The Harvard Crimson on Journalism

Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume:

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

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

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

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

Vanessa Blanch:

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

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

Parents stand up to the failing education establishment and win

Will Swaim:

State testing shows that Palm Lane Elementary School students are performing at levels unthinkable just one year ago. In 13 of 14 learning categories, students showed improvement for the first time in more than 10 years. In many cases, these gains were significant, with up to 41 percent increases in academic achievement.

There’s a simple reason for this radical turnaround. A little more than a year ago, Palm Lane transformed from a neighborhood school, under the influence of the powerful California Teachers Association, into a non-union, independent public charter school.

Unlike traditional schools, charter schools aren’t straitjacketed by union work rules. They’re accountable to just one constituency, parents — not district staff, teachers unions, activists, or district trustees who do the unions’ bidding.

Restoring ancient text using deep learning: a case study on Greek epigraphy

Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield, Jonathan Prag:

Ancient history relies on disciplines such as epigraphy, the study of ancient inscribed texts, for evidence of the recorded past. However, these texts, “inscriptions”, are often damaged over the centuries, and illegible parts of the text must be restored by specialists, known as epigraphists. This work presents Pythia, the first ancient text restoration model that recovers missing characters from a damaged text input using deep neural networks. Its architecture is carefully designed to handle long-term context information, and deal efficiently with missing or corrupted character and word representations. To train it, we wrote a non-trivial pipeline to convert PHI, the largest digital corpus of ancient Greek inscriptions, to machine actionable text, which we call PHI-ML. On PHI-ML, Pythia’s predictions achieve a 30.1% character error rate, compared to the 57.3% of human epigraphists. Moreover, in 73.5% of cases the ground-truth sequence was among the Top-20 hypotheses of Pythia, which effectively demonstrates the impact of this assistive method on the field of digital epigraphy, and sets the state-of-the-art in ancient text restoration.

Ahrf

Under digital surveillance: how American schools spy on millions of kids

Lois Beckett:

The new school surveillance technology doesn’t turn off when the school day is over: anything students type in official school email accounts, chats or documents is monitored 24 hours a day, whether students are in their classrooms or their bedrooms.

Tech companies are also working with schools to monitor students’ web searches and internet usage, and, in some cases, to track what they are writing on public social media accounts.

Parents and students are still largely unaware of the scope and intensity of school surveillance, privacy experts say, even as the market for these technologies has grown rapidly, fueled by fears of school shootings, particularly in the wake of the Parkland shooting in February 2018, which left 17 people dead.

Digital surveillance is just one part of a booming, nearly $3bn-a-year school security industry in the United States, where Republican lawmakers have blocked any substantial gun control legislation for a quarter century.

“Schools feel massive pressure to demonstrate that they’re doing something to keep kids safe. This is something they can spend money on, roll out and tell parents, this is what we’re doing,” said Chad Marlow, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Unlike gun control, Marlow said, “Surveillance is politically palatable, and so they’re pursuing surveillance as a way you can demonstrate action, even though there’s no evidence that it will positively impact the problem.”

Civics: Catalonia has created a new kind of online activism. Everyone should pay attention

Laurie Clark:

Getting access to the app isn’t the most straight forward. It isn’t available through Android’s Play Store or on Apple’s App Store. Instead, you have to download an APK file (an Android Package file used to distribute applications on Google’s Android operating system) from the website, and manually install it on your phone. The software doesn’t work on iPhones because Apple’s iOS has stricter safeguards in place.

The installation process may be used to avoid the chance that big tech firms remove it from app stores following pressure from the government, the exact fate that befell a Hong Kong protest organising app. It also allowed whoever developed the app to keep their identity more private than if they had published their creation through an official app store.

There’s more. To ensure the app remains in the hands of genuine protestors, rather than police or other infiltrators, users can only access it through a QR code from someone who is already a member of the network. Each person who joins receives ten QR codes to invite others.

Civics: Elections and political class rhetoric

Matt Taibbi:

Less than a week before Clinton’s outburst, the New York Times — once a symbol of stodgy, hyper-cautious reporting — ran a feature called, “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” The piece speculated about the “suspicious activity” surrounding Gabbard’s campaign, using quotes from the neoconservative think-tank, the Alliance For Securing Democracy, to speculate about Gabbard’s Russian support.

This was the second such article the Times had written. An August piece, “Tulsi Gabbard thinks we’re doomed,“ hit nearly all the same talking points, quoting Clint Watts, an ex-spook from the same think-tank, calling Gabbard “the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat” and a “useful agent of influence.” The Times article echoed earlier pieces by the Daily Beast and NBC.com that said many of the same things.

After Clinton gave the “Russian asset” interview, it seemed for a moment like America’s commentariat might tiptoe away from the topic. Hillary Clinton has been through a lot over the course of a career, and even detractors would say she’s earned latitude to go loonybiscuits every now and then. A few of the Democratic presidential candidates, like Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang, gently chided Clinton for her remarks. But when Gabbard (who’s similarly been through a brutal media ordeal) snapped back and called Hillary “Queen of the warmongers,” and Donald Trump followed by calling Clinton “crazy,” most pundits doubled down on the “asset” idea.

Reason Won’t Save Us

Robert Burton:

n wondering what can be done to steer civilization away from the abyss, I confess to being increasingly puzzled by the central enigma of contemporary cognitive psychology: To what degree are we consciously capable of changing our minds? I don’t mean changing our minds as to who is the best NFL quarterback, but changing our convictions about major personal and social issues that should unite but invariably divide us. As a senior neurologist whose career began before CAT and MRI scans, I have come to feel that conscious reasoning, the commonly believed remedy for our social ills, is an illusion, an epiphenomenon supported by age-old mythology rather than convincing scientific evidence.

If so, it’s time for us to consider alternate ways of thinking about thinking that are more consistent with what little we do understand about brain function. I’m no apologist for artificial intelligence, but if we are going to solve the world’s greatest problems, there are several major advantages in abandoning the notion of conscious reason in favor of seeing humans as having an AI-like “black-box” intelligence.

Facebook and Speech: It’s All About Power

Continuations:

Here we are again in 2019 debating speech online and specifically the case of Facebook. Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown trying to invoke the civil rights movement and to draw a sharp distinction to China. Warren quickly fires back on Twitter. Pundits everywhere weigh in. And yet hardly anyone gets to the heart of the matter: power. And those who are mostly stuck in industrial age thinking recommending a traditional antitrust approach to limiting power.

Here are the two big traps people appear to be caught in, both of which are a result of applying the past to the future. The first trap is the publisher versus carrier dichotomy. This made sense in the age of the printed newspaper and the telephone network of yesteryear. Facebook is a different animal and trying to put it into one of these boxes will always result in some ridiculous conclusion and yet people persist in doing so.

The second trap is misunderstanding network effects. Yes, one absolutely could split Facebook into Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook proper. And yes that would on the margin reduce Facebook’s power. But each of these three separate networks would still be ridiculously powerful in its own right and so would be Twitter and whatever new networks are yet to come. Network effects are endemic to the digital realm.

Chicago Teachers Strike Should Be a Warning

Kim
Hirsch
:

The city of Chicago offered the teachers union a 16% base-pay raise extending over five years, but that wasn’t enough for the CTU. No, they want a 15% raise over three years. They also want every school to have nurses, social workers, and librarians, along with more special education paras and personnel.

But it’s not about the money. No, these purer-than-the-driven-snow professionals care only about the children. Said one striking teacher:

“This strike is not about money. This strike is over better schools for our own children and our students.”

Right. And if you believe that, let me give you a sweet deal on the Willis Tower. I’ll even throw in Wrigley Field, too.

Chicago taxpayers spend 15 to 25% less per student than Madison, depending on the district documents reviewed.

Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

The presentation included assertions on redistributed state taxpayer dollars sent to Madison (2010 – 2019 data available here).

The presentation did not mention total Madison K-12 spending , nor the implications of spending increase referendums on local property taxes and redistributed state taxpayer funds. In essence, the more a local school district exceeds state revenue limits, the less statewide funds they receive. Nonetheless, redistributed state taxpayer funds have grown over the past decade (note that there has been a reduction in Madison’s increase due to our tax and spending growth practices, via a number of referendums).

Presentation handouts (PDF).

Total 2019 – 2020 taxpayer spending is “just over $500,000,000” (About $18,500 per student) according to the District’s Chief Financial Officer’s [bio] response to a question.

Madison supports 13,573 elementary, 5,479 middle and 7,862 high school students (26,914 total).

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2.

Milwaukee taxpayers plan to spend $1.2B for 75,234 students, or $15,950 per student, about 16% less than Madison.

The referendum website.

Mission vs organization notes:

Commentary and Data on Madison’s High School Graduation 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”

2 COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS EACH COLLECT OVER $100K FROM CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION

invent Caruso:

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson earns the baseline $85,000 salary each county board member receives. On top of that, Johnson, whose county district covers areas of the west side of Chicago, has simultaneously collected a second full-time income of at least $103,000 from the Chicago Teachers Union, according to federal filings. Between the union and county, Johnson collects at least $188,000 annually.

CTU’s most recent federal filing, covering the period from July 2018 through June 2019, lists Johnson as a “legislative” employee. The filing shows 94% of his duties involved “representational activities.”

Johnson’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Illinois Policy Institute.

Status Quo Vs “The Democratization of Education“

Jonathan Siddharth:

And there’s another reason, also technology-driven, why boundaryless teams are possible now — the democratization of education for software engineers.

Almost every university that matters now allows exclusively online education. You can attend Stanford from Nigeria or Oxford from El Salvador. The smartest companies have expanded their recruiting pool to the planet; institutions of higher learning have done the same. They’re leading the revolution. They’ve not only leveraged the same technologies that we do; in some areas, they’ve jumped well ahead.

And there are technology startups that have focused on disrupting and democratizing education. A number of these, like Lambda School, have focused exclusively on preparing students for careers in software development. In other words, highly qualified people are distributed more broadly than ever. Provided you know how to find and then manage them — a topic we’ll be digging into in detail in an upcoming post.

MOOCs like Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy have unbundled university content to make education more accessible on a global scale.

Meanwhile taxpayer supported Madison K-12 school district spends more than most despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Civics: money, influence, Policy And spending more in Madison

Matt Stoller:

And all the time, whether in farm country or steel country, the closed independent shop and the collapsed bank were as much monuments to the new political order as the sprouting number of Walmarts and the blizzard of junk-mail credit cards from Citibank. As Terkel put it, “In the thirties, an Administration recognized a need and lent a hand. Today, an Administration recognizes an image and lends a smile.”

Regional inequality widened, as airlines cut routes to rural, small, and even medium-sized cities. So did income inequality, the emptying farm towns, the hollowing of manufacturing as executives began searching for any way to be in any business but one that made things in America. It wasn’t just the smog and the poverty, the consumerism, the debt, and the shop-till-you-drop ethos. It was the profound hopelessness.

Within academic and political institutions, Americans were taught to believe their longing for freedom was immoral. Power was re-centralizing on Wall Street, in corporate monopolies, in shopping malls, in the way they paid for the new consumer goods made abroad, in where they worked and shopped. Yet policymakers, reading from the scripts prepared by Chicago School of Economics “experts,” spoke of these changes as natural, “scientific,” a result of consumer preferences, not the concentration of power.

Madison’s property tax base has benefited enormously from influence (Obama stimulus) and federal taxpayer largesse through a nearly $40 billion electronic medical records back door subsidy.

Our taxpayer supported K-12 school district spends far more than most, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

It appears that the property tax base will be further leveraged.

Coalition alleges Taxpayer supported Racine school district ‘completely left out’ community in planning

Adam
Rogan
:

A local education coalition is planning to file a complaint with the state alleging that the Racine Unified School District failed to include the community in its planning processes and didn’t follow federal requirements as a result.

Representatives of the group planning to file the complaint, the Racine Community Coalition for Public Schools — which is comprised of teachers, retired educators, the local teachers union, the National Education Association, parents and community members — said that the district is required to use community input when crafting its Every Student Succeeds Act-Local Educational Agency plan; that 24-page plan is essentially the outline of objectives and educational methodology intended to guide the whole district.

“We know best” is
evergreen.

Anatomy of the city’s rampant educational fraud

Bob McManus:

Edelman reports that, according to the rules, students must “meet class standards” to earn graduation credits, never mind that “standards” in city schools are notoriously undemanding. And when an actual classroom presence is not among them, you get the idea.

In practice, kids who miss weeks, sometimes months, of classes can sashay in at the last minute, do some perfunctory makeup work and then they are good to go for graduation.

Where they go from there is an open question. Some might go to Harvard or other elite colleges and universities, of course, but damned few do. Most go on to sad lives — functionally illiterate, innumerate and pretty much incapable of meaningful participation in the modern economy.

Stop helicoptering other people’s kids

Larol Markowicz:

By the time I was 9, growing up in a far more dangerous Brooklyn than is home to my children, I was going to the movies alone — and sometimes taking my 4-year-old brother with me.

My daughter spent days planning her mostly rainbow outfit. They were going to one of those fancy new theaters, the Nitehawk in Prospect Park, the kind where they take your ticket at your seat and you can eat a meal while you watch a film. She had perused the menu online and concluded she wanted a burger. I taught her about tipping and how to calculate 20 percent off the ­total. I walked the girls to their seats and left. She was ready.

“Multiculturalism has failed”

Sabine Siebold:

She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labor market.

The debate over foreigners in Germany has shifted since former central banker Thilo Sarrazin published a book accusing Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society.

Sarrazin was censured for his views and dismissed from the Bundesbank, but his book proved highly popular and polls showed a majority of Germans agreed with the thrust of his arguments.

Regulatory Environment: State Mandated Entrepreneurship

Christian Britschgi:

Companies in San Francisco might soon to be required to get a permission slip from the city before rolling out their new innovations in public spaces.

On Tuesday, Norman Yee, president of the city’s Board of Supervisors, introduced a bill that would create the Office of Emerging Technology (OET). Entrepreneurs looking to deploy any emerging technology “upon, above, or below” city properties or public rights-of-way would need to first obtain a pilot permit from the OET’s director.

“As a city, we must ensure that such technologies ultimately result in a net common good and that we evaluate the costs and benefits so that our residents, workers and visitors are not unwittingly made guinea pigs of new tech,” said Yee in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the years San Francisco’s tech companies have deployed all kinds of inventions in public spaces, including package delivery robots and dockless electric scooters. But because these innovations were, well, innovative, no specific rules initially existed to govern their use.

That has irritated city residents and officials who’ve resented new vehicles popping up in public space without specific rules governing their operation.

Naturally, city officials have scrambled to create what they consider to be appropriate regulations, which has proved chaotic and heavy-handed. To smooth out this process, Yee has proposed the OET as a sort of regulatory catchall department that will tailor regulations for each new innovation before they hit city streets.

NYU Shanghai campus ‘self-censoring, politically neutral’ on Hong Kong: faculty

Jay Levine:

School is back in session for NYU students in Shanghai, China, but one subject that won’t be on the syllabus is pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong.

NYU faculty in China and New York say the issue is a third rail, particularly after the international imbroglio caused by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the demonstrators.

“Everyone is under a bit of a cloud of fear,” one faculty member who teaches at NYU’s sprawling 600,000-square-foot Shanghai campus told The Post. “We don’t walk around trembling like rodents, but there is a general idea that there are certain topics you don’t discuss.

“Most of us are on guard about what we say even when we talk about the weather,” the faculty member continued, saying that student protests at the Shanghai campus would be unthinkable.

How big a deal was the Industrial Revolution?

Luke Muehlhauser:

The gains in human well-being observed since the industrial revolution are vastly larger than pre-industrial fluctuations in human well-being. No other transitions in recorded history, either positive or negative, are remotely similar in magnitude. When thinking about which future developments might be most important, we should not forget that the size of their likely impact may differ by orders of magnitude. For example, a universal cure for cancer would bring a huge benefit to human well-being, but its expected impact seems likely to be vastly smaller than (for example) the likely impact of AI systems capable of automating most human labor, or the counterfactual benefit of preventing large-scale nuclear war.

‘Dream Bus’ brings library to Madison schools

Scott Girard:

It’s also a good lesson in responsibility, Schwab said, as students have to remember to bring their library card on the day the bus is coming.

Herold noted the availability of bilingual books on the bus, whose staffers speak Spanish. That allows the staff and bus to be a resource for the families of the more than 450 English Learner students at the three Madison schools.

It’s a great example of what opportunities a community school can create, Gittens said, and it was quickly appreciated by the students who have used it so far.

“Rather than families having to go and hunt for resources, we try to bring those resources here,” she said. “For a lot of them, it was just this sense of feeling lucky that this was for them.”

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

Literacy: The Forgotten Social Justice Issue

Jasmine Lane:

In 2017, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that sixty percent of children nationwide are not reading proficiently. If we look to the disaggregated data by race, it becomes even more stark. Though these levels of proficiency have not improved in the last 30 years, we’ve been made to believe that tests don’t matter. That tests are racist and cannot accurately measure what our students know. We can call tests racist (the people making them might be), and inaccurate measures of achievement (they actually measure general knowledge), but overall, what has this amounted to? A lowering of expectations across the board.

A school can earn a designation of *high-performing with just 60% of its students on grade level. This means that 40% of the school is not reading and comprehending texts proficiently. Which 40% of our children don’t deserve to read?

A public school in my neighborhood has approximately 34% of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading, yet is categorized as “changing the odds” for African-American students. 70% of Black children in this school are still struggling to read, but this is the best choice that parents have for instruction in the area.

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

The push to improve teacher effectiveness has cooled off. That’s not necessarily bad.

Alan Borsuk:

The council on teacher quality is clearly correct that there’s been a national retreat from once-touted ways of improving teachers. Is that good or bad? The answer might lie in states such as Wisconsin and in finding out whether easing up on high-stakes judging of teachers brings more cooperation and success — or not much real change.

Related: The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands Of elementary reading teacher mulligans.

This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand?

Jon Fox:

“That was definitely the ‘oh, crap’ moment,” Bowman recalled, using a more colorful interjection. “The general reaction in the field was incredulity. BERT was getting numbers on many of the tasks that were close to what we thought would be the limit of how well you could do.” Indeed, GLUE didn’t even bother to include human baseline scores before BERT; by the time Bowman and one of his Ph.D. students added them to GLUE in February 2019, they lasted just a few months before a BERT-based system from Microsoft beat them.

As of this writing, nearly every position on the GLUE leaderboard is occupied by a system that incorporates, extends or optimizes BERT. Five of these systems outrank human performance.

But is AI actually starting to understand our language — or is it just getting better at gaming our systems? As BERT-based neural networks have taken benchmarks like GLUE by storm, new evaluation methods have emerged that seem to paint these powerful NLP systems as computational versions of Clever Hans, the early 20th-century horse who seemed smart enough to do arithmetic, but who was actually just following unconscious cues from his trainer.

“We know we’re somewhere in the gray area between solving language in a very boring, narrow sense, and solving AI,” Bowman said. “The general reaction of the field was: Why did this happen? What does this mean? What do we do now?”

“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”.

Commentary on facebook and fRee speech

Siva Vaidhyanathan:

However, Zuckerberg himself argued against free speech in his own speech. He defended Facebook’s practice of removing or impeding the circulation of material he considers noxious, such as pornography and hate speech.

Now, that’s a fine policy (even if it fails in practice) because a company should do what’s good for the company and its users. No advertiser wants to see its brand associated with the worst that human beings can produce.

Baltimore County Schools Destroyed Accounting Records Amid High Profile Procurement Audit and Directive to Stop all Record Destruction

Ann Constantino:

In the midst of a high profile and widely anticipated procurement audit last year, employees from Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) had over 53,000 lbs. of accounting documents from its fiscal services file room destroyed, a windowless storage-room-turned-office in its Business Administration building.

This, according to information provided by BCPS in response to a direct request, specifically seeking a log detailing which records had been removed from the room, purportedly first scanned and then destroyed.

Last fall, the school board directed then-interim Superintendent Verletta White to direct all staff to cease the destruction of all documents after roughly 2,600 financial disclosure statements were found to have been destroyed months earlier, which included some records needed for the procurement audit.

Two floors above the meeting room, where school board members convene for bimonthly public meetings in Building E of BCPS’ Greenwood campus headquarters, the file room was emptied to make room for a new office. Certificates from a shredding company show that the records were destroyed in November and December 2018, a few months before an April 2019 report was delivered to the school board, at the conclusion of what was supposed to be a comprehensive procurement audit which looked into the system’s procurement practices for years 2012 through 2017.

More than 1,000 protest Madison School District in support of fired school staffer (Reading?)

Logan Wroge:

The zero-tolerance approach to employees using a racial slur took effect last year under then-Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, who resigned this summer for a job at Harvard University. Reyes has said it is based on adopted policies such as one on non-discrimination.

That policy doesn’t expressly forbid the use of the N-word or other slurs by staff. But it does define harassment against a student as “behavior … based, in whole or in part, on their protected class(es) which substantially interferes with a student’s school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive school environment.”

Reyes said the district was taking a “strong stance” on the use of slurs by employees last year when it implemented zero tolerance but acknowledged the context of the Oct. 9 situation involving Anderson is different from previous incidents of white staff members using racial slurs in front of students. At least seven employees were fired or resigned after they were accused of using slurs last year.

Noah Anderson said there is a difference between using the N-word as a slur and as a statement that can lead to understanding.

“What my father did, he took a teaching moment of an African American male to a younger African American male on why you shouldn’t use the word and not to refer to himself that way,” Noah Anderson said.

Notes and links, here.

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

The Lines of Code That Changed Everything

Future Tense:

Culturally, code exists in a nether zone. We can feel its gnostic effects on our everyday reality, but we rarely see it, and it’s quite inscrutable to non-initiates. (The folks in Silicon Valley like it that way; it helps them self-mythologize as wizards.) We construct top-10 lists for movies, games, TV—pieces of work that shape our souls. But we don’t sit around compiling lists of the world’s most consequential bits of code, even though they arguably inform the zeitgeist just as much.

So Slate decided to do precisely that. To shed light on the software that has tilted the world on its axis, the editors polled computer scientists, software developers, historians, policymakers, and journalists. They were asked to pick: Which pieces of code had a huge influence? Which ones warped our lives? About 75 responded with all sorts of ideas, and Slate has selected 36. It’s not a comprehensive list—it couldn’t be, given the massive welter of influential code that’s been written. (One fave of mine that didn’t make the cut: “Quicksort”! Or maybe Ada Lovelace’s Bernoulli algorithm.) Like all lists, it’s meant to provoke thought—to help us ponder anew how code undergirds our lives and how decisions made by programmers ripple into the future.

Excessive brain activity linked to a shorter life

Carolyn Johnson:

One key to a longer life could be a quieter brain without too much neural activity, according to a new study that examined postmortem brain tissue from extremely long-lived people for clues about what made them different from people who died in their 60s and 70s.
“Use it or lose it” has dominated thinking on how to protect the aging brain, and extensive research shows there are many benefits to remaining physically and mentally active as people get older. But the study, published in the journal Nature, suggests more isn’t always better. Excessive activity — at least at the level of brain cells — could be harmful.
“The completely shocking and puzzling thing about this new paper is … [brain activity] is what you think of as keeping you cognitively normal. There’s the idea that you want to keep your brain active in later life,” said Michael McConnell, a neuroscientist at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, who was not involved in the study. “The thing that is super unexpected is … limiting neural activity is a good thing in healthy aging. It’s very counterintuitive.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless

Heather MacDonald:

For the last three decades, San Francisco has conducted a real-life experiment in what happens when a society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior. The city has done so in the name of compassion toward the homeless. The results have been the opposite: street squalor and misery have increased, even as government expenditures have ballooned. Yet the principles that have guided the city’s homelessness policy remain inviolate: homelessness is a housing problem; it is involuntary; and its persistence is the result of inadequate public spending. These propositions are readily disproved by talking to people living on the streets.
Shaku’s assessment of drug use among the homeless is widely shared. Asked if she does drugs, a formerly homeless woman, just placed in a city-subsidized single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotel, responds incredulously: “Is that a trick question?” A 33-year-old woman from Alabama, who now lives in a tent in an industrial area outside downtown, says: “Everyone out here has done something—drugs, you name it.” On Sutter Avenue, a wizened 50-year-old named Jeff slumps over his coffee cup at 7:30 AM, one hand holding a sweet roll, the other playing with his beard. A half-eaten muffin sits next to him on a filthy blanket. “I use drugs, alcohol, all of it,” he tells me, his eyes closed, as a pair of smiling German tourists deposit a peach on his blanket. Last night it was speed, he says, which has left him just a “little bit high” this morning. “The whole Tenderloin is for drugs,” Jeff observes, before nodding off again.

San Francisco spends $15,700 per student, at least 20% less than Madison.

The Pioneering Maps of Alexander von Humboldt

Greg Miller:

The German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was one of the most celebrated scientists of the 19th century. In 1869, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, 25,000 people gathered in New York’s Central Park to listen to speeches extolling his accomplishments and witness the unveiling of a large bronze bust of Humboldt, who had died ten years earlier. Flags and enormous posters showing Humboldt’s face lined the streets of Manhattan. Similar celebrations took place around the world—in Berlin, Humboldt’s birthplace, 80,000 admirers gathered in the chilly rain to listen to eulogies and songs sung in his honor.

It’s hard to imagine any modern scientist achieving such celebrity, and now, 250 years after his birth, Humboldt himself has largely been forgotten by the general public. But as historian Andrea Wulf wrote in her 2015 biography of Humboldt, The Invention of Nature, his scientific legacy lives on in scores of geographic features and place names, from a glacier in Greenland to a mountain range in Antarctica. (The state of Nevada was almost named Humboldt, Wulf writes.) The Latin names of nearly 300 plants and more than 100 animals pay homage to him, including the aggressive, predatory Humboldt squid, which can grow up to eight feet long and weigh 100 pounds.

Academic Freedom and China

Jennifer Ruth and Yu Xiao:

It is a tricky time for faculty in the United States who work on China. The American president initiated a trade war with the People’s Republic of China that, whatever its merits, creates a fertile climate for China-bashing. Many of us hesitate to appear to contribute to this climate or to seem to side with a president hostile to values most faculty hold paramount, such as the rule of law or the importance of independent science. The enemy of my enemy is only occasionally my friend, though. We cannot lose sight of those trends, unrelated to trade, that point to the increasingly repressive impact of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on both its institutions of higher education and our own. This article sketches some of the major issues involving China and academic freedom.

Restrictions under Xi Jinping
Pundits point out that the current attitude toward China’s ascendancy among many in the United States resembles the attitude held in the 1980s toward Japan and that, as with Japan, we are beginning to scapegoat China for a myriad of problems. For scholars and teachers, one crucial difference stands out between Japan and China: Japan is a democratic country and China is not. Real doubts exist about whether academic freedom, as understood by many intellectuals throughout the world, is possible in a one-party state. Certainly, the February 2018 change in the Chinese constitution allowing unlimited presidential terms resulted in a tightening of restrictions on academic freedom at all universities and colleges in China, including overseas campuses of American universities. Stability (both of the country and of its ruling regime) remains the Communist Party’s first concern, and ideas or movements that might jeopardize party authority are subject to crackdown. Xi Jinping has consolidated and centralized power and reasserted the party’s control over information, education, and the media.

Commentary on Religious Liberty in the United States

William Barr:

Today, I would like to share some thoughts with you about religious liberty in America. It’s an important priority in this Administration and for this Department of Justice.

We have set up a task force within the Department with different components that have equities in this area, including the Solicitor General’s Office, the Civil Division, the Office of Legal Counsel, and other offices. We have regular meetings. We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the Establishment Clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith, or cases where states adopt laws that impinge upon the free exercise of religion.

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

In the 20th century, our form of free society faced a severe test.

There had always been the question whether a democracy so solicitous of individual freedom could stand up against a regimented totalitarian state.

That question was answered with a resounding “yes” as the United States stood up against and defeated, first fascism, and then communism.

Black Madison school staffer appeals firing for repeating student’s racial slur

Logan Wroge:

On Oct. 9, Anderson, who had worked at West for three years and at East High School for eight years before that, said he responded to a call about a disruptive student who was being escorted out of the school by an assistant principal.

When the situation with the male student escalated, Anderson said the student, who is also black, started calling him the N-word along with other obscene words.

In response, Anderson said he repeatedly told the student to stop saying the word with phrases like, “do not call me that,” “do not call me that word,” and “do not call me a N-word,” although he used the actual word at the time.

Throughout the exchange with the student, Anderson said the assistant principal, Jennifer Talarczyk, did not try to get the student to stop saying the slur, which Anderson said administrators have done when he has been called the N-word by students before.

He also said Talarczyk turned on the microphone on her radio and moved it close to him, causing his comments to be broadcast to other staff with radios, which he said made him feel “targeted.”

Attempts to reach Talarczyk Thursday were unsuccessful.

Scott Girard:

Board president Gloria Reyes said in a statement via MMSD spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson that the board would “allow for that (grievance) process to play out so we can ensure the outcome is right for all involved.” Reyes has requested a review of the approach to racial slurs be placed on a board agenda as soon as possible.

“We’ve taken a tough stance on racial slurs, and we believe that language has no place in schools,” Reyes said. “We have also heard from the community about the complexity involved – and our duty to examine it. As a board, we plan to review our approach, the underlying policies, and examine them with a racial equity lens understanding that universal policies can often deepen inequities. We will ask the community for help in that process.”

“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”.

Notes and comments, here.

Kaleem Caire:

Why are we continuing to pass children through our school system who have not yet achieved an adequate level of proficiency to succeed academically in future grades? High school senior? Five credits? Really? SMH.

More.

The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University

Adrianna Kezar, Tom DePaola, and Daniel T. Scott:

Over the past two decades, higher education employment has undergone a radical transformation with faculty becoming contingent, staff being outsourced, and postdocs and graduate students becoming a larger share of the workforce. For example, the faculty has shifted from one composed mostly of tenure-track, full-time employees to one made up of contingent, part-time teachers. Non-tenure-track instructors now make up 70 percent of college faculty. Their pay for teaching eight courses averages $22,400 a year—less than the annual salary of most fast-food workers.

School Choice Programs Continue Rapid Growth

School Choice Wisconsin:

“Year over year, the Parental Choice Programs continue to grow across Wisconsin,” Jim Bender said. “Combined with public school open enrollment and independent charters, more than 12% of students are educated with public dollars outside their resident district. That number continues to increase every year.”

WPCP – District limits are at 4% of enrollment for 2019-20. There are currently waiting lists generated within five public school districts across the state.

The data sheets found on DPI’s website list prior year enrollment in a manner that perpetuates a myth about the WPCP having a high percentage of students who were already in private school. They do not list the status of a student when they entered the program, just where they attended in the prior year. So, a student that transferred from a public school two years ago is listed on the DPI sheet as previously being a private school student. This egregious misrepresentation is not done by accident. It is meant to mislead.

Elite M.B.A. Programs Report Steep Drop in Applications

Chip Cutter:

Applications to some of America’s most elite business schools fell at a steeper rate this year, as universities struggled to attract international students amid changes to immigration policies and political tensions between the U.S. and China.

The declines affected some of the nation’s top-rated programs, with Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others, all reporting larger year-over-year drops in business-school applications. Some, such as Dartmouth College’s Tuck School…

Civics: After 184 years, Cherokees seek House delegate seat promised in treaty

Stephanie Akin:

Kim Teehee was an intern combing through dusty archives when she first learned of a largely forgotten agreement between her Cherokee tribe and the federal government.

More than 25 years later, that document has placed Teehee at the center of a historic reckoning of the way Congress treats Native Americans, while raising questions about what representation in Washington really means.

It was a treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1835, granting the Cherokee Nation a delegate to Congress.

Digital dystopia: how algorithms punish the poor

Ed Pilkington:

Their dispatches reveal how unemployment benefits, child support, housing and food subsidies and much more are being scrambled online. Vast sums are being spent by governments across the industrialized and developing worlds on automating poverty and in the process, turning the needs of vulnerable citizens into numbers, replacing the judgment of human caseworkers with the cold, bloodless decision-making of machines.

At its most forbidding, Guardian reporters paint a picture of a 21st-century Dickensian dystopia that is taking shape with breakneck speed. The American political scientist Virginia Eubanks has a phrase for it: “The digital poorhouse.”

The Looming Chicago Teacher Strike May Be As Much About Membership As It Is About Money

Mike Antonucci:

The Chicago Teachers Union seems to be marching inexorably toward a strike beginning Oct. 17. The union struck for a single day in 2016 and for seven days in 2012, which many credit as being the launching point for a later wave of teacher strikes across the country.

While CTU continues to be lauded within the labor movement for its militancy, the actual collective bargaining agreements that came out of its strikes are not exactly celebrated. CTU President Jesse Sharkey himself stated that the years since the 2012 strike resulted in “nearly a decade of austerity and cuts for Chicago’s teachers and other school staff.”

Well, he’s half right.

That there have been staff cuts in the Chicago Public Schools since 2012 is undeniable. The district is exemplary in publishing monthly statistics on finances, staffing and enrollment.

Bad News for the Highly Intelligent

David Z. Hambrick, Madeline Marquardt:

There are advantages to being smart. People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ tests—tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace. Although the reasons are not fully understood, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives, and are less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy.
Now there’s some bad news for people in the right tail of the IQ bell curve. In a study just published in the journal Intelligence, Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues emailed a survey with questions about psychological and physiological disorders to members of Mensa. A “high IQ society,” Mensa requires that its members have an IQ in the top 2 percent. For most intelligence tests, this corresponds to an IQ of about 132 or higher. (The average IQ of the general population is 100.) The survey of Mensa’s highly intelligent members found that they were more likely to suffer from a range of serious disorders.
The survey covered mood disorders (depression, dysthymia and bipolar), anxiety disorders (generalized, social and obsessive-compulsive), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. It also covered environmental allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders. Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever been formally diagnosed with each disorder or suspected they suffered from it. With a return rate of nearly 75 percent, Karpinski and her colleagues compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents who reported each disorder to the national average.

I Attend, Therefore I Am You are only as strong as your powers of attention, and other uncomfortable truths about the self.

Carolyn Dicey Jennings:

You have thoughts, feelings and desires. You remember your past and imagine your future. Sometimes you make a special effort, other times you are content to simply relax. All of these things are true about you. But do you exist? Is your sense of self an illusion, or is there something in the world that we can point to and say: ‘Ah, yes – that is you’? If you are familiar with the contemporary science of mind, you will know that the concept of a substantive self, separate from the mere experience of self, is unpopular. But this stance is unwarranted. Research on attention points to a self beyond experience, with its own powers and properties.

So what is attention? Attention is what you use to drown out distracting sights and sounds, to focus on whatever it is you need to focus on. You are using attention to read this, right now. It is something that you can control and maintain but it is also strongly influenced by the world around you, which encourages you to focus on new and different stimuli. Sometimes being encouraged to change focus can be good – it is good that you look up from your cellphone when a bike comes barrelling down the sidewalk, for example. But this encouragement can also keep you from completing tasks, as when you get caught in a spiral of mindless clickbait. You might think of your powers of attention as what you use to control the focus of your attention, away from distractions and toward your favoured point of focus.

Army Combat Fitness Test Fiasco! Slides Reveal 84% of Women Failing ACFT

David Brown:

In previous articles for ClearanceJobs, I’ve thrown rocks at the Army’s catastrophically ill-considered Army Combat Fitness Test—the planned successor to the proven and successful Army Physical Fitness Test. I will admit, however, that my arguments against it emerged strictly from experience and logic. I am a fan of the original APFT because I watched soldiers in my platoon take the challenge to raise their scores, and watched pounds melt away and recruiting poster paratroopers emerge. As for logic, the APFT essentially costs a unit ten bucks and two hours to run through an entire company of soldiers, whereas the ACFT costs… more. Tens of millions of dollars more.

But, dear reader, I was willing to admit that I might be wrong! I lost many a night of sleep wondering: is the ACFT the salvation of American freedom? The greatest thing to happen to the Army since the black beret the blue service dress uniform the retro World War II-era pinks and greens! What if the ACFT produced one million hooah-shouting, Ironman-winning, CrossFit-teaching soldiers with the physiques of Greek gods and goddesses? What if we went to war with China and the enemy just dropped their weapons and ran the opposite direction, so intimidating were the American men and women on the front lines? What if, so musclebound and terrifying were our soldiers, that the Army stopped issuing rifles just to make it a fair fight when we went to war?

I really put myself out there by coming out so strongly against the ACFT, and, because no Army leader has ever been wrong, from General George Washington himself through to General James C. McConville, the present Army chief of staff—well, it was inevitable that I would have to eat my words.

But then last week, someone leaked the analytics slides presenting the pass/fail rate for the eleven battalions taking the ACFT. The short version: oh man was I right. The slightly longer version: the Army Combat Fitness Test is an unbridled, unparalleled, unimaginable disaster. The bottom line: the raw numbers reveal a test absurdly biased against women in uniform, but frankly, no one wearing a green uniform really comes out ahead in this thing.

The ‘Glass Floor’ Is Keeping America’s Richest Idiots At The Top

Michael
Hobbes
:

And yet, despite helming two failed ventures and having little work experience beyond an internship at a financial services company created to manage his father’s fortune, things seem to be working out for Zach Dell. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is now an analyst for the private equity firm Blackstone. He is 22.

America has a social mobility problem. Children born in 1940 had a 90% chance of earning more than their parents. For children born in 1984, the odds were 50-50.

Most accounts of this trend focus on the breakdown of upward mobility: It’s getting harder for the poor to become rich. But equally important is the decline of downward mobility: The rich, regardless of their intelligence, are becoming more likely to stay that way.

Educational disparities still plague Minnesota students

Neel Kashkari:

This commentary was first published in the Star Tribune.
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis released a comprehensive report on the performance of Minnesota K-12 schools in preparing our children for their futures.
On average Minnesota schools perform well compared with other states. Unfortunately, those averages mask some of the worst educational disparities in the nation. If you are a low income white Minnesotan or a Minnesotan of color, whether your children attend a traditional or a charter school, chances are high that they are not getting the education they deserve.
These disparities are deeply unfair to those left behind. We all have a stake in closing these educational gaps: they affect rural and urban school districts equally. Minnesota will not remain economically strong without a well-educated workforce.
There have been many good faith efforts over the last two decades to close these gaps. Minnesotans care about one another; we want our neighbors to succeed, not just our own families. Yet, despite targeted policy initiatives to give parents more choices, to increase and equalize school funding and to change how teachers are evaluated, our education gaps haven’t closed at all — if anything they are growing.

We find that only 37% of low income Minnesota students of all races are proficient in math and reading compared with 68% of their higher income peers. On those same assessments, only 30% of African-American students perform at grade level, compared with 65% of white students. And, when it is time to enter college or the workforce, large disparities remain. Only 25% of African-American students are college ready compared to 69% for their white peers. Similarly, students from low income families are far less ready than their higher income counterparts.

As these gaps have persisted, some policymakers seem to be changing the measure of success from actual student achievement to things that are easier to control. For example, Minnesota’s education leaders point to progress in reducing graduation gaps. In 2003, only 36% of African-American students graduated high school, while 79% of whites did. In 2018, the gap had narrowed, with 67% of African-American students graduating, compared to 88% of white students.

Sounds like progress, right? On the contrary, tests of college readiness show zero progress in closing the gaps in terms of what students are actually learning. It looks like we’re graduating students who aren’t prepared for success.

Some policymakers have suggested turning away from test scores. While we agree that high test scores themselves are not the ultimate goal, testing is a necessary tool to help teachers and parents ensure that each child reaches his or her highest potential.

A band saw, a drill press and $2.3 million. College celebrates largest donation ever as ‘transformative’

Maria L La Ganga:

The lucky school is Cerritos College, one of California’s 115 educational workhorses, a two-year campus where nearly two-thirds of the student body lives at or below the poverty line, 82% receive financial aid and 70% attend part time, largely so they can hold down jobs.

The program? Woodworking, vocational education at its most beautiful and sweet smelling.

The donor is the late John B. Smith Jr. of Paso Robles, Calif. Chances are you’ve never heard of him. College officials hadn’t until recently. But just consider this generous alum’s example.

No disrespect to the Ivy League or other elite institutions, but if you want your legacy to really matter, said Cerritos College President Jose Fierro, a community college bequest is the way to go.

Open the Books:

KEY FINDINGS:
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.

The doublethink of the campus free speech debate

Rick Esenberg & Luke Berg:

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Rick Esenberg and Luke Berg: The doublethink of the campus free speech debate
By Rick Esenberg and Luke Berg | president and deputy counsel, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty Aug 30, 2019
3 min to read
ben shapiro speech (copy)
UW-Madison student Cody Fearing, center, leads a protest of the appearance of conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro (at right in blue shirt) on campus in November 2017.
PHOTO BY KATIE COONEY — The Badger Herald
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In the book “1984,” George Orwell coined the term “doublethink” to refer to “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The evil genius of doublethink is that it does not require its practitioners to navigate any sense of cognitive dissonance or explain away hypocrisy. Rather, it allows them to deny that there’s a problem. As Orwell put it, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

And free speech is the suppression of speech.

A recent hearing on a proposed rule by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents regarding campus free speech was rife with doublethink. A group of students and faculty argued the new rule would serve to stifle free speech, not protect it. A left-wing group claimed the policy would provide “protection to provocateurs and their hateful speech” and somehow empower “white nationalism.” Student speakers said that the proposed rule would stifle dissent and protest. The problem, apparently, is with the Regents’ prohibition of activity that would “materially and substantially disrupt the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity.”

There is ample reason for the Regents’ concern. When conservative pundit Ben Shapiro came to UW-Madison in 2016, a group of about 20 students shouted, heckled and stood up to disrupt the speech. At Middlebury College in Vermont, a progressive faculty member was sent to the hospital when students and others protested an appearance by social scientist Charles Murray. At William & Mary, a speech by the executive director of the Virginia ACLU was shut down by protesters from the campus chapter of Black Lives Matter. At campuses from CUNY Law School in Queens to Claremont McKenna in Orange County, California, university students have interpreted their right of free speech to include the physical disruption of the speech of others.

For many of those commenting at the hearing, this is as it should be. Free speech, in the view of the Regents’ critics, requires the ability to physically disrupt the speech of others. Public discourse, in their view, operates at the level of roller derby and pro wrestling. No holds are barred and let the devil take the hindmost.

Editor

Will Fitzhugh:

The Concord Review, Inc. was founded in March 1987, to promote History, nonfiction reading, and academic expository writing at the high school level in the English-speaking world.

We have now published 122 issues of the quarterly journal, The Concord Review, and we are looking for a new Editor.

The job includes soliciting, reviewing and selecting outstanding History research papers by secondary students (from 41 countries so far), and preparing them for publication, including some typesetting, proofreading, etc.

The job also entails efforts to expand the reach of the organization through writing articles, attending conferences, giving interviews, and speaking, when the opportunity arises.

The successful candidate will have a long-term interest in History, a commitment to fostering and celebrating exemplary academic expository writing by high school students, and an interest in arguing for higher academic standards in History, nonfiction reading and in academic expository writing at the secondary level.

The new Editor must have a persistent interest in working to find new sources of support for these efforts, through fundraising, increasing subscriptions, and working for an endowment. We need an evangelist/entrepreneur Editor.

Successful experience with exceptional humanities students at the high school level will be most welcome. Pay will be commensurate with experience.

Contact: Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review, Inc., 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA; fitzhugh@tcr.org; tcr.org

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Should we feel optimistic or pessimistic about American K-12 education’s future?

Matthew Ladner:

Americans thus seem to see their public education system as falling short in a variety of ways and aren’t especially optimistic about future improvement. Republicans exhibited the greatest amount of optimism, with 24 percent forecasting that the American public school system would be a “model of excellence around the world” in 20 years. Only 13 percent of Democrats and 3 percent of Independents were similarly optimistic. You, as a regular RedefinED reader are more aware of looming challenges lying ahead in the next two decades than most.

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of public education? Mixed results across states seems like the most likely outcome and “a model of excellence around the world” is not as far off as it may sound.

Massachusetts, the highest scoring state on NAEP, compares well to Asian and European systems on international exams. Stanford scholar Sean F. Reardon’s new data source, for instance, equates state scores to NAEP. When I ran the numbers for my home state of Arizona, I found far more variation within my state than between states. I also, however, found several Arizona districts (and the charter schools operating within their boundaries) that compare favorably to the average performance in Massachusetts:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of elementary reading teacher mulligans to those who failed to pass the “Foundations of Reading” content knowledge exam.

Based on Massachusetts’ successful MTEL teacher content knowledge requirements, the Foundations of Reading was intended to reverse our long term, disastrous reading results.

Short note about Network of Public Education’s (NOPE) focus on education fraud

Citizen Stewart:

My friends at the Network of Public Education (NOPE) have an ongoing series under the hashtag #AnotherDayAnotherCharterSchool that aims to keep your eyes trained on the supposed never-ending abuses and fraud case in charter schools.

I applaud their commitment to public integrity and I share their vigilance in rooting out grift in public systems. Yet, their myopic focus on a small subset of public schools, in this case charters, is suspicious.

Why not expose all fraud, especially in the bigger system?

Well, you’ll have to ask them. They’ve mostly blocked me on twitter for asking such questions.

I guess their unionist funders and the privileged parents they cater to in America’s suburban hoarding schools want a clean message. Traditional schools with union teachers that work with privileged parents to rig the system in favor of white, middle-class, pampered children, well, that’s good.

Schools built for, by, or in favor of children so unfortunate as not to have suburban, white, progressive, college-educated families capable of obtaining mortgages for houses near the best hoarding schools, well, you know the drill, they must be stopped.

Thus, the campaign to turn public opinion against the most popular competitor to sputtering state-run schools that employ more people than they educate, and drown in so much pension debt that they can ill-afford parents choosing anything other than district failure farms.

In the interest of truth I should tell you that fraud in public education is indeed every bit the problem that NOPE says it is, but it’s much broader than they admit.

A discussion occurred – some of it public – about a Madison taxpayer supported maintenance referendum spending audit.

Capitalism isn’t broken, but the US education system is

Julie LaRoche:

What’s been broken is our educational system.”

The 72-year-old is also the product of a public school education at Abington High School in Pennsylvania, who later attended Yale for his undergraduate degree, then Harvard Business School.

When he was growing up as a public school student, the U.S. educational system was ranked among the best globally. Since that time, it’s dropped significantly in the rankings compared to other countries, especially in mathematics.

“If you’re producing a workforce that is dramatically inferior to competitors on the global scale, we’re going to have a lot of trouble,” he told Yahoo Finance.

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

Education RHETORIC vs reading

Daniel Willingham:

Believing something because someone else believes it rather than demanding and evaluating evidence makes you sound either lazy or gullible. But we yield to the authority of others all the time. When I see my doctor I don’t ask for evidence that the treatments he prescribes are effective, and when an architect designed a new deck for my house I didn’t ask for proof that it could support the weight of my grill and outdoor furniture. I believed what they told me because of their authority.

I think education researchers don’t speak with that kind of authority and (apparently unlike Sanden) I don’t think we deserve it. I can point to two key differences between a doctor (or architect, or accountant, or electrician, etc) and education researchers.

First, I yield authority to someone who has been vetted by a credible entity. I know that, unless you break the law, you cannot practice medicine (or follow the other professions named) without being licensed by the state of Virginia. I haven’t looked into the matter, but I have no reason to think that the accrediting agencies aren’t doing an acceptable job. For one thing, most of the professionals I hire achieve what I expect them to achieve.
Education researchers, in contrast, are not licensed by a credible authority.

Why Hong Kong’s protesters fly the Stars and Stripes

Jeff Jacoby, via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:

MUCH OF central Hong Kong was awash in American flags on Sunday, as tens of thousands of prodemocracy protesters marched peacefully past the US consulate, imploring Congress and President Trump to support their struggle to keep Hong Kong free. Thousands of demonstrators sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Many held placards promoting the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bipartisan measure on Capitol Hill to authorize sanctions on Chinese officials who suppress democracy and the rule of law in the city. Other signs directly addressed the US president: “Please liberate Hong Kong,” they pleaded. “Defend our Constitution.”

The Hong Kong protests have so far yielded few concessions from China, which has reneged on its 1997 vow to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy for 50 years. Whether Washington is willing to get more directly involved is an open question. Trump himself has sent mixed signals. Last month, echoing the Beijing party line, he referred to the marches as “riots,” and said it was up to China to deal with them. Yet he has also warned Chinese ruler Xi Jinping against quelling the protests with a violent crackdown.

In my view, the United States should be unambiguous in its support for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. There is room for reasonable debate about how far to go in backing the protesters or confronting Beijing. But when liberty is being choked off by a dictatorship, US policy should never be one of neutrality.

“cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule”

Steve John Powell & Angeles Marin Cabello:

The students sit with their satchels on their desks, eager to get home after another long day of seven 50-minute classes. They listen patiently as their teacher makes a few announcements about tomorrow’s timetable. Then, as every day, the teacher’s final words: “OK everybody, today’s cleaning roster. Lines one and two will clean the classroom. Lines three and four, the corridor and stairs. And line five will clean the toilets.”
A few groans arise from line five, but the children stand up, grab the mops, cloths and buckets from the broom cupboard at the back of the classroom, and trot off to the toilets. Similar scenes are happening at schools across the country.
Most first-time visitors to Japan are struck by how clean the country is. Then they notice the absence of litter bins. And street sweepers. So they’re left with the question: how does Japan stay so clean?

Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink

BBC:

Eimi Haga followed the ninja technique of “aburidashi”, spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make the ink.

The words appeared when her professor heated the paper over his gas stove.

“It is something I learned through a book when I was little,” Ms Haga told the BBC. “I just hoped that no-one would come up with the same idea.”

Ms Haga has been interested in ninjas – covert agents and assassins in medieval Japan – since watching an animated TV show as a child.

After enrolling at Mie University in Japan, the first-year student took a class in ninja history, and was asked to write about a visit to the Ninja Museum of Igaryu.

“When the professor said in class that he would give a high mark for creativity, I decided that I would make my essay stand out from others,” she said.

K-12 Tax & SPENDING Climate: US income DatA

Aaron Brown:

Income in the bottom 80% of households was up significantly, only the top 20% of households saw an income decline, as a result, the Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, higher numbers mean more inequality) fell from 0.489 to 0.486

· Usually when the Gini index falls, incomes go down for everyone; it’s been 20 years since we’ve seen this big a decline in the Gini index when incomes went up

The news coverage didn’t seem to jibe with the numbers. The real good news about income, earnings, employment and poverty was overlooked entirely to focus on the more abstract Gini coefficient. When income and employment go up, and poverty goes down, that’s unalloyed good. The Gini coefficient is more complicated. It mainly fluctuates based on how financial markets are doing, because top earners depend largely on investments, and those are more volatile than the salaries that underpin middle-class incomes. Moreover many top earners compensation is dependent on financial markets—executives with stock options and profit shares, Wall Street professionals with market-dependent bonuses, business owners paid out of profits.

My University Is Dying; Soon Yours Will Be, Too

Sheila Liming:

I live in a land of austerity, and I’m not just talking about the scenery. When most people think about North Dakota — if, indeed, they ever do — they probably imagine bare, ice-crusted prairies swept clean by wind. They see the clichés, in other words, not the reality — the towns that are, in fact, aesthetically identical to so many in America, with all the usual houses and shopping malls and parks and freeways. On the campus where I work, though, austerity has many meanings and many guises. Some of them you can see, like the swaths of new grass that grow where historic buildings stood just last year, before they were demolished in the name of maintenance backlogs. Most, though, are invisible.

Starting in 2016, our state university system endured three successive rounds of annual budget cuts, with average 10-percent reductions resulting in a loss of more than a third of the system’s overall funding. Additional cuts, even, were on the table this past year. And while our state legislators ultimately avoided taking yet one more stab at the dismembered body of higher education, there has been no discussion of restoring any of those funds.

US live birth and abortion data >800k US abortions in 2017. Global data.

Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University

Vouces of Protest and resistance (XXXI):

Apart from his career as an educator, Xu was also a prominent editor, essayist and public intellectual who actively participated in the long term and broad-based professional effort to nudge the People’s Republic in the direction of constitutional rule and legal probity. The incisive critiques of the Xi Jinping era (December 2012-) that Xu Zhangrun published from early 2016, and in particular the powerful warning he had issued in late July 2018 regarding the nation’s direction under its new Chairman For Life (see his Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes 我們當下的恐懼與期待, China Heritage, 1 August 2018), had made him the most famous, and most outspoken internal critic.

On the fateful day of 21 March 2019, the personnel department of Tsinghua University notified Xu Zhangrun that he was suspended from all duties effective immediately pending the results of a global investigation into his ‘case’. Apart from being banned from teaching and any contact with students, Xu’s income was radically reduced; he was also required to refrain from all public engagements, from publishing anything and from contact with the media, be it in China or internationally. Xu was also informed that he was obliged to cooperate fully with the task force appointed to investigate him. Until further notice, his life was on hold; he was required to attend on the university’s eventual adjudication regarding his fate.

We have chronicled the outraged response to Xu Zhangrun’s suspension in China Heritage by publishing a multipart series titled ‘Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University — Voices of Protest & Resistance’. After six months and as this round of persecution reaches a new stage, and to mark the 10th of October 2019 celebration of the original Chinese revolution and the founding of the Republic of China, we offer the following translation as an homage to the professor’s undaunted spirit.

Civics, Politics and Campus Free Speech

Associated Press:

MADISON – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will kill a contentious plan to punish students who disrupt free speech on University of Wisconsin System campuses, his spokeswoman said Friday as system regents took another step toward implementing the policy.

The regents in 2017 adopted a Republican-backed policy declaring students who twice disrupt others’ free speech would be suspended for at least a semester. Three-time offenders would be expelled.

The policy mirrors a bill Republicans introduced that legislative session after protests disrupted conservative speakers on college campuses around the country, including conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s appearance at UW-Madison in November 2016.

The measure died in the Senate, but the regents pushed ahead with the concept as a policy. Evers, serving as a regent in 2017 due to his position then as state schools superintendent, cast the lone dissenting vote against the policy, warning it would have a chilling effect on free speech.

The policy hasn’t gone into effect because the regents haven’t updated system rules to incorporate it. The regents took a step closer on Friday, voting during a meeting at UW-Superior to authorize a scope statement outlining the changes. The move authorizes system staff to update the rules to incorporate the policy.

The final rule language likely won’t be ready until spring. The regents plan to hold a public hearing on the terminology before signing off and sending the language to Evers for his approval. The governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said that the governor would kill the proposal and that there’s no mechanism for Republican legislators to override him.

“His position hasn’t changed on it,” Baldauff said. “He didn’t approve of it when he was on the Board of Regents, and he still disagrees with the policy.”

Related: Governor Evers on Wisconsin DPI Teacher Mulligans.

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Li Yuan:

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

Under Red Skies.

How Photos of Your Kids Are Powering Surveillance Technology

Kashmir Hill and Aaron Krolik:

The pictures of Chloe and Jasper Papa as kids are typically goofy fare: grinning with their parents; sticking their tongues out; costumed for Halloween. Their mother, Dominique Allman Papa, uploaded them to Flickr after joining the photo-sharing site in 2005.

None of them could have foreseen that 14 years later, those images would reside in an unprecedentedly huge facial-recognition database called MegaFace. Containing the likenesses of nearly 700,000 individuals, it has been downloaded by dozens of companies to train a new generation of face-identification algorithms, used to track protesters, surveil terrorists, spot problem gamblers and spy on the public at large. The average age of the people in the database, its creators have said, is 16.

“It’s gross and uncomfortable,” said Mx. Papa, who is now 19 and attending college in Oregon. “I wish they would have asked me first if I wanted to be part of it. I think artificial intelligence is cool and I want it to be smarter, but generally you ask people to participate in research. I learned that in high school biology.”

This is the best answer I ever received to ‘Tell me about yourself’—after 20 years of interviewing

Gary Burnison:

Too many people respond to “Tell me about yourself” by essentially giving a recital of their resume.

This candidate, however, shared something that showed who she really was beyond a piece of paper: a person who was adventurous, curious, goal-oriented and disciplined. More importantly, it was clear that she had the ability to apply lessons learned from past experiences to new challenges.

But that’s not all. When I then asked about the first thought that ran through her head upon reaching the summit of Mount Everest, she didn’t wax philosophical or go off about how she’d done something most of us can’t even contemplate.

Instead, she laughed and said, “How the heck am I going to get down?” This showed her ability to engage others with humor and humility.

I knew right then and there that she was a highly-qualified person anyone would want on their team — and the realization came through an exchange that lasted less than a minute.

Shackleton’s Medical Kit

Gavin Francis:

Back in England I had been involved in decisions about what would go into these boxes – what was really necessary to provide basic medical care at the end of the earth. Each was designed to fit on a sledge. Pulled by skidoos now rather than dogs or men, these sledges were the same ash-framed models that Scott and Shackleton had hauled over a century ago. Space on each was limited, and weight was to be kept down to twenty kilogrammes. I stocked the boxes to deal with tonsillitis and tooth-rot, piles and the consequences of unprotected sex (the days of all-male Antarctica are over, thank goodness). I packed laxatives and local anaesthetics, elastoplasts and eye drops. A bottle of vitamin pills to prevent scurvy. Scalpels, catheters and a collar should anyone break his or her neck. Some of the most useful items, considering the risk of falling into a crevasse, were the few rolls of Plaster of Paris. Each box was like the distillation of all that we have learned as a species about our bodies and their infirmities, a time capsule of medicine at the start of the twenty-first century. They spoke of our communications (with question grids for use over radio static), our sexual mores (condoms, the Pill, and the morning-after pill), and even the ozone hole (tubes of factor thirty sun block).

Ours is a nervous age, we’re often told, and the heroes of exploration are all gone. What, I had wondered, did our predecessors like Scott or Shackleton take when they set out into the blank spaces on the map?

Former WEAC leader and longtime teachers advocate Morris Andrews dies

Mitchell Schmidt:

Andrews became executive director of WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union, in 1972. At the time, the association of 40,000 teachers had little involvement in state politics or lobbying efforts.

But that soon changed. Andrews was considered a force to be reckoned with in the statehouse halls and advocated for teachers, bus drivers, aides and other unionized staff.

When Andrews retired for health reasons in 1992, WEAC had grown to 62,000 members, a 175-person staff and a $10 million-a-year budget.

Scott Girard:

John Matthews, the head of Madison Teachers Inc. from 1968 to January 2016, worked closely with Andrews and called him “a very knowledgeable, very skillful labor leader.”

“Every teacher since 1970 owes him a debt of gratitude because of their employment being much more enjoyable and much more profitable,” Matthews said. “Their employment security was in great part a result of his work.”

On Friday, Thompson called him “by far the best executive director of any teachers’ union, any teachers movement in the United States, before or now.”

Notes and links: WEAC, Mo Andrews and John Matthews.

A 2013 interview with Mo Andrews

Can We Guarantee That Colleges Are Intellectually Diverse?

Molly Worthen:

Matthew Garcia, a historian at Dartmouth who left Arizona State partly because of the controversy there, noted the shrewdness of the conservative strategy to cultivate like-minded faculty and programs in the humanities. “They want to invest in these disciplines that administrators, especially at public institutions, have left for dead. The Kochs and these conservative entities see that these are the folks who can actually remake government. Tenure is a magical thing — it’s like appointments to the Supreme Court,” he told me. “Once these people are in, they’re in for a long time and can shape institutions, shape the curriculum and steal hearts and minds to create a different future.”

Skeptics are right to watch for threats to academic freedom and transparent governance in initiatives like this. But we owe it to our students to take a serious look at them. What, exactly, is so different about classes in a “conservative” program — and can they offer clues to how all teachers might encourage students to hear out worldviews other than their own?

Students in the Arizona State program praised the trust and candor that become possible in seminars with a low student-teacher ratio — something any program can achieve, if it has generous resources. They appreciated the program’s explicit call to disagree, civilly. “S.C.E.T.L. hammers you over the head with the idea that it’s O.K. to have disagreements,” Mr. Doebbeling said.

The True Cost of a PhD: Giving Up a Family for Academia

Ben Cohen:

In 2012, CBS noted the bleak future that awaited PhD graduates. From 2005 to 2009, American universities graduated 100,000 new PhDs but only created 16,000 new professorships. The average PhD student spends 8 years in graduate school and turns 33 years old before they graduate.

Unfortunately, the outlook for PhDs hasn’t improved since 2012. More and more, doctoral students sacrifice family, wealth, and their mental health to earn a degree with terrible job prospects.

In the United States, PhD students work as researchers, teaching assistants, and instructors as they study. In return, they earn a cash stipend, which varies and can be anywhere from $17,100 for a chemistry student at Clark University in Atlanta to $42,000 for a civil and environmental engineering student at Stanford University.

The size of the stipend can determine whether a student can start or support a family. Graduate students are at the stage of their life when the average person would start a family, and postdocs are at the stage where it might be their last chance to have kids. Pursuing a PhD will have an outsized impact on whether a grad student achieves their basic life goals.

Two News Stories From Abroad Suggest American Education Is On The Wrong Track

Natalie Wexler:

It can be risky to look to other countries’ education systems for models. Nevertheless, two recent news stories from abroad raise doubts about prevailing American views on how students learn.

Too often, American education reformers and policymakers have called for emulating other seemingly successful systems without taking into account the myriad differences between any two countries. An approach that has worked in one place won’t necessarily produce the same results in another.

Still, cognitive science has revealed certain principles that underlie the basic human learning process. For example, it’s well established that, especially when students don’t know much about a topic, the most effective pedagogical approach is explicit instruction—having the teacher directly provide basic information.

Meet the Researchers Fighting Back Against Rogue Peer Reviewers and ‘Citation Cartels’

Megan Zahneis:

Eric A. Fong’s manuscript had been conditionally accepted. The editor said Fong needed to ensure it conformed with the journal’s style and to shorten it to meet the word limit. That was easy enough. But the third condition gave Fong pause.

He’d cited only one source from the journal he’d submitted the article to. The editor wrote in an email that that was “unacceptable,” and told him to “please add at least five more.”

Adding citations to articles in the same journal, as the editor had requested, would inflate the journal’s impact factor, which often dictates a journal’s importance. It’s a phenomenon some scholars call “coercive citation,” but Fong, then an assistant professor of management at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, had never heard that term.

Still, he felt what he was being asked to do was wrong. And yet publishing this paper would be an important part of his case for tenure. Conflicted, Fong printed out the email and headed to Allen Wilhite’s office. Wilhite, Fong’s mentor and an economics professor, was stunned. Most of their colleagues were, too. A few, though, said they had received a similar request from an editor.

The Land and Expand Strategy for Reading

Cedric Chin:

I’m currently on my 37th book of the year, and I think I’ve stumbled on a reading technique that works really well when it comes to reading in service of career goals. As far as reading techniques go, this one is remarkably easy to do — which is more than can be said for most reading strategies.

And it’s also remarkably easy to explain. Which makes it seem a tad ridiculous … but here goes:

When you want to learn something new from reading, read the stories around that thing before you read the thing itself.

Want to learn the Kelly Criterion? Read Fortune’s Formula first — William Poundstone’s fantastic book about the history of the gambling strategy, and its applications in Vegas, horse betting, and equity investing.

Want to ease yourself into the cognitive biases and heuristics literature? Read The Undoing Project — Michael Lewis’s fantastic accounting of Kahneman and Tversky and the research they did together. Then read Thinking: Fast and Slow.

Want to understand the nuances behind the consulting business model? Read a history of McKinsey (I recommend The Firm, though others say nice things about The Lords of Strategy) before reading Maisters’s Managing the Professional Service Firm (my summary here).

Civics: Governments breaking encryption is bad, and ‘will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die’, says one of the world’s leading security experts.

Stilgherrian :

We are now living in a world where governments — your government and my government — are desperately trying to break encryption. This is bad, and this will get worse once breaking encryption means people can die,” he said.

“The way to think of it is as one world, one network, and one answer.”

Schneier placed the government urge to weaken encryption onto an historical context dating back to the 1950s and the founding of the US National Security Agency (NSA). It had two missions.

“One of them was to defend US military communications from eavesdropping, and the other was to eavesdrop on foreign military communications,” Schneier said.

“The reason that worked is that our stuff and their stuff were different. Everything about them was different. And that’s no longer true,” he said.

Civics: The Secretive “Discipline” Process for Federal Prosecutors

Brooke Williams:

Seykora retired as a prosecutor in 2012 and currently is a municipal judge in Hardin, Montana, a small town of about 3,500 people and a short drive from Billings. He did not return phone calls seeking an interview.

In 2014, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility began looking into Seykora. The OPR was established after the Watergate scandal “to ensure that Department attorneys perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards,” according to its website.

Two years later, in 2016, while OPR was apparently still investigating Seykora’s actions, Michael Cotter, then U.S. attorney for Billings and current chief of the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. In a highly unusual move, Johnson’s attorney Colin Stephens said, Cotter sent letters to the defense attorneys of people Seykora had convicted to let them know about the prosecutor’s history of repeated misconduct.

Stephens said the letters essentially reopened any case Seykora had prosecuted. “We just opened Pandora’s box,” he said. “It’s a big deal when the government cheats.”

Cotter declined to discuss the case.

Given his experience, Johnson said, he wonders if it really is a big deal when a prosecutor breaks the rules. “He still gets to sit on the bench and practice his crooked law,” he said.

Still Life

Skip Hollandsworth:

Compared with the glistening two-story mansions that surrounded it, the house looked like something from another time. It was only 2,180 square feet. Its redbrick exterior was crumbling, and its gutters were clogged with leaves. Faded, paint-chipped blinds sagged behind the front windows. Next to the concrete steps leading to the front door, a scraggly banana plant clung to life.

Built in 1950, it was one of the last of the original single-story homes on Northport Drive, in Dallas’s Preston Hollow neighborhood. The newer residents, almost all of them affluent baby boomers, had no idea who lived there. Over the years, they’d see an ambulance pull up to the front of the house, and they’d watch as paramedics carried out someone covered in a blanket. A few days later, they’d see the paramedics return to carry that person back inside. But they’d never learned who it was or what had happened. Some of the local kids were convinced that the house was haunted. They’d ride their bikes by the lot at dusk, daring one another to ring the doorbell or run across the unwatered lawn.

Yale Law School Establishes Religious-Liberty Clinic

Ed Whelan:

Free Exercise Clinic: Seminar (30143) and Fieldwork(30144). 2 units for seminar, 1 unit for fieldwork (3 units total). The seminar and the fieldwork must be taken simultaneously. The freedom to practice one’s religion has been a cherished and controverted right since the Founding. Indeed, religious beliefs matter enormously to their adherents, yet are often invisible or unintelligible to others. This duality is especially salient today, in our religiously diverse society. Although the federal constitution and many other laws offer protection for individuals and groups of faith, majoritarian policymakers and government actors sometimes fail to consider – and occasionally target – religious minorities and their interests. This clinic will provide an opportunity for students to defend the free exercise of politically vulnerable religious minorities. Students will learn about and advocate for the rights of inmates seeking religious accommodations, houses of worship challenging zoning decisions, and employees facing discrimination at work.

Much more on Yale, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Michigan Governor vetoes Taxpayer Charter funds

Alyssa Burr:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used a line-item veto to strike $35 million out of the School Aid budget that was slated to go to per-pupil increases for charter schools.

Traditional public schools will get a $120 to $240 per-pupil increase. Charter schools, which are also public schools, do not get the increase.

Groups that support charter schools say this could hurt the school systems.

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said not increasing the budget will eliminate pay increases for teachers at charter schools and services the schools provide to students.

Hong Kong school week kicks off with citywide student protests against anti-mask law arrests

Chan Ho-him, Brian Wong, Kelley Ho and Joanne Ma:

Hundreds of secondary school students protested against Hong Kong’s anti-mask law on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with schoolmates arrested during the ongoing citywide protests.

Forming human chains and staging sit-ins, students across the city voiced support for peers ­arrested under the law since its introduction on Saturday.

Stoking students’ anger and prompting calls for a boycott of classes, the city’s Education Bureau demanded schools to provide a “rough impression” of the number of students wearing masks to school. The bureau on Tuesday night said most of the 440 schools they contacted said a minority of students wore masks today.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor introduced the law in a bid to quell violent protests, which were triggered by the now-withrdrawn extradition bill and have gripped the city for almost four months. Breaking the new law would carry a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,187).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Does state government deserve more of your money?

Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnemberg:

The politicians hope that you don’t remember that when Referendum C passed in 2005, it was to go to education and highways. Funny how, now, Proposition CC is to go for basically the same things.

So where did that money go? Who knows. As the non-partisan state staff will tell you, it is impossible to know how the money was spent. What we do know is that education and highway funding did not increase by the amount of increased revenue to the state. Why? Because politicians can change the rules by just passing a bill – and they do every budget cycle.

Do you remember the games at sporting events where they hide a ball under one of three caps and you have to try and figure out where the ball is? That was the legislative budget process with Referendum C dollars – a shell game that replaced existing spending with supposedly new dollars.

The legislature did such a poor job managing those promises for highways and bridges that in 2009 they passed another bill called FASTER that created new fees and raised current fees in the name of transportation. Where did that go and why are we running another ballot question for more funding?

Bad Administrator Field Guide

Curmudgucation:

Bad Administrator Field Guide

Is there a lousier job in the world than that of a school administrator. For the past twenty years, it has been all of the responsibility and none of the power. Yet a building principal (and to some extent a superintendent) have enormous control over a teacher’s workplace– how miserable is it, how safe is it, and how hard is it for teachers to do the job they signed up to do?

Administrators come in all shapes and sizes these days (though they are still mostly men), especially since the last twenty years of reformy baloney has done some bad things to the hiring pool. But there are still good ones out there who somehow find a way to fulfill the basic function of an administrator– that is, to provide the tools, setting and processes that encourage your people to do their best work.

But there are other admins out there. Bad ones. This taxonomy is by no means complete, but here’s a quick introduction to some of the species you might find yourself dealing with:

Preferences in Virginia Higher Education

Althea Nagai:

The study compares college admissions data from five Virginia
universities: the University of Virginia (UVA), the College of William & Mary (WM), Virginia Tech (VT), James Madison University (JMU), and George Mason University (GMU).
College Admission Rates by Race

At UVA and WM, black applicants were admitted at higher rates than whites and Asian Americans. WM also admitted Hispanics at a higher rate than Asian American and white applicants.

• 35% of black applicants were admitted to UVA, as were 32% of Hispanics, 32% of Asian Americans, and 30% of whites.

• At WM, 41% of blacks were admitted, as were 50% of Hispanics, 37% of Asian Americans, and 35% of whites.

The opposite was the case for the other schools, which admitted Asian Americans and whites at a higher rate than blacks and Hispanics.

• VT admitted 68% of Asian Americans and 74% of whites, compared to 61% of Hispanics and 50% of blacks.

• JMU admitted 79% of whites, 72% of Asian Americans, 60% of Hispanics, and 53% of blacks.

• GMU admitted 87% of whites and Asian Americans, 75% of Hispanics and 68% of blacks.

Test Score Gaps but Not Much of a GPA Gap
Test scores were generally lower for black and Hispanic admittees compared to whites and Asian Americans.

• At UVA, the black-white SAT gap in median scores was 180 points.

A Separate Kind of Intelligence

Alison Gopnik:

It looks as if there’s a general relationship between the very fact of childhood and the fact of intelligence. That might be informative if one of the things that we’re trying to do is create artificial intelligences or understand artificial intelligences. In neuroscience, you see this pattern of development where you start out with this very plastic system with lots of local connection, and then you have a tipping point where that turns into a system that has fewer connections but much stronger, more long-distance connections. It isn’t just a continuous process of development. So, you start out with a system that’s very plastic but not very efficient, and that turns into a system that’s very efficient and not very plastic and flexible.

It’s interesting that that isn’t an architecture that’s typically been used in AI. But it’s an architecture that biology seems to use over and over again to implement intelligent systems. One of the questions you could ask is, how come? Why would you see this relationship? Why would you see this characteristic neural architecture, especially for highly intelligent species?

Meet Open Up Resources: partner to MVP math and funded by Bill Gates.

Cheri Kiesecker:

Does it feel like this MVP lawsuit is trying to silence a parent from speaking about his own child’s education? As this EdWeek article points out, this lawsuit would set a precedent against parents:

“It’s a surprising move that some say could have broad implications for parent advocacy around curriculum and instruction. A win by the company “would certainly cast a shadow on the idea that parents have a right to participate in their own children’s education, to criticize schools for buying particular textbooks, to voice their concerns about instruction and curriculum,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher formerly at the Brookings Institution, who is not involved in the case.

The Mathematics Vision Project, a publisher of open source math curricula, filed a complaint this summer against Blain Dillard, a parent in the Wake County public school system. MVP has accused Dillard, an outspoken opponent of the math program, of libel, slander, and “tortious interference with business relations.”

…In a written statement to Education Week, Jeffrey Hunt, Dillard’s lawyer, wrote that the lawsuit “has no legal merit.”

Google vs freedom of speech and the press

Nico Hines:

Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, claims that Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, successfully campaigned for The Guardian to scrub her name from one of their bombshell data-abuse stories.

In a memoir that will be published Tuesday, he says that The Guardian’s willingness to back down in the face of Schmidt’s legal threats—and “water down” a story that had already been published—convinced him that he could no longer trust the British newspaper alone to publish his allegations about Cambridge Analytica.

The reporter who wrote the story, Carole Cadwalladr, said it was incredibly difficult for British media organizations to stand up to well-resourced legal threats.

“Schmidt bullied a British newspaper using British privacy laws. It’s extraordinary that the daughter of Eric Schmidt—the man who says that privacy is dead—would be using U.K. privacy laws to get herself taken out of the piece,” she told The Daily Beast.

“News organizations have difficult choices to make, don’t have an endless pot of money, and have to make hard choices. It’s a measure of the difficulty of publishing this work that The Guardian decided they couldn’t defend that one.”

Schmidt was an intern at SCL when Wylie writes that she “introduced Alexander to some of the executives at Palantir.” The New York Times later reported on Schmidt’s alleged suggestion. Palantir, a secretive tech company, was co-founded by Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire and major Trump donor, who also sits on the board of Facebook.

Many taxpayer supported school
Districts, including Madison, use Google services.

Adventures in parametric textile pattern design

stuffmatic:

This project started with a pattern design idea based on tilings, which I’ve been fascinated by since forever. The idea turned out to work pretty well and generated some patterns suitable for printing on fabric.

The basic idea
In case you didn’t know, a tiling is a set of one or more geometrical shapes filling a plane with no gaps. In other words, a tiling describes how to densely pack tiles of certain shapes. This means that if you draw an object inside each tile, and the object has roughly the same shape as the tile, you get a visually pleasing, dense-ish distribution of whatever objects you are drawing.

Chavez Elementary students spread ‘Kindness in Chalk’

Pamela Cotant:

The “Kindness in Chalk” movement was started by Nicki Brunner, who lives in a Minneapolis suburb. It was sparked when Brunner and a toddler daughter were drawing with chalk outside their home and saw the reaction of neighbors when they saw a smiley face and a “Have a happy day!” message on the sidewalk. It then occurred to her that she could replicate the idea at her kindergartner son’s school.

The event is officially held Monday around this time of the year because October is National Bullying Awareness Month.

“There’s a lot that happens in our schools and our society that could benefit from a little kindness,” Brunner states on her MinneMama Adventures website. “Bullying awareness is crucial and important — we need to talk to our kids about how to handle situations, we need to intervene, we need to stand up for what is right. The goal of the Kindness in Chalk Movement is to combat bullying with the most valuable virtue of all.”

Teacher Strikes and Legacy K-12 (benefit) Costs

Daniel DiSalvo:

This report argues that underfunded defined-benefit pension plans and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) are the hidden drivers of labor unrest in the public sector. As these legacy costs have risen, teacher salaries have flatlined or even declined in value.
Policy recommendations:
In the name of equity and affordability, states should move away from defined-benefit pensions and toward defined-contribution plans.
More of the money currently spent on education should show up in the paychecks of working teachers.
States should consider eliminating retiree health-care benefits for newly hired teachers—indeed, for most government employees. These kinds of benefits have been sharply pared or eliminated throughout the private sector.
To implement these reforms, states could offer teachers a deal wherein raises in salary are matched with switching to a defined-contribution plan. This would have the double benefit of giving younger teachers, with lots of time to save for retirement, a bigger raise in the here-and-now, as well as reducing the government employers’ long-term pension liability.

Madison taxpayers, while spending far more than most K – 12 school districts, supported 25% benefit expenditures of the 2014-2015 budget.

Cursive (and reAdIng) instruction)

Logan Wroge:

The reasons for the proposal go “beyond nostalgia” for the writing style, he said.

Thiesfeldt, chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee, said research suggests taking notes by hand, as opposed to typing, can lead to better comprehension and understanding of material, and cursive has long been billed as a faster method of note-taking compared to print handwriting.

The use of cursive also requires a higher level of hand-eye coordination, which can be particularly helpful for younger children, he said.

“It’s not just a nostalgic sort of skill that we want to maintain it just because people used to do it,” said Thiesfeldt, adding he’s had staffers in his office that have had difficulties reading his notes written in cursive.

In recent years, a push to return to cursive instruction has taken hold across the country.

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

“The Child Is Made to Study Far, Far Beyond His Physical Strength”

Rebecca Onion:

If you find yourself stressed, annoyed, and furious about your child’s homework this fall, it might help to know that you are participating in a great American tradition. In January 1900, Edward Bok wrote a scathing editorial in Ladies’ Home Journal about homework in America, with the headline “A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents.” “The child is made to study far, far beyond his physical strength, and consequently his mental good,” Bok pronounced. The elementary and junior high school student, Bok wrote, shouldn’t even need to tote books home from school, because he should be outside with his friends between dismissal and dinner—and after that, he should be asleep. “To rob a child of the playtime which belongs to him is a rank injustice,” Bok argued. “No child under fifteen years of age should be given any home study whatever by his teachers.”

Why so few teenagers have jobs anymore

Jessica Dickler:

Most people remember their first summer or after-school job, which provided cash to help pay for college or a car.

Today, vehicles and higher education — among other expenses — cost significantly more. Yet fewer teenagers are working.

The share of teens participating in the labor force peaked 40 years ago and has declined ever since. In 1979, nearly 60% of American teenagers were employed, an all-time high. Today, just over one-third, or 35%, of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are part of the workforce.

Teens are less likely to work part-time while in school and also less likely to work over the summer, according to a study by the Hamilton Project and Brookings Institution.

“High school has become more intense,” said Lauren Bauer, a co-author of the study

The Dangerous Life of an Anthropologist

Matthew Blackwell:

Limping in crutches, his broken leg shielded in plaster following a jogging accident, the distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson made his way slowly toward the stage at a convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1978. Climbing the stairs, taking his seat, and shuffling his notes, a sudden burst of activity punctuated the silence as the entire front row of the audience leapt onto the stage hurling insults. They jostled Wilson and then poured iced water over his head. The protesters would turn out to be Marxists, incensed by the publication of Wilson’s book Sociobiology.

This story has become a familiar feature of the nature/nurture debate, used to illustrate the vitriolic hostility expressed by ideological groups scrambling to silence what most people already take to be an incontrovertible fact: that humans, just like every other species on earth, have a nature. As crowds abandoned Wilson to evacuate the auditorium that day, one man at the back of the room tried to push his way forward against the multitude heading towards the exits. “It was the most hateful, frightening, and disgusting behavior I’ve ever witnessed at an academic assembly,” the famed anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon would later recall. He didn’t know it then, but the events of that day were an omen of things to come for Chagnon himself, whose Wilsonian worldview would help to bring about one of anthropology’s greatest controversies.

Kevin Kelly’s Letter to Children About the Glory of Books and the Superpower of Reading in an Image-Based Digital Culture

Maria Popova:

In his epoch-making 1632 book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican, Galileo made a subtle case for how reading gives us super-human powers. Printed books were a young medium then, still in many ways a luxury for the privileged. But as the cogs of culture continued to turn, revolutionizing ideologies and technologies, making books common as daylight, the written word never lost this power. 350 years later, Carl Sagan — another patron saint of cosmic truth — echoed Galileo in his insistence that “a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” Hermann Hesse, too, knew this when he considered why we read and always will, no matter how technology may change, in his prescient 1930 essay “The Magic of the Book.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Sector Taxpayer Compensation

Monica Potts:

There was general agreement among the Facebook commenters that no one in the area was paid that much — the librarian’s wages would have worked out to be about $42,200 a year — and the people who do actually earn incomes that are similar — teachers and many county officials — largely remained quiet. (Clinton has a median income of $34,764 and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.) When a few of us, including me, pointed out that the candidate for the library job had a master’s degree, more people commented on the uselessness of education. “Call me narrow-minded but I’ve never understood why a librarian needs a four-year degree,” someone wrote. “We were taught Dewey decimal system in grade school. Never sounded like anything too tough.”

Many rural counties are also experiencing declines in whatever industries were once the major employers. In Appalachia, this is coal; in much of the Midwest, it is heavy manufacturing; and in my county, and many other counties, it’s natural gas and other extractive industries.

This part of Arkansas sits on the Fayetteville Shale, which brought in natural gas exploration in the early 2000s. For about a decade, the gas companies paid local taxes on their property, equipment and the money they made from extracting natural gas, and landowners paid property taxes on the royalties they earned. It was a boom. Many people at the time, here and elsewhere, expected that the money would last longer than it did.

Instead, the price of natural gas plummeted in 2009 and profits declined. Production slowed. One of the biggest natural gas companies in the area, Houston-based Southwestern Energy, stopped paying taxes to the counties here, arguing that the rates were unfair. The company and five Arkansas counties, including mine, are still locked in litigation over some of the money it owes (it recently paid a portion of it).

2009:

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

WEAC $1,570,000 for Four Wisconsin Senators:

How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.

Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.

Additional Commentary.

China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits

Carl Miller:

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

Due process on campus

Greg Piper:

Lawyers for “John Doe” wanted Pomona College to pay at least $250,000 in attorney’s fees for repeatedly violating its own policies to find the accused student responsible for sexual assault.

They got about half that from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel, who said Pomona’s conduct was so egregious that she couldn’t “conclude that the factual scenario was unique and unlikely to recur.” (Pomona attempted to retry Doe with the same approach Strobel struck down.)

The private college appealed. The result? More money for Doe.

A California appeals court upheld the $130,000 judgment against Pomona in a ruling Thursday and awarded Doe “his costs on appeal,” concluding “there was no abuse of discretion” by Judge Strobel.

The trial judge had found that Pomona denied Doe a “fair hearing” by refusing to let him submit followup questions for his female accuser in writing and then letting her skip the hearing so he couldn’t question her in person.

The Sterile, Efficient Life of a Millennial

Rainesford Stauffer:

I was covered in a layer of sweat, and my iPhone charger was dangling out of a bag that contained the after-hours work I still needed to do along with a Lara bar, crushed under the weight of my laptop. It should have been obvious: I’d been stressed, and moving way too fast. But, as usual, I didn’t realize it until I was on the train. I poked my head out of my inbox long enough to play peek-a-boo with a toddler clutching her snack, and chat with an older couple en route to vacation. I felt joy, and a familiar pang of shame that comes from realizing you’ve moved too fast to cherish what’s in front of you.

Deja vu: 2008 – 2019 Credit for non MadIson School District Courses and Adult Employment

Logan Wroge:

To help students make the transition to a higher-intensity setting, two Madison School District teachers spend time at Goodman South instructing courses with solely STEM Academy students and some with a mix of traditional college and high school students.

“We thought it was really important to have high school teachers be part of the program, teachers that kind of know 16-year-olds well and may already have relationships with students,” Green said.

MATC also has two resource specialists working with the students at Goodman South, acting as academic and career advisers.

Green said the district and college have been intentional about structuring the student schedules so they are on campus between about 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This is designed so students can continue to participate in sports or after-school, extra-curricular activities, she said.

“We felt it was important for them to still have a connection to their home school,” Green said.

Miranda, the La Follette High School student, makes it back to the Southeast Side school three days a week to participate in three different clubs.

“I just felt like I left part of my high school experience or teenage experience back there, even though I have friends here,” Miranda said. “At the same time, I really do like this environment because it does fit with being mature and having your own independence.”

2008 (!) A
history of parent attempts to implement credit for non taxpayer supported Madison School District credit.

“The district and the union also have quarreled over the role of MTI members in online learning for seven years. Under the new agreement, ANY (my emphasis) instruction of district students will be supervised by Madison teachers. The deal doesn’t change existing practice but confirms that that practice will continue.”

You are quite new to the MMSD. I am EXTREMELY disappointed that you would “cave in” to MTI regarding a long-standing quarrel it has had with the MMSD without first taking the time to get input from ALL affected parties, i.e., students and their parents as well as teachers who might not agree with Matthews on this issue. Does this agreement deal only with online learning or ALL non-MMSD courses (e.g., correspondence ones done by mail; UW and MATC courses not taken via the YOP)? Given we have been waiting 7 years to resolve this issue, there was clearly no urgent need for you to do so this rapidly and so soon after coming on board. The reality is that it is an outright LIE that the deal you just struck with MTI is not a change from the practice that existed 7 years ago when MTI first demanded a change in unofficial policy. I have copies of student transcripts that can unequivocally PROVE that some MMSD students used to be able to receive high school credit for courses they took elsewhere even when the MMSD offered a comparable course. These courses include high school biology and history courses taken via UW-Extension, high school chemistry taken via Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, and mathematics, computer science, and history courses taken at UW-Madison outside of the YOP. One of these transcripts shows credit for a course taken as recently as fall, 2005; without this particular 1/2 course credit, this student would have been lacking a course in modern US history, a requirement for a high school diploma from the State of Wisconsin.
The MMSD BOE was well aware that they had never written and approved a clear policy regarding this matter, leaving each school in the district deciding for themselves whether or not to approve for credit non-MMSD courses. They were well aware that Madison West HAD been giving many students credit in the past for non-MMSD courses. The fact is that the BOE voted in January, 2007 to “freeze” policy at whatever each school had been doing until such time as they approved an official policy. Rainwater then chose to ignore this official vote of the BOE, telling the guidance departments to stop giving students credit for such courses regardless of whether they had in the past. The fact is that the BOE was in the process of working to create a uniform policy regarding non-MMSD courses last spring. As an employee of the BOE, you should not have signed an agreement with MTI until AFTER the BOE had determined official MMSD policy on this topic. By doing so, you pre-empted the process.

An emphasis on adult employment

Getting a new mobile number in China will involve a facial-recognition test

Jane Li:

China is taking every measure it can to verify the identities of its over 850 million mobile internet users.

From Dec. 1, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a Sept. 27 statement (link in Chinese).

MIIT said the step was part of its efforts to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace” and to control phone and internet fraud. In addition to the facial-recognition test, phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others, and encouraged to check if numbers are registered under their name without their consent.

Civics: Free sPeech and the legacy media

Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson :

Today, The New York Times continued its mission of trying to eliminate free expression for everyone that isn’t part of the elite media family. In an authoritarian and dangerous article called “Free Speech Is Killing Us,” Andrew Marantz argues that free speech is not, in fact, for just anybody. Forgetting, of course, that it’s for everyone.

After all, Marantz has spent “the past few years embedding as a reporter with the trolls and bigots and propagandists who are experts at converting fanatical memes into national policy.” So he “no longer [has] any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.”

You see, Marantz is basically a hero. It’s a miracle that he managed to make it out alive. He actually had to hold his nose and spend social time with unwashed, uncivilized people he thinks are deplorable. He’s basically the 2019 version of a SCUD stud.

Marantz boldly explains to us regular folk why we should be okay with the erosion of our rights to expression and why corporate censorship is a “good thing”:

Using “free speech” as a cop-out is just as intellectually dishonest and just as morally bankrupt. For one thing, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies. Even the most creative reader of the Constitution will not find a provision guaranteeing Richard Spencer a Twitter account. But even if you see social media platforms as something more akin to a public utility, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment anyway. Libel, incitement of violence and child pornography are all forms of speech. Yet we censor all of them, and no one calls it the death knell of the Enlightenment.

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