Middlebury College Cancels Conservative Philosopher’s Lecture on Totalitarianism

Alex Griswold:

Middlebury College has canceled a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.” A member of the anti-Communist Polish resistance during the Cold War, Legutko warns that western democracy is also susceptible to creep towards totalitarianism.

But in the days leading up to the speech, some Middlebury students and professors wrote an open letter demanding the university rescind its sponsorship. The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.”

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

A Giant Laid Low by Too Many Blows to the Head

Michael Powell:

Tall and imposing, indomitable even, 6-foot-8 with shoulders and a back broad enough to push a pickup truck.

He was a star lineman on a state championship team in high school and for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, where he set a team record for starts and minutes played. He was an Associated Press third-team all-American and played three years in the N.F.L.

Yet the word that jumps most quickly to mind when talking to Ryan Miller is “fragile.”

Hits, concussive and subconcussive, have laid him low. Head bursting, nausea rising, please shut off the lights, please. I interviewed Miller twice, our talks separated by 22 months, and he is doing better, which is not to suggest this thoughtful and soft-spoken 29-year-old is anywhere near what he wants to be.

When I met him in 2017 Miller had spent the previous hour in a darkened room, breathing slowly. He would get into his car and sit for hours, trying to remember where he intended to go. He would walk into airports, and lights and noise and crowds made him want to curl into a fetal ball. Since then he has gotten better with therapy and diet, and he has lost a lot of weight. He’s healthier, and yet. …

“I don’t live as much in fear of what will happen next, and it’s been a year since I have had a seizure,” he told me. “It’s been a long road. It still is a long road.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Colorado’s TABOR

Jon Caldara:

The analogy that works best for me to understand how the TABOR cap works is a whiskey barrel. Imagine the barrel holds the state budget. As tax revenues pour in we collect it in the barrel. The size of the barrel is the size of last year’s budget plus inflation and population growth.

Under our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights if more whiskey (taxes) flows into the barrel than the barrel can hold, the excess spills over and falls into the taxpayer’s mug. We call that our TABOR refunds.

So why haven’t we received our TABOR refunds in so very long? Well first we voted to use a much, much bigger barrel in 2005 when we passed Referendum C. But whiskey has been pouring into the barrel so fast we should have had lots of refunds even given the larger barrel.

A vote of the people can always increase the size of the barrel, but as every ballot questions for tax increases show over and over again since Ref C, we don’t want more whiskey or a larger barrel. What’s a greedy legislature to do?

Well, the legislature snuck in a spigot at the bottom of the barrel to let some of the whiskey out into a second barrel not subject to TABOR, so that barrel can never be filled enough to reach the top. When the legislature labels a revenue stream an enterprise fund or a tax increase as a “fee” it doesn’t need our consent at the ballot box.

So, they open the spigot and call it the Hospital Provider Fee, and we don’t get or refunds. They open it again and call it the Faster Fee on our car registrations, and we don’t get our refunds. Mill Levy Freeze, Growth Dividend, there are many names for this deceitful practice. The legislature is working to do it again by calling a payroll tax a “fee” for extended family leave.

Top journals retract DNA-repair studies after misconduct probe

Holly Else:

“This is terrible for the field, as it is for any field”, in particular because the investigator’s grants could have gone to more deserving researchers, says James Brown, a cancer researcher at the National University of Ireland Galway. Many scientists have used the Nature paper to build an understanding of DNA-repair processes mediated by a protein called KAT5 (also known as TIP60), he says.

The journals withdrew the studies on 11 April. In its retraction notice1, Science said that one author — Abderrahmane Kaidi, who was a cancer researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK, until 2013 — had falsified data used in the 2010 study. The journal had issued an expression of concern about the paper in September 2018.

Nature’s notice2 says that the authors are retracting their 2013 paper because the work has “issues with figure presentation and underlying data” and the authors “cannot confirm the results in the affected figures”. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its journal team.)

In a statement to Nature’s news team, Cambridge said that it had completed an investigation into Kaidi under its misconduct in research policy, and found that he had misrepresented and falsified data in both papers.

Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge—even though education researchers know better.

Natalie Wexler:

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant.

Math scores have been flat since 2009 and reading scores since 1998, with just a third or so of students performing at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” Performance gaps between lower-income students and their more affluent peers, among other demographic discrepancies, have remained stubbornly wide.

Among the likely culprits for the stalled progress in math scores: a misalignment between what the NAEP tests and what state standards require teachers to cover at specific grade levels. But what’s the reason for the utter lack of progress in reading scores?

On Tuesday, a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., convened by the federally appointed officials who oversee the NAEP concluded that the root of the problem is the way schools teach reading. The current instructional approach, they agreed, is based on assumptions about how children learn that have been disproven by research over the last several decades—research that the education world has largely failed to heed.

The long-standing view has been that the first several years of elementary school should be devoted to basic reading skills. History, science, and the arts can wait. After all, the argument goes, if kids haven’t learned to read—a task that is theoretically accomplished by third grade—how will they be able to gain knowledge about those subjects through their own reading?

Censorship in a China Studies Journal

Elizabeth Redden:

Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship.

Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond, both professors at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have written an account of the censorship they encountered when they edited a planned special issue of the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. The journal is published by the Netherlands-based publishing company Brill in association with the China-based Higher Education Press, an entity that describes itself on its website (in Chinese) as affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. The journal’s editorial board lists scholars from major American and international universities — including Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington — and its editor in chief is based at New York University. The journal’s editorial office is located in Beijing.

Wong and Edmond wrote that the association with Brill, along with the involvement of leading scholars in the field on the editorial board, led them to mistakenly assume the publication standards would be akin to those of other journals in the field published in the U.S. What they found, however, was that the affiliation with the Higher Education Press and the location of the editorial office in Beijing means “the journal is subject to the full range of Chinese government censorship.”

Here’s the stunning percentage of Millennials who regret taking a loan for college

Carlos Garcia:

Student debt has become a key political issue as some Democrats have called for the government to make college free, and others want to forgive the mounting debt that many say are crippling them from obtaining success.

The poll shows that among those who thought that college was worth attending, 64 percent had already paid off their loans, and 48 percent were still paying off their loans.

The total student loan debt has been estimated at about $1.6 trillion.

Despite that attitude about college and the ballooning student debt, experts say Millennials don’t behave much differently from their forebears.

Chinese immigrants helped build California, but they’ve been written out of its history

Michael Hiltzik:

In 2014, the U.S. Labor Department formally inducted the Chinese workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad into its Hall of Honor, giving them a place in American labor history alongside union leaders such as Eugene V. Debs and A. Philip Randolph and champions of worker dignity such as Mother Jones and Cesar Chavez.

What was remarkable about that moment was that it took the nation 145 years to recognize Chinese immigrants’ role in building the nation.

From 1865 to 1869, as many as 20,000 Chinese laborers worked on the Central Pacific Railroad, which ran from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah, where it was united with the Union Pacific Railroad in the golden spike ceremony marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Those workers accounted for as much as 90% of the Central Pacific workforce.

The Central Pacific could not have been built without them — and without the Central Pacific, the history of the American West and California in particular might have been very different. That’s a fact to be considered as the 150th anniversary of the golden spike ceremony looms just a month away, and as immigration again roils American politics.

Civics: A look at legislative sausage making

Rob O’Dell and Nick Penzenstadler:

The investigation reveals that fill-in-the-blank bills have in some states supplanted the traditional approach of writing legislation from scratch. They have become so intertwined with the lawmaking process that the nation’s top sponsor of copycat legislation, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, claimed to have signed on to 72 such bills without knowing or questioning their origin.

For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.

For special interests seeking to stay under the radar, model legislation also offers distinct advantages. Copycat bills don’t appear on expense reports, or campaign finance forms. They don’t require someone to register as a lobbyist or sign in at committee hearings. But once injected into the lawmaking process, they can go viral, spreading state to state, executing an agenda to the letter.

Civics: UArts students protest professor Camille Paglia for comments on transgender people, sexual assault survivors

Anna Orso:

It was probably only a matter of time before the campus free speech debate landed in Camille Paglia’s lap. Again.

The University of the Arts professor and social critic, known for her critiques of modern feminism, last week had a lecture targeted by protesting students and alumni angry at comments she made in a YouTube video, posted in January about the #MeToo movement, that they contend perpetuates rape culture. They also were critical of comments that they call transphobic.

Now, a Change.org petition that’s garnered more than 800 signatures is demanding that the school remove her from the faculty and stop giving her a platform to speak.

Your Smartphone Apps Are Filled With Trackers You Know Nothing About

Owen Williams:

On mobile, tracking is generally performed through the use of a “software development kit” or SDK—a set of tools that helps app developers get something done faster. Many SDKs help developers debug their code or hook into useful services, but others help advertisers and marketing companies peer into your private life. Take the iHeartRadio app for example: Last fall, Medium reported that it contained code from Cuebiq’s SDK, which would permit user data to be sold for the purposes of ad tracking.

All of this should make you skeptical of marketing like Apple’s recent “privacy matters” campaign. While the company offers tools within Safari to block trackers on the web, it doesn’t offer any control over trackers embedded in apps that are distributed through the iOS App Store. Most people use the Google Chrome browser anyway, and it has even fewer privacy protections baked in. (Apple does ask developers to “respect user preferences for how data is used,” but good luck with that.)

SDKs present a solution to Apple’s pesky tracking restriction for advertisers. They can connect who you are between apps, provided the developer of each app uses the same SDK and the advertiser is able to use signals to figure out who you are. If we look at the top 200 apps on the iOS App Store, it’s interesting to see how broad the reach of most SDKs actually is.

The top 10 most commonly used SDK libraries in the top iOS apps, as reported by analytics firm Mighty Signal, are largely provided by Facebook (three out of 10) and Google (four out of 10). Google’s AdMob tools, for example, helps developers show advertising and track their users, and it’s integrated into 78% of the top apps on iOS—everything from the Holy Bible to LinkedIn. Facebook’s “Core Kit,” which provides access to the social platform’s features, is integrated into 61% of top apps. The list goes on.

Both of these SDKs allow Facebook and Google to track users beyond their desktop web browsers and automatically collect information like when you installed the app, each time you opened it, and what you purchased.

Civics: Bitter lessons 25 years after Waco, Texas, siege

James Bovard:

Twenty-five years ago today, FBI tanks smashed into the ramshackle home of the Branch Davidians outside Waco, Texas. After the FBI collapsed much of the building atop the residents, a fire erupted and 76 corpses were dug out of the rubble. Unfortunately, the American political system and media have never faced the lessons from that tragic 1993 day.

Fifty-one days before the FBI final assault, scores of federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents launched an attack on the Davidians’ home spurred by allegations that they had converted semi-automatic rifles to full-automatic capacity. The ATF’s lead investigator had previously rejected an offer to peacefully search the Davidians’ home for firearms violations. Four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed in the fracas on February 28, 1993. At least one ATF agent told superiors that the ATF fired first, spurring an immediate end to the official shooting review. But the media trumpeted the ATF storyline that its agents had been ambushed, entitling the feds to be far more aggressive in the following weeks.
What lessons can today’s Americans draw from the FBI showdown on the Texas plains a quarter century ago?

Purported good intentions absolve real deadly force.

Civics: The Courts Have Shown Too Much Deference to Unaccountable Government Officials

David McDonald:

The case in question, Jessop v. City of Fresno, concerns the alleged theft of $276,000 by City of Fresno police officers while carrying out a raid in search of illegal gambling machines. Pursuant to a warrant authorizing the officers to seize any such machines, as well as any money connected to the sale or control of them, the officers officially seized approximately $50,000.

In reality, according to appellants Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian, the officers stole an additional $276,000 in cash and rare coins for themselves. Jessop and Ashjian sued the officers for violating their right not to face unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment and their right to due process of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment. They hoped to find justice, but they were in for a rude awakening.

Both the trial court and the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that, because “appellants did not have a clearly established Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from the theft of property seized pursuant to a warrant, the City Officers are entitled to qualified immunity.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, according to the Ninth Circuit, you don’t have a “clearly established” right to not have police steal your property while executing a search warrant (though you may be able to pursue a claim against the offending officers under state tort law, and the state is presumably still free to prosecute them).

The Looming Danger for Dissident Professors

Samuel Abrams:

2017, I asked a national sample of faculty and administrators, “How often, if at all, have you avoided expressing a particular point of view on an issue because you expected a negative reaction from other students or faculty?’ Two-thirds of conservative professors stated that they simply avoided sharing their opinions because of fear of negative reactions compared to just one-third of liberals. This significant difference is strong evidence that viewpoint diversity is being silenced. Conservative professors – an endangered minority on campus – are well aware of the possible ramifications of sharing their views and fear professional repercussions for disagreeing with their liberal faculty and administrative colleagues.

[How ‘Social Justice’ Undermines True Diversity]

Although Sarah Lawrence is proud of its extremely liberal bent, it turns out that I had a target on my back on my first day of teaching. I was told by various colleagues shortly after joining the community that I was a “diversity hire” because I was not an extreme progressive but an empirical social scientist who cares about facts and empirics and leans to the right. I could feel the derision and suspicion almost immediately from my colleagues, and relations deteriorated over time because I failed to virtue signal strongly enough to many. Working on the Sarah Lawrence campus began to feel like some uncomfortable high-school movie with powerful cliques and groups and me as the outcast. I would walk on campus and pass groups of faculty who would turn away as my views were regularly marginalized or ignored in various faculty and administrative settings.

Stephen Platt on Becoming a Historian of China

Jonathan Chatwin:

Can you tell us about how you became interested in Chinese history?

It was something of an accident, actually. When I graduated from college I got a fellowship to teach English for two years in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. It wasn’t something I had planned in advance – I had never studied Chinese before, or taken any classes on the country’s history, but it seemed like an adventure. It was a powerful experience. I got hooked and decided to keep studying the language after I came home. In graduate school I migrated from English (which had been my undergrad major) to East Asian Studies, and then finally to Chinese History. This is probably the last thing my younger self could have imagined I would be doing at this age. As I see it, much of my work has touched on themes of travel and culture shock that date back to that post-college experience of finding a place for myself as an American in China.

Your books tend to offer historical accounts alternating between Chinese and Western perspectives. Can you speak to the differences in the research necessary to offer these two different perspectives? Presumably the archival and language challenges make the Chinese research a more labor-intensive process?

It depends. For my Taiping book (Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom), the sources in Chinese often outstripped anything I had for my Western characters. For example, there was a new edition of Qing general Zeng Guofan’s collected works in 16 volumes, so I had access to every memorial he ever wrote, all of his family correspondence, his writings on military tactics, and a far more complete diary than had been available before. By comparison, someone like Frederick Townsend Ward on the Western side, as interesting as he was, left hardly any reliable records behind. He was quite difficult to write about, whereas with Zeng Guofan I could know just what was happening to him on each day of a campaign, and read his thoughts as he wrote letters in anticipation of a battle. The sections on him practically wrote themselves. As far as the language issue, while it’s always easier to read in your native language, neither English nor Chinese has a monopoly on vivid sources, so you just work with the best of what you find.

Gene-Edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor

Pam Belluck:

“A lot of people wish that those who knew or suspected would have made more noise,” said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who co-led a 2017 national committee on human embryo editing.

But she said scientists were not necessarily complicit if instead of trying to stop rogue experimenters, they advised them to follow ethical and research standards in hopes that institutions would intervene.

Rice University has been investigating Michael Deem, Dr. He’s Ph.D. adviser, because of allegations that he was actively involved in the project; he had said publicly that he had been present during parts of it. Dr. Deem’s lawyers issued a statement strongly denying the allegations.

Dr. He emailed Dr. Quake months before the gene-edited babies were born.

YouTube’s New Fact-Check Tool Flagged Notre Dame Fire Coverage And Attached An Article About 9/11

Ryan Broderick:

It’s unclear how the Notre Dame livestreams triggered the panel, but a spokesperson for YouTube said the “information panels” with links to third-party sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia are activated by an algorithm.

“These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call,” the spokesperson added. “We are disabling these panels for livestreams related to the fire.”

According to a link inside the disclaimer, the information panel is a feature that is currently only available to users in the United States and South Korea. The help page adds that the panel will appear alongside videos related to the topic, regardless of opinions or perspectives in the footage.

The moderation of YouTube livestreams has been a problem for the platform.

Civics: Invasion-of-Privacy Case Tests Limits to Investigative Reporting in California

Helen Christophi:

After two years of legal wrangling, a California judge will soon decide if there is enough evidence to try two anti-abortion activists who surreptitiously recorded Planned Parenthood staff supposedly arranging the sale of aborted fetal tissue, in a case some fear will hamstring journalists who go undercover to expose wrongdoing.

In 2017, state prosecutors charged Center for Medical Progress (CMP) activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with 15 felony counts each of invasion of privacy over the covert recordings, which they shot at abortion-industry conferences and restaurants by posing as employees of a fake fetal-tissue procurement company. The pair then posted the videos online.

Planned Parenthood contends the footage was heavily edited to dupe viewers into believing it traffics in tissue obtained from late-term abortions, touching off a wave of violence by anti-abortion activists that culminated in the 2015 murder of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

The pair’s attorneys and state prosecutors will finally square off in San Francisco County Superior Court on April 22, where for two weeks they will present evidence gathered so far to Judge Christopher Hite who will decide if a trial is warranted. None of the parties’ attorneys returned requests for comment on this story.

The Student-Debt Crisis Hits Hardest at Historically Black Colleges

Josh Mitchell and Andrea Fuller:

Historically black colleges and universities helped lift generations of African-Americans to economic security. Now, attendance has become a financial drag on many of their young graduates, members of a new generation hit particularly hard by the student-debt crisis.

Students of these institutions, known as HBCUs, are leaving with disproportionately high loans compared with their peers at other schools, a Wall Street Journal analysis of Education Department data found, and are less likely to repay those loans than they were…

The Death of an Adjunct

Adam Harris:

A bald eagle in flight is elegance to behold. The sudden, violent flaps of its wings are broken by sublime extension as it locks onto a breeze and glides. Occasionally, 10 blocks north of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan, you can spot a bald eagle overhead in Fort Tryon Park. There, Thea Hunter could often be counted among the bird’s admirers—typically while walking her dog, Cooper, a black Labrador retriever.

Thea loved the park, a bastion of calm amid the city’s constant hum, and she reveled in the chance encounters she had with eagles there. Often, even in the middle of winter, she would wrestle out her phone to call a friend. Some birds flap, flap, dive, she would explain, while others catch a current and soar. It was remarkable, really, that bald eagles were there at all, as they had once been so close to extinction.

When her friends try to find a way to talk about why she’s not here anymore, they pause, and then they pause again. She, perhaps, would have explained it gracefully. We don’t know how to talk about death, she would have said. It’s a fact of life that we’re tense about. It’s a natural part of the cycle, one that can be hastened by circumstance. And those circumstances, her friends seethe, were the hardships Thea faced as an adjunct professor, as a member of academia’s underclass.

To be a perennial adjunct professor is to hear the constant tone of higher education’s death knell. The story is well known—the long hours, the heavy workload, the insufficient pay—as academia relies on adjunct professors, non-tenured faculty members, who are often paid pennies on the dollar to do the same work required of their tenured colleagues.

Will Tocqueville’s Dilemma Crash America? – Tablet Magazine

Bryan Garsten:

The fundamental challenge that Tocqueville’s book poses to American dogma arises from his refusal to assume that equality and freedom are always mutually reinforcing. The American creed since the Declaration of Independence and especially since Lincoln has linked the two values, assuming that an increase in one naturally accompanies an increase in the other. Tocqueville suggested that we tend to ignore the threats that equality poses to freedom. Freedom was not, like equality, a naturally expanding feature of society. Nor was it a necessary consequence of equality of conditions.

It is too simple to say that Tocqueville presented equality and freedom as principles sometimes in tension with one another. His point was different. Equality was not merely a moral principle. Nor was it merely a material fact. More fundamentally, equality was a passion that gave rise to a certain dynamic in politics. Freedom, on the other hand, he portrayed as a set of skills and habits that required practice, an art that could be learned but also forgotten. The danger of democratic life, Tocqueville thought, was that the passion for equality would lead us to stop practicing the art of freedom.

To see how equality works as a passion, we have to notice the fundamental effect of looking at any actual social world with the ideal of equality in mind. You will see mostly inequalities. In fact, it seems that the more inequalities we succeed in eliminating, the more remaining inequalities stand out and the more striking they become. As society becomes more equal, the pressure for yet more equality does not subside but instead grows stronger:

How America’s College-Closure Crisis Leaves Families Devastated

Michael Vasquez and Dan Bauman:

All across the United States, colleges are disappearing.

As a result, the lives of students and their families have been plunged into unexpected crisis. A Chronicle analysis of federal data shows that, in the last five years, about half a million students have been displaced by college closures, which together shuttered more than 1,200 campuses.

That’s an average of 20 campus closures per month. Many of those affected are working adults living paycheck to paycheck, who carried hopes that college would be their path to the middle class.

Most are age 25 or older. About one in four are at least 35 years old.

“ONE class left,” Lisa La More wrote on Facebook last month, after the for-profit college she attended, the Art Institute of California’s San Diego campus, shut down. “Less than 3 weeks from my BS in Graphic and Web. 6 years of my life WASTED. I am 48 years old, with teenage kids. What am I supposed to do now?”

College closures don’t just disproportionately hurt older students. They have severely hit low-income students, too: Nearly 70 percent of undergraduates at closed campuses received need-based Pell Grants. Black and Hispanic students also bear the brunt. About 57 percent of displaced students are racial minorities.

Most of the closures have one thing in common: It was a for-profit college that shut down. Among the more than 1,230 campuses that closed, 88 percent were operated by for-profit colleges. For-profit colleges represent only about one-tenth of U.S. college enrollment, but they account for nearly 85 percent of students displaced by closures in the last five years, according to The Chronicle’s analysis. That adds up to roughly 450,000 displaced for-profit college students.

“and to educate the users – make sure people don’t just ‘do what the AI says’.

Ben Evans:

What does that mean in practice? My favorite example is the tendency of image recognition systems to look at a photo of a grassy hill and say ‘sheep’. Most of the pictures that are examples of ‘sheep’ were taken on grassy hills, because that’s where sheep tend to live, and the grass is a lot more prominent in the images than the little white fluffy things, so that’s where the systems place the most weight.

A more serious example came up recently with a project to look for skin cancer in photographs. It turns out that dermatologists often put rulers in photos of skin cancer, for scale, but that the example photos of healthy skin do not contain rulers. To the system, the rulers (or rather, the pixels that we see as a ruler) were just differences between the example sets, and sometimes more prominent than the small blotches on the skin. So, the system that was built to detect skin cancer was, sometimes, detecting rulers instead.

A central thing to understand here is that the system has no semantic understanding of what it’s looking at. We look at a grid of pixels and translate that into sheep, or skin, or rulers, but the system just sees a string of numbers. It isn’t seeing 3D space, or objects, or texture, or sheep. It’s just seeing patterns in data.

“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”

The University Is a Ticking Time Bomb

Aaron Hanlon:

News of the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French at Duquesne University, went viral in 2013. The circumstances of her final months painted a jarring picture of how dire a professor’s living conditions could be. Before Vojtko learned her semester-to-semester contract would not be renewed, she was earning less than $25,000 per year for teaching eight courses, without health insurance or retirement benefits, and living on the edge of homelessness. Just as Duquesne told her to clear out her office, she learned from her doctor that she had six months to live, as the cancer she’d been battling got worse. Shortly after losing her job, she suffered cardiac arrest and died in the hospital two weeks later, at age 83. “For a proud professional like Margaret Mary,” wrote Vojtko’s lawyer, the termination of her tenuous contract “was the last straw.”

Even as obscene tales of adjunct woe lay bare the cruelty of adjunctification, the percentage of contingent faculty members continues to rise. At the time of Vojtko’s death, those working without the possibility of tenure — and in many cases on a course-by-course, semester-to-semester basis, without salary or benefits — made up about two-thirds of all college instructors in America. Today, that figure is closer to three-fourths. Depending on the type of institution, one- to two-thirds of the vast faculty majority working without the prospect of permanent employment can’t count on having a job for more than a year at a time.

Appeals to empathy and outrage gin up so much hot, concentrated concern — witness the outrage after Vojtko’s death, and the more recent death of Thea Hunter, an adjunct professor of history — but inevitably, like the smallest of stars, such concentrated concern ends up dying a quiet death. We need to fundamentally reconceptualize the battle against adjunctification, shifting away from pity or outrage and toward arguments that universities themselves deny at their own peril.

Homeschooled children are far more socially engaged than you might think

Kate Burton And Eileen Slater:

2011 and 2017, the number of children homeschooled in Australia grew by more than 80%. In Queensland, it nearly quadrupled during this period. This suggests one in 200 Australian students were home educated in 2017.

Some people believe homeschooled children miss out on socialising with others and are sheltered from the normal pressures of life. Many question how parents can cultivate important aspects of social development such as resilience and effective interpersonal skills in their children if they are not being exposed to peers in a typical school setting.

The “socialisation question”, as it is known in homeschooling research, is frequently encountered by homeschooling families.

We conducted a survey that captured data on various aspects of the homeschooling experience, including socialisation. A total of 385 parents or guardians from across all Australian states and territories, who were homeschooling 676 children, responded to the questionnaire. We then conducted interviews with 12 homeschooling parents/guardians.

Purged by Press Release: First Responders, Free Speech, and Public Employment Retaliation in the Digital Age

George Scovill:

As racial tensions rise in the United States, government employers, like their private-sector counterparts, have several legitimate interests in distancing themselves from an employee’s opinion, especially when an employee’s opinion is discriminatory. For example, employers have an interest in shielding other employees from hostile work environments and protecting themselves from liability for a hostile work environment.

Municipalities, in particular, have a compelling interest in regulating police officers’ speech. Repugnant police officer views, if published, could ostensibly interfere with a police department’s ability to effectively or efficiently deliver public safety services to the city. The law must balance the city’s compelling interests in public safety, however, with a police officer’s right to free speech. The rapidly evolving pace of technological advances that enable instantaneous social media communication, and create records of online speech, exacerbate the need for an accurate balance.

Brooklyn parents sue to stop mandatory measles vaccinations

Aaron Katersky, Meghan Keneally:

A group of parents in Brooklyn are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent mandatory measles vaccinations from taking effect.

The parents’ lawsuit against the New York City Department of Health called the emergency order “arbitrary and capricious” and the measures it necessitates “drastic.”

The order, issued by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, demands that all persons, starting at the age of 6 months old, who live, work or attend school within the specified zip codes of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, be vaccinated.

The parents who are suing argued “there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify” forced vaccinations and they accused the city of failing to take the least restrictive measures to end the outbreak.

Our Expensive, Manipulated Public High Schools

Jeffrey Ludwig:

Teacher unions got on board with the idea that inner-city schools fail not because of the racism of the teachers, the premise of Kozol’s first book, but because they have less money to spend than more successful suburban schools. Give us as much money as the best suburban schools, the unions say, and we will produce successful urban schools. Since the 1990s, it has become a mantra of the liberal mindset that if we throw enough money at a social problem, we will solve that problem. In America, the Almighty Dollar (a regular liberal alternative to Almighty God) can buy us out of our dilemmas. The faults Mr. Kozol saw in Boston could be solved if we “invested” more in our schools, in our youth, in the urban poor, and in “creative programs” to renew the practices of our failing schools.

New York State spent $22,366 per pupil in 2016, which was a 14% increase in expenses from 2012. As recently as 1995, the expenditure was $9,500 per pupil. These increases have mainly been in the areas of salary, benefits, and support services.

However, as per pupil expenditures have skyrocketed over the decades, so has the increase in school bureaucracies, and declines in SAT and ACT scores for college admissions. In fact, the College Board in 1995 readjusted its SAT scoring so scores in both math and reading were skewed significantly upward. Other scoring “adjustments” have been made over the years to improve score results.

Madison spends about $20k per student, far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Civics: The U.S. Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom

Glenn Greenwald and Micah Lee:

The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations.

The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ — not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms — concluded that it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.

Warrant provides details of Madison East High sexual assault; principal apologizes for security chief’s comments

Logan Wroge:

Hernandez said schools should be sensitive to the traumas of students and staff and provide services for not only physical, but also emotional health.

The boys, both 15, have been arrested and charged in juvenile court with felony second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree sexual assault, which is a misdemeanor. One boy is also charged with kidnapping, and the other is charged with being party to a crime of kidnapping.

According to a search warrant filed Monday in Dane County Circuit Court:

The girl told police she and another boy were in school on April 10 after classes ended, and she perceived a statement from the boy as asking if she wanted to have sex with him. The girl said she was waiting for her father to pick her up, and he grabbed her backpack and ran into a bathroom.

She followed him into the bathroom, telling police they were friends and she thought the boy was “playing.”

A second boy entered the bathroom, the girl told police, and they both blocked her from leaving before raping her as she attempted to push them away.

“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”

Inside the Academic Destruction of the University of Tulsa

Jacob Howland:

Harvard Business School professor recently predicted that up to half of all American colleges and universities will go bankrupt in the next ten to 15 years. While this may be a worst-case scenario, universities have for years been offering an increasingly inferior product at unsustainably high prices to an ever-more skeptical group of prospective students. Many institutions below the top tier are scrambling to respond to the collapse of the higher-education bubble by jettisoning the liberal arts and pumping up the practical ones: health care, computer science, business, and other technical fields that promise to yield jobs immediately after graduation. This approach has been employed in a particularly crude and short-sighted manner at the University of Tulsa, where a new administration has turned a once-vibrant academic institution with a $1.1 billion endowment and a national reputation in core liberal arts subjects into a glorified trade school with a social-justice agenda. Our story is worth telling, because we have been hit by a perfect storm of trends currently tearing through the American academy: the confident ignorance of administrators, the infantilization of students, the policing of faculty, the replacement of thinking with ideological jargon, and the corporatization of education.

I arrived at TU in 1988, the same year Thomas Staley left to head the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. As TU’s provost, Staley had aggressively recruited serious scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Programs in English, history, and politics were particularly robust; Harvard’s Department of Government devoted a regular column in its newsletter to the activities of our political theorists. Professors critiqued their colleagues’ work, audited one another’s courses, and hosted informal lectures on subjects like pre-Raphaelite painting, medieval monasticism, and the economy of the Italian city-states. Faculty reading groups—some with 15 or more participants, including members of the wider Tulsa community—studied Heidegger’s Being and Time, Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, Montaigne’s Essays, and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Undergraduates in our Honors Program studied literary, philosophical, religious, and historical classics from ancient Greece to the twentieth century and capped off their education with serious, substantial senior theses. My first decades at TU were a time of intellectual ferment and growth for faculty and students alike.

But it became clear some years ago that TU was in financial trouble. Faculty have had no raises since 2015. That same year, President Steadman Upham (whose compensation in 2014 exceeded $1.2 million) informed the campus community that the university was providing athletics with a $9 million annual subsidy. The total deficit in 2016 was $26 million. For nine months in 2016–2017, the university ceased to contribute to faculty retirement accounts—effectively, a 9 percent cut in pay. In September 2017, 5 percent of the nonfaculty workforce was laid off. In December 2017, Moody’s downgraded $89 million of TU’s parity revenue bonds and $57 million of student-housing revenue bonds. Around the same time, it was revealed that TU had for years been running a structural deficit of about $16 million. Athletics accounted for most of the total loss; TU’s law school and Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum, which the university has managed since 2008, made up much of the rest.

4.25.2019 Madison Educational Partnership Symposium

Madison Education Partnership:

At this interactive and informative event, MMSD partners and leading researchers from UW-Madison will address pressing research questions as well as engage with attendees to dive deeper into the practice and policy implications of MEP research.

MMSD speakers include Ricardo Jara, Beth Vaade, and Culleen Witthuhn.

UW-Madison speakers Katie Eklund, Beth Graue, Eric Grodsky, Katie Ostrander, and Bob Mathieu.

Together we will explore recent research around early learning and student attendance. While 4K is a strong program, MEP research indicates ways the program can be further strengthened to more powerfully equip students, advance equity, and ease transitions to kindergarten. Likewise, while school attendance matters, MEP research shows that it matters in ways we don’t necessarily expect. What do MEP’s nuanced findings suggest about attendance policy and student tracking?

Attend and add your ideas to the policy/practice mix.

China releases new syllabus for military courses in universities


Chinese authorities have issued a revised syllabus for military theory and training courses in universities, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday.

The document, which was jointly released by the MOE and the national defense mobilization department under the Central Military Commission, asked colleges to add military courses into their training and teaching programs, set specific credit for such courses, and record performance results into students’ archives.

Military courses are compulsory for college students, it said, adding that the courses should be included into the national education supervision system and inspection on the development of such courses should be conducted on a regular basis.

Civics: We need to make hard decisions now about what will truly benefit current and future Americans.

David Frum:

This system just accreted, reaction upon reaction, yesterday’s crisis leading to today’s improvisation, in turn laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s crisis.

Under present immigration policies, the U.S. population will exceed 400 million by 2050. Nobody is seriously planning for such population growth—building the schools and hospitals these people will need, planning for the traffic they will generate. Nobody is thinking very hard about the environmental consequences, either. The average American causes the emission of almost 17 tons of carbon dioxide each year, quadruple the annual emissions of the average Mexican and 45 times the emissions of the average Bangladeshi.

The question before the United States and other advanced countries is not: Immigration, yes or no? In a mobile world, there will inevitably be quite a lot of movement of people. Immigration is not all or nothing. The questions to ask are: How much? What kind?

Too little immigration, and you freeze your country out of the modern world. Too much, or the wrong kind, and you overstress your social-insurance system—and possibly upend your democracy. Choose well, and you build a stronger, richer country for both newcomers and the long-settled. Choose badly, and you aggravate inequality and inflame intergroup hostility. How we choose will shape the future that will in its turn shape us.

II. A Recipe for Social Discord

It’s Time to Charge the Hill, Plant the Flag and Stand Up for Kids. Again.

Chris Stewart:

The system is rigged and we know it. God help us if we can’t straighten our backs, clear our heads and focus on the signal—student achievement—through the noise of the intentionally divisive and overheated rhetoric that has become the norm.

Although we’ve faced significant challenges, we can count more victories than defeat. Over the past 25 years, education reform has produced new schools, better tools for understanding how students are doing and new ways of preparing talented teachers. More than anything, this movement has brought attention to the unequal results for children living at the margins of society. Let’s not forget our progress. Let’s fight for more of it.

This isn’t a moment to give up, to cut and run, or wade in a sea of self-doubt. As some of our people retreat or surrender, I see the need for others to charge the hill, plant the flag and stand up for children as only moral people can do.

I want to bring to Education Post a results-focused plan to build a truly nonpartisan and ideologically diverse forum where parents, teachers and activists—across lines of class, race and geography—feel heard and valued, and can collectively demand the best possible educational options appropriate for their families. I firmly believe the only way to win the battle for hearts and minds is to respect the differing needs of parents and allies who may disagree with some of our politics, but agree every child deserves the opportunity to learn and achieve.

Students accused of sexual assault are suing colleges — and winning most of the time

David Jesse:

Nearly a year after having what he claimed was consensual sex and she claimed was assault, the two Aquinas College students were back together, this time separated by a curtain.

For 50 minutes, they appeared in front of a panel of employees of the college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In a 10-minute opening statement, the male student defended himself against charges he had sexually assaulted the female student. The female student offered no opening statement.

A few questions from the panel later, the hearing was done. Six days later, the male student was expelled. Ten months later, he filed a federal lawsuit. Several months after that, Aquinas settled the lawsuit. Those involved are barred from talking about the case by the agreement.

In suing, the Aquinas student joined a growing tide of male students, accused of sexually assaulting fellow students, who have lodged federal lawsuits against their schools, alleging discrimination and violations of their due process rights.

the college class on how not to be duped by the news

James McWilliams:

To prepare themselves for future success in the American workforce, today’s college students are increasingly choosing courses in business, biomedical science, engineering, computer science, and various health-related disciplines.

These classes are bound to help undergraduates capitalize on the “college payoff”, but chances are good that none of them comes with a promise of this magnitude: “We will be astonished if these skills [learned in this course] do not turn out to be the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.”

Sound like bullshit? If so, there’s no better way to detect it than to consider the class that makes the claim. Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World, designed and co-taught by the University of Washington professors Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom, begins with a premise so obvious we barely lend it the attention it deserves: “Our world is saturated with bullshit.” And so, every week for 12 weeks, the professors expose “one specific facet of bullshit”, doing so in the explicit spirit of resistance. “This is,” they explain, “our attempt to fight back.”

The problem of bullshit transcends political bounds, the class teaches. The proliferation of bullshit, according to West and Bergstrom, is “not a matter of left- or rightwing ideology; both sides of the aisle have proven themselves facile at creating and spreading bullshit. Rather (and at the risk of grandiose language) adequate bullshit detection strikes us as essential to the survival of liberal democracy.” They make it a point to stress that they began to work on the syllabus for this class back in 2015 – it’s not, they clarify, “a swipe at the Trump administration”.

Related: Madison’s high school graduation rate data and “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”

The Simpson Street Free Press was awarded the 2019 Media Openness Award, or “Mopee,” by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

Wisconsin Watch:

Wisconsin’s largest newspaper and a small Madison paper produced mostly by teens are among the honorees of the 2019 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, along with awards to a Wausau-based citizens environmental group and a state senator who is seeking to end his colleagues’ ability to destroy records at will.

Meanwhile, the Opees recognized both Racine Alderwoman Sandra Weidner and the city of Racine, for being on opposite sides of the same issue. Weidner was honored for blowing the whistle on her city’s extraordinary effort to suppress public records, for which it received negative recognition from the Council in the form of another award.

The awards, announced today in advance of national Sunshine Week (sunshineweek.org), March 10-16, are meant to recognize outstanding efforts to protect the state’s tradition of open government, and highlight some of the threats. This is the 13th consecutive year that Opees have been given.

Much more on the excellent Simpson Street free press, here.

Commentary on Madison’s K-12 School Discipline and Racism Climate

Chris Rickert:

Billed as a question-and-answer session on the use of physical restraint of students and special education services in the Madison schools, a forum Tuesday showcased the deep suspicion many local racial justice activists have about the school district’s ability to serve children of color.

Brandi Grayson, who has been active in local Black Lives Matter and police-reform efforts, said she organized the event as part of a plan to create a “rapid response team” of parents who would respond to incidents of racism and abuse in the schools, record those incidents in a database and give parents of children of color the resources and know-how to sue local school districts.

She referred to a physical confrontation in February between former Whitehorse Middle School staffer Robert Mueller-Owens, who is white, and an 11-year-old female black student as a case in which the girl was “brutalized,” and said she wanted the youth in attendance Tuesday at the First Unitarian Society to “build analysis of how institutional and structural racism operates.”

“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”

New Revelations on Donations and Admissions

Scott Jaschik:

UCLA knew in 2014 about gifts that were perceived to assure admission of athletes. And its officials talked to Rick Singer, ringleader in Operation Varsity Blues, about such concerns.

When the admissions scandal broke last month and a coach at the University of California, Los Angeles, was among those charged with accepting bribes, UCLA announced that he had been placed on leave. Shortly after that, the coach resigned. UCLA issued a number of statements about the integrity of its admissions system, notwithstanding what one of its coaches has been charged with doing.

One of the statements said that donations can’t influence the admissions process. “As a public institution, UCLA and all other campuses in the University of California system admit students solely based on the merits of their achievements. UCLA does not consider parents’ or relatives’ history of donations to the university in the admission process,” said the statement.

A report in the Los Angeles Times Friday evening, however, said that in 2014 UCLA was aware of instances in which the parents of athletes made donations to UCLA’s athletics department in return for the admission of their children.

Civics: Journalism is at risk not just from government but from media types who see their jobs as protecting the powerful from embarrassment.

JD Tuccille:

The political class and certain media circles have been celebrating over of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. To watch their respective reactions is to recognize that, too often, the two groups see themselves as one and the same. Their interests and opinions coincide, and they don’t like having their authority challenged by loose-cannon journalists who reveal inconvenient secrets and expose the powers-that-be to unwelcome scrutiny.

On April 11, British police dragged Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy that had shielded him for years from Swedish sexual assault charges (later dropped) and, mostly, from the wrath of the U.S. government over WikiLeaks’ work with now-imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Together, Assange and Manning exposed state secrets including a U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians, close ties between the government of Pakistan and the Taliban, and diplomatic cables revealing the U.S. government’s private positions to be very different from those presented to the public.

Assange was “arrested on behalf of the United States authorities,” police announced last Thursday. A new Ecuadorian administration, interested in closer relations with the U.S. and leery of transparency because of reports that have implicated the current president in corruption, seems to have been the precipitating factor.

Local media can be cheerleaders, as well.

Gifted classes may not help talented students move ahead faster

Jill Barshay:

One of the big justifications for gifted-and-talented education is that high achieving kids need more advanced material so that they’re not bored and actually learn something during the school day. Their academic needs cannot be met in a general education class, advocates say. But a large survey of 2,000 elementary schools in three states found that not much advanced content is actually being taught to gifted students. In other words, smart third graders, those who tend to be a couple grade levels ahead, are largely studying the same third-grade topics that their supposedly “non-gifted” classmates are learning.

The survey found that instead of moving bright kids ahead to more advanced topics, gifted classrooms are preoccupied with activities to develop critical thinking and creativity, such as holding debates and brainstorming. The third most common focus in gifted curriculums is to give students more projects and games, so-called “extension activities” that are tangentially related to their grade-level content. Accelerated math instruction ranked 18th on a list of 26 items that gifted curriculums could focus on. Advanced reading and writing instruction ranked 19th. Teaching academic self-confidence, leadership skills and social emotional learning all ranked higher than teaching above grade level content.

“Teachers and educators are not super supportive of acceleration,” said Betsy McCoach, one of the researchers and a professor at the University of Connecticut. “But it doesn’t make sense to pull kids together to do the same thing that everyone else is doing.”

Go to a Cheap College — or None at All

James Piereson & Naomi Schaefer Riley:

When customers visit an Enterprise Rent-a-Car establishment for the first time, they are often pleasantly surprised to be waited on by a staff of young managers, typically in their 20s, well dressed, polite, and efficient. The situation is much in contrast to many operations that employ middle-aged managers and hire young people to work their way up doing routine tasks. At Enterprise, the youngsters actually run the show, and they do it very well. And it is not an accident. Enterprise adopted a policy several years ago of hiring young college graduates to staff their local rental agencies. It is a policy that is paying off both for the company and for the young employees, who quickly learn the ins and outs of managing an office.

Enterprise offers more entry-level jobs for college graduates than almost any other employer in the United States. Last year they hired 8,500 for their management-training program, 40 percent more than the next highest employer. But according to a recent cover story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Enterprise does not concern itself with questions such as where its trainees went to college, what they majored in, or even how well they did when they were there. “We recognize that great talent can come from all types of institutions, all types of majors and backgrounds,” Marie Artim, Enterprise’s vice president for talent acquisition, explained.

As the Chronicle notes, “to the company, a college degree matters mostly because it suggests that a candidate has acquired the right mix of skills to succeed in an entry-level job — and to move up the ladder from there.” Instead, the company simply takes a bachelor’s degree to signify that applicants can engage in some degree of critical thinking, problem solving, and juggling different responsibilities at the same time.

Why the US still won’t require SS7 fixes that could secure your phone

Andrea Peterson:

Yet decades later, SS7 and other components of the nation’s digital backbone remain flawed, leaving calls and texts vulnerable to interception and disruption. Instead of facing the challenges of our hyper-connected age, the FCC is stumbling, according to documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and through extensive interviews with current and former agency employees. The agency is hampered by a lack of leadership on cybersecurity issues and a dearth of in-house technical expertise that all too often leaves it relying on security advice from the very companies it is supposed to oversee.

CSRIC is a prime example of this so-called “agency capture”—the group was set up to help supplement FCC expertise and craft meaningful rules for emerging technologies. But instead, the FCC’s reliance on security advice from industry representatives creates an inherent conflict of interest. The result is weakened regulation and enforcement that ultimately puts all Americans at risk, according to former agency staff.

While the agency took steps to improve its oversight of digital security issues under the Obama administration, many of these reforms have been walked back under current Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, has consistently signaled that he doesn’t want his agency to play a significant role in the digital security of Americans’ communications—despite security being a core agency responsibility since the FCC’s inception in 1934.

The FCC’s founding statute charges it with crafting regulations that promote the “safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications,” giving it broad authority to secure communications. Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and many legal experts argue that this includes cyber threats.

All our righteous scumbags

Sam Thielman:

Julian Assange—the guy who graduated, like, seven years ago, but can finally grow a beard—has now shown up to the party, and promptly been asked to leave. On Thursday, as Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London by UK authorities to face possible extradition to the US, press freedom advocates all seemed to sigh heavily and in unison—like parents forced to pick up their hard-partying kids.

Press-freedom cases are a mangy bunch. Drill deep enough into the stories of the people mentioned above and you will see that all of them were prosecuted or otherwise punished for some bizarre and tasteless variation on an activity journalists have to perform every day. And for better or worse, we have to be on their team.

Assange has been credibly accused of rape, twice—once by a woman who is now seeking to have her case reopened in Sweden. Assange also distributed emails and documents that had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, some of which were then altered, probably by the Russian security service the GRU or one of its proxies, as part of an initiative by the Russian military to support the election of Donald Trump.

The problem for free-press advocates is that Assange is being indicted by a federal grand jury for something else entirely. A March 2018 indictment, unsealed on Thursday, alleges that, in 2010, Assange went beyond the behavior case law is generally understood to allow of journalists: he offered to help US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning break the encryption on a password in the hopes of acquiring further sensitive information. She had already sent information about activity in Iraq and Afghanistan to him for publication and dissemination to other publishers around the world.

Brooklyn parents sue to stop mandatory measles vaccinations

Aaron Katersky,Meghan Keneally:

A group of parents in Brooklyn are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent mandatory measles vaccinations from taking effect.

The parents’ lawsuit against the New York City Department of Health called the emergency order “arbitrary and capricious” and the measures it necessitates “drastic.”

The order, issued by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, demands that all persons, starting at the age of 6 months old, who live, work or attend school within the specified zip codes of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, be vaccinated.

The parents who are suing argued “there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify” forced vaccinations and they accused the city of failing to take the least restrictive measures to end the outbreak.

The State of American Trade Schools

Chuck Thompson:

This is a golden time for postsecondary trade and tech schools. Not just because they’re becoming more profitable than ever. But because, at least according to some, they’re finally shaking off the stigma that has dogged their students, instructors, and administrators for so long. Over the past year, media from The Wall Street Journal to PBS have hailed technology schools and programs as harbingers of a new economy and reformers of a postsecondary education system that’s become over-priced, over-valued, and often irrelevant.

Statistics are a big part of the story. Between 1988 and 2018, the cost of a four-year college degree increased by 213 percent at public schools and 129 percent at private schools. Over the same period, wages for most Americans remained stagnant. Meanwhile, unemployment rates among young college graduates have grown from 4.3 percent in 2000 to 5.6 percent in 2017. Young male college graduates have been particularly hard hit. Their unemployment rate spiked from 4.1 percent in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2017. At the same time, a scarcity of skilled workers has led to a nationwide labor shortage that’s resulted in increased wages for a number of blue-collar occupations. The lesson for many is obvious.

“We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist,” says Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe, summing up a widespread viewpoint for Fox News.

“Higher-education appropriations now exceed those before the recession in only six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.”

Eric Kelderman, via a kind reader:

In 11 states, higher-education appropriations have not recovered at all from the worst years of the Great Recession, according to an annual report released on Tuesday by the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Nationally, said the 2018 “State Higher Education Finance” report, state appropriations per student remained essentially flat from the 2017 to 2018 fiscal years. “Following five straight years of growth in state support, there was nearly no national change in state and local per-student support for higher education after adjusting for inflation,” the study found.

Tuition revenue, which had risen in all but two of the past 25 years, also remained flat compared with the previous fiscal year, the report said. State spending on student financial aid increased by nearly 9 percent, the fourth consecutive increase, according to the study.

Forward Analytics to Provide Quality, Non-Political Research with Ultimate Goal of Good Public Policy

Wisconsin Counties Association, via a kind reader:

Changing demographics. Millennials. The state’s fiscal health. Birth rates. Job creation. The list of issues that impact the direction and trajectory of our state is seemingly endless.

To filter the noise and assemble the chaos into usable information, the Wisconsin Counties Association is proud to introduce their new research division, Forward Analytics.

“We created this new component of WCA to provide our state and local policy makers with nonpartisan analysis of issues affecting the state,” said WCA Executive Director Mark D. O’Connell. “Our mission is a simple one: to use the very best data available to highlight challenges facing Wisconsin; then share this information to assist our policymakers in understanding that data so they can make informed policy decisions which could help position us for future success.”

Forward Analytics is led by WCA Director of Research and Analytics Dale Knapp, who brings more than two decades of research experience in economics and public policy to the Association. Prior to helping create Forward Analytics, Knapp spent 18 years with the nonpartisan and well-respected Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, including 15 years as Research Director.

He has been nationally recognized, including a “Most Distinguished Research Award” from the Governmental Research Association for his work on the methods Wisconsin used to calculate prevailing wage.

Milwaukee teachers union appears poised for new era of political influence

Annysa Johnson:

“We expect people to keep their word,” said Mizialko, whose union’s political action committee donated at least $10,000 to the winners in the latest school board races. “We expect people to have a backbone and live out the values they espouse.”

Endorsements or not, MPS board members say they are unlikely to vote in lock-step on every issue, especially in an era of competing priorities and tight budgets.

The AI Race Is Wide Open, If America Remains Open

Joy Danton’s Ma:

Much ink has been spilled on the artificial intelligence (AI) race between the United States and China, leading to a whole lot of hand-wringing on how America can maintain its edge.

The answer actually isn’t that difficult. America ought to double down on what it’s best at: importing foreign talent. That’s because among the main building blocks of a competitive AI ecosystem—data, policy, companies, and hardware—talent is the one area in which the United States definitively leads over China.

Let’s take a closer look at where America stands in terms of AI talent globally and the foundation of its current advantage.

“that $119 million voucher cost represents just 1 percent of Wisconsin’s $11.5 billion in total local, state, and federal public-school funding”

Vicki Alger and Martin Lueken:

Secondly, Pope’s latest perennial request to the LFB asks for only the program’s costs and doesn’t ask for a single voucher program savings calculation. That omission, however, didn’t stop dozens of media outlets from repeating the ominous headline that vouchers, along with charter schools, “consume $193 million in state aid.” Those outlets also failed to mention that an adjustment to the Milwaukee voucher program’s so-called “funding flaw” has been phasing out its general aid cost for years and will be eliminated by 2024-25. Eliminating that cost, currently $42 million, reduces the Pope report’s combined $119 million voucher programs cost by more than one-third.

Even so, that $119 million voucher cost represents just 1 percent of Wisconsin’s $11.5 billion in total local, state, and federal public-school funding – at most a snowflake effect on public schools, not the negative “snowball effect” Pope describes.

What’s more, whenever students leave a public-school district, a portion of its funding is reduced no matter where they enroll next. In fact, the number of Wisconsin students transferring to other districts through open enrollment alone far outnumbers voucher students, nearly 61,000 transfer students compared to 40,000 voucher students. And that number doesn’t include students whose families moved out of state.


“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’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, now around $20,000 per student.

Governor Evers lead the Wisconsin DPI for many years. That constitutionally independent taxpayer supported organization has issued thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers.

Facebook Showed Me My Data Is Everywhere And I Have Absolutely No Control Over It

Katie Notopoulos:

Welcome to the most bewildering — and most interesting — page in your Facebook settings: the list of brands that either have your data or have paid someone who has your data. This page is meant to offer Facebook users a glimpse at whose radar they may be on — which is good! But the reality is that this list is so confusing — why the heck does a Maserati dealership in Scottsdale, Arizona have my email or phone number? If they were any good at targeting ads, they could take one look at my location, occupation, or literally anything about me, and conclude there’s no way I’m buying a Maserati anytime soon.

It turns out this long list of advertisers represents several sides of digital advertising that extends beyond Facebook: traditional ad targeting, influencers and sponsored content, and advertisers on Facebook who leverage personal data from the giant data brokers.

1. Places where you’re actually a customer: The first group is what you’d expect to see. For example, mine has places I’ve shopped online, like Target and JetBlue, as well as web services I use, like Hulu, Venmo, and Fandango.

2. Sponcon influencers who post ads for a company that has your email: My list includes a bunch of pages for lifestyle bloggers who have done sponsored posts for ThirdLove bras. The thing is, I don’t follow any of these influencers — so why are they on my page? I had to think back: Once, I provided my email for a quiz to find my “true bra size” from ThirdLove. So when ThirdLove promoted a post by an influencer using a customer list (that I was now on), those influencers then appeared on my advertiser list. Confusing! No customer data is actually transferred between ThirdLove and the influencer, according to a representative for ThirdLove.

Governments should celebrate the boom in private education

The Economist:

IF SPENDING IS a measure of what matters, then the people of the developing world place a high value on brains. While private spending on education has not budged in real terms in the rich world in the past ten years, in China and India it has more than doubled. The Chinese now spend 5% of household income on education and the Indians 4%, compared with 2.5% for the Americans and 1% for the Europeans. As a result, private schooling, tuition, vocational and tertiary education are booming in developing countries (see our Special report).
Since brainpower is the primary generator of progress, this burst of enthusiasm for investing in human capital is excellent news for the world. But not everybody is delighted. Because private education increases inequality, some governments are trying to stop its advance. That’s wrong: they should welcome it, but spread its benefits more widely.
Education used to be provided by religious institutions or entrepreneurs. But when governments, starting in Prussia in the 18th century, got into the business of nation-building, they realised they could use education to shape young minds. As state systems grew, private schooling was left to the elite and the pious. Now it is enjoying a resurgence, for several reasons. Incomes are rising, especially among the better off, at the same time as birth rates are falling. In China the former one-child policy means that six people—two parents and four grandparents—can pour money into educating a single child. The growth of the knowledge economy means that the returns to education are rising at the same time as the opportunities available to those without any schooling are shrinking.

Students, Graduates May Be Next Targets of College-Admissions Scandal Investigation

Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz:

Though federal authorities have said many of the students who allegedly benefited from the scheme by landing spots at top colleges didn’t know about their parents’ activities, court papers suggest at least some did. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said when the charges in “Operation Varsity Blues” were announced a month ago that the investigation was ongoing and students remained part of that probe.

“There was a pretty wide range of how parents tried to play this,” Mr. Lelling said at the time, adding that in one case a defendant and his daughter were allegedly on a conference call with the ringleader of the cheating scam.

In another example, the older daughter of one pair of defendants, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, allegedly received a score of 1900 out of a possible 2400 on the October 2015 test, up by 320 points from the best mark she had received previously. Mark Riddell, the test-taking whiz who mastermind William “Rick” Singer paid to fix wrong answers for students, told authorities he “gloated” with the girl and her mother about getting away with cheating on the test, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Poll on Tax, Spending, Choice and Accountability

Bethany Blankley:

While 59 percent of respondents supported Evers’ plan to increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, support fell to 39 percent when respondents learned the increase in spending comes with no academic accountability, the polls found.

In response to Evers’ budget proposal, Madison–Co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said in a statement, “Wisconsin can’t afford Tony Evers’ budget. He’s spending our record surplus and billions more. His budget increases spending by $1,000 for every resident in the state, raises taxes, and eliminates the reforms that worked over the last eight years. Governor Evers is digging another hole that Republicans will again have to fill.”

The majority polled support public charter schools: 68 percent of Hispanics, 66 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of blacks, and 61 percent of residents from Metro Milwaukee counties.

More respondents support school voucher programs than those who oppose them. Supporters include 66 percent of blacks, 60 percent of Hispanics, 59 percent from Metro Milwaukee counties, and 53 percent of Millennial/Generation Z respondents.

The Rise of Outrage Culture and why it’s a damaging force to our society

Julian A:

The problem is that conservatives almost seldom attempt to ruin people’s lives for their political beliefs. Political correctness serves as the left’s stronghold, shaming tactics and de-platforming serving as the siege weapons. For people who are all about “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Working hard to get ahead”, right-wingers seem to be happy having their own Bastille get stormed by the outrage mob.

A liberal teacher would never lose his job for saying that he’s pro-choice, yet a conservative one can definitely find himself unemployed if he says he’s pro-life. Educational institutions are non-surprisingly left-leaning, but even the private sector you can get trouble for having the wrong opinion. The worst part about this discrimination is that it’s often completely legal.

Mulligans for Elementary Reading Teachers; permanent exemption proposal

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

A bill is circulating in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would permanently exempt special education teachers from having to pass the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). Prospective special educators would merely have to take one course in reading and reading comprehension, receive some unspecified coaching, and compile a portfolio. There is nothing that would make this course any more rigorous than existing reading courses. On completion of their teacher preparation program, they would be eligible for a Tier II license,on the pathway to a Tier III lifetime license without ever passing the FORT. The most needy students would receive the least qualified teachers.

Rep. Tranel and Sen. Marklein, the sponsors of LRB 1180/1 and LRB 2735/1, are seeking other legislators to sign on as co-sponsors by noon on Thursday, April 18th. Please take a moment today to contact your legislators with your concerns, and ask them not to sign on. Find your legislators here: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/

Wisconsin Reading Coalition has sent a blanket email to all legislators. The text is attached. Please feel free to use it to help you craft some comments.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition is a grassroots organization of families, educators, school administrators, higher education staff, tutors, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, attorneys, and other concerned Wisconsinites who advocate for changes in reading instruction that will improve student outcomes. 

One of the statutory provisions WRC supports is the requirement that elementary teachers, reading teachers, reading specialists, and special education teachers pass the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) before becoming licensed teachers. It is undeniable that teachers who know more can teach more effectively. The FORT assesses basic knowledge about reading and teaching reading that is essential for all teachers, but especially those who are responsible for beginning and struggling readers. Of course, there are many other skills and many other areas of knowledge that are important to being a well-rounded educator, but an individual who cannot pass the FORT is not qualified to teach beginning or struggling readers. 

Ever since the FORT requirement was passed in 2011, adult special interest groups have been pressuring DPI and the legislature to lessen its impact. Our educator preparation programs are simply not doing a good job of teaching reading, and the FORT failure rate is higher than desired. 

DPI has responded by offering a variety of emergency licenses, licenses with stipulations, and most recently Tier I licenses that allow individuals to become teachers without passing the FORT. Teachers still cannot attain a Tier II or Tier III lifetime license without passing this exam. However, because Tier I licenses are infinitely renewable, a teacher can go through an entire career without passing the FORT. The sole exception is special education teachers, who are required by federal IDEA law to be “highly-qualified.” These teachers currently must pass the FORT within 3 years of entering the classroom.

The legislature has responded by creating FORT exemptions for certain teachers coming from out-of-state, as well as those who have been educated in the American Board online program. These individuals are allowed to skip the FORT entirely and move forward to Tier II and Tier III lifetime licenses. 

Now the legislature is being asked to take up LRB 1180/1 and LRB 2735/1, which will allow special educators to become fully licensed without ever passing the FORT. In place of the FORT, this legislation would merely require one reading course covering all five major components of reading, unspecified interaction with a coach, and compiling of a personal portfolio. The content of the course is not specified and, in any event, a one-semester course is not enough to cover all five components of reading in sufficient depth. Nothing assures us that this “rigorous” course will be any different from the reading coursework already required, or that it will be taught by anyone with deeper knowledge of reading science. It cannot be assumed that the holding of a master’s degree or reading specialist license makes a coach highly-qualified, and there is nothing to indicate the extent of the coaching. The design, content, and evaluation of the portfolio, which takes the place of the FORT, is not specified. 

In short, all this legislation accomplishes is to exempt special education teachers from passing the FORT. While this may solve the adult dilemmas of teachers who cannot pass the FORT and district administrators who have a dwindling pool of job applicants, it is done at the expense of our most vulnerable children in special education. Where they should have the most qualified teachers, they will now receive the least qualified. 

76% of our 4th grade special education students perform at the Below Basic level on the NAEP reading assessment. That is the equivalent of being functionally illiterate. The FORT requirement was enacted in part to begin turning around this shameful story of Wisconsin education. Allowing a three-year grace period for a special educator to pass the FORT is already a major concession to adult interests. Supporting this legislation guarantees that special education students’ needs will continue to go unmet. We ask you to support disabled students by voting NO on a FORT exemption for special education teachers. 

A series of college reading courses that is based on the science of reading will prepare prospective teachers to pass the FORT, and will expand the qualified job applicant pool without sacrificing special education students. The FORT should not be approached as a hurdle to overcome by memorizing terms and using study guides. Rather, it should be a demonstration that the future teacher has learned sufficient information and gained sufficient skills from a series of reading courses and practicum experiences to be an effective teacher. WRC urges both the legislature and DPI to explore long-overdue changes in teacher preparation for the benefit of our teachers, our schools, and our students.  

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans:

Our long term, disastrous reading results.

Wallace Hall, University of Texas Admissions Whistleblower, Receives Apology

Michael Poliakoff:

In response to the recent nationwide college admissions scandal, the Student Government of the University of Texas–Austin has proposed an apology to Wallace Hall—a former member of the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents. Mr. Hall was an early whistleblower concerning admissions corruption in 2011, and faced harsh criticism for requesting application documents to investigate. Some attempted to argue (oddly) that he was overstepping his role as a trustee, and a controversial impeachment process against him began. Impeachment attempts were not successful, and Mr. Hall’s claims were validated in 2015 when an investigation found widespread admissions corruption.

Want to learn a new skill? Take some short breaks


“Everyone thinks you need to ‘practice, practice, practice’ when learning something new. Instead, we found that resting, early and often, may be just as critical to learning as practice,” said Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and a senior author of the paper published in the journal Current Biology. “Our ultimate hope is that the results of our experiments will help patients recover from the paralyzing effects caused by strokes and other neurological injuries by informing the strategies they use to ‘relearn’ lost skills.”

The study was led by Marlene Bönstrup, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Cohen’s lab. Like many scientists, she held the general belief that our brains needed long periods of rest, such as a good night’s sleep, to strengthen the memories formed while practicing a newly learned skill. But after looking at brain waves recorded from healthy volunteers in learning and memory experiments at the NIH Clinical Center, she started to question the idea.

The waves were recorded from right-handed volunteers with a highly sensitive scanning technique called magnetoencephalography. The subjects sat in a chair facing a computer screen and under a long cone-shaped brain scanning cap. The experiment began when they were shown a series of numbers on a screen and asked to type the numbers as many times as possible with their left hands for 10 seconds; take a 10 second break; and then repeat this trial cycle of alternating practice and rest 35 more times. This strategy is typically used to reduce any complications that could arise from fatigue or other factors.

Civics: Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries:

It is unclear how often these search requests have led to arrests or convictions, because many of the investigations are still open and judges frequently seal the warrants. The practice was first used by federal agents in 2016, according to Google employees, and first publicly reported last year in North Carolina. It has since spread to local departments across the country, including in California, Florida, Minnesota and Washington. This year, one Google employee said, the company received as many as 180 requests in one week. Google declined to confirm precise numbers.

The technique illustrates a phenomenon privacy advocates have long referred to as the “if you build it, they will come” principle — anytime a technology company creates a system that could be used in surveillance, law enforcement inevitably comes knocking. Sensorvault, according to Google employees, includes detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide and dating back nearly a decade.

The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information.

‘‘There are privacy concerns that we all have with our phones being tracked — and when those kinds of issues are relevant in a criminal case, that should give everybody serious pause,” said Catherine Turner, a Minnesota defense lawyer who is handling a case involving the technique.

Charges against Michael Bonds a scandal with few rivals in Milwaukee education

Alan Borsuk:

In 2007, he ran for the Milwaukee School Board for the first time, seeking to represent a north side district that includes his home in Sherman Park. He won and quickly became a leader on the board.

Combine that with his marriage to a long-time high school principal and central office administrator in MPS, and the pieces were in place for a positive narrative involving one of the leading couples in Milwaukee education.

It never quite seemed that way. Kathy Bonds stayed out of the public eye intentionally, and whatever Michael Bonds wanted to convey about what he brought to his efforts, joy wasn’t it.

At times during his board tenure, Bonds challenged the administration with good questions and had independent-minded ideas for dealing with specific situations. He worked hard, which is a big reason other board members picked him to be president, a position that brings occasional influence but a bunch of extra chores.

Madison community schools look to be an ‘extension of home’

Chris Rickert:

More than two and a half years into the Madison School District’s launch of “community schools,” there are signs that students and parents are benefiting from the expanded array of services the schools provide.

Less clear is whether such a wrap-around pedagogical approach — which largely aims to boost student success by boosting family stability — will result in measurable academic improvements.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts (now around $20k/student). This despite long term, disastrous reading results.

The first AI-generated textbook shows what robot writers are actually good at

James Vincent:

Academic publisher Springer Nature has unveiled what it claims is the first research book generated using machine learning.

The book, titled Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research, isn’t exactly a snappy read. Instead, as the name suggests, it’s a summary of peer-reviewed papers published on the topic in question. It includes quotations, hyperlinks to the work cited, and automatically generated references contents. It’s also available to download and read for free if you have any trouble getting to sleep at night.

“a new era in scientific publishing”
While the book’s contents are soporific, the fact that it exists at all is exciting. Writing in the introduction, Springer Nature’s Henning Schoenenberger (a human) says books like this have the potential to start “a new era in scientific publishing” by automating drudgery.

“The populist triumphs of 2016 caught us unawares”

Simon Kuper:

The populist triumphs of 2016 caught us unawares. The slow death of local newspapers (the traditional early warning system for anything brewing outside court) meant that we missed the anger in Sunderland and Ohio. Populist jibes at the “out-of-touch metropolitan media” hit home: elite media are now largely staffed by people with masters degrees, taking the national pulse from Brooklyn or north London.

Two teens arrested after alleged sexual assault at Madison East High School

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Two 15-year-old boys were arrested this week after a girl said she was sexually assaulted inside a bathroom during after school hours at East High School on Wednesday, according to police.

The girl, who is also 15 years old, reported the incident to East’s school resource officer on Thursday, according to a Madison Police Department incident report. One suspect was arrested Thursday night on a charge of second degree sexual assault of a child, while another was arrested Friday morning on the same charge.

Finally Some Robust Research Into Whether “Diversity Training” Actually Works – Unfortunately It’s Not Very Promising

Jesse Singal:

Diversity trainings are big business. In the United States, companies spend about £6.1 billion per year, by one estimate, on programmes geared at making companies more inclusive and welcoming to members of often-underrepresented groups (British numbers aren’t easy to come by, but according to one recent survey, over a third of recruiters are planning to increase their investment in diversity initiatives).

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence-backed consensus about which sorts of diversity programmes work, and why, and there have been long-standing concerns in some quarters that these programmes don’t do much at all, or that they could actually be harmful. In part because of this dearth of evidence, the market for pro-diversity interventions is a bit of a Wild West with regard to quality.

For a new paper in PNAS, a prominent team of researchers, including Katherine Milkman, Angela Duckworth, and Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, partnered with a large global organisation to measure the real-world impact of the researchers’ own anti-bias intervention, designed principally to “promote inclusive attitudes and behaviors toward women, whereas a secondary focus was to promote the inclusion of other underrepresented groups (e.g., racial minorities).” The results were mixed at best – and unfortunately there are good reasons to be sceptical that even the more positive results are as positive as they seem.

A Math Teacher’s Life Summed Up By The Gifted Students He Mentored

Joe Palca:

George Berzsenyi is a retired math professor living in Milwaukee County. Most people have never heard of him.

But Berzsenyi has had a remarkable impact on American science and mathematics. He has mentored thousands of high school students, including some who became among the best mathematicians and scientists in the country.

I learned about Berzsenyi from a chance conversation with a scientist named Vamsi Mootha.

In the late 1980s, when Mootha was in high school in Beaumont, Texas, he won a science fair. A few days later, a letter arrived in the mail.

“It said, ‘Dear Vamsi, Congratulations on winning the Houston Science Fair, this is quite the accomplishment,’ ” Mootha recalls.

“But then when I started reading the next paragraph, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach,” Mootha says.

The letter went on to say that the math problem young Vamsi solved to win the fair had been solved hundreds of years earlier.

Google and surveillance capitalism

Brian Barth:

“History offers sobering lessons about societies that practise mass surveillance.”

But the privacy overreaches and the betrayal of consumer trust are, for Balsillie, sideshows to the real scandal: that Silicon Valley’s main business model is founded on the exhaustive monitoring of human behaviour—a revenue stream it is loath to give up. The five most valuable corporations in the world are all tech companies, and the top two, Apple and Amazon, recently became the first trillion-dollar enterprises, which put their worth above the GDP of all but sixteen countries. Balsillie, like many, refers to this new economic order as “surveillance capitalism,” which he described at the hearing as “the most powerful market force today.”

The subject of surveillance capitalism seemed to hit a nerve with McKay. “Despite what Mr. Balsillie said,” he countered, “we do not sell the personal information of our users.” Google’s business model, he explained, is based on “services that are provided free to Canadians and everyone else in the world through advertising. It’s advertising that’s targeted at aggregated groups, not at individuals, and there’s no exchange of personal information between Google and advertisers.”

Don’t be “tricked by platitudes,” Balsillie urged the MPs. While Google might not sell user information per se, it certainly monetizes it in transactions with third parties. Nearly 85 percent of the revenue generated by Alphabet—Google’s parent company—comes from advertising, so the levers between personal data and profit making are plain to see. The relevant question, said Balsillie, taking off his glasses, is, “Do you exploit information?” Given that Google fields around 90 percent of internet searches worldwide, the company’s search algorithm represents a source of power with few historical precedents. In an age of fake news, cyberwarfare, and toxic online culture, it would seem reckless not to be concerned that such power is accountable to shareholders rather than elected officials.

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

Article on assistant principal’s fate blows up into controversy engulfing Oshkosh school

Devi Shastri:

Doemel contended that is when he started getting squeezed. He said the principal pulled him out of class three times to question him. Kiffmeyer asked if his source was in the school, male or female, Doemel said.

Kiffmeyer did not respond directly; she is out on medical leave.

Cartwright said she talked to Kiffmeyer. She contended Doemel was pulled from class twice — not three times. She said Doemel’s characterization of the conversations was false; he was asked if the source was a district administrator and if he would turn over his notes. Doemel refused.

Doemel told the Journal Sentinel he stands by the accuracy of the posted story and this his source has years of experience at the district. He said he continued to try to get more information, enlisting the help of fellow North Star staffer Tess Fitzhenry. Fitzhenry’s father, James Fitzhenry, suggested the students connect with the Student Press Law Center for guidance.

Civics: First Amendment, taxpayer subsidies and the Yale Law School

Ethan Beeman:

The Christian legal group has won nine Supreme Court cases in the past seven years, including Masterpiece Cakeshop. That’s the case where seven justices said Colorado showed “religious hostility” to cake designer Jack Phillips when it found that his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding violated the state’s antidiscrimination law.

The Yale chapter of the Federalist Society hosted Kristin Waggoner, the alliance lawyer who argued Masterpiece. When the chapter sent a school-wide email about the event, the campus LGBT group Outlaws and several other progressive groups called for a boycott, according to chapter member Aaron Haviland in The Federalist.

What the Federalist Society got was “over-the-top even by Yale standards,” Haviland wrote.

Two days before Waggoner’s event, the Outlaws asked the administration if students would be able to use Yale-funded public interest fellowships “to push discriminatory agendas during their summers,” according to The Daily Wire.

Open the Books:

1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

2. The Ivy League was the recipient of $25.73 billion worth of federal payments during this period: contracts ($1.37 billion), grants ($23.9 billion) and direct payments – student assistance ($460 million).

The First Amendment

Does Google meet its users’ expectations around consumer privacy? This news industry research says no

Jason Kint:

Numerous privacy scandals over the past couple of years have fueled the need for increased examination of tech companies’ data tracking practices. While the ethics around data collection and consumer privacy have been questioned for years, it wasn’t until Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics scandal that people began to realize how frequently their personal data is shared, transferred, and monetized without their permission.

Cambridge Analytica was by no means an isolated case. Last summer, an AP investigation found that Google’s location tracking remains on even if you turn it off in Google Maps, Search, and other apps. Research from Vanderbilt professor Douglas Schmidt found that Google engages in “passive” data collection, often without the user’s knowledge. His research also showed that Google utilizes data collected from other sources to de-anonymize existing user data.

That’s why we at Digital Content Next, the trade association of online publishers I lead, wrote this Washington Post op-ed, “It isn’t just about Facebook, it’s about Google, too” when Facebook first faced Capitol Hill. It’s also why the descriptor surveillance advertising is increasingly being used to describe Google and Facebook’s advertising businesses, which use personal data to tailor and micro-target ads.

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

The Pentagon Wants to Streamline Security Clearances by Using A.I. That’s a Dangerous Idea.

John Bowers:

This piece was originally published on Just Security, an online forum for analysis of U.S. national security law and policy.

In June, the White House announced that the government’s security clearance program, including for individuals in civilian roles, would be consolidated under the Department of Defense.

This reorganization, largely motivated by an enormous backlog of clearance investigations, is aimed at streamlining the clearance process, and in particular the “reinvestigation” of individuals with clearances that require periodic review. At the core of these new efficiencies, the DOD claims, will be a “continuous evaluation” system that autonomously analyzes applicants’ behavior—using telemetry such as court records, purchase histories, and credit profiles—to proactively identify security risks. The rollout is already underway: The DOD had enrolled upward of 1.2 million people in continuous evaluation as of November. But the program is far from uncontroversial, raising credible privacy concerns and the hackles of advocacy groups including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As the DOD takes over millions of new civilian clearances, these worries will find a broader audience.

And, thanks to machine learning, a type of algorithm that allows an A.I. to learn by example rather than being explicitly programmed, it seems that things may soon get a lot more complicated.

Madison Teacher who said n-word says she was correcting student’s use of another slur

Chris Rickert:

The teacher and the State Journal have both asked for the district’s report of its investigation of the event, but the district has refused to release it, citing student privacy. The state open records law permits the district to black out information that would identify students.

Emails that were sent to Hamilton staff regarding the teacher — and released to the State Journal under the state’s public records law — refer to her initial suspension, recount the event and otherwise support the teacher’s version of what happened on Oct. 31 and in the days after. Several, along with two letters in her personnel file, also laud the teacher’s work and interaction with students.

The teacher’s personnel file, also accessed through a public records request, includes no prior incidents of disciplinary action against her. She said she had never before been subject to such action.

“I’ve never even been called to the principal’s office and said, like, ‘That lesson plan wasn’t a great idea’ or ‘You probably shouldn’t have done that,’” she said.

Is the U.S. a Democracy? A Social Studies Battle Turns on the Nation’s Values

Dana Goldstein:

The United States, unlike many other developed nations, lacks a national curriculum that defines what students should know. Each of the 50 states can create its own learning standards.

These documents are closely examined. While schools can teach material not included in them, they shape the content in standardized tests, and many educators rely heavily on the standards as they craft lesson plans. Student teachers are trained to use them.

Activists have long seen influencing state standards as an effective way to shape the next generation of voters. In 2010, conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education removed the word “democracy” as a description of American government, prompting protests. Georgia has also debated the term, eventually settling, in 2016, on standards that use the phrase “representative democracy/republic.”

The Michigan conservatives — who prefer “constitutional republic” — say their arguments are historical, not partisan.

The kindergarten section of the new draft of the Michigan social studies standards. Previously, conservatives pushed for the nation to be called a “constitutional republic” founded on “core values,” not “democratic values.” The previous draft also used the term “roles of the citizen” instead of “civic participation.”

Who will teach the parents?

David Blaska:

Just catching up with events in the Mad Madison school district, this time at Leopold elementary school. Thanks to Dylan Brogan of Isthmus, one of the finest reporters in town, we learn only this week of an incident four weeks ago, well before the Spring school board election.

Children lie about what happened at school? Who knew?

Parents turn a behavior issue into a racial incident? Forget it, Jake, it’s Madison.

Most disturbing, school district P.R. person urges the news media to spike the story? Of course.

Ten-year-old girl alleges principal smacked her in the face. Mother over-reacts.

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

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

US essay mill firm targets new students through WhatsApp

Iftikhaar Aziz and Sarah Marsh:

A US firm is targeting first-year university students by infiltrating their private WhatsApp groups and offering to write essays for £7 a page, the Guardian can reveal.

The firm and a series of anonymous individuals are offering made-to-order essays and have been hijacking new students’ group chats at at least five universities, including four prestigious Russell Group institutions.

The messages, posted on accommodation and course group chats created to help freshers settle into university life, boast that students can “pay after delivery”.

Academics said the practice is extremely concerning. One professor called the tactics employed by essay mills to market to students “abhorrent”.

The findings come as universities and government ministers have expressed concern about the growth of essay mills, which offer pieces of academic work to order for a fee. They are nearly impossible to detect through anti-plagiarism software.

234 House Democrats, Two Republicans Co-Sponsor Bill Forcing Schools To Let Male Athletes Compete On Girls’ Sports Teams

Peter Hasson:

Every House Democrat but one has co-sponsored a bill requiring schools to allow male athletes who identify as transgender girls to compete on female sports teams.

Democrats’ Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make “sexual orientation and gender identity” protected characteristics under federal anti-discrimination law. Among other things, the bill would force public schools to expand female athletic teams to include biological males who identify as transgender girls.

Buying College Essays Is Now Easier Than Ever. But Buyer Beware

Tobias Smith:

As the recent college admissions scandal is shedding light on how parents are cheating and bribing their children’s way into college, schools are also focusing on how some students may be cheating their way through college. Concern is growing about a burgeoning online market that makes it easier than ever for students to buy essays written by others to turn in as their own work. And schools are trying new tools to catch it.

It’s not hard to understand the temptation for students. The pressure is enormous, the stakes are high and, for some, writing at a college level is a huge leap.

“We didn’t really have a format to follow, so I was kind of lost on what to do,” says one college freshman, who struggled recently with an English assignment. One night, when she was feeling particularly overwhelmed, she tweeted her frustration.

“It was like, ‘Someone, please help me write my essay!’ ” she recalls. She ended her tweet with a crying emoji. Within a few minutes, she had a half-dozen offers of help.

Chicago is Tracking Kids With GPS Monitors That Can Call and Record Them Without Consent

Kira Lerner:

On March 29, court officials in Chicago strapped an ankle monitor onto Shawn, a 15-year-old awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery. They explained that the device would need to be charged for two hours a day and that it would track his movements using GPS technology. He was told he would have to be given permission to leave his house, even to go to school. But he found out that through his monitor, officers wouldn’t just be able to track his location, as most electronic monitors do. They would also be able to speak—and listen—to him.

“I feel like they are listening to what he’s saying,” said Shawn’s mother. “They can hear everything. We could be here talking about anything.”

Shawn, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, is one of hundreds of children in Chicago whose ankle monitors are now equipped with microphones and speakers. The stated purpose of these devices is to communicate with the children, but they are raising concerns among civil liberties watchers that they are actually a mechanism for surveilling the conversations of these kids and those around them—and potentially for using the recordings in criminal cases.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 School Tax & Spending Referendums

Margaret Cannon:

According to Wisconsin Policy Forum report, voters approved referendum questions totaling $783 million. Total borrowing requests on school district ballots statewide reached $1.2 billion, with voters turning down some of the largest individual ballot items.

Voters approved 45 of the 60 questions on this year’s ballot.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows a 15 percent drop in approval ratings compared to last year when voters said yes to 90% of referendums on the ballot. Even so, 2019 ranked as the third-highest approval year since revenue caps were created in the 1993-94 school year.

“To get large numbers like these, you probably need a lot of things to happen at once,” said Jason Stein, research director at the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Factors such as the economy and interest rates often indicate how the public will vote on school spending. A recent Marquette University Law School survey showed that voters felt it was more important to spend on schools than to lower property taxes.

Much of the support was found in increases for basic district operations, such as teacher salaries, school maintenance, transportation and classroom spending. Districts have said that state-imposed spending caps and Wisconsin’s school funding formula have caused them to turn to local voters to approve higher spending.

Weekly Update Shared to Madison School Board Members

Curiously, this document is NOT shared as part of the Madison School Board public documents. Chan Stroman obtained the April 4, 2019 70 page package via an open records request (!).

The April 4, 2019 document contains a number of interesting links and shares, including a summary of Governor Ever’s (Former long time Wisconsin DPI leader) proposed budget. I found no mention of DPI’s elementary reading teacher mulligan practice, yet noted this on page 16:

Teacher Shortage and Teacher Licensure Provisions
• Authorizes school districts to rehire a retired annuitant teacher if:

– at least 30 days have passed since the teacher left employment with a district;

– at the time of retirement, the teacher does not have an agreement with any school district to return to employment; and

– upon returning to work the teacher elects to not become a participating employee and continue receiving their annuity.

• Repeals the alternative education preparation licensure pathway through which teachers can become licensed without in-classroom teaching time.

• Provides $571,200 in 2019-20 and $652,900 in fiscal year 2020-21 to help recruit and retain high quality master educator and national board-certified teachers in high poverty schools. (This funding would triple the size of continuing grants to qualified teachers in high poverty urban schools and double the size of the continuing grant for teachers at high poverty schools elsewhere in (i.e., throughout) the state, and would incentivize an estimated 130 or more highly qualified teachers to continue teaching in schools with high levels of poverty.)

• Requires teachers at private schools participating in a private school choice (voucher) program to be licensed as of July 1, 2022. (This item also appears below under voucher programs.)

Related: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

We Will Never Fix Campus Indoctrination Until We Cut College Subsidies

Dustin Steele:

People Think College Is About Education, But It’s Often Not

Higher education is riding on its reputation as a gateway to a bright future. As of 2018, 82 percent of Americans believed a four-year degree was either “very” or “somewhat” good preparation for attaining a well-paying job. However, recent events have eroded that reputation, especially amongst conservatives.

“Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today,” President Trump said as he signed the executive order.

Trump’s comments weren’t just red meat. Do a Google search for names like Brett Weinstein, Jordan Peterson, Heather Mac Donald, Dave Rubin, and Ben Shapiro plus the term “college controversy” to find shocking stories of liberals, moderates, and conservatives being driven from college campuses. A common theme is the rationale under which the above-named figures are driven out: promoting “inclusivity,” “equity,” or “safety” from “hate” and “violence.”

This attempt at silencing is now aimed all the way up to justices on the Supreme Court. Most recently, when George Mason University’s School of Law hired Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to teach a class, students at the university demanded his appointment be rescinded, one saying, “As a survivor, as a student who comes to this university, and expects to have a good education, to experience a happy, safe place, I am insulted.”

It’s tempting to dismiss this kind of rhetoric. College kids are expected to be a bit radical in their youth, right? This language is much harder to defend when students, faculty, and alumni of Yale Law School use it in penning an open letter protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Where do students learn such crazy ideas about the world? Who is providing them with this familiar script?

The Dutch East India Company was richer than Apple, Google and Facebook combined

Bobby Salomon:

The Dutch East-India Company – Apple Didn’t Have Nothing On It!

The “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie” (VOC), better known as the Dutch East-India company was set up in 1602, head-quartered in the “Oost-Indisch Huis” (East-India House) in downtown Amsterdam – which still stands today. It was founded as a private merchant company that was granted a two decade long monopoly by the government for spice trading in Asia, in particular the Dutch East-Indies, known today as the Republic of Indonesia.

And if you think Amazon is thrifty with deliveries – the VOC sent over one million voyagers across Asia, which is more than the rest of Europe combined, in a time where a trip from Amsterdam to Batavia (Djakarta) would last no shorter than 8 to 10 months and many ships, or individual passengers, would never return. Many of the massive sailing ships perished in storms, fell prey to piracy or infectious disease. Traveling at the time came at a huge risk, but once on location and with the right knowledge and attitude there was a great chance of becoming wealthy and so many took the risk.

The company was also the first official company to issue stocks, which peaked during the Dutch “Tulip Mania”, a craze for tulip bulbs that is seen as the world’s first true financial bubble. The VOC’s stocks pushed the company’s worth to a massive 78 million Dutch guilders, which is a pretty solid business even today, but translates to a whopping $7,9 trillion dollar worth today… Yes, really, trillion. That’s 7,900 billion – or 79,000 million!

Reliable novelty: New should not trump true

Bjorn Brembs:

Although a case can be made for rewarding scientists for risky, novel science rather than for incremental, reliable science, novelty without reliability ceases to be science. The currently available evidence suggests that the most prestigious journals are no better at detecting unreliable science than other journals. In fact, some of the most convincing studies show a negative correlation, with the most prestigious journals publishing the least reliable science. With the credibility of science increasingly under siege, how much longer can we afford to reward novelty at the expense of reliability? Here, I argue for replacing the legacy journals with a modern information infrastructure that is governed by scholars. This infrastructure would allow renewed focus on scientific reliability, with improved sort, filter, and discovery functionalities, at massive cost savings. If these savings were invested in additional infrastructure for research data and scientific code and/or software, scientific reliability would receive additional support, and funding woes—for, e.g., biological databases—would be a concern of the past.

Activists Disrupt Law Professor’s Talk at the University of Chicago

Robby Soave:

Eyewitnesses told Reason that the hecklers were not enrolled at Chicago, though one student did attempt to record Kontrovich on a cell phone, and was silently involved in the protest.

Kontrovich, an alumni of the law school, told Reason he had been invited by a student group to discuss the First Amendment as it pertains to laws that target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for direct action to oppose Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. A group of about five pro-Palestinian activists showed up for his talk and shouted over him as best they could, making it very difficult for attendees to hear.

“During the first few minutes of this disruption, Professor Kontorovich could not proceed with his lecture,” Seth Cohen, a student who attended the lecture, told Reason. “After about five minutes, we gathered around Professor Kontorovich, and he attempted to resume the talk. The protestors raised their voices.”

Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia

Kyle Redford:

“When we know better, we do better.” There is something forgiving and medicinal about that teaching mantra.

I am regularly realizing that I could have taught something more effectively or that I should have been more culturally responsive in my language or practices. Content becomes outdated or is later revealed to be incomplete or inaccurate. Some teaching memories haunt me so much that I have had fantasies about finding ways to apologize to former students for the cringe-worthy lessons they’ve endured.

I recently had a wake-up call around reading instruction, and determined I need to intellectually embrace something that I have long suspected: While dyslexics clearly need robust reading instruction (often more specialized and intensive than their peers), their needs are not as distinct from non-dyslexics as I have previously advocated.

“I’ve had the experience,” he says of working in a role that everyone knew would become outmoded and, inevitably, eliminated. “That’s a depressing feeling.

Elisabeth Behrmann:

“Four years ago, there were only two of us,” said Julia Wimmer of her team that maintains machines producing electric motors and battery packs in the Dingolfing factory. “Now we’re between 25 to 30.”
Battery-pack production uses robots to perform diagnostics and remove traces of dirt before placing each cell into the metal casing, a process that’s obviously simpler and less labor-intensive. The cells arrive at Dingolfing in cardboard boxes from Samsung factories in South Korea.
In this small town northeast of Munich, generations of BMW workers have flocked into the giant halls each day since the factory opened in 1967. A straightforward economic arrangement has endured: Workers come through the gates to build cars, the company provides the comfort of security and bonus payments, and everyone maintains a lustrous reputation for excellence.

Related: The Madison School District as General Motors

The Toy Store: The Milton Bradley Big Trak


The Milton Bradley Big Trak (also stylised as bigtrak) is a programmable toy resembling a futuristic utility vehicle that could have been used by Moon astronauts or colonists. It has six wheels (two drive wheels), a “photon beam” headlamp and a keypad on top.

Users could program in a sequence of up to 16 commands, with multiple presses of the movement and directional directives combining into single commands, such as “move forward 10” or “turn right 90 degrees”.

China’s rural students continue to enjoy favorable college admission policies


Students from China’s rural and poor areas will continue to enjoy favorable policies when they apply for major universities in 2019, according to a circular released by the Ministry of Education Tuesday.

The poverty-stricken counties entitled to special enrollment plans will continue to enjoy such policies in 2019, even if they have already shaken off poverty, the circular said.

With disparities in teaching standards among different regions, high school graduates from underdeveloped areas are at a disadvantage in the competition for a spot in the country’s major universities.

However, Chinese education authorities have rolled out favorable policies for students from remote rural areas in recent years as the country eyes higher education’s role in poverty relief.

Most bullying happens away from adults. This Wisconsin school teaches kids to step in.

Rory Linnane:

On a winter day last school year, Ashley Jenkins noticed a defeated look on a student’s face. She pulled him aside. With three words, she might have saved his life: “Are you OK?”

“You don’t have to tell me, but know I’m here,” Jenkins, now a senior at Adams-Friendship High School, remembers telling him.

Jenkins is part of the Safe School Ambassadors program, which trains students to intervene when they see bullying. They speak up in defense of victims and check in with students if they are worried about their mental health. They also record information about incidents, without names, in a central database so staff members are aware of trends.

In some cases, the student ambassadors ask adults for help.

Jenkins quickly realized she would need help with the student she pulled aside. He told her he felt like no one at school cared about him.

“There were students being incredibly cruel,” she said. “They would always say things about him and his family.”

Jenkins kept asking questions.

“He looked at me and he was like, ‘I’m just getting really tired of everything,’” Jenkins said. “He started tearing up and I knew he was thinking about hurting himself.”

The End of Aspiration

Joel Kotkin:

The drive against bourgeois aspirations underpins an emerging neo-feudal system in which people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants. This may end the dream of ownership that has defined the middle class for a half millennium, but it could assure a steady profit for the owner class, a rent that would seem appropriate to a medieval landlord.

French economist Thomas Picketty has suggested that today’s ageing societies exacerbate this pattern. Older people dominate the stock and property assets, forcing up prices to the point that younger generations or newcomers to these countries face growing obstacles to upward mobility. High rents as well as rising house prices make the extension of property ownership increasingly difficult for all but inheritors.

This receding horizon is generating an ever more feudalistic mentality among the young—those with wealthy parents are far luckier to own a house and enter what one writer calls “the funnel of privilege.” In America—like Australia, a country whose mythology disdains the power of inherited wealth—millennials are increasingly counting on inheritance for their retirement at a rate three times that of the boomers. Among the youngest cohort, those aged 18 to 22, over 60 percent see inheritance as their primary source of wealth as they age.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Proposed property tax increases

Mark Sommerhauser:

The increased tax bills are driven largely by Evers’ plan to boost by 2% the amount counties and municipalities could collect through local property tax levies.

But a countervailing effect comes from Evers’ plan to give a $1.4 billion infusion of state aid to school districts in the next two years. That would enable the state to shoulder a larger share, relative to local property taxpayers, of school district costs.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said in a statement that the report shows how Evers’ budget would mark a shift from budgets enacted under former Gov. Scott Walker.

“The fact is, the Governor’s budget raises property taxes by the largest amount in a decade,” Nygren said. “Republicans have a record of cutting taxes and remain committed to this goal, whereas the governor would rather increase taxes to grow government in Madison.”

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said part of the projected property tax increase is due to voters approving referendums to increase their property taxes to fund their local school districts — which she said Evers can’t control.

Notes and links on Madison’s $20k per student budget.

Murphy’s troubling failure to defend charter school success

Tom Moran:

The New Jersey Education Association just revived its call for a freeze on the growth of charter schools, a declaration of war from a muscular union that spends more on lobbying and campaigns than any other special interest group in the state, by far.

So, this is a serious threat, especially in Newark, where families are competing against tough odds to win a spot in the booming charter sector. One in three kids in Newark now attends a charter school, but many more want in, drawn by high test scores, high graduation rates, and a glide-path to college.

The verdict from Newark families is in. When offered a choice, they consistently prefer charters, whose students are overwhelmingly black and brown, and low-income. The resistance is coming from the unions, from strong suburban districts that don’t really need charters, and from orthodox liberals like our governor, who relies on the NJEA for political support.

Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Growth Sentiment

Negassi Tesfamichael:

However, the group said support dipped once additional information on current spending levels and other information about the budget was included.

The poll found only a third of respondents supported Evers’ proposal to freeze the growth of private school vouchers and independent charter schools. The poll found a majority of support for public charter schools and for parts of Act 10, including a provision that requires teachers to contribute at least 12 percent to their health care costs.

Indeed. One wonders how many citizens are aware of our $20k per student Madison school
District budget?

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

Schools ‘Need’ to Teach Kids ‘How Not to Be Offended’ in 2019, Educator Pleads

Jason Duaine Hahn:

“Teaching young people how not to be offended is to equip them to embrace people as complex individuals and not just as mascots of this or that tribe,” says Manji. “We grow by engaging those with whom we disagree. When we take offense, we’re in [a] reactive mode, and we miss opportunities to ask people why they believe what they do.”

The 51-year-old educator explains that when she speaks with people who have different opinions, she refuses to be “offended that they’re offended,” and instead tries to find common ground with the person — a lesson that young people could benefit from, she believes.

“Schools should be teaching students the how of not taking offense at everything,” Manji tells Time. “It’s a life skill. No matter what kind of life you have, to tackle nagging problems in your family, with friends, at work, in the wider world, you need buy-in.”

Civics: How did Department of Justice get the Trump-Russia investigation so wrong?

Bob Kerrey:

Delusions fascinate me in part because I have so many of my own. Most often delusions are harmless. Sometimes they are not.

At the moment my fellow Democrats are suffering from two that are harmful. The first is that Americans long for a president who will ask us to pay more for the pleasure of increasing the role of the federal government in our lives. That this is a delusion can be seen in the promises made by six successful Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan: three governors and three senators. Not one of them supported the Green New Deal, a tax on wealth or “Medicare for all.”

The second Democratic delusion is that Americans were robbed of the truth when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr concluded that President Trump did not collude with Russia in 2016. All evidence indicates that the full report will not change the conclusion that Donald J. Trump did not collude with Vladimir Putin to secure his victory in 2016.

Rather than investigating the president further, Congress needs to investigate how the Department of Justice got this one so wrong. If the president of the United States is vulnerable to prosecutorial abuse, then God help all the rest of us. Members of Congress cannot do this themselves. We do not trust them enough with such a vital mission.

Declassified U2 spy plane images reveal bygone Middle Eastern archaeological features

University of Pennsylvania:

In the 1950s and early ’60s, with the Cold War at its peak, the United States flew U2 spy planes across Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia, taking images of interesting military targets. Though the missions typically connected Point A to Point B, say an air field and an important city, in many cases the camera kept recording between those spots, capturing thousands of photos of the desert, steppes, fields, and villages below.

Such a collection can represent a goldmine for landscape archaeologists like Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania and Jason Ur of Harvard University. But for decades, all film and documents from these missions—code-named CHESS by the U.S. government—remained classified. And even when they became public in 1997, they weren’t indexed or scanned.

Curated Education Information