Where are the world’s best English-speakers?

the Economist:

ENGLISH IS THE most widely spoken language in the world. And of the roughly 1.5bn speakers globally, the vast majority speak it as a second language. So where are the world’s best non-native English speakers? According to a new report by EF Education First, an international education company, Northern Europeans are the most fluent (the Netherlands tops the rankings, followed by Sweden, Norway and Denmark). Middle Easterners are the least proficient (Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia all rank near the bottom).

These results are not comprehensive, however. Nor are they representative. EF’s index is based on the results of a free online test taken by 2.3m volunteers in 100 countries. Only people with an internet connection and time and willingness to take a test are included in the sample, which means the results are biased towards richer countries interested in English. As a result, many African countries do not have enough test-takers—at least 400—to be included in the index.

Apple’s Ad-Targeting Crackdown Shakes Up Ad Market

Tom Dotan:

This shift is significant because iPhone owners tend to be more affluent and therefore more attractive to advertisers. Moreover, Safari makes up 53% of the mobile browser market in the U.S., according to web analytics service Statscounter. Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It’s a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google’s Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies. (Nativo doesn’t have historical data so couldn’t say what these percentages were in the past.)

“Apple users are more valuable [to advertisers] based on demographics, being higher income, et cetera,” said Jason Kint, CEO of industry trade group Digital Content Next. He argues that Safari users have been “wrongly devalued” in the short term and says marketers just need to find better ways to reach them online.

As an example, Kint points to ads that relate to the articles someone is reading—contextual advertising—as a format that doesn’t run afoul of privacy issues. He says the format is growing and credits Apple’s clampdown for one reason.

Civics: California is about to allow former felons to serve on juries. Here’s why.

Elizabeth Castillo:

On Jan. 1, the rules will change. A new law by Berkeley Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner will allow Californians with most former felony convictions who are no longer on parole or probation to serve on juries.

Advocates say the law brings California one step closer to solving racial disparities that exist in the jury selection process: One in five African-American men in California is barred from jury service because of a prior felony, according to 2017 research. And that complicates efforts to ensure every defendant a jury of his or her peers.

The opponents say former criminals should not be allowed to serve on juries because they are much more likely to be biased against police and prosecutors.

Mission vs Organization: Parent and Student Choice vs the Status Quo

Michael Clark & Jeremy Kelley:

Public school buildings, which previously have been rated high enough by the Ohio Department of Education’s annual building report cards that families did not have access to the school-choice exit option, will instead be designated as “underperforming” if only a subset of students or academic subjects now fall into that category.

Some local school officials say the changes are jeopardizing millions of dollars of their operating budgets and creating chaos in planning staffing for public school enrollments starting in the 2020-21 school year.

Next school year, according to the ODE, 36 school buildings in eight of Butler County’s 10 public school districts will be designated as underperforming, so parents will be eligible for EdChoice funding to send their children to private schools.

“An emphasis on adult employment“.

PISA results can lead policymakers astray

The Economist:

When Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 it took the chance to reshape the country’s education system. Mailis Reps, the current education minister, says officials and politicians looked everywhere—from America to the Netherlands—for inspiration. But they kept coming back to their Nordic neighbours. As Ms Reps recalls, the concluding argument in any debate often ran: “Let’s try something like that because it works in Sweden or Finland.”

Many others have done similarly. Every three years the oecd publishes results from the Programme for International Student Assessment, with the latest out on December 3rd. pisa tests the reading, maths and science skills of 15- and 16-year-olds in the oecd’s member states, as well as volunteers not in the club of mostly rich countries. The results provide a means to directly compare different education systems. It is now nearly two decades since the first batch were released. Back then, there was a surprise. Finland, not previously renowned for its education, topped the table when it came to reading, and excelled in other categories, too.

Madison Enrollment Drops by 33, additional decreases expected

Scott Gerard:

Between now and the 2024-25 school year, the district will lose another 1,347 students, according to district projections. Since the 2011-12 school year when MMSD added 4-year-old kindergarten, the district has always had at least 26,000 students. Projections show it will drop below that in 2024-25 for the first time since.

Projections from Vandewalle and Associates show enrollment stability in the “long term,” the report adds.

The district’s projections are based on what the report calls a “sharp decrease” in the birth rates in the cities of Fitchburg and Madison in 2016 and 2017, the last two reported years. Continued drops in enrollment are significant for the district’s funding, as state aid is largely based on enrollment, measured each September on the third Friday of the school year.

The drops are projected to initially come in elementary schools, as kindergarten classes will continue a trend of being smaller than the year prior. At the high school level, East and Memorial are projected to grow in attendance by the 2024-25 school year, while West will have five students fewer than this year. La Follette is projected to lose 49 students from this year to 2024-25.

The overall enrollment decrease means that most buildings are projected to be at or below the “ideal” 90% capacity use five years from now, according to data included in the report, which is calculated using factors including class size policy, section availability and building size. The most significant exceptions are Falk Elementary School, which is projected to be at 104.4% of its capacity in five years, and West High School, projected at 98.7% — just below its current 98.9% utilization.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district recently expanded their least diverse schools.

“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”

“Generating social media interactions is easy; mobilizing activists and persuading voters is hard”

David Karpf:

Online disinformation and propaganda do not have to be particularly effective at duping voters or directly altering electoral outcomes in order to be fundamentally toxic to a well-functioning democracy, though. The rise of disinformation and propaganda undermines some of the essential governance norms that constrain the behavior of our political elites. It is entirely possible that the current disinformation disorder will render the country ungovernable despite barely convincing any mass of voters to cast ballots that they would not otherwise have cast.

Much of the attention paid by researchers, journalists, and elected officials to online disinformation and propaganda has assumed that these disinformation campaigns are both large in scale and directly effective. This is a bad assumption, and it is an unnecessary assumption. We need not believe digital propaganda can “hack” the minds of a fickle electorate to conclude that digital propaganda is a substantial threat to the stability of American democracy. And in promoting the narrative of IRA’s direct effectiveness, we run the risk of further exacerbating this threat. The danger of online disinformation isn’t how it changes public knowledge; it’s what it does to our democratic norms.


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

More Evidence Emerges That Federal Government Is Funding Worthless College Degrees

Mary Clare Amselem:

Students who graduate from the University of Miami Law School, for example, hold a median total debt of $150,896, but earn a starting salary of just $52,100. Even more problematic, students who obtain a master’s degree from New York University in film/video and photographic arts graduate with a median total debt of a whopping $168,568, but earn a median starting salary of $29,600.

Those findings are particularly concerning, considering that there is virtually no cap on how much students can borrow for graduate school under the PLUS loan program.

There is simply no reason that American taxpayers should be footing the entire cost of the bill upfront for degrees with such a low return on investment.

The new College Scorecard data provides not only valuable insights into the debt burden of college students, but also underscores the deep-rooted inefficiencies in our federal student loan programs.

Holders of bachelor’s degrees hold an average of $31,172 in student loan debt. However, depending on where a student goes to school and what their major is, earnings potential can be quite different.

Boston’s school bathrooms are a big mess

Bianca Vázquez Toness:

Louisiana shouldn’t be embarrassed, but perhaps Boston should. Filthy, unsanitary, and often lacking basics like toilet paper and hot water, the bathrooms of the city’s public schools are, far too frequently, in appalling condition. It is not a conventional measure of success or failure in the city’s schools, but it is a telling one: What does it say to the children of the schools that they are expected, as they strive to learn, to put up with such facilities? Or avoid them at all cost — and great discomfort?

More: What does it say about a system that tolerates such conditions? Is it really asking too much to have soap at every sink?

The record of subpar performance, and utter failure, on this score is thick and disheartening, a Globe review found. Last year, city public health inspectors found problems — from nonflushable toilets to obnoxious odors — in 89 of 111 Boston Public School buildings they visited. A 2016 survey of more than 2,000 students, parents, and staff found that nearly two thirds rated the district’s bathrooms as “poor” or “fair.” And the vast majority of the more than 30 students, parents, and teachers interviewed in recent weeks by the Globe described the bathrooms as gross, even dangerous, citing the prevalence of missing soap and toilet paper, urine stench, and leaks — even feces and sanitary pads strewn on the floor.

Proposed Milwaukee Schools’ Referendum Could Cost State Additional $200 Million

Will Flanders:

If a proposed $640 million referendum for Milwaukee Public Schools passes, local taxpayers won’t be the only ones on the hook. A referendum of this size would result in as much as $200 million additional dollars in state money to Milwaukee Public Schools.

How does a local decision to raise their own taxes affect state finances? Because shared costs between state and local governments work differently depending on the property wealth of a district. When a district with substantial property wealth votes for a referendum, the effect is some reduction in state aid, with local taxpayers shouldering more of the burden. But when a low-property wealth district like Milwaukee passes a referendum, a portion of that cost is born by the state. This aid comes through what is known as Equalization Aid — funding designed to create spending equality across all of Wisconsin’s more than 420 school districts.

To estimate the impact on Equalization Aid, I used DPI’s Equalization Aid worksheet, and altered the amount of shared cost for Milwaukee by the proposed amount of the referendum. A few cautionary notes are worth mentioning here. First, this worksheet simplifies the process, so the figures presented here are estimates. It should also be noted that if the referendum amount varies substantially from the amount in news reports, or if the time frame for the funding changes, these estimates would be further off. Finally, if other districts implement referenda at the same time, this calculation would change. I include both MPS’s $640 million proposal, as well as the smaller “Plan B” proposal estimated at $319 million.

Madison is also planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum in 2020.

No More School Districts! (Mission vs Organization)

Kevin Carey:

To truly understand what’s wrong with Piedmont Unified School District, in the hills a few miles from San Francisco Bay, you have to pull up from a municipality so wealthy that it was dubbed the City of Millionaires in the Roaring ‘20s, up high enough to notice that after the district border ambles along Park Boulevard and then moves counterclockwise to encompass the mansions and art centers and swimming pools, it finally returns to exactly where it started. Piedmont school district looks like an island. Specifically, an island of rich white people sitting above, and entirely surrounded by, the much larger district of mostly not-rich and not-white people in Oakland, California.

Then you need to look at the long history of how much money Piedmont raises every year in local property taxes: thousands more for each student than is raised in Oakland. See how those numbers jump back up in the Berkeley school district to the north, home of the famous university, and drop back down in San Leandro, a racially diverse community to the south. Put the numbers and the maps together and you realize that Piedmont isn’t an island after all. It’s a fortress. A place where the wealthy and powerful huddle to keep their resources for themselves.

Piedmont’s negative image is in Reading, Pennsylvania, a worn-down city of nonmillionaires that emerged from the last decennial census with the single highest poverty rate in America. The wealthier, whiter areas surrounding Reading are split into seven districts instead of one, but the effect is the same: Reading students, who are 93 percent nonwhite and 31 percent below the federal poverty line, get $5,000 less per year than those in neighboring Schuylkill, which is 86 percent white and 5 percent poor. Reading isn’t an island, either. It’s a prison. A place designed to keep the poor in their place.

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

A Powerful Statement of Resistance from a College Student on Trial in Moscow

Masha Gessen:

“But first I want to say this. The Russian state claims to be the world’s last protector of traditional values. We are told that the state devotes a lot of resources to protecting the institution of the family, and to patriotism. We are also told that the most important traditional value is the Christian faith. Your Honor, I think this may actually be a good thing. The Christian ethic includes two values that I consider central for myself. First, responsibility. Christianity is based on the story of a person who dared to take up the burden of the world. It’s the story of a person who accepted responsibility in the greatest possible sense of that word. In essence, the central concept of the Christian religion is the concept of individual responsibility.

“The second value is love. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most important sentence of the Christian faith. Love is trust, empathy, humanity, mutual aid, and care. A society built on such love is a strong society—probably the strongest of all possible societies.

“To understand why I’ve done what I’ve done, all you have to do is look at how the Russian state, which proudly claims to be a defender of these values, does in reality. Before we talk about responsibility, we have to consider what the ethics of a responsible person is. What are the words that a responsible individual repeats to himself throughout his life? I think these words are, ‘Remember that your path will be difficult, at times unbearably so. All your loved ones will die. All your plans will go awry. You will be betrayed and abandoned. And you cannot escape death. Life is suffering. Accept it. But once you accept it, once you accept the inevitability of suffering, you must still accept your cross and follow your dream, because otherwise things will only get worse. Be an example, be someone on whom others can depend. Do not obey despots, fight for the freedom of body and soul, and build a country in which your children can be happy.’

ICE weaponizes the American dream to purge foreign students, via Obama era program

Brian Dickerson:

As my Free Press colleague Niraj Warikoo reported, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently revealed that it has arrested about 250 foreign students who enrolled in a fake university the agency founded in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 

The students hoped admission to the University of Farmington would preserve their eligibility for student visas, allowing them to remain in Michigan, as the Department of Homeland Security’s website assured them it would.

Instead, the United States moved to expel them on grounds that they knew, or at least should have suspected, that the school was bogus.

But wait — it gets weirder.

Turns out ICE was so intent on attracting would-be students to its fake university that it persuaded a commission of academic professionals to give it a fake accreditation.

This program began in 2015, under the Obama administration:

As the Free Press reported earlier, the undercover operation started in 2015, according to federal prosecutors. The fake university was incorporated in the state of Michigan in January 2016, state records show. 

In April 2016, in a separate case, federal prosecutors announced that ICE had created a fake university in New Jersey called the University of Northern Jersey. One difference is that in the New Jersey case, federal authorities did not do mass arrests and detentions of the students as they did in January with the University of Farmington.

Unbalanced literacy

Erica Meltzer:

Over the last year or so, an education reporter named Emily Hanford has published a series of exceedingly important articles about the state of phonics instruction (or rather the lack thereof) in American schools. The most in-depth piece appeared on the American Public Media project website, but what are effectively condensed versions of it have also run on NPR and the NY Times op-ed page.

If you have any interest in how reading gets taught, I highly recommend taking the time for the full-length piece in APM: it’s eye-opening and fairly disquieting. While it reiterates a number of important findings regarding the importance of phonics, its originality lies in the fact that Hanford takes on the uneasy truce between phonics and whole language that supposedly put an end to the reading wars of the 1980s and ‘90s, and points out that so-called “balanced literacy” programs often exist in name only.

In principle, this approach recognizes that both development of sound-letter relationships and consistent exposure to high-quality literature are necessary ingredients in helping students become proficient readers. What Hanford does, however, is expose just how vast a chasm exists between theory and reality. In many schools, phonics is largely neglected, or even ignored entirely, while discredited and ineffective whole-language approaches continue to dominate.

To be clear, “reading” in the complete sense of the term is an incredibly complex, multifaceted act, one that draws on the ability to form letter/sound relationships, recognition of sight words, vocabulary, syntax, and background knowledge, among other things. “Decoding,” in contrast, refers to the act of being literally able to translate squiggles on a page into words (although confusingly, it’s often referred to as “reading” as well). It’s a key component of reading but obviously in no way a substitute for the full range of skills required. What Hanford is primarily concerned with is the latter, and neither she nor any of the experts she cites view phonics as more than a single piece—albeit an extremely fundamental piece—of the reading puzzle.

So, it is all very well and good to agree that students need to learn some phonics, but what exactly does “some” mean? 10 minutes a day? An hour once week? An hour a month? Once a year? Hanford recounts the story of a parent who, concerned about her child’s reading, asked the teacher when the class would cover phonics. The teacher responded that she had covered phonics but that the child had been absent that day.

“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

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

Yale Prof Estimates Faculty Political Diversity at ‘0%’

David Freeman:

Nobody looks to the Ivy League for balanced political discourse. But a new report suggests that on at least one campus, the stifling of conservative views among faculty members is nearly complete.

Valerie Pavilonis and Matt Kristoffersen report in the Yale Daily News:

According to computer science professor David Gelernter ‘76, faculty political diversity at Yale is low: “0%,” he wrote in an email. He added that while there are a…

University endowments > $500,000 per student taxed at 1.4%, Ivy League Billion dollar subsidies

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The middle-class rebellion

Joel Kotkin:

Recently these policies have been propelled by largely flawed notions that increasingly high density would make housing cheaper and produce lower GHG emissions. Actually, the densest places with the strongest regulation are almost always those with the highest levels of unaffordability. Yet it is in the energy arena where “green policies” have solicited the greatest push-back in a large number of countries.

Some, like British Marxist historian James Heartfield, see the emergence of “green capitalism” as a new ruse for the upper classes to suppress the lower by creating artificial scarcity in everything from energy to housing and food.

The high energy costs derive from zealous climate change politics claiming that any energy source outside solar and wind are inherently dangerous to the health of the planet. This has included both the largest contributor to emissions reductions — replacing coal with natural gas — and emissions-free nuclear power. This dogmatism underlies efforts by government planners to raise the price of fuel in order to reduce consumption and force people onto transit.

Madison is planning a large tax and spending increase referendum in 2020.

New Bill Aims to End the “School to Confinement Pathway”

Alice Speri:

The disparities don’t end in school: Black girls, in particular, are also disproportionately vulnerable to extreme poverty and poor access to health care, as well as domestic and sexual violence. And black women are incarcerated at three times the rate of white women, largely over nonviolent drug- or property-related crimes. The criminalization of poverty, trauma, and abuse often starts with school policies that fail to support students and instead penalize them for minor infractions like tardiness or talking back to teachers. Black students are also disproportionally penalized for violating school dress and grooming codes that are inherently racist.

“This is especially true for black girls who have layered on top of that trauma the embedded prejudices and biases about how they are seen,” said Pressley, pointing to the examples of black girls being penalized for “distracting” hair styles, or for wearing “provocative” gym shorts when their white classmates wear the same clothing.

“They are rarely seen as girls, as children,” Pressley said. “Our girls have been completely lost in this conversation of mass incarceration, of criminalization,” she added. “To me, on a very basic level, I’m defending their childhood. I’m defending their girlhood.”

The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law

On the Passing of Oberlin Plaintiff David Gibson

Daniel McGraw:

As a journalist, I am just passing through the lives of others, and usually not at their best moments. This is particularly true of defamation cases, when reporters, lawyers, and angry litigants are forced to intermingle at a time when each party to a dispute is accusing the other of being lousy human beings. Courts provide a regulated arena for culturally approved warfare, the purpose of which is to decide who deserves humiliation, possible ruin, and sometimes even jail. For the rest of us, this all provides voyeuristic risk-free entertainment. Typically, observers and note-takers in the galleries don’t get to know the main players well, so it’s a bit like watching a bloody sporting event untroubled by an allegiance to either team.

But last April, as I made my way into the Ohio courthouse where I would sit for the next seven weeks, I met David Gibson. Gibson was suing his longtime neighbor, Oberlin College, in a case I was covering for the website Legal Insurrection. The day after the 2016 Presidential election, he had called the police when three black Oberlin students were caught shoplifting wine from his small family business. The university campus erupted in outrage, a contract the bakery had to provide food for the university cafeteria was torn up, and Gibson’s bakery was besieged by student protests operating with the apparent complicity of college faculty and administrators. The college was accused of providing malicious support to students circulating defamatory claims that Gibson and his family were racists. These claims, the jury would subsequently conclude, were baseless. The prestigious liberal arts college was found guilty of libel, and ordered to pay close to $50 million in damages. (Both the verdict and the award are being appealed, but while the damages may be reduced, depending on what state caps permit, legal experts say the reversal of a civil case like this one is unlikely under Ohio law.)

The media didn’t pay all that much attention to the case while it was being tried, but when the verdict was announced, it went berserk. Conservative outlets crowed that it was a victory for the kind of common man elitist college radicals held in contempt, and outraged progressives seethed that free speech was being sacrificed to enable bigotry and hatred of minorities. But in their hurry to use the case as a blunt object with which to club their political enemies, neither side got it right. For Gibson and his family, meanwhile, the verdict provided hard-won vindication but also bemusement. “All Oberlin had to do,” Gibson told me in September, “was to say we weren’t racists and there would have been no trial. What I didn’t understand is that they didn’t have the civility to do so. The basic civility we all try to live by. They didn’t seem to understand that.”

David Gibson has not lived to see the end of this distressing saga. In late 2018, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, on November 16 of this year, he passed away aged 65. At his funeral, there were no bitter condemnations of the school’s administrators. Instead, friends and family spoke fondly of his kindness, his volunteer work helping the marginalized to find jobs and addiction treatment, his unpaid service on various local boards, and how his family had been active members of the Oberlin community since the late 1800s. But Eddie Holoway, a longtime family friend and one of many African Americans who attended the service, did address the point that almost everyone else had tactfully avoided. “The environment today is where name-calling is quite popular,” he said. “Words do matter. The names put upon him weren’t very pleasant. But he wanted to see a healing point. David had made peace with this before he died … his main concern wasn’t himself, but for everyone in this town. This [lawsuit] was about damag[e to] his reputation, but all of us who knew him knew what his reputation is. He had a good heart and helped everyone he could and that was priceless.”

America’s Epidemic of Unkindness

Annie Lowrey:

Take five minutes to meditate. Try to quiet the judgmental voice in your head. Call your mother. Pay for someone else’s coffee. Compliment a colleague’s work.

In an age of polarization, xenophobia, inequality, downward mobility, environmental devastation, and climate apocalypse, these kinds of Chicken Soup for the Soul recommendations can feel not just minor, but obtuse. Since when has self-care been a substitute for a secure standard of living? How often are arguments about interpersonal civility a distraction from arguments about power and justice? Why celebrate generosity or worry about niceness when what we need is systemic change?

Those are the arguments I felt predisposed to make when I read about the newly inaugurated Bedari Kindness Institute at UCLA, a think tank devoted to the study and promulgation of that squishy concept. But it turns out there is a sweeping scientific case for kindness. In some ways, modern life has made us unkind. That unkindness has profound personal effects. And if we can build a kinder society, that would make life better for everyone.

Darnell Hunt, the dean of social sciences at UCLA and a scholar of media and race, told me some of the questions the institute hopes to investigate or answer: “What are the implications of kindness? Where does it come from? How can we promote it? What are the relationships between kindness and the way the brain functions? What are the relationships between kindness and the types of social environment in which we find ourselves? Is there such a thing as a kind economy? What would that look like?”

‘No silver bullet’ to reverse UW-Madison’s slide in national research ranking (?)

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville and chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said the drop to eighth in the country indicates UW-Madison has some “catching up to do.”

But he said UW-Madison has almost all of the tools it needs to improve its standing, such as a fund to make counteroffers for professors being poached by other institutions.

Related: controversy at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

Administrative roadblocks set back life-saving research at UW

Civics: I documented every surveillance camera on my way to work in New York City, and it revealed a dystopian reality

James Pasley:

As Arthur Holland Michel, who wrote a book about high-tech surveillance, told The Atlantic in June, “Someday, most major developed cities in the world will live under the unblinking gaze of some form of wide-area surveillance.”

New York City has an estimated 9,000 cameras linked to a system the New York Police Department calls the “Domain Awareness System.” But there are more cameras that aren’t linked to the system.

I documented all the cameras on my daily commute from Brooklyn to our office in Manhattan’s Financial District. Here’s what I found.

How the sausage gets made — more than you ever wanted to know about the internal workings of the California Teachers Association

Mike Antonucci:

With 310,000 members, more than 400 employees and $200 million in annual revenue, the California Teachers Association is a large-scale enterprise. It wields great influence at the statehouse, but its presence is felt in the smallest communities throughout the state. Nothing happens in education or fiscal policy without a CTA hand in it.

We have fundamental knowledge of how the organization is run and what it believes, but we can still find some surprises as we dig through the mammoth 497-page CTA Organizational Handbook. We have embedded it here, but it’s not something you’ll keep on your nightstand. I’ll hit a few highlights.

The path to Wisconsin Act 10.

Education, spending and accountability

Adam Kissel:

Let’s look at the biggest number first. Senator Booker hopes to throw $100 billion at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) in general. Under his plan, he would transform HBCUs into social-activist organizations in “the fight against climate change,”though it remains unclear why being historically black makes them particularly well qualified for this task.

This plan eclipses the spending idea of Senator Sanders, who wants to throw only $15 billion at HBCUs, forgive another billion or two of debt, and double current funding under the Strengthening HBCUs program of Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Here’s what we’re already spending on HBCUs under Title III. In 2019 Congress gave these 101 institutions $282 million, plus $79 million in “mandatory” money (for which the institutions need to do little but fill out a form), plus $73 million for Historically Black Graduate Institutions (including law and medical schools), plus $9 million for master’s-degree programs. Doubling this amount gives them $443 million more, or an extra $4.43 billion over ten years.

Madison taxpayers spend more than $500M annually on a K-12 structure that has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Elizabeth Warren Tells Poor Parents to Fix Their Own Schools

Jonathan Chait:

In one sense, Warren is correct. The fact that she opposed the Massachusetts initiative does prove how far she is willing to go to maintain teachers’-union support. But what it says about her willingness to follow evidence, and to value the needs of low-income parents, is deeply worrisome.

Boston has probably the most effective public charter schools in America, producing enormous learning gains for the most disadvantaged children. “Charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes,” reported a Brookings study. “The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.” Researchers have asked and answered every possible objection: Boston’s charters are not “skimming” the best students, they do scale up, and they do not harm students left behind in traditional public schools. (Indeed, “charter expansion has a small positive effect on non-charter students’ achievement.”)

It is inconvenient for Warren that she happens to represent a state with the most effective charter sector in the country, given the fact that she’s running for president and one of the most influential interest groups in her party opposes charters everywhere. Even more inconveniently, Massachusetts had a ballot initiative in 2016 to lift the cap on charter attendance in Boston schools. (The previous time the cap had been lifted, charters proved they could replicate and expand on their success, and proved operators were asking to open schools.) This spurred Warren, who had previously supported charter schools, to reverse herself.

Why Taxpayers Pay McKinsey $3M a Year for a Recent College Graduate Contractor

Matt Stoller:

Such practices used to be called “honest graft.” And let’s be clear, McKinsey’s services are very expensive. Back in August, I noted that McKinsey’s competitor, the Boston Consulting Group, charges the government $33,063.75/week for the time of a recent college grad to work as a contractor. Not to be outdone, McKinsey’s pricing is much much higher, with one McKinsey “business analyst” – someone with an undergraduate degree and no experience – lent to the government priced out at $56,707/week, or $2,948,764/year.

How does McKinsey do it? There are two answers. The first is simple. They cheat. McKinsey is far more expensive than its competition, and is able to get that pricing because of its unethical tactics. In fact, the situation is so dire that earlier this year the General Services Administration’s Inspector General recommended in a report that the GSA cancel McKinsey’s entire government-wide contract. Here’s what the IG showed McKinsey was eventually awarded.

How Research Simplified Teaching: Lessons and Resources from a New Teacher’s First Months

Ms. Jasmine:

I’ve seen and heard a lot of stress from other first year teachers in these first ew months of the school year. Feeling like a failure, feeling overwhelmed, and just not feeling good enough are common occurrences (been there, done that). Thanks to my professional twitter network and the research-informed community, I’ve identified a few ways to make the transition to teacher of record much more manageable without sacrificing my sanity or students’ learning, and I hope that from one new teacher to another, my gain is yours, too. 

1. Have firm expectations, reasons for them, and stick to it.

You know the whole “make rules with your kids” thing we talk about in teacher prep? Scratch that. Despite what people will tell you,  it’s okay to believe that you’re the teacher and in charge– because you are! Structure is needed to ensure a learning environment and a healthy community.  If you have a reason for your rules, the students will understand and adapt. Give kids some credit (and read this from Tom Sherrington on the power of expectations, Eric Kalenze’s book on improving schools from the bottom-up, and Bill Wilkinson’s piece on starting with a new class).

This is why we don’t have better readers: Response to Lucy Calkins

Mark Seidenberg:

Lucy Calkins has written a manifesto entitled “No One Gets To Own The Term ‘Science Of Reading’”. I am a scientist who studies reading.  Her document is not about the science that I know; it is about Lucy Calkins. Ms. Calkins is a prolific pedagogical entrepreneur who has published numerous curricula and supporting materials for teaching reading and writing to children. She is among the most successful, influential reading educators in this country. According to an EdWeek survey published this week, hers is among the 5 most commonly used reading curricula in the country.

The purpose of the document is to protect her brand, her market share, and her standing among her many followers.  Ms. Calkins is not interested in examining the educational implications of reading science.  She is interested in co-opting the term so that the science cannot be used to discredit her products.

Ms. Calkins has reason to be feeling defensive. As everyone knows, our schools routinely fail at teaching large numbers of children to become skilled readers. The 2019 NAEP scores released in October were even worse than usual: reading scores declined in more than half the states; the black-white achievement gap didn’t change because scores for both groups decreased in parallel. As on every round since 1992, fewer than half of 4th and 8th graders in the nationally-representative sample read above a basic level.  The story is the same on the most recent data from the PISA, the big international reading assessment.

The educational establishment is complicit in these outcomes. Teachers are underprepared for a difficult job. They learn grossly out of date information about how reading works and how children learn, stories that are contradicted by basic research in cognitive science and neuroscience.  They are encouraged to use ineffective practices that make it harder for children to become skilled readers, especially those at risk for other reasons such as poverty. This has been the situation for several decades. I documented this history in my book.

Many people–for example, the families of children who struggle with reading; teachers who don’t buy the party line; citizens who are concerned about whether there are enough literate people to run a democracy, distinguish facts from “alternative facts”, or save the planet–are fed up with the educational establishment’s chronic stone-walling. They’re angry, and they’re organizing.

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

Emily Hanford comments.

A Capitol conversation on Wisconsin’s reading challenges.

Federal Education Policy Commentary

Libby Sobic:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is one of President Trump’s longest-reigning cabinet members, having served in her post for more than 1,000 days. In large part because of her unwavering commitment to school choice, DeVos has sparked outrage from public unions since the moment she was nominated. Her road to confirmation was contentious, passing the U.S. Senate only because Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie. In 2017, when she tried to visit a public school in Washington, protestors blocked her entrance. During a speech at Harvard, students turned their backs to her and raised “white supremacist” banners – ironic, given her 30-yearcareer of advocating and helping low-income, minority students to attend better schools. 

Yet, while the teachers’ unions continue to vilify her and some in the media demonize her, DeVos has quietly built an impressive resume of rolling back federal government involvement in the classroom, promoting the expansion of school choice, and encouraging states to be innovative with their education policies.  

The U.S. Department of Education should not have a significant say over K-12 policy – indeed, voters in Wisconsin overwhelmingly want more local control. DeVos has recognized this and took steps to remove the federal government from the classroom. For example, in December 2018, she rescinded President Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter on student discipline, which the Obama education department released in 2014, threatening federal action if discipline policies resulted in “disparate impact” on racial minorities. This letter coerced school districts to suspend fewer students. In Wisconsin, our analysis concluded that these softer discipline policies contributed to a 41 percent decrease in suspensions, which likely contributed to a decrease in proficiency rates in math and reading. 

Aunt Becky and the ‘Underpaid Teachers’ Myth

Andrew Biggs:

There’s plenty of money out there. As we have recently seen, private-school parents will spend outrageous sums to help their kids get ahead. Consider Full House actress Lori Loughlin, whose two daughters attended Marymount, an all-girls Catholic high school in Los Angeles that charges annual tuition of $37,000. As if to cement the point that money was no object when it came to her daughters’ education, Ms. Loughlin is currently under federal indictment for paying a $500,000 bribe to University of Southern California officials to admit her daughters, based on the fiction that they were collegiate-level rowers. Now Ms. Loughlin — like fellow actress Felicity Huffman and dozens of others indicted on similar charges — faces jail time.

But one thing private schools don’t throw money at is teacher salaries. The school that Loughlin’s daughters attended pays its teachers around $53,500 per year, 33 percent less than the $80,000 median annual salary of Los Angeles public-school teachers. (The EPI study is based on weekly wages, calculated in the case of teachers over the length of the school year rather than the entire calendar year.)

The same goes for the millions of other helicopter parents and tiger moms who pay private-school tuition in hopes of getting their child into First Choice University. If paying higher teacher salaries would buy their kids a better chance, why don’t they demand an increase? In 2011–12, the most recent year for which data are available, the median full-time teacher in a non-religious private school earned a base salary of $38,000, 24 percent less than the $50,000 base salary for the median non-charter public-school teacher. Parochial-school teachers earned even less, at just $35,000 per year.

Is true hacking dead? What we lost.

Angelo Pesce:

I don’t know how consciously or not, but now that I moved to San Mateo, I found myself listening to many audiobooks about the history of computing, videogames and the Silicon Valley, from the Jobs biography to the “classic” Hackers by Steven Levy, from “Console Wars” to “Bad Blood”.
All of these I’ve been enjoying, even if some need to be taken with more of a grain of salt than others, and from most I’ve gained one or two interesting perspectives.

Hackers, in particular, struck some chords that are dear to me. Besides the history and the various personalities, most of which I didn’t really know of, one thing resonated: the hands-on, pragmatic, a-political nature of early hacking.

And no, before we keep going, I don’t mean that we should not be political in our actions, today.
We are social animals and we should care about society and politics, in fact, it would seem to me that the only reason, at least if one is to take the book at its word, why early hacking was a-political is because hackers were fairly despicable a-social people.

But, it is interesting, because one could make the case that nowadays we live in a world where ideologies trump reality, and perhaps we should understand why and take a step back.

What did hackers want? Access to computing. Computers were fascinating, mesmerizing and scarce. It wasn’t a matter of software licenses, nobody cared about pieces of paper (or locked doors even), we wanted to be able to touch and tinker with the machine.

There Is a Right Way to Teach Reading, and Mississippi Knows It

Emily Hanford:

“Thank God for Mississippi.”

That’s a phrase people would use when national education rankings came out because no matter how poorly your state performed, you could be sure things were worse in Mississippi.

Not anymore. New results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test given every two years to measure fourth- and eighth-grade achievement in reading and math, show that Mississippi made more progress than any other state.

The state’s performance in reading was especially notable. Mississippi was the only state in the nation to post significant gains on the fourth-grade reading test. Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.

What’s up in Mississippi? There’s no way to know for sure what causes increases in test scores, but Mississippi has been doing something notable: making sure all of its teachers understand the science of reading.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers who cannot pass the “Foundations of Reading” content knowledge exam. The FORT is based on Massachusetts’ highly successful MTEL requirements.

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

The Accidental Experiment That Changed Men’s Lives

Tim Johnson, Dalton Conley and Christopher Dawes:

Inside each capsule was a small sheet, to be pulled out like the slip from a fortune cookie. But these small strips did not predict the future; they changed it. Each paper’s inscription scheduled the assignment of what scientists would call a “treatment condition”—an intervention that, from that day onward, would alter the life outcomes its subjects experienced, just as a pill randomly allocated in a pharmaceutical trial might alter a participant’s health. Pirnie would not have thought of his role in these terms, but on December 1, 1969, he was serving as a lab assistant in one of the most significant randomized experiments in history: the Vietnam Selective Service Lotteries.

“The lotteries” not only changed how the Selective Service chose men for the conflict in Vietnam, they also marked a turning point in the history of science. By assigning military induction via an arbitrary factor uncorrelated with personal traits, the lotteries amounted to an experiment.

‘A distinctly American phenomenon’: Our workforce is dying faster than any other wealthy country, study shows

Jorge Ortiz:

The engine that powers the world’s most potent economy is dying at a worrisome pace, a “distinctly American phenomenon’’ with no easily discernible cause or simple solution.

Those are some of the conclusions from a comprehensive new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University showing that mortality rates for U.S. adults ages 25-64 continue to increase, driving down the general population’s life expectancy for at least three consecutive years.

The report, “Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017,’’ was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study paints a bleak picture of a workforce plagued by drug overdoses, suicides and organ-system diseases while grappling with economic stresses.

“This looks like an excellent paper – just what we needed to help unravel the overall decline in life expectancy in the U.S.,’’ said Eileen Crimmins, an associate dean at the University of Southern California who’s an expert on the link between health and socioeconomic factors.

UW-Madison job title, pay review project approaches final stages before 2020 implementation

Yvonne Kim:

The project plans to reduce nearly half of approximately 1,600 current job titles and include a new, specific job description for each new title, said chief human resources officer Mark Walters. This includes 24 designated job groups, 116 sub-groups and 645 draft descriptions, according to the website.

Next steps include meeting with all the employees affected by the changes to talk through their positions over the next few months. Although Mercer has helped identify areas of market deficiency, the university won’t necessarily be able to address them all right away as funding remains a concern, Walters said. 

“It’s going to have to be a long-term process,” Walters said. “We want to look at how far are we away from the market for specific positions and develop our priorities within the compensation strategy.”

Administrative growth, amidst generally flat or declining attendance has become increasingly controversial.

The number of new international students fell by 6.6 percent at U.S. universities in fall 2017, and the decline appears to be continuing this fall, according to new data.

Elizabeth Redden:

Among the big changes in the Open Doors data for academic year 2017-18 was an 8.8 percent drop from the prior year in the number of graduate and professional students from India, the second-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S. after China.

Another notable shift was a 6.4 percent drop in the number of international graduate students studying engineering, the most popular field of study for international students in the U.S.

Universities also saw a 15.5 percent overall decline in the number of students from the No. 4 sending country, Saudi Arabia. The number of Saudi students declined at all academic levels, a change that’s largely attributable to the Saudi government scaling back a foreign scholarship program that has sent thousands of Saudi students to study at U.S. universities.

At the undergraduate level, higher education institutions reported double-digit year-over-year increases in students from the No. 6 sending country, Vietnam, No. 10 Brazil and No. 11 Nepal.

6.4 million students denied free speech by top American colleges

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

Millions of students nationwide check their free speech rights at the door when they arrive on campus, according to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Spotlight on Speech Codes 2020: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, released today, analyzes the written policies at 471 of America’s top colleges and universities for their protection of free speech. The report finds that 89% of American colleges maintain policies that restrict — or could too easily be applied to restrict — student expression.

All of the analyzed policies are accessible in FIRE’s Spotlight Database. FIRE rates schools as “red light,” “yellow light,” or “green light” institutions based on how much, if any, speech their policies restrict.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says the social network should not be ‘censoring politicians’

Mike Snider:

“This is clearly a very complex issue, and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions,” Zuckerberg said. “At the end of the day, I just think that in a democracy that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. … I think that people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians.”

King also asked Zuckerberg about his dinner with President Donald Trump at the White House three weeks ago and whether Trump lobbied him against banning political ads. ” No … I think some of the stuff that people talk about or think is discussed in these discussions are not really how that works,” Zuckerberg said. “I also want to respect that it was also a private discussion.”

The parents raising their kids on the road

Lauren Potts:

Natasha Biran and her husband Yair quit their demanding jobs in 2014 to travel around Israel with their six-month-old son.

“When Maoz was born it clicked – we thought it doesn’t need to be like this, we didn’t have to do a 9-5,” said Natasha, who was director of an internship programme.

“I was starting to think about going back to work and we were looking at nurseries and were both just really sad about it – I didn’t want to be away from Maoz and to put him in a framework.

“It made us think, if we didn’t want that, what did we want? Do we want to be working and only seeing each other in the evening? I knew that’s how it would look; we wanted to live differently. We wanted to feel inspired.”

Intelligentsia in the Crosshairs: Xi Jinping’s Ideological Rectification of Higher Education in China

Carl Minzer:

China is in the midst of an ambitious rectification campaign. Since 2014, Xi Jinping has launched an aggressive effort to reassert party ideological controls over art, culture, and higher education that had partially slipped during the more relaxed atmosphere of China’s post-1978 reform era. Within Chinese universities, intellectuals are facing intensified pressures for political conformity —through political education, funding pressures, and direct repression. Such efforts resemble the early stages of the campaign to re-establish party dominance over the bar and legal profession in the early 2000s. These pressures are likely to steadily worsen in the near future, with significant negative implications for intellectual life in China.

Within the party, Xi has been elevated ideologically to a level far exceeding that of his predecessors and approaching that once reserved for Mao. Constitutional limits on his tenure as state president have been removed; tacit limits on his role as general secretary of the CCP have been toppled. Within society at large, party power is steadily flowing back into areas from which it had retreated. Religion is one example. As Richard Madsen notes in the September 2019 issue of the China Leadership Monitor, party authorities have adopted a much more aggressive policy aimed at “Sinicizing” religion in China—with Islam and Christianity as key targets.[1] After Xi’s 2016 speech to the party conference on religious affairs stressing the need for tighter controls, a flurry of actions followed: absorption of the State Administration of Religious Affairs by the party’s United Front Work Department, tough new controls over religious expression, heightened efforts to “Sinicize” religious buildings (for instance, by removing Arabic lettering or motifs from Islamic mosques or removing crosses from Christian churches), and escalated repression of individual congregations.

Civics: YouTube Censorship

Ian Schwartz:

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki tells Lesley Stahl what the video platform is doing about hate speech in an interview Sunday on the CBS newsmagazine program ’60 Minutes.’

Wojcicki told ’60 Minutes’ that Google employs 10,000 people to focus on “controversial content.” She described their schedule, which includes time for therapy. Stahl also said there are reports that the “monitors” are “beginning to buy the conspiracy theories.”

“What we really had to do was tighten our enforcement of that to make sure we were catching everything and we use a combination of people and machines,” Wojcicki explained. “So Google as a whole has about 10,000 people that are focused on controversial content.

The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison. Google purchased YouTube in 2006.

UW-Madison seeks new target in how many in-state freshmen it must enroll

Kelly Meyerhofer:

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank wants to revise an undergraduate admissions policy requiring the university to admit at least 3,600 Wisconsin residents in each freshman class, calling it “not a good indicator of our commitment to in-state students.”

She will ask the UW Board of Regents at this week’s meeting to approve a requirement for UW-Madison to enroll a minimum of 5,200 new in-state undergraduates each year. That target — based on a three-year rolling average — would include Wisconsin freshmen and transfer students, along with those from Minnesota attending UW-Madison through a state reciprocity agreement.

This year’s incoming freshman class included 3,797 Wisconsin residents, the fourth-largest number of in-state students in the last 30 years. But the class also carries the distinction of having the smallest percentage of Wisconsin freshmen, 50.3% of the class, in that same time period due to increased enrollment from outside the state.

Madison West High School UW System Freshman Enrollment 1983-2011.

The Pursuit of Clout, and dependency

Taylor Lorenz:

“I want to have enough clout to be recognized for who I am, but I don’t ever want to see myself like a famous person,” Rowan said one day in his bedroom. “I just want to be able to have connections everywhere and be financially secure and monetize what I like doing.”

Rowan’s economy was a primarily teenage one. Mostly he sold ads on his Instagram to other teenagers looking to promote their own pages, apps or online storefronts. He negotiated deals through direct messages on Instagram and posted about 10 ads per day — some in the form of comments, links and images — on his various accounts. The profits supported his lifestyle; he bought Saint Laurent sneakers, an iPhone XR, a Gucci wallet. He planned to purchase a Tesla next year, when he’s eligible to get his driver’s license.

Rowan’s meme account was not his first business. Like many teenagers, Rowan had begun leveraging the internet early for financial and social gain. In middle school he’d order stickers in bulk on Amazon, then sell them at a markup to his classmates by promoting them on Snapchat.

By the time he reached high school, Rowan had entered the apparel resale market. He would purchase designer clothes and accessories from brands like Supreme on websites like Letgo, OfferUp and Craigslist, then resell them on Grailed, an app for consigning luxury items.

Rowan also experimented with dropshipping. This entails setting up an online storefront that ships products from third-party retailers to customers, profiting on the difference. Before he monetized his meme account, Rowan also sold shout-out videos on Fiverr. His followers could pay a small fee to receive a video of Rowan delivering a personalized message.

All of these are popular ways for teenagers to make money on the internet. Rowan, however, was unusually successful.

On July 26, 2019, Rowan’s world turned upside down. He was lying in bed around 11 p.m., refreshing Instagram, when he got a notification: @Zuccccccccccc had been disabled.

He figured it had happened by mistake. His page had been wrongly penalized before; he’d regained access through appeals to the company. That wasn’t the case this time, and he wasn’t alone: Instagram had shut down dozens of popular meme pages without warning or reasoning. (According to an Instagram spokesperson, Rowan’s account was removed for violating policies.)

My Experience as a remote worker

Josh Comeau:

I had an interesting realization recently: I was three years into my career when I got my first remote job, and it’s been about three years since then. I’ve now spent half my career working in a traditional in-office software development job, and the other half working remotely!

Increasingly, remote work is becoming a common, mainstream thing. Twitter pundits have been quick to form and share opinions, and I’ve seen a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about what “remote work” is, and how it works.

This is part 1 of a three-part blog post series. Today, I’ll share what my experience has been like—it’ll be an honest look at the ups and downs of remote life. Hopefully, this context will be helpful if you’ve been considering remote work for yourself!

Teachers and Low Expecations

David Blaska:

Julie Marburger was a school teacher at Cedar Creek, Texas, a suburb of Austin. She posted this on social media (H/T Greg L.) shortly before the end of the 2019-2020 school year:

I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. I have already made the decision to leave teaching at the end of this year, and today, I don’t know if I will make it even that long. Parents have become far too disrespectful, and their children are even worse. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do…teach kids.

I am including photos that I took in my classroom over the past two days. This is how my classroom regularly looks after my students spend all day there. Keep in mind that many of the items damaged or destroyed by my students are my personal possessions or I purchased myself, because I have NO classroom budget.

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

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.

They have High attendance. They have been in the same (you know) feeder school they have not had high mobility. There is no excuse for 12 of my students to be reading at the first second or third grade level and that’s where they’re at and I’m angry and I’m not the only one that’s angry.

The teachers are angry because we are being held accountable for things that we didn’t do at the high school level. Of those 24 students, 21 of them have been enrolled in Madison for four or more years.

China’s CRISPR babies: Read exclusive excerpts from the unseen original research

Antonio Regalado:

Earlier this year a source sent us a copy of an unpublished manuscript describing the creation of the first gene-edited babies, born last year in China. Today, we are making excerpts of that manuscript public for the first time.

Titled “Birth of Twins After Genome Editing for HIV Resistance,” and 4,699 words long, the still unpublished paper was authored by He Jiankui, the Chinese biophysicist who created the edited twin girls. A second manuscript we also received discusses laboratory research on human and animal embryos.

The metadata in the files we were sent indicate that the two draft papers were edited by He in late November 2018 and appear to be what he initially submitted for publication. A combined manuscript may also exist. After consideration by at least two prestigious journals, Nature and JAMA, his research remains unpublished.

The text of the twins paper is replete with expansive claims of a medical breakthrough that can “control the HIV epidemic.” It claims “success”—a word used more than once—in using a “novel therapy” to render the girls resistant to HIV. Yet surprisingly, it makes little attempt to prove that the twins really are resistant to the virus. And the text largely ignores data elsewhere in the paper suggesting that the editing went wrong.

How the great truth dawned

Gary Saul Morson:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume opus, The Gulag Archipelago, which some have called the most important masterpiece of the twentieth century, is subtitled: “An Experiment in Literary Investigation.” Consider how odd that is. No Westerner would call such a work “literary,” lest someone discount its documentary value. Literature is one thing, truth another, isn’t that correct? But Solzhenitsyn insists that absolutely everything included is strictly factual, a claim validated when the Soviet Union fell and archives were opened. What, then, is literary about the book? It is worth noting that Russia’s most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Svetlana Alexievich, also produced literary works that were purely factual. With these two writers we encounter something essential to the Russian tradition.

Russians revere literature more than anyone else in the world. When Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina was being serialized, Dostoevsky, in a review of its latest installment, opined that “at last the existence of the Russian people has been justified.” It is hard to imagine Frenchmen or Englishmen, let alone Americans, even supposing that their existence required justification; but if they did, they would surely not point to a novel. Would we mention the iPhone? But to Russians Dostoevsky’s comment appeared unremarkable.

If Americans want the truth about a historical period, we turn to historians, not novelists, but in Russia it is novelists who are presumed to have a deeper understanding.

We usually assume that literature exists to depict life, but Russians often speak as if life exists to provide material for literature. Russians, of course, excel in ballet, chess, theater, and mathematics. They invented the periodic table and non-Euclidian geometry. Nevertheless, for Russians literature is in a class by itself. The very phrase “Russian literature” carries a sacramental aura. The closest analogy may be the status of the Bible for ancient Hebrews when it was still possible to add books to it.

Latin Dictionary’s Journey: A to Zythum in 125 Years (and Counting)

Annalisa Quinn:

When German researchers began working on a new Latin dictionary in the 1890s, they thought they might finish in 15 or 20 years.

In the 125 years since, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (T.L.L.) has seen the fall of an empire, two world wars and the division and reunification of Germany. In the meantime, they are up to the letter R.

This is not for lack of effort. Most dictionaries focus on the most prominent or recent meaning of a word; this one aims to show every single way anyone ever used it, from the earliest Latin inscriptions in the sixth century B.C. to around A.D. 600. The dictionary’s founder, Eduard Wölfflin, who died in 1908, described entries in the T.L.L. not as definitions, but “biographies” of words.

Federalism, local governance, influence and how we arrived at Wisconsin ACT 10

Rachel Cohen:

Meanwhile, a top priority for labor has been sitting quietly on Pelosi’s desk and, unlike USMCA, already commands enough support to get it over the House finish line. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would be the most comprehensive rewrite of U.S. labor law in decades. It would eliminate right-to-work laws, impose new penalties on employers who retaliate against union organizing, crack down on worker misclassification, and establish new rules so that employers cannot delay negotiating collective bargaining contracts. Introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., in May, it already has 215 co-sponsors in the House and 40 in the Senate.

Wisconsin Act 10

2010: Influence and money: WEAC $1.57M for four (state) senators


To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

An emphasis on adult employment.

Fiscal Indulgences

Only 9% of 15-year-olds can tell the difference between fact and opinion

Jenny Anderson:

In the US, 13.5% of 15-year-olds can distinguish between fact and opinion when trying to interpret a complex reading task. In the UK, it’s just 11.5%.

In the US, 13.5% of 15-year-olds can distinguish between fact and opinion when trying to interpret a complex reading task. In the UK, it’s just 11.5%.

Those results are both better than the OECD average of 9%, according to the latest results of PISA, or the Programme for International Student Assessment, an international test of math, science, and reading which is administered by the OECD every three years.

“The world continues to change but education systems have a hard time keeping up,” said Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education unit.

Like in previous years, the top performers hailed from Asia. China 1 and Singapore scored significantly higher in reading than all the other places that participated in the latest test.

“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

Clear backpacks, monitored emails: life for US students under constant surveillance

Lois Beckett:

For Ingrid, a 15-year-old in La Crosse, Wisconsin, going to high school means being monitored on surveillance cameras in her hallways and classrooms. Students are required to carry their school supplies in clear backpacks, as ordinary backpacks might be used to conceal a weapon, she said. Water bottles must also be clear, so school officials can see the color of the liquid inside. The monitoring continues on the laptops students use in school. Teenagers are warned that the school is tracking what they do, and that they can get in trouble for visiting inappropriate websites.

This level of surveillance is “not too over-the-top”, Ingrid said, and she feels her classmates are generally “accepting” of it.

When it comes to digital surveillance of what they do on school laptops, “I feel like everyone’s adjusted. I don’t think anyone really cares at this point,” Ingrid said. “The subject doesn’t really come up until someone’s gotten in trouble for something. Usually it’s just like, ‘Oh, that person is stupid, looking at what they were doing on a school device. They should have known better.’”

If the school were monitoring anything on her personal cellphone, that would be a privacy violation, Ingrid said. But on her school-issued laptop? “I have no problem with it, because it’s a school device, you know?”

For decades, American school shootings have driven a booming school security industry. Last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, has helped expand the market for products that allow schools to monitor what students are doing on their computers for signs of violence or self-harm. Tech companies are now offering a range of products that help schools track the websites kids are visiting and the searches they are making; that monitor everything students are writing in school emails, chats and shared documents; or that even attempt to track what students are posting on their public social media accounts.

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West

Sui-Lee Wee and Paul Mozur:

In a dusty city in the Xinjiang region on China’s western frontier, the authorities are testing the rules of science.

With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used.

In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face.

The technology, which is also being developed in the United States and elsewhere, is in the early stages of development and can produce rough pictures good enough only to narrow a manhunt or perhaps eliminate suspects. But given the crackdown in Xinjiang, experts on ethics in science worry that China is building a tool that could be used to justify and intensify racial profiling and other state discrimination against Uighurs.

In the long term, experts say, it may even be possible for the Communist government to feed images produced from a DNA sample into the mass surveillance and facial recognition systems that it is building, tightening its grip on society by improving its ability to track dissidents and protesters as well as criminals.

Some of this research is taking place in labs run by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and at least two Chinese scientists working with the ministry on the technology have received funding from respected institutions in Europe. International scientific journals have published their findings without examining the origin of the DNA used in the studies or vetting the ethical questions raised by collecting such samples in Xinjiang.

Thermo Fisher, with offices in Madison, was mentioned in this article.

Civics: Madison School Board policy change would allow fewer suggestions for school renaming

Scott Girard:

“The current policy is a little confusing as to which provisions actually apply to current buildings and which apply to new buildings,” explained interim general counsel Sherry Terrell-Webb. “We tried to separate them out.”

The policy now requires the Citizens Naming Committee to submit at least four names for board consideration for new or existing buildings. The new version would allow the CNC to submit “up to” four possibilities for renames rather than “at least” four options.

2007: Madison School Board Drops Vang Pao Elementary’s Name

‘It Just Isn’t Working’: Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts

Dana Goldstein:

The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe. 

And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency. 

The disappointing results from the exam, the Program for International Student Assessment, were announced on Tuesday and follow those from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an American test that recently showed that two-thirds of children were not proficient readers. 

Over all, American 15-year-olds who took the PISA test scored slightly above students from peer nations in reading but below the middle of the pack in math.

My question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and Our Disastrous Reading Results.

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

Watching pornography rewires the brain to a more juvenile state

Rachel Anne Barr:

Pornography has existed throughout recorded history, transforming with the introduction of each new medium. Hundreds of sexually explicit frescoes and sculptures were found in the Mount Vesuvius ruins of Pompeii. 

Since the advent of the internet, porn use has skyrocketed to dizzying heights. Pornhub, the world’s largest free porn site, received over 33.5 billion site visits during 2018 alone. 

Science is only just beginning to reveal the neurological repercussions of porn consumption. But it is already clear that the mental health and sex lives of its widespread audience are suffering catastrophic effects. From depression to erectile dysfunction, porn appears to be hijacking our neural wiring with dire consequences. 

In my own lab, we study the neural wiring that underlies learning and memory processes. The properties of video porn make it a particularly powerful trigger for plasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Combined with the accessibility and anonymity of online porn consumption, we are more vulnerable than ever to its hyper-stimulating effects.

Hackers hold Milwaukee-based tech company’s data for ransom; nursing homes affected

Sophie Carson:

Russian hackers are holding hostage data from a Milwaukee-based company that provides technology services to more than 100 nursing homes across the country after the company couldn’t afford a $14 million ransom demand.

The hack against Virtual Care Provider Inc., which provides internet security and data storage services to nursing homes and acute-care facilities, means that some locations cannot access patient records, use the internet, pay employees or order crucial medications.

Virtual Care Provider Inc. said on its website it was working to restore services after the Nov. 17 attack. In an interview with cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs, who runs the blog KrebsOnSecurity.com, chief executive Karen Christianson said the ransomware attack has affected 80,000 computers.

Some affected facilities could be forced out of business, and patients’ health is at risk if the data is not accessible, Christianson told Krebs.

“We have employees asking when we’re going to make payroll,” Christianson said. “But right now all we’re dealing with is getting electronic medical records back up and life-threatening situations handled first.”

Civics: DHS wants to expand airport face recognition scans to include US citizens

Zack Whittaker:

Homeland Security wants to expand facial recognition checks for travelers arriving to and departing from the U.S. to also include citizens, which had previously been exempt from the mandatory checks.

In a filing, the department has proposed that all travelers, and not just foreign nationals or visitors, will have to complete a facial recognition check before they are allowed to enter the U.S., but also to leave the country.

Facial recognition for departing flights has increased in recent years as part of Homeland Security’s efforts to catch visitors and travelers who overstay their visas. The department, whose responsibility is to protect the border and control immigration, has a deadline of 2021 to roll out facial recognition scanners to the largest 20 airports in the United States, despite facing a rash of technical challenges.

Commentary on a Madison style (non independent) charter school: Badger Rock

Scott Girard:

A team of reviewers for the school’s charter found it “fails to meet expectations” in seven criteria, “meets expectations” in 29 and “exceeds expectations” in two. The fails to meet expectations criteria include being below the enrollment required by the current contract, 120. This year the school has 97 students enrolled.

In the school’s presentation Monday, Tran highlighted the performance of student focus groups compared to district averages, like 56% of the school’s black students meeting growth targets in reading in 2018-19 compared to 50% of black students district-wide. Other highlights included 78% of students with disabilities meeting growth targets at the school to the district’s 52% and 36% of English Language Learners meeting reading proficiency at Badger Rock compared to 25% district-wide.

Board members pointed out that the growth numbers are different than how many students were proficient in subjects, numbers that were generally lower for the school. In other words, while students improved at Badger Rock, they still were not meeting grade-level expectations. Board members asked for more specific information on student proficiency before their January vote.

Interim superintendent Jane Belmore is expected to issue a recommendation to the board in a memo ahead of that meeting.

Notes and links on Badger Rock.

The Madison school district is planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum in 2020.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2011: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected an independent charter proposal. The local board has never authorized an independent charter – one not subject to local teacher union requirements.

Globalization dissolves local cultures, even as technology turns us inward.

Joshua Mitchell:

During the run-up to the 2016 election, leaders in the Democratic and Republican Parties who had agreed about nothing for a generation concluded that “populism” was the emergent threat. But partisans seldom have clear vision. To understand our troubled world, we must do better. “I have tried to see not differently but further than any party,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his introduction to Democracy in America. “While they are busy with tomorrow, I have wished to consider the whole future.” We should follow his lead, in the hope of seeing further than today’s parties.
Democracy in America, written shortly after Tocqueville’s visit to Jacksonian America—that brief historical period of which the supposed “populism” of today is an echo—makes no mention of populism. What did Tocqueville see? During the 1950s, scholars thought that he saw American exceptionalism and invoked his insights to argue that Marx’s ideas could never take hold in the United States. In the 1990s, they thought that Tocqueville saw the need for civic association, and relied on his views to argue that formerly Communist countries required such connections for the spirit of democracy to take hold. These are valid but partial glimpses of the larger meaning of Tocqueville’s work. In a haunting letter, written in 1856, a few years before he died, Tocqueville lamented, “This profound saying could be applied especially to me: it is not good for man to be alone.” This observation brings us closer to the truth. Tocqueville’s writing about Jacksonian America was informed by the central problem that he saw everywhere he looked: existential homelessness. Democracy in America is an extended rumination on the homeless man of the democratic age.

Three months into Seattle’s new $600 million-plus education levy, where has the money been going?

Neal Morton:

A year after Seattle voters approved the city’s largest-ever education tax, money has started flowing from the $600 million-plus levy to expand preschool classrooms and get more students into college.

The city’s education department also recently announced a $400,000 initiative with the YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish to help youth experiencing homelessness. And for the first time, charter schools may soon compete with traditional K-12 schools in Seattle for annual awards of up to $560,000 to pay for tutoring, family engagement and other programs meant to support historically underserved students and communities.

“Our main goals are to make sure our kids are kindergarten ready, kids graduate from high school college and career ready and we want to make sure kids have opportunities for livable wage jobs,” said Dwane Chappelle, director of the city’s department of education and early learning.

Civics: 50% of millennials would give up this fundamental American right to have their student loans forgiven

Yoni Blumberg:

It’s not news that millennials are in debt.

42.3 million Americans owe a total of $1.33 trillion in federal student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 20-somethings pay on average $351 a month, reports the Federal Reserve. The median monthly payment for that age range is $203.

Now a survey from Credible, conducted through Pollfish, offers insight into just what millennials would be willing to do to be free of those loans. The most popular answer the 500 respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 chose for what they would be desperate enough to sacrifice: suffrage.

Half of them said they would give up the ability to vote in the next two presidential elections.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as such a surprise. According to Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 50 percent of 18- to-29-year-olds actually turned out to vote in the 2016 presidential election anyway.

The Obama Administration federalized student loans.

Universities should not be investigating rape cases

Joanna Williams:

Someone tells you they have been the victim of a crime. What would you advise them to do? The answer seems obvious: go to the police. But what if the victim is a student and the crime is rape? Surely, given the seriousness of the crime, it is even more obvious that they should go to the police. Apparently not. According to some university lecturers and administrators, women’s rights campaigners and journalists, it’s not the police who should be dealing with accusations of rape – it is university disciplinary officers.

In October, online student magazine the Tab reported on the case of Alice, a student at the University of Birmingham. Alice met fellow student David (not their real names) at a friend’s birthday party. At the end of the evening the pair went back to Alice’s house. The next day Alice texted her housemate in distress, asking for help in getting David to leave. ‘It got a bit rapey’, she messaged. ‘Like I was crying… and he didn’t notice.’

Two years later, with their final exams approaching, Alice decided to tell staff at her university what had happened to her. She expected her allegations would be taken seriously and investigated, that she would be protected from seeing David on campus in the run-up to exams, and that she would achieve ‘closure’ before leaving university. Instead, disciplinary officers told her that as the incident occurred off campus and such a long period of time had elapsed, they were not prepared to hold an investigation. They could, instead, send a letter to David, setting out the university’s ‘expectations in respect of his future conduct’ while he remained a student – presumably demanding he stay away from Alice. This was obviously not what Alice wanted to hear, but it seems a sensible response. Of course, Alice was not prevented from taking her accusations to the police if she wanted to pursue the case further.

Why is there more intellectual freedom in Bucharest than Cambridge?

Radomir Tylecote:

“You can talk about anything you like,’ said Radu, a young Romanian academic when he invited me to a conference in Bucharest. The theme was ‘Real liberty or new serfdom?’ marking the anniversary of the fall of Nicolae Ceauşescu 30 years ago. The audience was made up of Romanian undergraduates.

The keynote speaker, a German federalist, was planning on making the classical liberal case for the EU, which made the title of my lecture – ‘The classical liberal case against the EU’ – a no-brainer. But I was nervous when I told Radu what I wanted to talk about. Thirty years ago, Romanians had been ruled by a man who literally gave his critics cancer. Would fears of criticising the powerful die hard in Bucharest? I waited for the explanation that there had a been a mix up, that my lecture would be cancelled, and… ‘Excellent!’ replied Radu. ‘That’s exactly what we need.’

A week later I was preparing to talk to a student politics society at Cambridge and I suggested the same subject. Only this time I did get the explanation. ‘The problem is… we’re looking for something a bit more mainstream.’ Mainstream? But this is broadly the view of 52 per cent of the UK population! ‘Right. It’s just that we had a pro-Brexit speaker once and it all got a bit uncomfortable, a bit… controversial.’ Controversial ideas? At a university? Whatever next?

Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won’

Tim Baker:

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

‘Brilliant’ Philosophers and ‘Funny’ Psychology Instructors: What a Data-Visualization Tool Tells Us About How Students See Their Professors

Beth McMurtrie:

A few years ago, Schmidt mined 14 million reviews on RateMyProfessors to create an interactive tool, Gendered Language in Teacher Reviews. Plug a term into the chart and you can see how many times per million words of text it is used, broken down by gender and discipline. It’s a fascinating — and highly addictive — look at the way in which students perceive their professors. At times the results can seem absurd.

Schmidt’s original plan was to write an article about the tool, which he created in 2015. But, he says, “I couldn’t quite figure out what that article would say, so I just put it online.”

The tool turned out to be quite popular: People have entered about 50,000 to 100,000 search terms every month. “It’s been interesting because I see a lot of people use it for a lot of different things,” Schmidt says, including introductory teaching workshops and diversity training programs. While data from RateMyProfessors obviously has limitations — the reviews are voluntary, for one — Schmidt says that a lot of his findings correlate with what the research shows about how students evaluate professors differently, based on gender.

So, how do students describe their male and female professors? Let’s take a look.

Who’s funnier? Men, apparently. Male psychology professors, it seems, are particularly hilarious. Men are so funny, in fact, that even the most somber among them — that would be engineering professors — are funnier than most women, scoring 797 references per million words of text, a higher number than women in 16 other disciplines.

But take heart, female psychology professors. Like your male counterparts, you’re also funnier than your female colleagues in every other discipline.

What should be taught in high school?


I’m an educator with a CS / programming background. There’s a possibility that I’ll be moving into the ‘Information and Communications Technology’ role next year at my medium sized high school (grades 9-12, ~700 students, diverse student population). My jurisdiction’s curriculum in this area is not well developed, and there are no standardized tests to prepare for. I’ll have an amount of freedom in deciding course content that’s unusual for high school teachers.

What would HN have the modern western high school student learn with respect to “Information and Communications Technology”?

Minority Voters Chafe as Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools

The night before Democratic presidential candidates took to a debate stage here last week, black and Latino charter school parents and supporters gathered in a bland hotel conference room nearby to make signs they hoped would get the politicians’ attention.

“Charter schools = self-determination,” one sign read. “Black Democrats want charters!” another blared.

At issue is the delicate politics of race and education. For more than two decades, Democrats have largely backed public charter schools as part of a compromise to deliver black and Latino families a way out of failing district schools. Charters were embraced as an alternative to the taxpayer-funded vouchers for private-school tuition supported by Republicans, who were using the issue to woo minority voters.

The world needs Cliqz. The world needs more search engines.


The illusory truth effect

This has been even worsened and amplified since Google extracts answers (“facts”) from websites – it’s their attempt to keep traffic and money in Google. It clearly works. Now less than half of searches lead to a click to another website. More than a half of searches end on Google. We have reached the tipping point where people start and end their information request in Google. Users might believe everything they see there is true. But Google extracts these answers from any website, good and bad ones. Google is not Wikipedia, there is no community governance. There are not multiple arguments. There are no checks and balances. This wouldn’t be a problem if Google wouldn’t be so big. Here, the one answer Google choses, becomes the fact for 93% of searches. And when you repeat something often enough, however false – it becomes the truth.

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

The Slowness of Literature and the Shadow of Knowledge

Karl One Knausgaard:

I’m not thinking of how long it takes to read a book but of how long its effects can be felt, and of the strange phenomenon that even literature written in other times, on the basis of assumptions radically different to our own and, occasionally, hugely alien to us, can continue to speak to us—and, not only that, but can tell us something about who we are, something that we would not have seen otherwise, or would have seen differently.

Some sixty years before the birth of Christ, Lucretius wrote his only known work, “On the Nature of Things,” a didactic poem about how the world is made of atoms. The atomic reality that Lucretius describes is not an isolated phenomenon—it is not a separate realm of electrons and nuclei, electromagnetic fields, particles and waves. In Lucretius’ poem, the atomic dimension exists side by side with the world as we see it every day, with its grassy plains and rivers, its bridges and buildings, its cows and goats, its birds and its sky. Lucretius knew that the two domains are sides of the same coin, that the one does not exist without the other. There is little doubt in my mind that the world today would look different if the progress of science had been anchored in our human reality instead of losing sight of it, for in that recognition lies an obligation and an unceasing correction: we are no greater than the forest—we are no greater even than the tree. And we are made of the same constituents.

An interview with historian James Oakes on the New York Times’ 1619 Project

Tom Mackaman:

Q. Can you discuss some of the recent literature on slavery and capitalism, which argues that chattel slavery was, and is, the decisive feature of capitalism, especially American capitalism? I am thinking in particular of the recent books by Sven Beckert, Ed Baptist and Walter Johnson. This seems to inform the contribution to the 1619 Project by Matthew Desmond.

A. Collectively their work has prompted some very strong criticism from scholars in the field. My concern is that by avoiding some of the basic analytical questions, most of the scholars have backed into a neo-liberal economic interpretation of slavery, though I think I’d exempt Sven Beckert somewhat from that, because I think he’s come to do something somewhat different theoretically.

What you really have with this literature is a marriage of neo-liberalism and liberal guilt. When you marry those two things, neo-liberal politics and liberal guilt, this is what you get. You get the New York Times, you get the literature on slavery and capitalism.

Q. And Matthew Desmond’s argument that all of the horrors of contemporary American capitalism are rooted in slavery …

A. There’s been a kind of standard bourgeois-liberal way of arguing that goes all the way back to the 18th century, that whenever you are talking about some form of oppression, or whenever you yourself are oppressed, you instinctively go to the analogy of slavery. At least since the 18th century in our society, in western liberal societies, slavery has been the gold standard of oppression. The colonists, in the imperial crisis, complained that they were the “slaves” of Great Britain. It was the same thing all the way through the 19th century. The leaders of the first women’s movement would sometimes liken the position of a woman in a northern household to that of a slave on a southern plantation. The first workers’ movement, coming out of the culture of republican independence, attacked wage labor as wage slavery. Civil War soldiers would complain that they were treated like slaves.

‘Someone shot, but the clock didn’t stop’: Learning Shakespeare and writing sonnets in youth prison

Madeline Buckley:

The program, put on by a Michigan-based organization, Shakespeare Behind Bars, will end with a performance on Dec. 22 that will incorporate scenes from Shakespeare works as well as the detainees’ own original work.

The students were evaluated before the program, with some in the class shown to have a reading level of about third grade, according to Curt Tofteland, founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars. None of the students interviewed by the Tribune reported having read any Shakespeare in high school classes. The Tribune does not name juvenile detainees.

Tofteland knows the program comes with challenges. The National Endowment for the Arts wants the program to generate empirical data as part of the grant. But the progress of the program is sometimes hard to measure in those terms, he said. He views the voluntary program as a success when the teens walk in the door.

This is how Google will Collapse

Daniel Colin James:

At its peak, Google had a massive and loyal user-base across a staggering number of products, but advertising revenue was the glue that held everything together. As the numbers waned and the competitors circled, Google’s core began to buckle under the weight of its vast empire.

Google had been a driving force in the technology industry ever since its disruptive entry in 1998. But in a world where people grew to resent being tracked and profiled, Google’s business model was not innovation-friendly, and it missed several opportunities to pivot, ultimately rendering its numerous grand and ambitious projects unsustainable. Innovation costs money, and Google’s main stream of revenue had started to dry up.

In a few short years, Google had gone from a fun, commonplace verb to a reminder of how quickly a giant can fall.

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

As Recession Looms, Even Harvard Is Uncertain About What That Means For Higher Ed

Chronicle of Higher Education:

That’s partly because so much has changed since the Great Recession. The university has new revenue streams. Officials are in the process of restructuring the endowment-management company. And an American culture of greater skepticism toward higher education means that universities may bear the brunt of any downturn on many fronts.

“Some economists have suggested that student debt could be a precipitating factor in the next recession, which would place higher education in the awkward position of being vulnerable to and potentially blamed for the financial crisis,” reads one document of several posted to Harvard’s website on the university’s financial planning. The university’s office of financial strategy and planning wrote that higher education may face greater regulatory control and additional tax obligations because of the changed sentiment. …

“We’re 123 months into the longest expansion maybe in U.S. history, and we see indications that we’re toward the end of the cycle,” said Thomas J. Hollister, chief financial officer, in a Harvard publication. “All of our schools and units are doing scenario planning, thinking through what they can or should be doing now to prepare for a variety of economic pressures.” …

Moody’s in February cited Harvard’s “effective” risk-management strategies as allowing the university to adjust to bad market conditions, and Jeffrey Kaufmann, lead Harvard analyst at Moody’s, said that the university has “reputational power” that positions it well in an uncertain environment. Still, Harvard has urged departments to pay down debt and build their cash reserves. In donor management, employees are encouraged to “review restricted gift terms for opportunities for more expansive use of funds.”

Schools and units regularly submit rolling five-year financial plans, and this year they must include additional “downside” plans and identify activities “where there may be opportunities to limit or reduce scale or scope,” according to the university’s financial report for the 2019 fiscal year.

Why was it believed that the Aztecs greeted Cortés as a deity?

Camilla Townsend:

What really happened when the messengers returned with their report was that Moctezuma sent scouts out to every important town between Tenochtitlan and the coast, and then set up a veritable war room. This is exactly what one would expect him to have done, given his history as a ferociously successful tlatoani who believed wholeheartedly in order, discipline, and information. Years later, a man who had been young at the time remembered: “A report of everything that was happening was given and relayed to Moctezuma. Some of the messengers would be arriving as others were leaving. There was no time when they weren’t listening, when reports weren’t being given.” The scouts even repeated a summary of the religious instruction that was being regularly offered by the Spanish priest and translated by Jerónimo de Aguilar and Marina. When the Spaniards later got to Tenochtitlan and tried to deliver a sermon to Moctezuma, he cut them off, explaining that he was already familiar with their little speech, his messengers having presented it to him in full.

This Milwaukee school went from the bottom to the top in the state’s report cards. Here’s how it happened.

Alan Borsuk:

Willingness to benefit from outside help and advice, including a sizable group of tutors from United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay, a relationship that goes back more than 25 years. Pratt was also part of the coaching and mentoring efforts of the former Schools That Can Milwaukee organization.

Willingness to change and improve. If students aren’t doing well, “then we as adults need to change our practices,” Carter said.

Celebrating success at almost any chance. Small prizes for students who are on time every day for a week, for a class that has 100% attendance for a month, and so on.

At Pratt, most students take part, wearing dark blue, light blue or white polo shirts. On the door of one classroom several days ago, figures were posted: attendance 94%, uniforms 88%. Carter thinks the uniform policy “cuts down on a lot of the other stuff that gets in the way of education.”

Is Plagiarism Wrong?

Agnes Callard:

I committed my first academic crime at the age of six. It occurred against a wider criminal background, namely, that of my parents, who had illegally absconded from communist Hungary to New York City via “a vacation” to Vienna and a brief stay in a refugee shelter in Rome.

The crime I can claim as my own begins with the need to learn English. I had learned some Italian in kindergarten in Rome, and some Russian because that was the language of the refugees we were housed with, but at home we spoke Hungarian, and my parents’ English was not great. From a very young age, well before I learned how to read, I had loved memorizing and reciting (Hungarian) poetry. So when we got to America one of the first things my mother bought me was a book of poetry: Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic.

In the United States, only 32% of people believe what the news is telling them.


One of the most significant issues people have with the news media and journalism is transparency.
In a recent report by Knight Foundation, they found that transparency is one of the biggest factors in determining levels of trust towards news media outlets. 71% of respondents stated that a commitment to transparency is crucial when it comes to choosing a news outlet they trust.
For a news story to be deemed as transparent, the journalist or media organisation by which the story was published must follow some rules. Some of these rules include disclosing the source of their information, the reason for the story being published, and proof of accuracy.
Despite these rules around the accuracy of the information, many major publications continue to publish misleading info on various topics. For example, in 2017, The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) filed a complaint against The Daily Mail.

Related: Former Obama foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes: “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Teaching at a Philly school left me so ‘utterly broken’ I had to quit

Brian Gallagher:

During my first year as a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, I was nominated to be featured on the District website’s “Inspiration Corner.” I helped facilitate the Writer’s Matter program for my students, helping one win an award. I ran for, and won, our school’s election for building representative. When the district did walkthroughs, my principal consistently told me that I was the “shining star.” When deciding if I would come back this year, she joked that she wouldn’t be a good reference for me because she wanted me to stay.

I don’t say any of this to brag but to show that I have been committed, dedicated, and respected. I also say this because this week, I handed in my resignation.

Loving Latin at the End of the World

Joel Christensen:

Imagine the rush to leave your doomed city—the fires, the smoke, the uncertainty of where you will go, how long you will stay when you get there. In those few moments to consider your possessions, you think, “Ah, but I might have time for a book!” What do you pull from your shelves? A sacred text? Some handy and serviceable issues of Popular Mechanics? Or perhaps, like the Oxford Renaissance literature professor Nicola Gardini, you reach for Vergil’s Aeneid. “In the event of global catastrophe,” he writes in his newly translated book Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language, that would be “the book to salvage.” At that moment you become Aeneas, bending to carry the pater of a dying patria: your Anchises is the epic of Imperial Rome—and the legacy and detritus that comes with it.

Introducing the value of knowledge flows for individuals and the enterprise

Nicolas Granatino:

Knowledge management (KM) is defined in Wikipedia as ‘the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organisation’.  It originated in the early 90’s as a scientific discipline and its practice was adopted in enterprise to manage and leverage an intangible asset which was increasingly seen as being strategic.

In its early days, the practice of KM and its enabling software solutions focused on digitisation, storage and retrieval of documents.  KM was then mainly preoccupied with stocks of knowledge.  However, with the emergence of Wikis (1995), RSS (early 1999) and Weblogs (also in the late 1990s and now more commonly known as Blogs), individuals and enterprises saw the emergence of new possibilities around knowledge and information management.  Although I first became aware of the increasing importance of knowledge flows in KM for the enterprise in John Hagel et al.’s series of articles in the Harvard Business Review in 2009 where the authors advocated quite provocatively to ‘Abandon Stocks, Embrace flows’,  Lee Lefever had written an earlier series of 3 articles more nuanced headlined ‘Introduction to Stocks and Flows in online communications’ back in 2004 (thanks to Harold Jarche for the info).  He defined the two as follows:

Human biases are baked into algorithms. Now what?


Algorithms, the computer programs that decide so many things about our lives these days, work with the human data we feed them. That data, of course, can be biased based on race, gender and other factors. 

Recently, regulators began investigating the new Apple Card and Apple’s partner, Goldman Sachs, after several users reported that in married households, men were given higher credit limits than women — even if the women had higher credit scores. 

I spoke with Safiya Noble, an associate professor at UCLA who wrote a book about biased algorithms. She said women having little financial independence or freedom over centuries is reflected in the data algorithms use to evaluate credit. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Safiya Noble: You’d look at that history happening by the hundreds of thousands of transactions a month or more. That starts to become the so-called truth or the baseline of data that gets collected into these systems. This is one of the reasons why women still have a very difficult time, and I think the Apple credit card was a perfect example of the flawed logics. The unfortunate part is this happens a lot to working-class people, people who aren’t rich and who may or may not even know what’s happening to them.

Indiana Wesleyan Student Kicked Out of Honors College for Questioning Cultural Appropriation

Robby Soave:

Two years ago, Micah Sample, a libertarian student at Indiana Wesleyan University, penned a rant against the campus’s guidance to students to avoid offensive Halloween costumes and published it on Facebook.

The post was a tad on the trollish side: Sample referred to IWU’s Halloween costume awareness checklist as “cancerous,” and accused the social justice left of fetishizing victimhood.

“I’m going to culturally appropriate as much as I please, and I couldn’t possibly care less about who gets offended,” he wrote.

The statement was provocative, but it wasn’t crude or threatening. Some of Sample’s Facebook friends objected to the tone of it, and said so. That should have been the end of the entire ordeal.

It wasn’t. Instead, IWU launched an investigation. Then administration felt compelled to issue a statement denouncing the post. Then the university suspended Sample from his student leadership positions. IWU deemed Sample guilty of harassment and disruptive behavior: He arrived at a meeting with administrators only to learn that they had already reached this verdict without providing the student any meaningful opportunity to defend himself. Ultimately, the Honors College ejected him.

“Before going through the Student Conduct process, I believed that Indiana Wesleyan University was a place for free thought, dialogue, speech, and expression,” wrote Sample in an email to Reason. “Afterward, it became apparent that this was nothing more than a facade.”

Gaps in wealth and income could be lower than you think

The Economist:

Even in a world of polarisation, fake news and social media, some beliefs remain universal, and central to today’s politics. None is more influential than the idea that inequality has risen in the rich world. People read about it in newspapers, hear about it from their politicians and feel it in their daily lives. This belief motivates populists, who say selfish metropolitan elites have pulled the ladder of opportunity away from ordinary people. It has given succour to the left, who propose ever more radical ways to redistribute wealth (see article). And it has caused alarm among business people, many of whom now claim to pursue a higher social purpose, lest they be seen to subscribe to a model of capitalism that everyone knows has failed.

In many ways the failure is real. Opportunities are restricted. The cost of university education in America has spiralled beyond the reach of many families. Across the rich world, as rents and house prices have soared, it has become harder to afford to live in the successful cities which contain the most jobs (see Free exchange). Meanwhile, the rusting away of old industries has concentrated poverty in particular cities and towns, creating highly visible pockets of deprivation. By some measures inequalities in health and life expectancy are getting worse.

Yet precisely because the idea of soaring inequality has become an almost universally held belief, it receives too little scrutiny. That is a mistake, because the four empirical pillars upon which the temple rests—which are not about housing or geography, but income and wealth—are not as firm as you might think. As our briefing this week explains, these four pillars are being shaken by new research.

Appleton school board signs off on policy that some say endangers free speech, others see as a constitutional safeguard

Sami West:

The board voted 5-2 against a motion to replace the administrative guidelines, which require speakers to submit their speeches ahead of time and swear under oath to stay on script, with a school board-created policy, as called for by critics who said the new guidelines are unconstitutional and give the superintendent too much power.

The board’s decision comes nearly six months after the Rev. Alvin Dupree, a school board member, delivered what some decried as a Christian-themed speech at North High School’s graduation ceremony. The speech provoked community debate over freedom of speech and what kinds of messages about religion are appropriate in a public school setting.

In his speech, Dupree, founder and minister of Family First Ministries, said his source of strength is his faith and relationship with Jesus Christ and invited fellow Christians to applaud in agreement.

School choice: separating fact from fiction

Matthew Ladner:

School choice is a hot topic in the United States. Private school vouchers, public charter schools, open enrollment, and homeschooling all regularly appear on the policy agenda as ways to improve the educational experience and outcomes for students, parents, and the broader society. Pundits often make claims about the various ways in which parents select schools and thus customize their child’s education. What claims about school choice are grounded in actual evidence?

This book presents systematic reviews of the social science research regarding critical aspects of parental school choice. How do parents choose schools and what do they seek? What effects do their choices have on the racial integration of schools and the performance of the schools that serve non-choosing students? What features of public charter schools are related to higher student test scores? What effects does school choice have on important non-cognitive outcomes including parent satisfaction, student character traits, and how far students go in school? What do we know about homeschooling as a school choice? This book, originally published as a special issue of the Journal of School Choice, provides evidence-based answers to those vital questions.

Civics: Commentary on the “real class war”

Julius Krein:

Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite credentials). Oc­casionally, it is given an explicitly moral connotation (“somewheres” versus “anywheres,” “deplorables” versus “cosmopolitans”). All of these glosses effectively track basic economic categories: those who are seen to have enjoyed success in recent decades and those who have been “left behind.”

Like most clichés, this one contains elements of truth. The work­ing class has experienced economic stagnation and precarity, and even declining life expectancy in the United States, as well as lower family stability and civic engagement. Social mobility has declined, while inequality has widened.

But it is precisely for these reasons that the working class is unlikely to be decisive in shaping politics for the foreseeable future. However one defines the working class, it has scarcely any political agency in the current system and no apparent means for acquiring any. At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies. In countries like France, the working class might still be able to veto certain policies through public demonstrations, but such actions seem unlikely in the United States, and even the most heroic efforts of this kind show little prospect of achieving systemic reforms.

The Real Class War

Julius Krein:

Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite credentials). Oc­casionally, it is given an explicitly moral connotation (“somewheres” versus “anywheres,” “deplorables” versus “cosmopolitans”). All of these glosses effectively track basic economic categories: those who are seen to have enjoyed success in recent decades and those who have been “left behind.”

Like most clichés, this one contains elements of truth. The work­ing class has experienced economic stagnation and precarity, and even declining life expectancy in the United States, as well as lower family stability and civic engagement. Social mobility has declined, while inequality has widened.

But it is precisely for these reasons that the working class is unlikely to be decisive in shaping politics for the foreseeable future. However one defines the working class, it has scarcely any political agency in the current system and no apparent means for acquiring any. At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies. In countries like France, the working class might still be able to veto certain policies through public demonstrations, but such actions seem unlikely in the United States, and even the most heroic efforts of this kind show little prospect of achieving systemic reforms.

For regimes that style themselves liberal democracies, this situation might be disconcerting, yet it has persisted for some time. The policy agenda that brought about the political and economic marginalization of the working class was adopted between the 1970s and the early 2000s. A more organized working class was unable to stop it then; it is difficult to imagine a weakened working class reversing it now.

Civics: Unsettling precedents for today’s world Events evoke not the 1930s but the period before the First World War

Martin Wolf:

History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. This remark is often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain. But it is a good one.

History is the most powerful guide to the present, because it speaks to what is permanent in our humanity, especially the forces that drive us towards conflict. Since the biggest current geopolitical event, by far, is the burgeoning friction between the US and China, it is illuminating to look back to similar events in the past. In a thought-provoking book,Destined for War, Harvard’s Graham Allison started with the account of the Peloponnesian war by Thucydides, the great Athenian historian of the 5th century BC. However, I will focus on the three eras of conflict of the past 120 years. From them much is to be learnt.

The most recent conflict was the cold war (1948-1989) between a liberal democratic west, led by the US, and the communist Soviet Union, a transformed version of the pre-first world war Russian empire. This was a great power conflict between the chief victors of the second world war. But it was also an ideological conflict over the nature of modernity. The west ultimately won. It did so because the scale of western economies and the speed of western technological advances vastly outmatched those of the Soviet Union. The subjects of the Soviet empire also became disenchanted with their corrupt and despotic rulers and the Soviet leadership itself concluded its system had failed. Despite moments of danger, notably the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the cold war also ended peacefully.

Going further back, we reach the interwar years. This was an interregnum in which the attempt to restore the pre-first world war order failed, the US withdrew from Europe and a huge financial and economic crisis, emanating originally from the US, ravaged the world economy. It was a time of civil strife, populism, nationalism, communism, fascism and national socialism. The 1930s are an abiding lesson in the possibility of democratic collapse once elites fail. They are also a lesson of what happens when great countries fall into the hands of power-hungry lunatics.

Madison West high school has conducted several experiments over the years, including:

English 10

Small Learning Communities

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.

Giving thanks matters

Joel Kotkin:

Thanksgiving may be approaching, but its chief value, that of gratitude, seems oddly out of fashion. When the Pilgrims broke bread with their Native American neighbors, it was with full appreciation of the role of Providence in their salvation.

Such a sense of appreciation is increasingly rare. Most Americans, according to a Templeton Foundation survey, feel they receive little gratitude at home or the office. The feeling of gratitude appears to drop with age. Today’s millennials are the least grateful. This is not surprising given the new generations’ low levels of interest in the very things we are likely to feel grateful for, such as family, religion or America itself.

Older people, who often have overcome hard times, are more grateful. They witnessed the triumph of liberal democracy over communism. Many of them, like me, were raised by parents who came from poverty, and instilled the notion that, for all our problems, living here, at this time, in this country, is a manifest blessing not to demeaned or ignored.

Failure Found to Be an “Essential Prerequisite” for Success; Contra Madison’s Methods

David Noonan:

The recipe for succeeding in any given field is hardly a mystery: good ideas, hard work, discipline, imagination, perseverance and maybe a little luck. Oh, and let’s not forget failure, which Dashun Wang and his colleagues at Northwestern University call “the essential prerequisite for success” in a new paper that, among other things, is based on an analysis of 776,721 grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health from 1985 to 2015.

In their effort to create a mathematical model that can reliably predict the success or failure of an undertaking, the researchers also analyzed 46 years’ worth of venture capital startup investments. They also tested the model on what Wang calls their “least conventional” but nevertheless important data set — 170,350 terrorist attacks carried out between 1970 and 2017.

The takeaway? “Every winner begins as a loser,” says Wang, associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, who conceived and led the study.

Madison West High School to test “grading floor”.

“Being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at Madison East, especially if you are black or hispanic.” – David Blaska comments.

Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information


Data-driven products and services are often marketed with the potential to save users time and money or even lead to better health and well-being. Still, large shares of U.S. adults are not convinced they benefit from this system of widespread data gathering. Some 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection. At the same time, a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%). Most also feel they have little or no control over how these entities use their personal information, according to a new survey of U.S. adults by Pew Research Center that explores how Americans feel about the state of privacy in the nation.

Americans’ concerns about digital privacy extend to those who collect, store and use their personal information. Additionally, majorities of the public are not confident that corporations are good stewards of the data they collect. For example, 79% of Americans say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility if they misuse or compromise personal information, and 69% report having this same lack of confidence that firms will use their personal information in ways they will be comfortable with.

“For the most part, the top of Google’s page of results directs you towards more Google products and services”

James Temperton:

As a result, 50 per cent of all Google searches now end without a click. Great for Google, bad for the list of websites below that also contain this information and that you will never visit. Do the same search on DuckDuckGo and the top result is IMDb. It might sound small but issues like this are fundamental to how the internet works – and who makes the most money from it. Google’s prioritisation of its results, and a perceived bias towards its own products and services, has landed the company in hot water with the European Commission slapping it with multi-billion pound fines and launching investigation after investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour. What’s good for Google, the commission argues, isn’t necessarily good for consumers or competitors.

Then there’s privacy. Search for something on DuckDuckGo and, for the most part, you just get a list of links or a simple snippet with exactly the information you were looking for. And it does all this without storing or tracking my search history. Nor is what I search for collected and shared with advertisers, allowing them to micro-target me with a myriad of things I’m never likely to buy. The ads I do see in DuckDuckGo, which the company explains makes it more than enough money to operate, are more general. My search for bank holidays in the UK returned an advert for a package holiday company.

A quick office survey revealed similar search banality: recent Googles included ‘capitalist’, ‘toxoplasmosis’ and ‘hyde park police’. For the most part, what we’re looking for online is simple: it’s definitions, companies, names and places. Where DuckDuckGo has struggled is when I look for something incredibly specific. So, for example, search for ‘film Leonardo Dicaprio goats scene’ in DuckDuckGo and it doesn’t work out you’re looking for Blood Diamond. Google does. While Google, with its vastly greater tranche of search data, is able to second-guess what I’m after, DuckDuckGo requires a bit more hand-holding. That doesn’t mean I can’t find what I’m looking for, but it does mean I have to modify my search term a couple of times to narrow things down.

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

China’s growing threat to academic freedom

Shawn O’Dwyer:

In “The Scholars,” the classic 18th century Chinese novel on the lives and misadventures of Ming Dynasty literati, there is an episode that departs unnervingly from the book’s satirical, moralizing tone. One day the Nanjing scholar Chuang reluctantly obeys a summons to consult with the emperor in Beijing. On the way to Beijing he meets a fellow scholar, Lu, who excitedly tells him of a banned book he has just purchased, written by a scholar unjustly executed 160 years before. Chuang praises Lu for his “respect for learning”, but warns his new friend to avoid “forbidden books.”Nevertheless, he invites Lu to stay with him when he returns to Nanjing.

Back in Nanjing, Chuang keeps his promise to host Lu. But not long after Lu’s arrival, hundreds of soldiers arrive and swarm over Chuang’s estate; their commander orders Chuang to tell him if a scholar possessing a forbidden book is staying there. Lu surrenders himself, but in the following days Chuang works his Beijing connections to get Lu released. This story conveys vividly the vulnerability of scholars to a state authority that spares no expense to hunt them down if they stray from its narrow orthodoxy.

Chinese academics now struggling under what the Scholars at Risk Network describes as systematic Chinese government policies intended “to constrict academic activity and to intimidate, silence, and punish outspoken academics and students” might find much to relate to in Wu’s story.

If you care about user privacy, do NOT use Facebook JS SDK


Social Login buttons like the ubiquitous Login with Facebook/Google/Twitter/… button is convenient for users as they don’t have to go through a lengthy registration process and create yet another username/password. And without a proper password manager (which probably 99% users don’t use), they tend to reuse the same password which is bad in terms of security!

However behind the scene, some SDKs (I’m looking at you Facebook!) inject an iframe in your website to display the Continue as {MyName} or Login with Facebook button. Loading this iframe allows Facebook to know that this specific user is currently on your website. Facebook therefore knows about user browsing behaviour without user’s explicit consent. If more and more websites adopt Facebook SDK then Facebook would potentially have user’s full browsing history! And as with “With great power comes great responsibility”, it’s part of our job as developers to protect users privacy even when they don’t ask for.

2020 Madison School District Referendum Climate: city tax and spending increases

David Blaska:

It was what we thought it was. Madison is 10 to 1 opposed to the city’s $40 wheel tax, judging from the 2,000 pages [CORRECTED] of e-mails that flooded city hall from 250 individuals. Kudos to Chris Rickert of the WI State Journal for filing the open records request to get that info. Many of the supporting messages came from insiders like the public employees union.

Didn’t stop the council from approving Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s* tax 11 to 8 a month ago. (* Progressive Dane)

Voting YES: Bidar, Furman*, Lemmer, Rummel*, Martin, Evers*, Moreland, Foster*, Verveer*, Heck*, Kemble* — 11

Voting NO: Abbas, Albouras, Baldeh, Carter, Harrington-McKinney, Henak, Skidmore, Tierney — 8

e-mail iconNotice anything strange about the tax? It was sold as the only way possible to balance the city budget. There Was No Choice! Scott Walker made us do it! No choice — if you wanted to embark on a multi-million dollar rapid bus transit system, that is. But alders never really debated bus rapid transit. A major policy initiative snuck in through the back door. We have to fund it before we will know it works.

Rickert’s news story concludes with this gem: Ald. Grant Foster* responds to a constituent opposed to the wheel tax this way:

“Can you imagine a future where you might need to own fewer or zero cars? What would it take to make that a reasonable option for you or your household?”

Madison school district is planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum in 2020.

Madison taxpayers have long spent far more than most K-12 school districts, yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results

“Few things upset American college students more than being told they aren’t oppressed.”

Heather Mac Donald:

Few things upset American college students more than being told they aren’t oppressed. I recently spoke at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. I argued that American undergraduates are among the most privileged individuals in history by virtue of their unfettered access to knowledge. Far from being discriminated against, students are surrounded by well-meaning faculty who want all of them to succeed. 

About 15 minutes into my talk, as I was discussing Renaissance humanism, a majority of the audience in the packed…

Why no one is exponentially smarter than others

Trishank Karthik Kuppusamy and Ashlesh Sharma

One common counterargument to  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>why universality trumps IQ (which was often misunderstood and misinterpreted) is that “some people are exponentially smarter than others.” Right off the bat, it is not even clear what this statement is supposed to mean. We suspect that it is deliberately vague. In any case, it has one of two meanings, the former of which is more popular, but the latter of which is much more likely.

The first meaning is that some people can somehow do exponentially more work than others. Is it possible? Yes. Is it plausible? Let’s look at this through the lens of computation. One of our working hypotheses is that everything in Nature — including human thinking — can be  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>viewed as computations. Figure 1 illustrates the difference between two people who do significantly different amounts of work in the same amount of time.

Curated Education Information