Notes on the “stop woke act”

The Economist:

Despite being weakened, the Stop woke Act has had an effect on campuses. Twenty-eight presidents of public colleges signed a letter on January 18th promising to defend “Florida values”. “Our institutions will not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical-race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analysed and/or improved upon,” the letter says.

Usually when people want to prevent an idea they dislike, they limit who can speak on campus, says Adam Steinbaugh, a lawyer at fire. (Liberals have been accused of using this practice against their conservative enemies recently.) But the Stop Woke Act is different. “Florida is skipping the pretext,” Mr Steinbaugh says. “They’re skipping the middleman and just limiting ideas themselves.”

The law has created a culture of fear on campus, says a faculty member at the University of Florida, who wishes to remain anonymous. His university inbox is filled with emails about the act. Academics worry about accidentally breaking the law and being reported, he says. The University of South Florida, a different public university in Florida, has a website for students to report discrimination which specifically asks for “violations of House Bill 7.” The consequences could be steep for public universities, which stand to lose millions of dollars in state funding.

“So, nobody looked at the list”

Matt Taibbi:

Translating: individual accounts were chosen through a method developed by J.M. Berger, a writerand think-tanker whose usual specialty is extremism(he’s written about ISIS and domestic white nationalism in the U.S.). Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.” The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.”

So, nobody looked at the list. 

The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’

Sounds solid. 

Yes? No?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Zoom based Federal Government

Philip Greenspun:

I spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C. My white friend who earns $200,000 in total compensation as a government worker was enjoying a holiday while the Black service/retail industry workers who get $15/hr had to come in for their regular shifts. Over a leisurely holiday lunch, she explained the current structure of a typical federal agency. “Nobody has to come in,” she said, “and most of the people who work for me haven’t come into the office for months. I go in two or three days a week just to get out of the house, but it is not required.” Why wouldn’t the young people she manages want to come in and get out of their crummy apartments? “A junior programmer wouldn’t get paid more than $90,000 per year, so he couldn’t afford to the live in the city anyway. One guy lives out in Gaithersburg with his brother and it is too much effort to come in. The rest of the Millennials aren’t interested even if they do live, with parental support, reasonably close to our office.”

A reader recently sent me “D.C. Mayor to Biden: Your Teleworking Employees Are Killing My City”(Politico, January 20, 2023):

This is an odd position for Mayor Bowser. She was an enthusiastic proponent of Science, i.e., lockdowns, school closure, forced masking, and vaccine papers checks. Given that SARS-CoV-2 is live and kicking, she’s the last person one would expect to advocate mass gatherings in office buildings, on the Metro, etc. The virus didn’t change; why did she?

BuzzFeed will start using AI to write quizzes and other content

Sarah Scire:

Nothing like a spokesperson issuing assurances that BuzzFeed “remains focused on human-generated journalism” to make you feel good about the future of the news industry, right?The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on a staff memo at BuzzFeed that laid out plans for the digital media company to use OpenAI — creator of ChatGPT — to help write quizzes and other content. In the memo, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote AI will play a role in both editorial and business operations at BuzzFeed within the next year.

“For example, a quiz to create a personal romantic comedy movie pitch might ask questions like, ‘Pick a trope for your rom-com,’ and ‘Tell us an endearing flaw you have,’” the Journal’s Alexandra Bruellreported. “The quiz would produce a unique, shareable write-up based on the individual’s responses, BuzzFeed said.”But, hey! Humans will still provide “cultural currency” and “inspired prompts,” according to Peretti’s memo.

Why Did Schools Stop Teaching Kids How To Read?

Zach Weissmueller and Nick Gillespie

Public schools have failed to teach kids to read and write because they use approaches that aren’t based on proven techniques based on phonics. Many schools have been influenced by the work of Columbia University’s Lucy Calkins, who is the subject of a new podcast series from American Public Media, Sold a Story, “an exposé of how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences—children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended.”

“The South Bronx elementary school where I taught 5th grade for several years was a proponent of Calkins’ approach,” Pondiscio wrote in a 2022 New York Post op-ed. “We adopted her teaching methods and employed her literacy coaches for years, to very little effect. Her greatest sin against literacy comes after kids learn to ‘decode’ the written word, whether or not they are taught with phonics, which is just the starting line for reading.”

How did this happen? Is the solution school choice—a system in which parents can opt out of traditional public schools and their flawed approaches to teaching reading? As Pondiscio argues, is withdrawing “concern for traditional public schools” equivalent to withdrawing “concern for our republic”?

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The Passive in English

Geoffrey K. Pullum

Numerous Language Log posts by me, Mark Liberman, and Arnold Zwicky among others have been devoted to mocking people who denigrate the passive without being able to identify it (see this comprehensive list of Language Log posts about the passive). It is clear that some people think The bus blew up is in the passive; that The case took on racial overtones is in the passive; that Dr. Reuben deeply regrets that this happened is in the passive; and so on.

Our grumbling about how these people don’t know their passive from a hole in the ground has inspired many people to send us email asking for a clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is. In this post I respond to those many requests. I’ll make it as clear and simple as I can, but it will be a 2500-word essay; I can’t make things simpler than they are. There is no hope of figuring out the meaning of grammatical terms from common sense, or by looking in a dictionary. Passive (like its opposite, active) is a technical term. Its use in syntax has nothing to do with lacking energy or initiative, or assuming a receptive and non-directive role. And the dictionary definitions are often utterly inadequate (Webster’s, for example, is simply hopeless on the grammatical sense of the word). I will try to explain things accurately, and also simply (though this is not for kids; I am writing this for grownups). If I fail, then of course the whole of your money will be refunded.

I won’t be talking about passive sentences or passive verbs: sentences are too big and verbs are too small. I’ll talk in terms of passive clauses. A clause consists, very roughly, of a verb plus all the appropriate things that go with that verb to complete a unit that can express a proposition, including all its optional extra modifiers. Sentences can contain numerous clauses, some passive and some not, some embedded inside others, so talking about passive sentences doesn’t make any sense. Nor does “passive construction” if you define it, as Webster’s does, as a type of expression “containing a passive verb form”. That would be far too vague even if English had passive verb forms (in reality, it doesn’t).

More on the surprisingly large effects of air pollution on cognition

Palacios, Eichholtz, Kok and Duran:

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair, and modernize school facilities. However, evidence on whether investments in the physical state of schools translate into better student outcomes is scant. In this study, we report the results of a large field study on the implications of poor air quality inside classrooms − a key performance measure of school mechanical ventilation systems. We continuously monitor the air quality (i.e., CO2), together with a rich set of indoor environmental parameters in 216 classrooms in the Netherlands. We link indoor air quality conditions to the outcomes on semi-annual nationally standardized tests of 5,500 children, during a period of five school terms (from 2018 to 2020). Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions and test results, we document that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding a test is associated with significantly lower test results: a one standard deviation increase in the school-term average daily peak of CO2 leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in subsequent test scores. The estimates based on plausibly exogenous variation driven by mechanical ventilation system breakdown events confirm the robustness of the results. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of school infrastructure in shaping learning outcomes.

The Arizona Legislature will exempt itself from state public records law and destroy all email correspondence sent or received by lawmakers or staff after 90 days

Bob Christie:

The Senate also completely exempted text messages on their personal phones, which lawmakers frequently use for legislative business, from release at any time. The House policy is not as expansive.

If in place after the 2020 presidential election, these rules would have prevented the public from learning about many of the efforts to persuade Arizona lawmakers to throw out President Joe Biden’s win.

One of the most well-known of those efforts was a series of emails that Virginia Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent to a host of state Republican House and Senate members just days after Biden won the election. She urged members to throw out Biden’s delegates to the Electoral College and replace them with a GOP slate.

Big Tech Layoffs Are Hitting Diversity and Inclusion Jobs Hard

Kelsey Butler

Bloomberg News identified DEI professionals who lost their jobs in recent weeks at Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter Inc. and Redfin Corp. Many said they expect their responsibilities will go to former colleagues who remain or to employee resource groups, which often don’t get compensated for that work.

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company’s DEI priorities haven’t changed and the company remains committed to its goals. A Redfin spokesperson said the company has invested in growing its DEI team since 2021, and despite a recent layoff the group is larger than it was at the start of 2022. A representative for Meta declined to comment. 

“I’m cautiously concerned — not that these roles will go to zero but that there will be a spike in ‘Swiss army knife’ type roles,” meaning more DEI professionals will be spread thin as they take on additional job functions, said Textio Chief Executive Officer Kieran Snyder. The phenomenon isn’t likely limited to tech, either, as layoffs hit other parts of the economy. Last year, companies announced plans to cut over 363,000 jobs, up 13% from 2021.

“The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,”

Hillsdale

“What happened to my country?”

That is the question on the minds of many Americans over the last few years as they’ve seen large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America embracing the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

American politics has been transformed in recent years as large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America have embraced the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

This transformation has brought ideas like transgenderism, identity politics, and global government—which were formerly relegated to the fringes of academia—into the mainstream of American public life. The result of this turn can be seen in the radical gender ideology pushed in our nation’s classrooms, the lawlessness at our border and in many of our cities, and the economic policies that continue to hollow out the American middle class.

Our new free online course, “The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,” aims to explain the source of these radical movements and charts how they have overtaken America’s institutions. 

In this course, you’ll discover:

Civics: Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud

Matt Taibbi:

Ambitious media frauds Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair crippled the reputations of the New Republic and New York Times, respectively, by slipping years of invented news stories into their pages. Thanks to the Twitter Files, we can welcome a new member to their infamous club: Hamilton 68

If one goes by volume alone, this oft-cited neoliberal think-tank that spawned hundreds of fraudulent headlines and TV news segments may go down as the single greatest case of media fabulism in American history. Virtually every major news organization in America is implicated, including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Mother Jones alone did at least 14 stories pegged to the group’s “research.” Even fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes cited Hamilton 68 as a source.

Sandburg Elementary students get free books, visit from local officials

Scott Girard:

When the students found out about the plan on Wednesday, one teacher said, one of them asked if it was the “mayor of the United States” visiting. All of the officials proved popular, with students taking selfies and asking for autographs in their new books.

“When we talk about partnering with the city and our educational partners, this is an example of that,” Madison said between looking through the books around the tables. “It doesn’t take a lot; a couple of phone calls, the kids feel cared about — these kids are going to go home with those books at night and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got this book for free at the book fair!’”

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

New College of Florida trustees Christopher Rufo, Jason ‘Eddie’ Speir…

Jack Stripling

“We’re going to liberate the campus,” he told reporters. “We’re going to liberate administrators. Were’ going to liberate faculty from the cultural hostage-takers.”

The two forums held Wednesday were the first public opportunities for people at New College to hear directly from Rufo, a conservative firebrand who is known for his deep skepticism of the kinds of diversity and inclusion programs that are popular at New College and across higher education. Rufo was joined on the dais by Jason “Eddie” Speir, another incoming trustee and co-founder of a Christian school in Bradenton, Fla.

[Will a small, quirky Florida college become ‘DeSantis U’?]

Tensions have been running high since the trustee appointments were announced. That feeling was exacerbated before the proceedings, when Rufo told attendees that the college had received a death threat against Speir. Rufo assigned without evidence probable blame for the threat to the board’s liberal critics.

Catherine Helean, a spokeswoman for the college, confirmed in an email that the college had “received what were perceived to be credible threats.” The campus police are investigating, she said.

The threat, which Speir said came in an email to the college, appeared to set off a disagreement between the trustees and the college’s administration about whether it was safe to proceed with the forums. In an email to campus on Wednesday morning, Suzanne Sherman, the college’s provost, told students, faculty and staff to “refrain from attending” the events. “We prioritize keeping your community safe,” she wrote.

Rufo described the administration’s position as “cowardice” and said it should factor into the board’s decisions about whether the college needs new leadership.

Barriers to School Choice

WILL:

Did you know that statewide choice students outperform their public-school peers by 3.2% in ELA and 2.1% in math? It is no wonder that their enrollment continues to increase compared to traditional public schools. However, it can be a lengthy and complicated process for parents to enroll their children in a choice program. That’s largely due to the many bureaucratic obstacles that are currently in place such as income limits, restrictive enrollment periods, grade-level entry points and regulatory requirements. 

Income Limits  

Not all families in Wisconsin have access to a parental choice program because of income limits that determine eligibility. Not only are the income limits restrictive (as a family of four in the statewide program cannot earn more than $58,300), but they are inconsistent. For instance, family incomes must be within 300% of the federal poverty limit in order to participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Racine Parental Choice Program. But for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, also known as the statewide program, family incomes must be within 220% of the federal poverty limit.

The ultimate weapon of mass distraction

Gurwinder:

Advances in the understanding of positive reinforcement, driven mostly by people trying to get us to click on links, have now made it possible to consistently give people on the other side of the world dopamine hits at scale.

As such, pleasure is now a weapon; a way to incapacitate an enemy as surely as does pain. And the first pleasure-weapon of mass destruction may just be a little app on your phone called TikTok.


I. The Smiling TigerTikTok is the most successful app in history. It emerged in 2017 out of the Chinese video-sharing app Douyin and within three years it had become the most downloaded app in the world, later surpassing Google as the world’s most visited web domain. TikTok’s conquest of human attention was facilitated by the covid lockdowns of 2020, but its success wasn’t mere luck. There’s something about the design of the app that makes it unusually irresistible.Other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, use recommendation algorithms as features to enhance the core product. With TikTok, the recommendation algorithm is the core product. You don’t need to form a social network or list your interests for the platform to begin tailoring content to your desires, you just start watching, skipping any videos that don’t immediately draw your interest. Tiktok uses a proprietary algorithm, known simply as the For You algorithm, that uses machine learning to build a personality profile of you by training itself on your watch habits (and possibly your facial expressions.) Since a TikTok video is generally much shorter than, say, a YouTube video, the algorithm acquires training data from you at a much faster rate, allowing it to quickly zero in on you.The result is a system that’s unsurpassed at figuring you out. And once it’s figured you out, it can then show you what it needs to in order to addict you.Since the For You algorithm favors only the most instantly mesmerizing content, its constructive videos—such as “how to” guides and field journalism—tend to be relegated to the fringes in favor of tasty but malignant junk info. Many of the most popular TikTokers, such as Charli D’Amelio, Bella Poarch, and Addison Rae, do little more than vapidly dance and lip-sync.

What I know about ‘woke’ schools

Anonymous:

“How are your homelessness workshops going?” I asked my 15-year-old son recently after he said he’d signed up for an “exciting new project” touted in his school’s weekly email. “I’ve stopped going,” he said. “There was a load of stuff on ‘preconceptions of homeless people’ that were kind of obvious. And anyway I had to go to the library as I had eight pieces of homework this week.”

A snapshot, I know, but as a private school parent this rather sums up my response to an essay by Katharine Birbalsingh, the superhead and former chairwoman of the Social Mobility Commission, saying that elite private schools have become obsessed with embracing woke issues and pupil-centric learning. Birbalsingh’s view is that private schools are empowering pupils to assuage the guilt they feel for their privilege by embracing woke campaigns on topics such as race, gender and sexuality, and this then gives them a “green pass” to feeling like a good person. The implication is that pupils may learn to be people who are very vocal on Twitter, but they will be less likely to choose a career or vocation that would involve them giving back in any meaningful way.

Growing student absenteeism

Scott Girard:

Wisconsin K-12 students had a significantly higher rate of chronic absenteeism following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The report, published Friday, shows there was an increase from a 12.4% chronic absenteeism rate in the 2016-17 school year to 16.1% in in 2020-21, the first full school year after the pandemic began.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student missing more than 10% of possible school days, through excused or unexcused absences.

“Research has tied high rates of chronic absenteeism to lower student achievement, decreased student mental health, higher dropout rates, and more challenges in adulthood,” the report states.

While the report notes that absenteeism rose in all types of schools around the state, the five largest districts by enrollment — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine — had an absenteeism rate of 31.8% among them, while all other districts had a rate of 12.6%.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Why Johnny might finally learn to read

Mona Charen:

If you’re a parent with kids in public school, you are doubtless aware of the roiling controversies about the teaching of critical race theory and about policies governing the participation of trans athletes in sports. Those things are not trivial, but you’re probably not hearing much about a far more consequential matter: how schools are failing to teach kids to read.

That’s right — failing badly. Even before the dramatic learning loss caused by COVID, only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders were reading at grade level. How is that not a massive scandal? If only one-third of traffic lights were working properly, or one-third of army tanks could fulfill their mission, or one-third of firefighters knew how to use a firehose, we’d properly call that a government failure. And yet the failure to teach kids the basics of reading — despite widespread scientific and scholarly consensus about the best way — has dragged on year after year and decade after decade.

It was 1955 when “Why Johnny Can’t Read” became a bestseller. It argued that a retreat from phonics instruction — teaching kids to sound out words based on the sounds letters make — was handicapping American students. It was 1983 when a blue ribbon commission issued “A Nation at Risk,” the most often quoted section of which warned:

US plummets in annual freedom ranking for one big reason

Brad Polumbo:

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Or so Americans think. We actually rank 23nd in the world, under one new ranking of the freest countries.

The Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute just released their 2022 Human Freedom Index. Their annual analysis ranks how free countries are based on a variety of factors, including personal liberties, economic freedom, and civil liberties. It used data from 2000 to 2020.

The results are jarring. The US dropped seven spots from 2019 to 2020, going from 16th to 23rd—and saw a precipitous decline in its raw score as well. It saw declines in both economic and personal freedom. And, while we fared worse than some other nations, it wasn’t just us: overall, “94% of the world’s population saw a fall in human freedomfrom 2019 to 2020.”

“Bias reporting systems”

Graham Piro Alex Morey

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday. 

The Stanford Daily said over the weekend that administrators were working “swiftly” with the students involved to “address” the incident. Two campus rabbis emailed Jewish students saying administrators “are in ongoing conversation with the individuals involved, who are committed to and actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair.”

Stanford was reportedly alerted to the book-reading via its Protected Identity Harm reporting system. Effectively a bias response system, Stanford says PIH reports help the university “address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

K-12 Governance climate: Kiel edition

Mario Koran: (finding notes)

Tri-County Citizens ratcheted up most of the pressure on Ebert. Seeking to block “woke ideology” and lessons on racial justice, the group helped elect like-minded school board challengers last April by canvassing, producing campaign videos and creating a political action committee to raise funds.

Matt Piper, a Tri-County Citizens leader who plans to run for a school board seat in April’s election, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“As exemplified by your writings regarding Kiel, you sir have shown yourself to be an intentional promoter of partisan lies and deception,” he told a Wisconsin Watch reporter. “I pray daily for the conversion of all hearts in your ilk.”

In a previous interview, Piper described Tri-County Citizens as “just concerned citizens reaching out to our neighbors.”

Whistleblower Teacher Ramona Bessinger Targeted For Viewpoint Discrimination At Providence High School Even Before Arrived, Records Reveal

William Jacobson:

Before that, we spotlighted Providence (RI) teacher Ramona Bessinger. Our most recent post on October 8, 2022, gives the history of Bessinger’s struggles ever since she blew the whistle in a post at Legal Insurrection about the corrupting influences of a new radicalized and racialized curriculum at her middle school, Providence (RI) Schools Bow To Radical Mob, Remove Whistleblower Ramona Bessinger From Teaching Position.

Here’s a brief excerpt for those of you who are not familiar with Bessinger:

…We have covered Bessinger’s story from inception. In July 2021, then a middle school teacher, Bessinger blew the whistle at Legal Insurrection on a new radicalized and racialized curriculum that was creating racial tension in school, including turning students and staff against her because she is white….

Bessinger received national and international media attention:

Commentary on Columbia University leadership climate

Armin Rosen::

Columbia becomes a status vector almost by force of gravity, regardless of individual intentions: I wasn’t one of the undergraduates making tens of thousands of dollars working in finance each summer, but I did successfully wheedle my way into the once-fascinating lower rungs of the city’s cultural journalism scene (RIP L MagazineImpose, and New York Press) and had a habit of venturing deep into Bushwick on weeknights. At the time I thought this made me cool, but it really made me a product of Morningside Heights, where everyone harbors dreams of trading up.

Read more on higher education

The university has little psychic or spiritual significance beyond itself. It has no Skull and Bones-type secret societies, no final clubs, no recent history of high-profile athletic success. Nobody has time for that crap in New York. Career and student services in general were notably thin 15 years ago, as if the institution wanted you to leave the neighborhood and make your own way as quickly as you possibly could, or else decamp for some other environment you could actually handle. The greatest fictional Columbian of the 21st century, Meadow Soprano, got stuck with a mentally ill roommate, dated an unbearably pretentious film student, and quickly moved off-campus, proof that the show’s producers knew a little something about life there. The greatest non-Alexander Hamilton, real-life alumnus in the school’s history, Barack Obama, almost never talks about the place.

On the other hand, it is very hard to hide the existence of an Ivy League institution in New York City, however quickly its students and alumni move on from it. It’s even harder to acquire and then raze 17 acres of Manhattan, especially when it’s part of an impoverished, historically Black and Hispanic neighborhood where several of the incumbent landowners don’t want to sell to you. Bollinger’s masterpiece as Columbia president, clinched in the years after the Ahmadinejad fiasco, was the construction of a second campus in the Manhattanville section of west Harlem, a dour enclave of Renzo Piano-designed monstrosities built through hardball negotiating tactics and the threat of eminent domain. The estimated price tag for the eventually 6.8 million-square-foot campus was $6.5 billion as of 2019, much of it raised on Bollinger’s watch. Purchase of the land started in 2004, early in Bollinger’s reign. In 1968, the construction of a gym in Morningside Park was enough to set off riots on campus.

Notes on taxpayer funded DIE $pending

Maggie Kelly:

The University of Florida, the state’s flagship university, listed 43 staff positions connected to DEI and reported expenditures totaling $5.3 million on “diversity-related programs and expenses,” the news service reported. The state provided close to $3.4 million of those funds.

The university’s Office of the Chief Diversity Officer alone included four staff jobs and cost $1,085,485, of which approximately $785,000 came from the state, according to the New Service of Florida.

The University of South Florida reported about $1.2 million in diversity and inclusion office expenditures and credited state funds with over half that amount.

Why Zimbabwe’s schools sell chickens

The Economist:

he job of a head teacher involves hiring teachers, disciplining pupils and placating parents. It does not normally include selling chickens. But that was one of several side-hustles run by Evermore Chakwizira, who until last year was the head of Chinyika High School in Goromonzi, 40km (25 miles) east of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Since 2019 his school has sold hundreds of chicks a week at the local market. During the covid-19 pandemic, when children were at home, fluffy poults took up residence in the classrooms.

A Merton Primary School principal’s resignation leaves more questions after parents say she’s being pressured out

Alec Johnson:

Stein shared a copy of her resignation letter to the board with the Journal Sentinel, but referred a reporter to Russ for questions about the matter. Her letter, dated Jan. 17, did not explain her decision but thanked the community and offered her “best wishes” to the district.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the students and families of the Merton community, and I am proud of the great work that we did together,” Stein said in her letter. “As my family embraces new personal and professional changes, please know we will always be connected with our Merton family and many fond memories.”

Russ did not respond to requests from the Journal Sentinel Friday to explain Stein’s resignation. His letter to parents thanked Stein for her leadership.

“I would like to thank Ms. Stein for her 3+ years of service, dedication, and efforts to our families, community, and staff,” Russ wrote. “Ms. Stein has been instrumental in leading Merton Primary through the pandemic and has made many classroom and instructional improvements that will be long lasting.”

Participation in Girl’s High School Basketball Declines

Owen Ayite-Atayi

Now, participation in girls basketball has dropped to 19 percent while girls’ track and field has increased by 10 percent. Soccer and volleyball are also sports that have increased in girl’s participation. Overall, participation for both boys and girls high school sports have decreased by four percent. The majority of female athletes are focusing on an individual sport nearly year-round like cross country. Many girls see basketball as a difficult and not “cute” sport to play, coaches say. Natalia Bryant, the daughter of Kobe Bryant, told Teen Vogue that she preferred volleyball over basketball because she does not like to run.

Erica Delley, a first-year head coach at Dallas’s Kimball High School says, “Its sad. That’s why I came back, to make a difference and try to encourage kids to play.” Not only has participation decreased in girls basketball at Dallas Kimball High School, but other schools are experiencing the same issue, such as Nebraska.

In Nebraska, basketball participation dropped to 28 percent since 2002 and the number of girls’ teams dropped 12 percent in two decades. Shelby Gliebe, the head coach at New Albany (Ind.) High, says that the junior-varsity play around program halted around midseason because of low numbers. She says that it was a dramatic step for a school that has an enrollment of 1,800 students and a basketball program that won the 1999 big-school state championship. Most girls’ use “I have work, and I can’t not work” or “I don’t like basketball, because it is not a cute sport” as an excuse to avoid participation in high school basketball.

“Little evidence was found that more spending affects student performance”

Apples to Apples, Assessing Wisconsin’s State of Education:

Once the demographics of students in the schools are taken into account, the level of per capita spending in a public school district has no statistical impact on student proficiency.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The failure of “balanced literacy”

Christina Smallwood:

In Reading in the Brain (2009)—which Hanford recommends on the Sold a Story website, writing, “I’ve never filled a book with so many sticky notes”—the cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene identifies three stages of learning to read: the pictorial, where children memorize a few words as if they were pictures (these are likely to be the child’s own name or a familiar brand logo); the phonological, where they “decode graphemes into phonemes”; and the orthographic, where “word recognition becomes fast and automatic.”

2011: a majority of the taxpayer funded Madison School Board aborts the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in a 5-2 vote.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Notes on the taxpayer supported Madison Summer School Staffing plans

Olivia Herken;

The district doesn’t need to approve any new funds to provide this raise, and instead, the enrollment for summer school this year will be capped at 4,000 students to be able to hike pay within the already approved budget.

The pay raise increases staffing costs from $2.8 million last year to $3.5 million.

Green said every year the district invites about 7,000 students to apply for summer school, and hears back from about 4,000 to 5,000. On average, about 5,500 students are served. Last year, there were about 3,520 students who were enrolled at the start of summer.

Although no new funding needs to be approved, the School Board will vote on the item next week largely to update the district’s handbook to give more flexibility for summer school pay in the future and start the base pay at $28 going forward.

“Summer school is an important tool to maintain and advance academic and social outcomes for our students and our ability to staff this program is important,” Madison School Board Member Savion Castro said at a work group meeting Monday. “I am impressed that we have found a way to include some level of pay increase for staff in this program so that we can fully staff it while keeping in the same funding footprint as prior years.”

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Florida k-12 book legislation

Judd Legum:

The law requires that all library books selected be:

1. Free of pornography and material prohibited under s. 847.012.

2. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.

3. Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used or made available

Chapman says that school principals in Manatee County were told Wednesday that any staff member violating these rules by providing materials “harmful to minors” could be prosecuted for “a felony of the third degree.” Therefore, teachers must make their classroom libraries inaccessible to students until they can establish that each book has been approved by a librarian.

Civics: Does Twitter Disinformation Even Work?

Wall Street Journal:

One theme from the internal Twitter files being released by Elon Musk is the government’s gnawing fear that armies of foreign trolls and bots might be changing real people’s opinions. After Twitter said it was investigating false claims circulating in 2020 of a communications blackout in Washington, D.C., the FBI reached out to ask if the tweets might be “driven by foreign-controlled bots.”

The answer in that case was no, Twitter replied. The #dcblackout campaign was “a small-scale domestic troll effort,” without “a significant bot or foreign angle.” Vladimir Putin does try to sow unrest this way, but how much can this nonsense even accomplish? Less than Mr. Putin imagines and the FBI fears, or at least that’s the way we read a paper out Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

The study focuses on the 2016 election and uses “longitudinal survey data” that’s linked to the respondents’ Twitter feeds. Its six authors, three of whom hail from New York University, find that “exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures.” Also, Mr. Putin’s bots were “eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians.” During the final month of the campaign, an average user was potentially exposed to four posts per day by Russian bots, compared with 106 by national news sites and 35 by politicians.

Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior

Madison Schools’ Safety Survey

Scott Girard:

Surveys to help guide the Madison public schools’ Safety and Student Wellness Ad Hoc Committee have a long list of suggestions for the district.

The responses illustrate the difficult and involved task in front of both the committee, which is nearing its completion after forming last March, and the Madison Metropolitan School District as it works toward making schools as safe as possible while meeting the needs of every student.

Within the themes, it’s clear that some respondents see different priorities on the path to achieving safety and wellness. Some responses focused on the importance of identifying and helping students in need or who are on the receiving end of bullying, for example, while others pointed to a perceived lack of consequences for students who disrupt the learning environment and mention too much fighting.

Madison Teachers Inc. president Michael Jones, who is a member of the ad hoc committee, suggested it will be important to come up with a way to make sure the district’s response to the survey is “meaningful.”

“It aligns with a lot of previous discussions around culture and climate and also around things that as a union we’ve tried to put forward,” Jones said. “It was heartening to see all the major stakeholders, there’s a lot of overlap, there’s a lot of Venn diagramming in terms of vision.”

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Alumni lawsuit against Yale over trustee petition ballot ban moves forward

Marc E. Fitch

Two Yale alumni have filed suit in Superior Court against Yale University alleging the President and Fellows of Yale College – called the Corporation in court filings – unilaterally ended the ability for alumni to petition for a ballot to be elected to Yale’s governing body and violated the university’s charter established by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1872.

Despite the Yale Corporation’s move to dismiss the lawsuit, Superior Court Judge John Burns Farley has allowed one count of the lawsuit to move forward, according to a decision issued on December 15, 2022.

Plaintiffs Victor H. Ashe, who has served as an ambassador to Poland as well as a state legislator and mayor in Tennessee, and Donald G. Glascoff, Jr., retired chair and co-partner of one of Wall Street’s oldest firms, filed the lawsuit alleging that Yale’s governing body “is engaging in the most obvious form of voter suppression and denial of rights of free expression of opinion,” according to the court complaint.

The President and Fellows of Yale consists of 19 trustees, six of whom are alumni trustees elected by Yale alumni. The corporation also includes the Connecticut governor and lieutenant governor as ex officio members. The Connecticut General Assembly in 1872, established that six trustee seats should be held by alumni who were voted on by eligible alumni.

Reform PhD training

Nature:

These days, there’s barely a world leader who doesn’t talk up science. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the star turn at the annual Indian Science Congress, held this month in Nagpur, where he exhorted the nation’s researchers to do the science needed to make India self-reliant. At last October’s landmark Communist Party congress, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping set out his vision of how science and innovation could drive growth. And last August, US President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which unlocks US$13.2 billion for semiconductor research and workforce development, in a bid to maintain the country’s technological primacy.

In each case, the message to researchers is crystal clear: leaders see science as essential to national prosperity, well-being and, of course, competitiveness. So, is research fit for the challenge of advancing, refining or critiquing these goals? Not exactly. And it won’t be until there is fundamental reform to the gateway to a research career: PhD training.

Little-Known Surveillance Program Captures Money Transfers Between U.S. and More Than 20 Countries

Dustin Volz & Byron Tau:

Hundreds of federal, state and local U.S. law-enforcement agencies have access without court oversight to a database of more than 150 million money transfers between people in the U.S. and in more than 20 countries, according to internal program documents and an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden.

The database, housed at a little-known nonprofit called the Transaction Record Analysis Center, or TRAC, was set up by the Arizona state attorney general’s office in 2014 as part of a settlement reached with Western Union to combat cross-border trafficking of drugs and people from Mexico. It has since expanded to allow officials of more than 600 law-enforcement entities—from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to small-town police departments in nearly every state—to monitor the flow of funds through money services between the U.S. and countries around the world.

Uses & abuses of military history

Victor Davis Hanson:

More practically, military history rests on the hallowed notion that human nature is unchanging over the centuries. The study of wars of the past, then, can offer timeless lessons about why wars in the present and future start, how they proceed and end, and what, if anything, they accomplish. Clausewitz was right about the immutable essential nature of war when he remarked that “War is in no way changed or modified through the progress of civilization.”

Mental health ER visits among children nearly triple at UW Health in past decade

David Wahlberg:

Throughout Wisconsin, 34% of high school students report feeling sad and hopeless almost every day, a 10 percentage point increase over the past decade, according to an annual report released last week by the Office of Children’s Mental Health. 

A similar situation is being seen in other states, according to a recent article in the journal Pediatrics, which said hospital emergency visits related to suicide increased 59% in Illinois from 2016 to 2021.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death of children ages 10 to 14 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase in ER visits comes amid a decade-long increase in anxiety and depression among adolescents, said Shanda Wells, a pediatric behavioral health specialist at UW Health.

16-year-old girl charged with attempted homicide after boy in Madison was stabbed in the heart

Ed Treleven:

Court Commissioner Karie Cattanach set bail at $7,000.

According to the complaint:

Police had been called to Sherman earlier for a fight, and some of the same officers were then called to the fight at Warner Park. One of the combatants told police that after the fight at Sherman, she received a call from someone on the other side asking to meet at Warner Park.

That person said she initially fought briefly with someone later identified as Crawford but it was broken up. Another fight between two others then broke out, which the boy who was later stabbed tried to break up, the witness told police.

Iowa’s School Choice Comeback

Wall Street Journal:

The bill that state lawmakers passed out of committee last week would provide education savings accounts (ESAs) of about $7,600 for students to use toward private-school tuition, tutoring, and more. That’s a notable increase from the ESAs worth roughly $5,000 in the proposal that died last year. The 2022 bill also set income caps on those who can apply. This year’s legislation would set some caps for the first two years but remove them in 2025-26, making the program available to anyone.

Gov. Reynolds’ willingness to spend political capital positioned the Legislature much better to pass the bill this time around. House Speaker Pat Grassley suggested to reporters Thursday that Republicans have an “expectation” that the bill will pass.

Democrats are responding with their usual complaints about taxpayer dollars going to private schools. At issue last year was purported concern for rural districts. Public schools are sometimes the only option in rural areas and school choice will ruin them, the argument goes.

The Truth About Reading Film Screening: 2.7.2023 @ 5:30 Madison

Wisconsin Reads:

Literacy is essential to developing self-worth and becoming successful in all aspects of life including family, education, work, and community service. Varied levels of awareness, understanding, and action have contributed to long-standing myths about reading and growing challenges that impact every Wisconsinite.

Educational attainment is a barrier to self-sustaining wages for dropouts and unprepared graduates creating an economic burden for themselves and taxpayers. The average lifetime costs to taxpayers resulting from schooling failure are approximately $90,000 per dropout and $30,000 per unprepared graduate (Education Consumers Foundation, 2022).

In 2021-2022:
37% of WI students in grades 3-8 scored proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Forward Exam for English Language Arts (WISEdash, 2022).

35 % of WI students in grade 11 scored proficient or advanced on the ACT exam for English Language Arts (WISEdash, 2022).

WI had the widest achievement gap between African American and white students in the nation (IES and NAEP, 2022).

The “balanced-literacy” method of teaching children to read has predominated in American schools since the 1990s. It has been a failure.

Christine Smallwood:

One night, while searching in the woods for food, Frankenstein’s monster discovers a leather suitcase containing three books: The Sorrows of Young Werther, Plutarch’s Lives, and Paradise Lost. Goethe is a source of “astonishment” but also alienation; the monster can sympathize with the characters, but only to a point—their lives are so unlike his own. From Plutarch he learns about public virtue. It is Milton who expands his soul. Paradise Lost “moved every feeling of wonder and awe,” the monster says. As a created being, he identifies with Adam, but Satan is “the fitter emblem of my condition, for…when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”

It may move us to wonder and awe that the monster is able to read Milton at all, let alone form a complex analysis. But fate took a hand in his education when, alone and wandering in the woods, he happened upon a cottage where two children were teaching French to a visitor. Listening and looking through the window, the monster became a pupil, too. “While I improved in speech,” he explains, “I also learned the science of letters.” He learned, in other words, how to read.

It’s possible that absent those lessons and with knowledge of the alphabet alone, the monster might have puzzled over Paradise Lost long enough to figure it out for himself. As Bruce McCandliss, a cognitive neuroscientist interviewed on the recent podcast Sold a Story, puts it, some people are just naturally good at “hearing all of the individual sounds within words.” In time, with enough exposure to text, “they start to make all of these connections”—decoding and pronouncing and mastering, by intuition and practice, the contradictory and exception-ridden rules of written English (the language Sold a Story concerns). As Milton might put it, with wandering steps and slow, they make their solitary way. In common parlance, they figure it out. But the phrase “science of letters” suggests that Frankenstein’s monster was more like a member of the greater majority, the 60 percent who, as Emily Hanford, an education reporter and the host of Sold a Story, explains, require “direct and explicit instruction” in phonics to learn to read.

Phonics, in the words of the reading researcher Reid Lyon, is “nothing more than a relationship between sound structure and a print structure.” It’s breaking down the word “cat” into a spoken hard k sound, followed by the short vowel a, and finally putting the tip of your tongue on the front roof of your mouth and letting go to make that little burst of t. Phonics teaches you how to handle consonants, long and short vowels, digraphs (sh, ch), diphthongs (ow, ou), and so on—and to smoothly blend phonetic units, repeating them like the characters on Sesame Street who push letters from one side of the screen to the other until a word is born and sense breaks through sound.

Simpson Street Free Press fills gaps beyond news

Kelly Lecker:

Daniel Garduno pushed his slight frame into the circle of young adults standing around the newsroom in a Monona storefront and offered me a firm handshake, a business card and a preview of the article he was writing on volcanic activity on Mars.

By his own admission and according to his coaches at the Simpson Street Free Press, the sixth grader wasn’t so confident when he walked into the newsroom for the first time a couple years ago. But now, he quickly ticked off three ways he’s grown, thanks to this after-school news job.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cities Are Headed for Fiscal Trouble AgainK-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

Richard Ravitch and William Glasgall:

Despite this, no other major American state or local government has followed New York’s budgetary lead. While most state and local governments are flush with cash following an unprecedented $5 trillion in federal Covid-19 relief spending, they are nonetheless facing an inevitable fiscal cliff, created by the one-two punch of a possible recession this year and the expiration of hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid by 2026.

These forces will expose states, counties and cities to the risk of financial catastrophe as they are forced to grapple with approximately $2 trillion in unfunded liabilities for public-employee retirement obligations and deferred infrastructure maintenance on top of $4 trillion in municipal bond debt. Much of these costs remain hidden in so-called balanced budgets through the use of maneuvers such as using one-time revenues to pay recurring costs and not fully funding pension obligations. These costs pose a severe risk to the entire U.S. economy as well as states and localities, which employ almost 20 million Americans. The bankruptcies of Detroit, Puerto Rico and several California cities following the Great Recession all involved excessive borrowing to achieve balance. It could happen again.

Stop subsidizing payoff-based college admissions

Frederick Hess:

There aren’t many places where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, but one has become clear as the Supreme Court takes up race-based admissions preference in lawsuits involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina. However the court ultimately rules, these cases have brilliantly illuminated the unsavory, publicly-subsidized admissions practices of selective colleges.

The most egregious may be those practices that allow the wealthy and connected to purchase special admissions treatment by making a large “charitable” contribution to deep-pocketed colleges — and to do it with big taxpayer subsidies. For progressive Democrats committed to promoting equity and ending tax breaks that favor the ultra-wealthy, such practices are obviously troubling. The same is true for populist Republicans frustrated with bloated college bureaucracies and self-dealing elites.

THE CORRUPT BARGAIN: How Unions Use Collective Bargaining to Impose Their Political Agenda on Schools

Paul Zimmerman:

Public school union bosses across the country are using an anti-democratic process of negotiating collective bargaining agreements to embed their progressive goals in school policies. In woke-filled back rooms, these unions and their supportive allies in the school districts agree to impose curricula on schools to indoctrinate students in leftist ideas, replace traditional disciplinary measures with policies that focus on “understanding” and “reconciliation,” segregate teachers for special benefits based on the color of their skin, and treat students differently based on race to ensure “equity.” Citizens concerned about the students in their community should scour their school district’s labor contracts for these requirements. Teachers who believe in the universal rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution and who value their professional autonomy should reconsider their membership in any union that has negotiated this type of provision in their collective bargaining agreements.

Civics: The FBI Identified a Tor User

Bruce Schneier:

There are lots of ways to de-anonymize Tor users. Someone at the NSA gave a presentation on this ten years ago. (I wrote about it for the Guardian in 2013, an essay that reads so dated in light of what we’ve learned since then.) It’s unlikely that the FBI uses the same sorts of broad surveillance techniques that the NSA does, but it’s certainly possible that the NSA did the surveillance and passed the information to the FBI.

Science Skepticism Has Grown. Who’s to Blame?

Rick Hess:

I’ve just released the 13th iteration of the annual RHSU Edu-Scholar rankings, an exercise designed to recognize those who are bringing research, scholarship, and scientific expertise into the public square. In doing so, I’ve sought to honor serious researchers who leave the comfort of the ivory tower to share their particular expertise. The challenge: some scholars who are only too eager to use their credentials and platform to clothe personal agendas in the garb of “science.”

This year, that tension loomed especially large. Indeed, the pandemic-era tendency to wield science as a partisan cudgel (think of all those pointedly progressive “We believe science is real” rainbow yard signs) has harmed public debate, education decisionmaking, and science itself.

In 2021, Gallup reported that 64 percent of U.S. adults said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in science. That’s down 6 points from the last time Gallup asked that question, in 1975. Especially notable were the profound partisan shifts over time. In 1975, two-thirds of Democrats said they had confidence in science; by 2021, that had climbed to 79 percent. Meanwhile, trust fell among independents (from 73 percent to 65 percent) and plunged among Republicans (from 72 percent to 45 percent).

“In the survey, respondents highlighted that there were too many fights and and too much bullying, and unsafe environments throughout schools, all without much accountability”

Olivia Herken:

This week the school district contended with more violent incidents. On Tuesday, a 14-year-old was stabbed in the chest in a park after an incident at a middle school parking lot earlier in the day, and on Wednesday, police were called to East High for a fight between students.

Some survey respondents called for the removal of students who were disruptive in classes. Others want to bring back school resource officers, who were removed from schools in 2020. Additional cameras, security and metal detectors in buildings also were recommended.

One large theme from the survey results was a stronger emphasis on mental health for both students and staff. Specifically, respondents said there needs to be more support staff, training, dialogue and resources for those who are struggling.

In terms of nutrition, those who responded said there needed to be higher quality meals and lower prices, as well as provisions on hand for students who face food hardships when they aren’t at school.

2011: a majority of the taxpayer funded Madison School Board aborts the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in a 5-2 vote.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

These Gorgeous Photos Capture Life Inside a Drop of Seawater

Photographs by Angel Fitor Text by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz

In every drop of water is a hidden world. Scuba divers can’t see it through their masks; neither can snorkelers swimming among the coral reefs. To really enter this world, you need to look through a magnifying lens. There you’ll see a vast array of vanishingly small plankton, including crustaceans known as copepods. They come in some 13,000 known species, from glimmering-blue sea sapphires to noodle-shaped cod worms. Some roam freely, while others cling to plants or animals. One copepod species can swim into the womb of a gestating shark and attach itself to her calf.

Civics: “Revolt Of The Public” author Martin Gurri on why the Woke hate Musk

Martin Gurri:

The name of our Substack publication, Public came from the 2018 book, Revolt of the Public by a former CIA media analyst named Martin Gurri. It is perhaps the best book ever written about the impact of the Internet on social and political life. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to watch Leighton’s video about Martin’s great book and read our interview with him in which he strongly denounces the FBI behavior that we revealed in our researchinto the Twitter Files. We are honored to publish his important essay about the Twitter Files, and why they matter, here. — Michael 

by Martin GurriOnly yesterday, Elon Musk was a hero to progressives. He had made the electric car sexy and organized a migration to Mars to save humanity from the coming ecological apocalypse. Musk voted for Barack Obama twice and for Biden once. When he offered to purchase Twitter on April 14 of last year, he clearly believed he was reconnecting progressivism to its liberal roots. “For Twitter to deserve public trust it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally,” he said. Famously, Musk characterized himself as “a free speech absolutist.” But elites took that for a declaration of war and changed their tightly synchronized minds about the man.Twitter in the hands of Musk was “dangerous to our democracy,” said Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren. “If Elon Musk successfully purchases Twitter, it could result in World War 3 and the destruction of our planet,” wrote David Leavitt. The White House expressed newfound concern about “the power of large social media platforms … over our everyday lives … tech platforms must be held accountable for the harm they cause.”Before Musk’s takeover, Twitter management had gone on record stating, “We do not shadow ban [i.e., secretly block users]. And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” Thanks to Twitter’s internal emails and messages released by Musk, we now know both claims were false. “Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users,” wrote journalist Bari Weiss. The targets were offenders against elite orthodoxy—a conservative activist, a right-wing talk show host, and a Covid-dissenting doctor, among others.

Notes on human work in and around openai

Billy Perrigo:

ChatGPT was hailed as one of 2022’s most impressive technological innovations upon its release last November. The powerful artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot can generate text on almost any topic or theme, from a Shakespearean sonnet reimagined in the style of Megan Thee Stallion, to complex mathematical theorems described in language a 5 year old can understand. Within a week, it had more than a million users.

ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI, is now reportedly in talks with investors to raise funds at a $29 billion valuation, including a potential $10 billion investment by Microsoft. That would make OpenAI, which was founded in San Francisco in 2015 with the aim of building superintelligent machines, one of the world’s most valuable AI companies.

But the success story is not one of Silicon Valley genius alone. In its quest to make ChatGPT less toxic, OpenAI used outsourced Kenyan laborers earning less than $2 per hour, a TIME investigation has found.

The work was vital for OpenAI. ChatGPT’s predecessor, GPT-3, had already shown an impressive ability to string sentences together. But it was a difficult sell, as the app was also prone to blurting out violent, sexist and racist remarks. This is because the AI had been trained on hundreds of billions of words scraped from the internet—a vast repository of human language. That huge training dataset was the reason for GPT-3’s impressive linguistic capabilities, but was also perhaps its biggest curse. Since parts of the internet are replete with toxicity and bias, there was no easy way of purging those sections of the training data. Even a team of hundreds of humans would have taken decades to trawl through the enormous dataset manually. It was only by building an additional AI-powered safety mechanism that OpenAI would be able to rein in that harm, producing a chatbot suitable for everyday use.

Reforming Higher Education

Ilya Shapiro:

Many Americans despair of reforming the culture of higher education. But a substantial majority of college students attend public institutions, and these schools are subject to state law. If legislators are determined to restore free speech and academic freedom, there’s a lot they can do. In cooperation with the Goldwater Institute, we’ve developed model state legislation based on four reform proposals:

• Abolish “diversity, equity and inclusion” bureaucracies. These offices work actively against norms of academic freedom and truth-seeking, advance primarily political aims, and fuel administrative bloat that raises costs and exacerbates student debt. Administrators at public institutions should maintain official neutrality on controversial political questions extraneous to the business of educating students. Leave compliance with federal and state civil-rights laws to the university counsel’s office.

• Forbid mandatory diversity training for students, faculty and staff. Even when DEI officials claim their training is “voluntary,” it’s often required for faculty who wish to perform basic extracurricular roles, such as serving on hiring committees. Typical diversity training includes unscientific claims about “microaggressions” and “implicit bias” and rejects the basic American principle that everyone should be treated equally. It indoctrinates an ideology of identity-based grievance, guilt and division.

• Curtail the use of “diversity statements” as a means of political coercion. These serve as litmus tests in employment processes to exclude applicants who don’t adhere to critical race theory and other radical beliefs. Although the Supreme Court has long held that requiring loyalty oaths in public education is unconstitutional—as are other forms of compelled speech—universities increasingly require that applicants state their belief in the importance of DEI, cite prior personal efforts to promote DEI and pledge to integrate DEI into their teaching. Applicants for many positions have been eliminated on the basis of diversity statements alone and many universities condition their hiring decisions on the applicant’s ideological conformity.

Biden Gives a Boost to Schoolyard Bullies

Jason Riley:

Learning losses experienced by students during the pandemic, and especially by low-income minorities, have been attributed to an excess of remote schooling that was driven by union demands more than sound science. A study released last week by the U.S. Education Department offers reason to believe that policies being advanced by the equity crowd may be contributing to the challenge of getting our youngsters back up to speed academically.

According to an annual survey of school leaders conducted by the federal Institute for Education Sciences, schools saw a 56% increase in “classroom disruptions from student misconduct” compared with a typical school year before the pandemic. There’s also been a 49% rise in “rowdiness outside of the classroom,” in places such as cafeterias or hallways. Actual “physical attacks or fights between students” are up by one-third, and threats of the same have increased 36%.

Lori Lightfoot receives ethics complaint from Parents Defending Education

Rachel Schilke:

Parents Defending Education have filed an ethicscomplaint against Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, calling emails sent encouraging students to volunteer for her reelection campaign as “political patronage.” 

Lightfoot confirmed on Thursday that a campaign staffer sent the emails to Chicago Public School teachers, stating that students would receive school credit in exchange for working 12 hours per week on the campaign. A later statement said the opportunity would provide children the chance to learn more about civic engagement and the mayor’s campaign. 

“We’re simply looking for enthusiastic, curious and hardworking young people eager to help Mayor Lightfoot win this spring,” the email read, according to photos of the email in the complaint.

Notes on growth in charter and voucher schools amidst decline in traditional “government” schools (who spend far more)

Olivia Herken:

Enrollment in Wisconsin’s traditional public schools has continued to decline since the start of the pandemic.

There isn’t a single answer as to where students are going and why. A nationwide declining birth rate and changing trends in where families live are big contributors.

But there’s clearly a growing appetite in Wisconsin for more alternative schooling, including charter schools and home-schooling.

Ten new independent charter schools have opened across the state since 2019, with 35 options now available. Other options that break the traditional mold have also sprouted, from a new forest school in La Fargeto an expanding campus at Madison’s private Hickory Hill Academy.

2011: a majority of the taxpayer funded Madison School Board aborts the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in a 5-2 vote.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: State Tax & Spending Choices

Wall Street Journal:

Democrats and their interest groups are whining about his proposed spending “cuts,” which are merely smaller increases. Mr. Newsom says federal largesse from last year’s infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act will offset alleged cuts to climate and public-transit spending, and no doubt he’s right.

But it’s no small irony that Texans are now benefitting tremendously from the growing global demand for oil and gas, which Mr. Newsom and friends are trying to eliminate. Texas’s oil and gas tax revenue has grown $5.3 billion since 2019 owing to higher commodity prices and increasing production in the Permian basin.

Yet Texas’s budget isn’t nearly as dependent on oil and gas as California’s is on Silicon Valley. Much of Texas’s surplus this year owes to surging sales-tax revenue from inflation and population growth—i.e., Californians moving to Texas and spending their tax savings.

Mr. Newsom claimed Tuesday that California has a more “fair” tax system than the Lone Star State and that Texans pay more in taxes. This is disinformation. According to the Census Bureau, California’s per capita state tax collections ($6,325) were second highest in the country in 2021 after Vermont. Texas’s ($2,214) were second lowest after Alaska.

“Vaccination rates for U.S. kindergarteners dropped again last year”; note Wisconsin’s big drop

Mike Stobbe:

The new numbers suggest that as many as 275,000 kindergartners lack full vaccine protection.

Falling vaccination rates open the door to outbreaks of diseases once thought to be in the rearview mirror, experts say. They point to a case of paralytic polio reported last year in New York, and to recent measles surges in Minnesota and Ohio.

Those outbreaks coincide with anecdotal and survey information suggesting more parents are questioning bedrock childhood vaccines long celebrated as public health success stories.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month found less support among parents for school vaccine requirements vs. a 2019 survey.

“It’s crazy. There’s so much work to be done,” said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious diseases doctor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and vice chair for community health at Washington University.

. Wisconsin, along with Mississippi and Georgia show the largest drop in kindergarten vaccination rates in the country according to the new CDC report.

Many researchers were not compliant with their published data sharing statement: a mixed-methods study

Jclinepi.com

We analyzed all articles from 333 open-access journals published during January 2019 by BioMed Central. We categorized types of the DAS. We surveyed corresponding authors who wrote in the DAS that they would share the data. Consent to participate in the study was sought for all included manuscripts. After accessing raw data sets, we checked whether data were available in a way that enabled reanalysis.

Results

Of 3556 analyzed articles, 3416 contained the DAS. The most frequent DAS category (42%) indicated that the data sets are available on reasonable request. Among 1792 manuscripts in which the DAS indicated that authors are willing to share their data, 1669 (93%) authors either did not respond or declined to share their data with us. Among 254 (14%) of 1792 authors who responded to our query for data sharing, only 123 (6.8%) provided the requested data.

Civics: “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said at his sentencing.

Ryan Devereaux, Murtaza Hussain

Daniel Hale, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst, was sentenced to 45 months in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to leaking a trove of government documents exposing the inner workings and severe civilian costs of the U.S. military’s drone program. Appearing in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, the 33-year-old Hale told U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady that he believed it “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

“I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said. “I couldn’t keep living in a world in which people pretend that things weren’t happening that were. Please, your honor, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.”

In delivering his judgement, O’Grady said that Hale was “not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people” and that he “could have been a whistleblower … without taking any of these documents.”

Seattle Public Schools sues TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and others, seeking compensation for youth mental health crisis

Todd Bishop:

However, Seattle Public Schools appears to be the first school district in the country to file such a suit against the companies.

The district alleges that it has suffered widespread financial and operational harm from social media usage and addiction among students. The lawsuit cites factors including the resources required to provide counseling services to students in crisis, and to investigate and respond to threats made against schools and students over social media.

“This mental health crisis is no accident,” the suit says. “It is the result of the Defendants’ deliberate choices and affirmative actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract youth.”

At more than 90 pages, the suit offers extensive citations in support of its claims, including surveys showing a 30% increase from 2009 to 2019 in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who said they felt “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that [they] stopped doing some usual activities.”

GeekWire overnight contacted the district for further comment on its suit, and each of the companies for their responses. We’ll update this story as we hear back.

Meta, the parent of Facebook and Instagram, has said in response to lawsuits by parents that it has implemented a series of tools and safety measures for teens and families using its services.

Madison’s taxpayer supported discriminatory policies, now in litigation

2011: a majority of the taxpayer funded Madison School Board aborts the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in a 5-2 vote.

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Tech and education

Kalley Huang:

Alarmed by his discovery, Mr. Aumann decided to transform essay writing for his courses this semester. He plans to require students to write first drafts in the classroom, using browsers that monitor and restrict computer activity. In later drafts, students have to explain each revision. Mr. Aumann, who may forgo essays in subsequent semesters, also plans to weave ChatGPT into lessons by asking students to evaluate the chatbot’s responses.

“What’s happening in class is no longer going to be, ‘Here are some questions — let’s talk about it between us human beings,’” he said, but instead “it’s like, ‘What also does this alien robot think?’”

Across the country, university professors like Mr. Aumann, department chairs and administrators are starting to overhaul classrooms in response to ChatGPT, prompting a potentially huge shift in teaching and learning. Some professors are redesigning their courses entirely, making changes that include more oral exams, group work and handwritten assessments in lieu of typed ones.

‘The system forces people to get credentials for positions that probably don’t need them’

Will Kessler:

A libertarian higher education expert proposed bold measures to improve the system, including rethinking accreditation requirements and ultimately phasing out all aid programs because they inflate tuition.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, released a new book “Empowering the New American Worker” on Dec. 15. The book advocates pro-market solutions to economic problems, and policy analyst Neal McCluskey wrote the chapter called “Higher Education.”

McCluskey (pictured) holds a doctorate in public policy and serves as director for Cato’s Center for Academic Freedom, according to his bio.

He made the case that the United States’ current higher education policy is “counterproductive for many American workers, producing ballooning college prices, leading employers to demand credentials they don’t need, and failing to provide commensurate increases in knowledge or skills.”

2023 Trust Barometer

Edelman:

Institutions Out of Balance: Government Far Less Trusted than Business. Percent trust, and the percentage-point difference between trust in business vs government

Government and Media Fuel Cycle of Distrust, Seen as Sources of Misleading Information

Government, by contrast, “is viewed as unethical and incompetent,”

Civics: Censorship Lawsuit against legacy media

Tyler Durden:

The lawsuit (pdf), filed on Tuesday in a federal court in Texas, targets The Washington Post, the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), The Associated Press (AP), and Reuters—all of which are members of the “Trusted News Initiative (TNI),” a self-described “industry partnership” formed in 2020 among legacy media giants and big tech companies.

“By their own admission, members of the TNI have agreed to work together, and have in fact worked together, to exclude from the world’s dominant internet platforms rival news publishers who engage in reporting that challenges and competes with TNI members’ reporting on certain issues relating to COVID-19 and U.S. politics,” the complaint reads.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a critic of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination policies, led the lawsuit. He is joined by Creative Destruction Media, Trial Site News, Truth About Vaccines founders Ty and Charlene Bollinger, independent journalist Ben Swann, Health Nut News publisher Erin Elizabeth Finn, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and Ben Tapper, a chiropractor.

The plaintiffs, the lawsuit alleges, are among the many victims of the TNI’s “group boycott” tactic, defined as a coordinated effort to facilitate monopoly by cutting off the competitors’ access to supplies and necessities.

In this case, the TNI members are accused of engaging in group boycott—in concert with their big tech partners—against small, independent news publishersby denying them access to internet platforms they need to compete and even survive in the online news market.

“As a result of the TNI’s group boycott, [the plaintiffs] have been censored, de-monetized, demoted, throttled, shadow-banned, and/or excluded entirely from platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked-In,” the lawsuit states.

Declining Kindergarten Vaccination Rate

Andrew Joseph:

The percentage of U.S. kindergartners who’ve received standard childhood vaccines took a small but notable dip into the 2021-2022 school year, health officials said Thursday, amid disruptions related to Covid-19 and fears that anti-vaccine sentiment stirred up by the pandemic could be spreading to other shots.

Vaccinations among children remain high, but the trend — with coverage dropping from about 95% in the 2019-2020 school year to 94% in 2020-2021 to 93% in 2021-2022, according to the data released Thursday — has health officials concerned. Having that rate of kindergartners vaccinated against measles, for example, means that at least 250,000 kindergarteners could be unprotected.

“This is alarming and should be a call to action to all of us,” said Sean O’Leary, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases.

The new data, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at uptake of routine childhood vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shot; the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) shot; and the shots against poliovirus and varicella (chickenpox). Overall, the CDC recommends routine vaccination against 14 diseases during the first two years of a child’s life.

Though there was some variation in uptake among the different vaccinations, all the shots saw a 0.4 to a 0.9 percentage point drop in coverage from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022, the CDC reported.

County judge applies lessons from King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ to Milwaukee

Elliott Hughes:

Sixty years after Martin Luther King, Jr. described the segregated and prejudicial life of Birmingham, Ala. in a letter while sitting in jail, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kori Ashley framed Milwaukee under similar terms.

She started by calling it a “tale of two cities.” One of them was plagued by “poverty, gun violence, car theft and despair,” while the other enjoyed “prosperity, peace and hope.”

Ashley went on to describe a wealth of lessons from King’s seminal 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” that apply to the racially segregated Milwaukee of today.

“If we do not answer his call, I fear we will surely continue to suffer for it,” Ashley said before a crowd of around 200 people at All Saints Catholic Church, 4051 N. 25th St., on Saturday. “Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail is a written reminder of God’s vision of racial equality and a call to action.”

Sneetches are racist! No, they’re anti-racist! Or maybe …

Joanne Jacobs:

In a school district near Columbus, Ohio, Sneetches are vanguards of critical race theory. NPR’s Planet Money was taping a third-grade class where teacher Mandy Robek was illustrating how children can learn economics principles from kids’ books. An administrator pulled the plug when a student noted that the star-bellied Sneetches are discriminating against plain-bellied Sneetches in a way that recalls racial discrimination in the U.S. That was politics, she said, not economics.

NPR’s Erika Beras asked a group of economists to recommend children’s books that teach concepts such as division of labor (Pancakes, Pancakes!) and the labor-market matching process (Put Me in the Zoo). Three economists recommended The Sneetches because it deals with “preferences and class, open markets, entrepreneurship, discrimination and economic loss, some game theory,” said Beras.

Pushup Punishment

David Sentendrey and Dan Henry:

A high school football coach in Rockwall was suspended after some players needed medical attention following a workout.

The principal at Rockwall Heath High School said steps are being taken to determine exactly what happened.

The school district said it hired an “independent third party” to investigate the incident.

The school’s head football coach is accused of requiring a group of football players to do a large number of pushups.

Coach John Harrell has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway.

Rick Singer, Ringleader of College-Admissions Cheating Scheme, Sentenced to 3½ Years in Prison

Melissa Korn:

Mr. Singer apologized to the students he worked with, saying they were “deserving of more integrity than I showed them,” and expressed regret for tarnishing the reputations of universities, tainting the experiences of families who worked with him legitimately and embarrassing his family and friends.

“Despite my passion to help others, I lost my ethical values and have so much regret. To be frank, I’m ashamed of myself,” Mr. Singer said.

Prosecutors called Mr. Singer’s scheme “staggering in scope” and “breathtaking in its audacity.” They said his cooperation with the investigation was valuable, while also beset with missteps.

In addition to the prison term, Mr. Singer was sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $10.7 million in restitution to the IRS, forfeit more than $5.3 million in assets and pay a $3.4 million forfeiture money judgment.

Civics: 39 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

Paul Ratner:

Once demoralization is completed, the second stage of ideological brainwashing is “destabilization”. During this two-to-five-year period, asserted Bezmenov, what matters is the targeting of essential structural elements of a nation: economy, foreign relations, and defense systems. Basically, the subverter (Russia) would look to destabilize every one of those areas in the United States, considerably weakening it.

The third stage would be “crisis.” It would take only up to six weeks to send a country into crisis, explained Bezmenov. The crisis would bring “a violent change of power, structure, and economy” and will be followed by the last stage, “normalization.” That’s when your country is basically taken over, living under a new ideology and reality.

This will happen to America unless it gets rid of people who will bring it to a crisis, warned Bezmenov. What’s more “if people will fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help [the] United States,” adding, “You may kiss goodbye to your freedom.”

It bears saying that when he made this statement, he was warning about baby boomers and Democrats of the time.

In another somewhat terrifying excerpt, here’s what Bezmenov had to say about what is really happening in the United States: It may think it is living in peace, but it has been actively at war with Russia, and for some time:

“Most of the American politicians, media, and educational system trains another generation of people who think they are living at the peacetime,” said the former KGB agent. “False. United States is in a state of war: undeclared, total war against the basic principles and foundations of this system.”

ChatGPT, Humanities and Higher Education Support

Eric Schliesser:

Like many other academics, it seems, I spent part of Winter break playing around withChatGPT, a neural network “which interacts in a conversational way.” It has been trained up on a vast database, to recognize and (thereby) predict patterns, and its output is conversational in character. You can try it by signing up. Somewhat amusingly you must prove you the user are not a robot. Also, it’s worth alerting you that the ChatGPT remembers/stores your past interactions with it.

It’s uncanny how fluent its dialogic output is. It will also admit ignorance. For example, when I asked it who was “President in 2022,” it responded (inter alia) with “My training data only goes up until 2021, so I am not able to provide information about events that have not yet occurred.”

Notice that it goes off the rails in its answer because it wrote me that in 2023! (It’s such a basic mistake that I think claims about it passing, or faking, the Turing test are a bit overblown, although one can see it being in striking distance now.) When I pressed it on this point, it gave me a much better answer:

Notes on Scholarship discrimination at Harvard

Aaron Sibarium

McLean Hospital, which describes itself as the “largest psychiatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School,” has since 2021 hosted a paid research program for “Black, Indigenous, and underrepresented people of color,” according to the hospital’s website. The 10-week internship offers participants a $7,000 stipend and places them in prestigious labs.

The internship may ramp up legal scrutiny on America’s oldest Ivy, which, alongside the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is battling a high-profile lawsuit from Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit opposed to affirmative action.

That scrutiny hasn’t stopped either school from promoting discriminatory programs: UNC Chapel Hill has at least five scholarships, fellowships, and other initiatives that are available only to minorities; a sixth initiative, exclusively for “BIPOC” students, was made available to all races following a discrimination complaint.

Lawyers say that these programs violate civil rights law and demonstrate just how committed universities are to racial preferences.

“UNC and Harvard have been doubling down on Ibram Kendi-style ‘you have to be racist to be anti-racist’ programming,” said Ilya Shapiro, the director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. “Not only are these clear-cut legal violations, but it’s not a good look as the Supreme Court scrutinizes the use of racial preferences in admissions.”

Civics: Spying tool has scooped up data on Americans, prompting outcry Biden administration says Section 702 key to combating threats

Katrina Manson:

The US intelligence community faces a hard battle to renew foreign surveillance powers that have enabled authorities to repeatedly access private information about Americans despite constitutional protections.

The Biden administration wants to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a warrantless wiretapping program introduced in 2008, which was last renewed in 2018 and is due to expire at the end of the year.

How Stanford Failed the Academic Freedom Test

Jay Bhattacharya:

We live in an age when a high public health bureaucrat can, without irony, announce to the world that if you criticize him, you are not simply criticizing a man. You are criticizing “the science” itself. The irony in this idea of “science” as a set of sacred doctrines and beliefs is that the Age of Enlightenment, which gave us our modern definitions of scientific methodology, was a reaction against a religious clerisy that claimed for itself the sole ability to distinguish truth from untruth. The COVID-19 pandemic has apparently brought us full circle, with a public health clerisy having replaced the religious one as the singular source of unassailable truth.

The analogy goes further, unfortunately. The same priests of public health that have the authority to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy also cast out heretics, just like the medieval Catholic Church did. Top universities, like Stanford, where I have been both student and professor since 1986, are supposed to protect against such orthodoxies, creating a safe space for scientists to think and to test their ideas. Sadly, Stanford has failed in this crucial aspect of its mission, as I can attest from personal experience.

I should note here that my Stanford roots go way back. I earned two degrees in economics there in 1990. In the ’90s, I earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics. I’ve been a fully tenured professor at Stanford’s world-renowned medical school for nearly 15 years, happily teaching and researching many topics, including infectious disease epidemiology and health policy. If you had asked me in March 2020 whether Stanford had an academic freedom problem in medicine or the sciences, I would have scoffed at the idea. Stanford’s motto (in German) is “the winds of freedom blow,” and I would have told you at the time that Stanford lives up to that motto. I was naive then, but not now.

Academic freedom matters most in the edge cases when a faculty member or student is pursuing an idea that others at the university find inconvenient or objectionable. If Stanford cannot protect academic freedom in these cases, it cannot protect academic freedom at all.

To justify this depressing claim, I would like to relate the story of my experience during the pandemic regarding a prominent policy proposal I co-authored called the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD). I could relate many additional incidents that illustrate Stanford’s stunning failure to protect academic freedom, but this one suffices to make my point.

On Oct. 4, 2020, along with two other eminent epidemiologists, Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University, I wrote the GBD. The declaration is a one-page document that proposed a very different way to manage the COVID-19 pandemic than had been used up to that date. The lockdown-focused strategy that much of the world followed mimicked the approach that Chinese authorities adopted in January 2020. The extended lockdowns—by which I mean public policies designed to keep people physically separate from one another to avoid spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus—were a sharp deviation from Western management of previous respiratory virus pandemics. The old pandemic plans prioritized minimizing disruption to normal social functioning, protecting vulnerable groups, and rapidly developing treatments and vaccines.

The Campaign to Re-Educate Jordan Peterson

Wall Street Journal:

You would think Canadians had learned by now not to tell Jordan Peterson what to say. The psychology professor became an internet sensation in 2016 after arguing that Canadian legislation amounted to “compelled speech” on gender pronouns. Now the College of Psychologists of Ontario is demanding that Mr. Peterson acknowledge he “lacked professionalism” in public statements and undergo a “coaching program” of remedial education.

Maybe the new commissars missed Mr. Peterson’s videos praising Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the man who said: “Live not by lies.” Mr. Peterson won’t comply, and he says he’ll now face a disciplinary committee that could revoke his license to practice.

The College of Psychologists, the profession’s governing body in Ontario, appointed an investigator in March to examine complaints about Mr. Peterson’s comments on Twitter and the popular Joe Rogan podcast. On Nov. 22, the College’s panel released a decision. Per images provided by Mr. Peterson, the panel ruled: “The comments at issue appear to undermine the public trust in the profession as a whole, and raise questions about your ability to carry out your responsibilities as a psychologist.”

What are these comments? Calling Elliot Page, the transgender actor, by his former name, “Ellen,” and the pronoun “her,” on Twitter. Calling an adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “prik.” A sarcastic crack at antigrowth environmentalists for not caring that their energy policies lead to more deaths of poor Third World children.

Writing English Prose

David Bentley Hart:

To my mind, each is in its own way a perfect, exquisitely faceted gem of English prose from an especially glorious literary epoch. The music of the one has haunted me for most of my life; the gleeful perversity of the other has lost none of its power to make me laugh in nearly four decades. And, however great the joy I take in either of these passages in isolation, it is as nothing compared to the idiot bliss I derive from their juxtaposition. Taken together, they ideally illustrate the two extremes of the great man’s voice: on the one hand, its glowing beauty and spacious sonority; on the other, its anfractuous density and heedless flamboyance.

TAAS: Trust as a Service

The rabbit hole:

When analyzing the market space inhabited by both traditional and new-age media companies one of the necessary prerequisites for customer buy-in is Trust. Without trust, people can not consume a media source especially when that media source purports to be a purveyor of news and information.

According to Gallup, American trust in mass media institutions has tanked. Trust is down across all political demographics with the Democrats being the sole exception; this is an industry ripe for disruption. Enter Twitter and Elon Musk.

Twitter, at its core, is offering Trust as a Service (TaaS) to its user base. Twitter is trying to sell its audience on the idea that we can entrust it to host important conversations on its platform without engaging in unethical moderation tactics to censor information deemed ‘inappropriate.’ In addition, Twitter is attempting to prove to what extent it can act as a “trust broker” since conversations that happen on Twitter can make or break trust in people, institutions, and other entities.

Historically, we had what is now a ‘Legacy Media’ that brokered trust by telling us who we could and could not trust. As Malcolm X noted, centralized trust brokerage oligarchies gave a small group of people the ability to control the narrative to such an extent that perceptions of guilt and innocence could be shaped. Now we have reached a point, as shown earlier by Gallup, where Legacy Media has destroyed its own reputation by failing to adapt to the increasing levels of transparency that came with the Internet and through biased reporting.

Anything in a traditional media format is delayed, less scrutinized, and riddled with bias as indicated by the above chart.

Parent Coaches

Jon Masson:

But overall, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive for the two.

“I wouldn’t change it,” Angie Murphy said. “It’s been wonderful, but it’s been tough. As a coach’s kid, you are under a microscope. We have great parents here and we have great kids, so she hasn’t had to deal with a lot of that, but I have known horror stories where coaches coach their kids and people say, `Well, that kid is playing because their mom or dad is the coach.’

“We haven’t had to deal with that here. She earned it on the court because of her skills, not because her mom is the coach.”

Megan Murphy, who first started playing basketball in kindergarten and now has verbally committed to UW-Stevens Point, said, “It’s fun to share the wins with her and the good things about basketball.”

But she added, “We try to avoid talking about basketball at home. Otherwise, it gets to be too much.”

The Hamline controversy over a depiction of Muhammad is symptomatic of something deeper.

Alexander Jabbari:

Recently, Hamline University, in Minnesota, fired an adjunct instructor of art history after she displayed a painting of the prophet Muhammad in a class. A Muslim ruler in 14th-century Iran had commissioned the devotional painting for other Muslims in a context permissive of such depictions. Prior to the lesson that ignited the controversy, the instructor took great care to contextualize the image sensitively and granted students the option to not view it.

Wikipedia admin jailed for 32 years after alleged Saudi spy infiltration

ASHLEY BELANGER

Whistleblowers have alleged that the Saudi Arabian government infiltrated the highest ranks of Wikipedia in order to control information about the country, activists reported yesterday. The alleged infiltration resulted in the 2020 arrests in Saudi Arabia of two Wikipedia administrators—Ziyad al-Sofiani (jailed for up to eight years) and Osama Khalid (jailed for up to 32 years)—for “swaying public opinion” and “violating public morals” by posting content “deemed to be critical about the persecution of political activists in the country.” Today, Wikimedia Foundation released a statement to Ars disputing the report, alleging that there was no “infiltration” and that Wikipedia admins have “no ranks.”

These conflicting statements follow an investigation concluded by the Wikimedia Foundation last month that resulted in the banning of 16 users for “conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia projects” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. At the time, Wikimedia said, “We were able to confirm that a number of users with close connections with external parties were editing the platform in a coordinated fashion to advance the aim of those parties.”

Should You Give Up Your Salary and Go to Grad School?

Lindsay Ellis:

Big layoff announcements and growing fears about the economy usually mean more applications to M.B.A. and other graduate programs. But this time, career advisers and analysts are preaching caution.

Signs of a slowdown generally spark interest in graduate studies from both recent college graduates and those in the middle of their career. What better time to pause a career and acquire new skills for when the boom times return, the logic typically goes.

But this isn’t a widespread downturn, and the broader labor market remains strong. In addition, higher inflation and rising student-loan interest rates are complicating the calculus of whether it pays to leave the job market for a couple of years to notch a higher degree.

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