Deal was reforestation: Roosevelt promised to employ 1 million men in restoring forests, parks and fields. To create additional jobs, Roosevelt poured hundreds of millions of dollars, then a large sum, into infrastructure: bridges, schools, power plants, and the establishment of new institutions such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the name of helping the working man, the New Deal instituted minimum wages. Roosevelt’s 1935 Wagner Act, a tiger of a law, gave the labor movement such power that unions were able to force large companies such as automakers to accept collective bargaining, willy nilly.

Wisconsin Legislators (some) attempt to address Our disastrous reading results

Mitchell Schmidt:

However, committee chair Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, challenged critics of the bill, including DPI, to come forward with a proposal to address reading readiness.

“I’ve got to tell you, I’m getting tired of this. The current way we teach reading in the state of Wisconsin, almost across the entire board, that castle has been ruling the kingdom for 30-some years and the castle walls have been breached in other states and it’s about to happen here,” he said. “It’s time to join up or get out of the way or at least go neutral.”

The numbers

Statewide testing released in September 2019 by DPI found that for students in grades 3-8 and grade 11, 39.3% of students tested proficient or better in English/language arts in 2018-19, down from 40.6% in 2017-18.

The round of testing found that the state’s persistent racial academic achievement gap had narrowed due to a drop in performance among white students. For example, white students in fifth grade dropped 4.6 percentage points in English/language arts proficiency compared to a 1.6 percentage-point decrease for Black students in fifth grade.

In the eighth grade, the percentage of Black students scoring proficient or advanced in English/language arts rose 2 percentage points to 12.1%, while the percentage of white students in that group dropped 1.1 percentage points. But the proficiency difference is still separated by a 30-point gap.

“For too long, Wisconsin’s K-12 system has churned out too many students who are not proficient in reading, causing a workforce crisis,” CJ Szafir, president of the conservative Institute for Reforming Government, said in an email. “The ‘Roadmap to Reading Success’ bill transforms our childhood literacy policies by equipping parents and teachers with the information they need in order to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed.”

Lobbying information on Assembly Bill 446. Curiously, the League of Women Voters is against this legislation.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Notes and Commentary on a 2021 NEA President’s Madison Visit

Elizabeth Beyer:

Jenkins said he strongly encourages vaccination for adults, citing a plan to require the vaccine for teachers and staff that will be presented to the Madison School Board on Monday. For now, he said he prefers to leave the decision on vaccination for children up to parents.

“I do think that we have to take the utmost sense of urgency around the fact that our children under 12 cannot be vaccinated,” he said.

Jones said he personally would support a vaccine requirement for eligible students but he was unable to speak on behalf of MTI without first polling members.

The Milwaukee School Board last week approved a vaccination requirement for all Milwaukee Public Schools employees and a $100 incentive for eligible students to get vaccinated. The deadline for both is Nov. 1.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Civics: the masking of the servant class

Glenn Greenwald;

From the start of the pandemic, political elites have been repeatedly caught exempting themselves from the restrictive rules they impose on the lives of those over whom they rule. Governors, mayors, ministers and Speakers of the House have been filmed violating their own COVID protocols in order to dine with their closest lobbyist-friends, enjoy a coddled hair styling in chic salons, or unwind after signing new lockdown and quarantine orders by sneaking away for a weekend getaway with the family. The trend became so widespread that ABC News gathered all the examples under the headline “Elected officials slammed for hypocrisy for not following own COVID-19 advice,” while Business Insider in May updated the reporting with this: “14 prominent Democrats stand accused of hypocrisy for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions they’re urging their constituents to obey.”

Most of those transgressions were too flagrant to ignore and thus produced some degree of scandal and resentment for the political officials granting themselves such license. Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. Photos released last November of California Governor Gavin Newsom giggling maskless as he sat with other maskless state health officials celebrating the birthday of a powerful lobbyist — just one month after he told the public to “to keep your mask on in between bites” and while severe state-imposed restrictions were in place regarding leaving one’s home — caused a drop in popularity and helped fueled a recall initiative against him. Newsom and these other officials broke their own rules, and even among liberals who venerate their leaders as celebrities, rule-breaking is frowned upon.

Sentence Diagramming

Ann Althouse:

And now there is a movie, not entirely about sentence diagramming, but with some vivid sentence diagramming in it. I don’t think there’s a film documentary about sentence diagramming. I wish there were. But that’s okay. I am hoping that because of the great love so many people have for Wes Anderson, this movie will inspire a renaissance of sentence diagramming!

It might go nicely with the expanding home school movement.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Civics: U.S. top general secretly called China over fears Trump could spark war -report

Reuters:

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called on President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to immediately fire Milley.

“I do not need to tell of you the dangers posed by senior military officers leaking classified information on U.S. military operations, but I will underscore that such subversion undermines the President’s ability to negotiate and leverage one of this nation’s instruments of national power in his interactions with foreign nations,” Rubio said in a letter to Biden.

Asked about the Washington Post report, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment and referred questions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department.

Trump, a Republican, named Milley to the top military post in 2018 but began criticizing him, as well as other appointees and former staffers, after losing the presidential election to Biden in November 2020.

The Washington Post reported that Milley was motivated to contact Beijing the second time in part due to a Jan. 8 call with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent an “unstable president” from launching a nuclear strike.

Technological Change and Obsolete Skills: Evidence from Men’s Professional Tennis

Ian Fillmore and Jonathan Hall:

Technological innovation can raise the returns to some skills while making others less valuable or even obsolete. We study the effects of such skill-altering technological change in the context of men’s professional tennis, which was unexpectedly transformed by the invention of composite racquets during the late 1970s. We explore the consequences of this innovation on player productivity, entry, and exit. We find that young players benefited at the expense of older players and that the disruptive effects of the new racquets persisted over two to four generations.

Genetic and environmental contributions to IQ in adoptive and biological families with 30-year-old offspring

Emily A.Willough and James J.Lee:

Highlights
Genetic and environmental sources of variance in IQ were estimated from 486 adoptive and biological families

Families include 419 mothers, 201 fathers, 415 adopted and 347 biological fully-adult offspring (M age = 31.8 years; SD = 2.7)

Proportion of variance in IQ attributable to environmentally mediated effects of parental IQs was estimated at .01 [95% CI 0.00, 0.02]

Heritability was estimated to be 0.42 [95% CI 0.21, 0.64]

Parent-offspring correlations for educational attainment polygenic scores show no evidence of adoption placement effect

Seedless blackberries with a year-round growing season? Gene editing opens up new doors for radical improvements in the long-stagnant berry market

John Clark:

Genetic variation plus environmental effects are what make us, and the berries we grow, what we are. The interaction of these two factors continues to be exciting and challenging in berry breeding and production.

One of the biggest challenges with existing genetic variation occurs when a trait is desired but there is no known source for it. This means traditional breeding cannot make progress with the desired trait. Gene editing, often using Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology, offers a new way to create genetic variation by precisely changing the DNA of an organism without introducing unrelated DNA such as occurs in transformation or GMO technology.

Pairwise, an innovative company based in Durham, NC, has undertaken the improvement of caneberries, specifically blackberries, using gene-editing techniques.

Hearing Tuesday/Wednesday on Wisconsin’s Literacy Disaster

Public hearing is Tuesday at 10am, with the bill likely to be up around 10:30. Catch it on Wisconsin Eye.

Lobbying information on Assembly Bill 446. Curiously, the League of Women Voters is against this legislation.

Documents:

Co-Sponsorship of LRB-1294 & 3781, Relating to: Reading Readiness Assessments and Granting Rule-Making Authority.

Current Law vs. Roadmap to Reading Success Act.

Roadmap to Reading Success Flow Chart: Kindergarten – 2nd Grade

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Notes on Leadership: Merkel Retires

Meanwhile:

Meanwhile.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Experts vs Elites

Robin Hanson

Consider a typical firm or other small organization, run via a typical management hierarchy. At the bottom are specialists, who do very particular tasks. At the top are generalists, who supposedly consider it all in the context of a bigger picture. In the middle are people who specialize to some degree, but who also are supposed to consider somewhat bigger pictures.

On any particular issue, people at the bottom can usually claim the most expertise; they know their job best. And when someone at the top has to make a difficult decision, they usually prefer to justify it via reference to recommendations from below. They are just following the advice of their experts, they say. But of course they lie; people at the top often overrule subordinates. And while leaders often like to pretend that they select people for promotion on the basis of doing lower jobs well, that is also often a lie.

Our larger society has a similar structure. We have elites who are far more influential than most of us about what happens in our society. As we saw early in the pandemic, the elites are always visibly chattering among themselves about the topics of the day, and when they form a new opinion, the experts usually quickly cave to agree with them, and try to pretend they agreed all along.

As a book I recently reviewed explains in great detail, elites are selected primarily for their prestige and status, which has many contributions, including money, looks, fame, charm, wit, positions of power, etc. Elites like to pretend they were selected for being experts at something, and they like to pretend their opinions are just reflecting what experts have said (“we believe the science!”). But they often lie; elite opinion often overrules expert opinion, especially on topics with strong moral colors. And elites are selected far more for prestige than expertise.

The Same Law California NIMBYs Use To Block Housing Is Now Freezing College Enrollments and Halting Hospital Expansions

Christian Britschigi:

California’s landmark environmental law can stop more than just housing projects, the University of California Board of Regents discovered this week.

The governing body of the state’s second-largest public university system suffered successive adverse rulings in two separate lawsuits. It is now being required to freeze student enrollment at one campus and stop the expansion of a hospital at another.

On Monday, the Superior Court of Alameda ruled that the University of California, Berkeley must keep its student population flat for the coming academic year while a more thorough study is done of the environmental impacts of bringing more young scholars onto campus.

A few days earlier, the same court ruled that construction activity will have to stop on a hospital expansion at the University of California San Francisco’s (UCSF) Parnassus Heights campus while a separate lawsuit questioning that project’s environmental impacts plays out.

Both lawsuits have been brought by neighborhood groups under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that requires government agencies to study the environmental impacts of projects they carry out.

The list of impacts that have to be studied under CEQA is long, including everything from traffic and air quality to the effects on historic resources. What counts as a project subject to CEQA has also expanded over the years to include almost any discretionary decision made by a government official, whether that’s the approval of a zoning variance or the closing of a school.

What high-school history books teach about 9/11

Peter Wood:

Have you ever wondered what American schools teach about 9/11? Here is a partial answer. I’ve reviewed five of the most popular American history textbooks for high school. They are:

  • American History, 2018 edition, HMH Social Studies (no author listed, but Colon is the first name on the “Educational Advisory Panel)
  • United States History and Geography, 2018 edition, McGraw Hill (by Appleby, Brinkley, Broussard, McPherson, and Ritchie)
  • United States History, 2016 edition, Pearson (Lapsansky-Warner, Levy, Roberts, and Taylor)

Plus these two intended for advanced placement American history classes:

  • America’s History, Ninth Edition, Bedford St Martin’s (by Edwards, Hinderaker, Self, and Henretta)
  • The Unfinished Nation, Ninth Edition, McGraw Hill (by Brinkley, Huebner, and Giggie)

The titles are so similar as to be in some cases indistinguishable that it will be better if I refer to them by the bolded names: Colon, Appleby, Warner, Edwards, Brinkley, or collectively as CA-WEB. The names I’m using shouldn’t necessarily be taken as representing the actual authors. All five books are vastly collaborative products assembled by teams of writers and editors under the supervision of other more senior editors, and homogenized by still more senior editors. This isn’t history through the eyes of a latter-day Herodotus or Thucydides, or a Francis Parkman or a Samuel Eliot Morison, or even for that matter a Howard Zinn. History books like that have a definite personality and you get to know the author. The most you can say about CA-WEB is that you get to know the corporate slant.

And if you are of a certain age, you would find these books don’t look much like history books of yore. Colon, which weighs 6.6 pounds (shipping weigh per Amazon) could be used to stop a bullet. And given the conditions surrounding some of our schools, perhaps it has. All of these books are elaborately illustrated and printed in kaleidoscopic colors. They are generally available, of course, online for the COVID confined generation.

What of 9/11?

Notes and Comments on the San Francisco School Board Recall

Heather Knight:

About a dozen smiling people in matching yellow T-shirts wheeled 45 heavy boxes through the City Hall basement to the Department of Elections the other morning.

Inside those boxes sat six months of effort and nearly a quarter million signatures of San Francisco voters that are almost certain to qualify school board members Gabriela López, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga for a recall.

Get ready for a special election, probably in January or February, that would be the first local recall to qualify for a San Francisco ballot since 1983. Already, supporters of the internationally ridiculed school board have bashed the recall for supposedly being fueled by Republicans, conservatives and dark money, but is it?

Unlike with Tuesday’s recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the answer is no. Everyday San Franciscans with real concerns about the school board — and who believe the city’s kids deserve better — launched the effort and worked tirelessly to gather signatures. And their beefs are far more significant than Newsom’s unwise, unmasked dinner at the French Laundry.

Academic Questions: Testing the Tests for Racism

Wilfred Reilly:

Against the claim of decreased American racism over the past twenty years have come the audit studies. Throughout much of the modern era, a large number of empirically-minded social scientists have pointed out that racism seems by any objective standard to be declining.1 However, other scholars argue that anonymous tests show considerable modern-era bias against blacks and other racial minorities.2 How can both of these results co-exist, across dozens of well-designed studies? A review of the audit studies might help.

The fact that racism has declined in the United States in the modern era, following the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act, would seem objectively obvious to most people. Eric Kaufmann points out that approval of black/white interracial marriage—often presented in the context of a close relative marrying a black person—rose from 4 percent among whites in 1958 to 84 percent in 2013.3 In 2017, “fewer than 10 percent of whites” surveyed by Pew agreed with a somewhat differently worded question asking whether inter-racial marriage was “a bad thing.” No doubt as a direct consequence of such changing attitudes, the percentage of newlyweds in multi-race marriages rose from 3 percent in the mid-1960s to 17 percent today.4 Most other anonymous polls focused on key issues of race find results similar to those dealing with marriage, with Gallup finding in 2015 that only 8 percent of whites would not vote for a qualified black same-party candidate for President—as vs. 7 percent who would not vote for a Catholic, 9 percent who would not vote for a Hispanic or Jew, and 19 percent who would not vote for a Mormon.5

An especially interesting sub-category of research on the prevalence and effects of modern racism has focused on examining what happens to the performance gaps between groups (in incomes, SAT scores, etc.) that are often attributed to racism—or to genetic factors by the fringe right—when adjustments are made for non-racial characteristics which vary between groups. The economist June O’Neill (1990; 2005), for example, has pointed out that gaps in income between blacks and whites vanish almost entirely following adjustments for such obvious traits as years of education, median age, region of residence, and any aptitude test score. To quote the earlier of her two papers on this subject at some length: “Overall, black men earn 82.9 percent of the white wage. Adjusting for black-white differences in geographic region, schooling, and age raises the ratio to 87.7 percent; adding differences in (standardized) test scores raises the ratio to 95.5 percent, and adding differences in years of work experience raises the ratio to 99.1 percent.”6

Notes on academic illiberalism

Peter Boghossian:

I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.

I noticed signs of the illiberalism that has now fully swallowed the academy quite early during my time at Portland State. I witnessed students refusing to engage with different points of view. Questions from faculty at diversity trainings that challenged approved narratives were instantly dismissed. Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions. And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male.

At first, I didn’t realize how systemic this was and I believed I could question this new culture. So I began asking questions. What is the evidence that trigger warnings and safe spaces contribute to student learning? Why should racial consciousness be the lens through which we view our role as educators? How did we decide that “cultural appropriation” is immoral?

Unlike my colleagues, I asked these questions out loud and in public.

Civics: Sky News Australia barred for week by YouTube over Covid misinformation

BBC:

YouTube has barred Sky News Australia from uploading new content for a week, saying it had breached rules on spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

It issued a “strike” under its three-strike policy, the last of which means permanent removal.
YouTube did not point to specific items but said it opposed material that “could cause real-world harm”.

The TV channel’s digital editor said the decision was a disturbing attack on the ability to think freely.

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

Mayor suggests Helsinki declare itself an English-language city

Jon Henley:

Helsinki should consider declaring itself an English-language city, its mayor has suggested, arguing that too many highly skilled international workers are shunning the Finnish capital partly because of exacting language requirements.

Finland’s two main official languages are Finnish, which has 15 grammatical cases and is notoriously difficult for foreigners to learn, and Swedish. Many companies require Finnish and public sector employees must master both.

An increasingly serious shortage of technology and other professionals last year prompted the country to try offering foreign workers and their families the chance to relocate to Finland for 90 days to see if they want to make the move permanent.

But more than 36% of foreign students in Finland leave within a year of graduation, according to government figures, with most citing immigration bureaucracy, high taxation and language difficulties as their main reasons for quitting.

“Helsinki could call itself an English-speaking city, where people who speak English wouldn’t need to speak Finnish or Swedish,” the capital’s mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

Civics: on Displacement

Freddie deBoer:

DisplacementDisplacement is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient. A classic example of the defense is displaced aggression. If a person is angry but cannot direct their anger toward the source without consequences, they might “take out” their anger on a person or thing that poses less of a risk.

Civics: Commentary on Taxpayer funded Government Mandates and the ACLU

Glenn Greenwald:

In a New York Times op-ed this week, the group completely reversed its views, arguing vaccine mandates help civil liberties and bodily autonomy “is not absolute.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surprised even many of its harshest critics this week when it strongly defended coercive programs and other mandates from the state in the name of fighting COVID. “Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,” its Twitter account announced, adding that “vaccine requirements also safeguard those whose work involves regular exposure to the public.”

If you were surprised to see the ACLU heralding the civil liberties imperatives of “vaccine mandates” and “vaccine requirements” — whereby the government coerces adults to inject medicine into their own bodies that they do not want — the New York Timesop-ed which the group promoted, written by two of its senior lawyers, was even more extreme. The article begins with this rhetorical question: “Do vaccine mandates violate civil liberties?” Noting that “some who have refused vaccination claim as much,” the ACLU lawyers say: “we disagree.” The op-ed then examines various civil liberties objections to mandates and state coercion — little things like, you know, bodily autonomy and freedom to choose — and the ACLU officials then invoke one authoritarian cliche after the next (“these rights are not absolute”) to sweep aside such civil liberties concerns:

[W]hen it comes to Covid-19, all considerations point in the same direction. . . . In fact, far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties. . . . . 

[Many claim that] vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others. . . . While vaccine mandates are not always permissible, they rarely run afoul of civil liberties when they involve highly infectious and devastating diseases like Covid-19. . . . 

While limited exceptions are necessary, most people can be required to be vaccinated. . . . . Where a vaccine is not medically contraindicated, however, avoiding a deadly threat to the public health typically outweighs personal autonomy and individual freedom.

The op-ed sounds like it was written by an NSA official justifying the need for mass surveillance (yes, fine, your privacy is important but it is not absolute; your privacy rights are outweighed by public safety; we are spying on you for your own good). And the op-ed appropriately ends with this perfect Orwellian flourish: “We care deeply about civil liberties and civil rights for all — which is precisely why we support vaccine mandates.”

Homeschooling vs the legacy K-12 model

JD Tuccille:

It’s too early to know whether the pandemic-fueled surge in homeschooling will continue in the coming year, but the early indicators are that do-it-yourself education is here to stay as a popular choice for families from all sorts of backgrounds. Escalating public school battles over masks, in-person teaching, and curriculum content continue to push families to seek options that meet their needs without a fight. That choice is made easier by the proliferation of resources for learning, in many cases at little or no cost.

“With Texas public schools now restarting for the fall semester, interest in homeschooling is already outpacing the all-time records set by the enormous homeschool increase from 2020,” the Texas Homeschool Coalition [THSC] announced last month. “Last week, THSC’s weekly call and email volume reached 4699, nearly five times the weekly record set by 2020. Before being upset by 2021 numbers, the records set by 2020 had been all-time-highs.”

The percentage of students homeschooled in Texas rose to 12.3 percent last year, up from 4.5 percent of students in Spring 2020, the organization pointed out. Nationally, 11.1 percent of students were homeschooled last year, up from 3.3 percent before the pandemic, according to the Census Bureau. (African-American families seem particularly done with schoolroom chaos; 16.1 percent of their kids joined the ranks of the homeschooled).

“It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children,” Census Bureau researchers Casey Eggleston and Jason Fields noted in March. “From the much-discussed ‘pandemic pods,’ (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”

Notes and Commentary on US Education Climate

Jack Cashill:

In reading the “overview” of Dr. Jill Biden’s 2006 doctoral dissertation from the University of Delaware, I am reminded just how rotten, from top to bottom, are America’s schools of graduate education.  That a doctor of anything could write a sentence like the one that follows speaks to the historic worthlessness of most graduate programs in education:

Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian; one quarter of the class will be African American; one seat will hold a Latino; and the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens.

An advisory committee had to approve this mumbo-jumbo. Apparently, none of the committee members noticed that when you add three fourths to one fourth, you’ve pretty much exhausted all the “fourths” available — all the seats as well.  Although the temptation is to write Dr. Jill’s dissertation off to the power of political pull, her dissertation, from my experience, represents something of a norm in the illiteracy, innumeracy, and race obsession of grad-level education.

My oldest brother, an exceptional high school principal, refused to pursue a doctorate in education — the key to becoming a school superintendent — because he thought the courses he took to get his Master’s a waste of everyone’s time. My middle brother became a very good high school math teacher without getting any education degrees. He simply retooled through a special quickie program after retiring as an engineer from Exxon.

Advocating Financial Literacy

Patrick Jenkins:

Fixing economic deprivation is a mammoth task, but assisting with basic financial education — to boost budgeting skills, debt knowhow and investment nous — need not be. And yet basic financial understanding can make a vast difference — not just to poorer communities such as North Ormesby, but to anyone in virtually any circumstance.

“Improving financial capability can be transformative for individuals and families,” says Diane Maxwell, former lead of New Zealand’s state-backed financial capability drive. “People report better sleep, feeling more in control, greater family cohesion, and are more likely to think long term. In that sense it has a powerful upward momentum to it.”

Wealth generation over time

Jeremy Horpedahl:

Looking at the exact same data (from the Fed Distributional Financial Accounts) from a different perspective gives us a much different picture of recent history. In this version, Gen X is now richer (30% richer!) than Boomers were at the same age (late 40s). Millennials don’t yet have a year of overlap with Boomers, but they are tracking Gen X almost exactly. There is no reason they won’t continue to track Gen X, and therefore exceed Boomers as well when they are in their late 40s (which will happen in about 2037 for Millennials).

My prediction is that by the time Millennials are in their late 40s, they will even surpass Gen X in wealth. Why? The reason is counterintuitive: student debt.

Huh? Isn’t student debt what is holding Millennials back? In some sense, yes. But in the long run, no. Right now, many Millennials (and some Gen Xers!) hold a lot of student debt. That goes on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. But there is no corresponding asset showing up the balance sheet, but there is an asset: their human capital! Over their lifetime, that human capital will give them even greater earning potential in later life. Much like Gen X basically tracked Boomers until their mid-40s, until their student loans were paid off, and their degrees (and graduate degrees!) really started to pay off in the labor market.

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: “the fading family”

Joel Kotkin:

For millennia the family has stood as the central institution of society—often changing, but always essential. But across the world, from China to North America, and particularly in Europe, family ties are weakening, with the potential to undermine one of the last few precious bits of privacy and intimacy.

Margaret Mead once said, “no matter how many communes anyone invents, the family always creeps back.” But today’s trajectory is not promising. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, family formation and birth rateswere declining throughout much of the world, not just in most of the West and East Asia, but also in parts of South American and the Middle East.

The ongoing pandemic appears to be driving birth rates globally down even further, and the longer it lasts, the greater possibility that familial implosion will get far worse, and perhaps intractable. Brookings predicts that COVID will result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer U.S. births in 2021. Marriage rates have dropped significantly to 35 year lows.

The Surprising Demographic Crisis

It’s been a half century since Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb(1968) prophesied a surge of population that would foster Malthusian mass starvation, which echoed the premise of lurid book called Famine 1975! Ehrlich and his acolytes urged extreme measures to stave off disaster, including adding sterilantinto the water supply. Similar conclusions were drawn four years later in the corporate-sponsored Club of Rome report, which embraced an agenda of austerity and retrenchment to stave off population-driven mass starvation and social chaos.

These predictions turned out to be vastly exaggerated, with a rapid decline in global hunger. The anticipated population explosion is morphing into something more like an implosion, with much of the world now facing population stagnation, and even contraction. As birth rates have dropped, the only thing holding up population figures in many places is longer lifespans, though recent data suggests these may be getting shorter again .

These trends can be felt in the United States, where the birthrate is sinking. U.S. population growth among the cohort aged between 16 and 64 has dropped from 20 percent in the 1980s to less than 5 percent in the last decade. This is particularly bad for the future of an economy dependent on new workers and consumers.

This demographic transition is even more marked in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and much of Europe, where finding younger workers is becoming a major problem for employers and could result in higher costs or increased movement of jobs to more fecund countries. As the employment base shrinks, some countries, such as Germany, have raised taxes on the existing labor force to pay for the swelling ranks of retirees.

Choose life. Commentary on the Roe effect.

Federal Education School Safety Notes

Hans Bader:

The highlighted passages were highlighted by Professor Russell Skiba, in an attachment to his May 28, 2021 2:25 AM email to Carolyn Seugling of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and James Eichner of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Education Department sought out Skiba’s advice.

Skiba notes that the School Safety Commission report is “highlighted with a corresponding comment” from Skiba at various places. But the Education Department failed to turn over Skiba’s comments along with the highlighted text it corresponds to, so what Skiba said in response to these passages of the School Safety Commission report is an enigma. (In withholding these comments, the Education Department violated FOIA, perhaps inadvertently. Yesterday, I asked it to turn over the comments, but have gotten no response yet.).

Skiba does not appear to have taken issue with the passage saying that “research studies reveal that black youth, in comparison with their white counterparts, are … disproportionately involved in delinquency and crime … and are more likely to behave in ways that interfere with classroom and school functioning.” Skiba has taken issue with the idea that the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted” for by racial differences in behavior.

But Skiba himself does not claim that “students of color as a whole” have the exact same rate of misbehavior as whites, in the emails produced by the Education Department. Indeed, in his remarks at a May 11 Education Department event, Skiba admitted that rates of student misbehavior play a role in racial disparities in school discipline rates (although he argued that rates of student misbehavior were not among the top two factors driving such disparities. He argued on May 11 that racial disparities in discipline rates are caused more by other factors, such as school-to-school differences in discipline policy (such as harsher discipline at high-poverty, heavily non-white schools), and racial bias.

Moreover, Skiba’s email approvingly encloses an academic article that undercuts the idea that “students of color as a whole” have exactly the same misconduct rate as their white peers. (See Welsh & Little, The School Discipline Dilemma, 88 Review of Educational Research 752 (2018)).

That article states:

Curated Education Information