Why white people see black boys like Tamir Rice as older, bigger and guiltier than they really are

Christopher Ingraham:

some social science researchers, these characterizations would not come as a surprise. Rice is black. And research published last year by the American Psychological Association found “evidence that black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their white same-age peers.” In other words, people tend to think of black boys as bigger and older than they actually are.

In one experiment, a group of 60 police officers from a large urban police force were asked to assess the age of white, black and Latino children based on photographs. The officers were randomly assigned to be told that the children in the photographs were accused of either a misdemeanor or felony charge. The officers overestimate the age of black felony-suspected children by close to five years, but they actually underestimated the age of white felony-suspected children by nearly a year.

The Value Of A High School Diploma

Motoko Rich:

A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”

By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.

But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need.

Wikipedia fails as an encyclopedia, to science’s detriment

John Timmer:

For all its flaws, Wikipedia is an amazing resource. Despite the vandalism, edit wars, and arguments over what constitutes a point of view, it provides key information about a dizzying variety of topics. I’ve relied on them for a lot of information. Most entries have the basics—who, what, when, where, and why—and a long list of references if going beyond the basics is required.

Most entries, but not all. Disturbingly, all of the worst entries I have ever read have been in the sciences. Wander off the big ideas in the sciences, and you’re likely to run into entries that are excessively technical and provide almost no context, making them effectively incomprehensible.

This failure is a minor problem for Wikipedia, as most of the entries people rely on are fine. But I’d argue that it’s a significant problem for science. The problematic entries reinforce the popular impression that science is impossible to understand and isn’t for most people—they make science seem elitist. And that’s an impression that we as a society really can’t afford.

The Humanities as Service Departments: Facing the Budget Logic

Christopher Newfield:

What kind of budgetary future do the humanities have in public universities? Dire predictions have been around for years and take many plausible forms (Donoghue), including the retreat of humanities research into wealthy private universities for the dwindling leisure class. In this piece I focus on what I believe to be the most likely public university trajectory: the closure that converts a combined research and instructional department into a service unit. My approach here reflects my reluctant conclusion that most faculty members outside the humanities would accept this conversion of the humanities into a domain that teaches a range of basic skills. Since I began to study university budgets through an academic senate position fifteen years ago, cross-disciplinary inequalities have worsened, but I have in general not found faculty members to be much more interested in addressing them than are academic managers. Thus I’m going to be a bit less polite about competing faculty disciplinary interests than I have been in the past.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A Deeper Hole

Fix the Debt:

We heard a lot of concern about the national debt from the politicians in Washington this year. However, policymakers still managed to add over $1 trillion to the debt in 2015.

Not paying for legislation and budget gimmicks that masked the true cost of new policies added up this year. The biggest hole was dug just before Congress left for the rest of the year with a massive tax and spending package. When interest is included, nearly $1.2 trillion over ten years was added to the debt.

Direct links to free Springer maths books


A Classical Introduction to Modern Number Theory,Kenneth Ireland Michael Rosen

A Classical Introduction to Modern Number Theory,Kenneth Ireland Michael Rosen

A Course in Arithmetic,Jean-Pierre Serre
A Course in Computational Algebraic Number Theory,Henri Cohen

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Business groups press for public pension changes

Peter Wong:

Oregon’s major business groups want lawmakers to start dealing with rising public pension costs as early as the session that opens Feb. 1.

Although those costs start to kick in with the 2017-19 budget cycle — 18 months away — advocates say it’s not too early to whittle down an unfunded liability projected at $18 billion over the next few decades.

“If we do nothing, 100 percent of the burden falls on taxpayers, government services and their ability to undertake reinvestment in budgets going forward,” says Tim Nesbitt, currently a consultant for the Oregon Business Plan.

Nesbitt is a former president of the Oregon AFL-CIO labor federation and an adviser to two governors.

Nesbitt also says that public employees themselves will be hurt by a system that diverts dollars from government services into ever-higher pension contributions.

We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.


Where do we stand now, economically?
Well, we are right back at it: trying to stimulate growth through easy money. It hasn’t worked, but it’s the only tool the Fed’s got. Meanwhile, the Fed’s policies widen the wealth gap, which feeds political extremism, forcing gridlock in Washington. It seems the world is headed toward negative real interest rates on a global scale. This is toxic. Interest rates are used to price risk, and so in the current environment, the risk-pricing mechanism is broken. That is not healthy for an economy. We are building up terrific stresses in the system, and any fault lines there will certainly harm the outlook.

What makes you most nervous about the future?
Debt. The idea that growth will remedy our debts is so addictive for politicians, but the citizens end up paying the price. The public sector has really stepped up as a consumer of debt. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is leveraged 77:1. Like I said, the absurdity, it just befuddles me.

“Why poor kids don’t stay in college

Jeff Guo:

Tuesday in October and Terrell Kellam is running late. He usually wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the first of two buses that will take him from southwest Baltimore to Morgan State University, just north of the city. With a good connection, making it to his college classes might take an hour and a half.

But his bus pass has been acting up recently. He spends the morning looking for spare change. He’s going to miss his first class. And, because he forgot to pack food from home, he doesn’t have anything to eat for the rest of the day. He goes hungry pretty often.

UK Royal Society wants to hear your thoughts on machine learning

by Aleks Berditchevskaia

Many services that we use every day rely on machine learning. Machine learning is used in internet search engines, email filters to sort out spam, websites to make personalised recommendations, banking software to detect unusual transactions, and lots of apps on our phones such as voice recognition.

Many services that we use every day rely on machine learning.
The technology has many more potential applications, some with higher stakes than others. Future developments could support the UK economy and will have a significant impact upon society. For example, machine learning could provide us with readily available ‘personal assistants’ to help manage our lives, it could dramatically improve the transport system through the use of autonomous vehicles; and the healthcare system, by improving disease diagnoses or personalising treatment. Machine learning could also be used for security applications, such as analysing email communications or internet usage. The implications of these and other applications of the technology need to be considered now and action taken to ensure uses will be beneficial to society.

Study Reveals Amazing Surge in Scientific Hype

John Horgan:

These are tough times for scientists. As funding has flattened or declined, the competition for grants and glory has grown increasingly fierce. In response, many researchers are touting their work more aggressively.

That is the implication of a new study by three biomedical Dutch researchers (to which communication scholar Matthew Nisbet drew my attention). The authors examined the frequency of 25 positive words—from “amazing” and “astonishing” to “unique” and “unprecedented”–in abstracts listed in the biomedical database PubMed between 1974 and 2014. Here is how they summarize their results in the British Medical Journal, BMJ:

How One Family Faced Difficult Decisions About DNA Sequencing

Amy Dockser Marcus:

It was a big decision, and Kathy Giusti saved the conversations about it for quiet moments. A phone call catching up with her mother. A car ride with her children. A backyard party celebrating a high-school graduation.

Ms. Giusti wanted to discuss the complex, intimate and sometimes life-changing choice that many families will have to make in the coming years: whether to get your genes sequenced and then share the data.

Ms. Giusti, 56 years old, is a well-known cancer advocate and proponent of data sharing. She and her identical twin sister, Karen Andrews, founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in 1998, two years after Ms. Giusti was diagnosed with the disease, a rare and incurable cancer of the plasma cells.

From the dubious to the daring, 10 Wisconsin education awards for 2015

Alan Borsuk:

In hopes of revving up readership, I invited Miley Cyrus to join in presenting the annual Wisconsin education awards. But she was busy lowering standards of public decency in America, so you’ll have to put up with me. How boring — but this year wasn’t boring for Badger state education, so let’s get right to the 2015 honors.

The Everyone Gets an A Award. This goes to Wisconsin’s messed up standardized testing system for 2014-’15. Wondering how kids are doing in your community’s schools? So am I! So is everyone! Maybe they’re all doing great.

The launch of what was called the Badger Exam was awful. And the test was killed off before it really came to life. There were screw ups in several big ways. Now, at the end of 2015, no scores have been released publicly. (They’re coming soon, I’m told. Great. And we have a new state test coming in the spring. Also great.) This also kiboshed the state report cards for schools for the past year. From a public accountability standpoint, 2014-’15 might as well not have happened.

The Hail Mary Award. No, it doesn’t go to Aaron Rodgers for that pass against the Lions. It goes to the Milwaukee Archdiocese and its launch of an ambitious effort, called Seton Catholic Schools, aimed at raising the quality of more than two dozen parochial grade schools in the city. The initiative aims to centralize control of key matters, including hiring and training teachers and principals and raising overall professionalism and energy. This is a big deal and, given the thousands of children involved, I hope it pays off.

What Should We Do About Inequality?

Ricardo Hausmann:

Inequality is the result of many different phenomena. Some of them should be a source of policy concern while others should not. My main problem is the inequality that arises from differences in productivity—namely, differences in productivity across regions, across cities, within cities and across social groups. We know that there are huge differences in income across countries of the world: the richest countries are 200 to 300 times richer than the poorest countries in per capita terms. That’s inequality at the global scale.

That is mostly caused by differences in productivity. It’s not because there’s a global pie and it is shared unequally between the rich countries and the poor countries. These are just independent pies of radically different size. At the global level, the bulk of inequality across countries is inequality in productivity.

Bill steers $1.25 million to Marquette summer reading program

Annysa Johnson:

A Marquette University summer reading program for children developed by former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent and education reform advocate Howard Fuller would get a $1.25 million boost from the state under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

The Assembly bill, proposed by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), would require the state Department of Public Instruction to award Marquette’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning, headed by Fuller, $375,000 next year and $750,000 in 2017. And that could increase in coming years, he said, if the program is as effective as Fuller and Marquette have claimed.

“We’re using this as a pilot program,” said Sanfelippo, who learned of the Marquette program when he sat down with Fuller to discuss education issues in 2014. “We would fund it for two years so we can take a good, hard look at the numbers. And if we continue to see the results Marquette is achieving, we would hope to expand it statewide for any district interested.”

Viewpoint Diversity in the Academy

Jonathan Haidt:

Truth is a process, not just an end-state. The Righteous Mind was about the obstacles to that process — confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, tribalism, and the worship of sacred values. Given the many ways that our moral psychology warps our reasoning, it’s a wonder we’ve gotten as far as we have, as a species. That’s what’s so brilliant about science: it is a way of putting people together so that they challenge each other and cancel out each others’ confirmation biases and tribal commitments. The truth emerges from the interaction of flawed individuals.

But something alarming has happened to the academy since the 1990s: it has been transformed from an institution that leans to the left, which is not a big problem, into an institution that is entirely on the left, which is a very big problem.

My Unwanted Sabbatical

By Mahmoud Badavam:

On April 30, 2015, I was standing behind the very tall and heavy door of Rajaee-Shahr prison in the suburbs of Tehran, anxiously waiting for a moment I’d been imagining for four years. At last, the door opened and I could see the waiting crowd that included my family, friends, and former students. The first thing I did was hug my wife. We were both crying.

In 2011, my career had taken an unexpected and unusual turn: I was imprisoned for the crime of teaching physics at an “unofficial” university called the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).

Iran’s Baha’i community created BIHE in the 1980s after our youth were banned from Iranian universities. I began volunteering there in 1989 after serving three years in prison for simply being an active Baha’i. At BIHE, I taught physics and electronics and, as a member of BIHE’s e-learning committee, was a liaison with MIT’s OpenCourseWare Consortium. When I was arrested in 2011, I was on the engineering faculty at BIHE on top of my day job at an engineering company.

After six months in solitary confinement, I joined 70 to 80 fellow prisoners of conscience (many of us Baha’is); I shared a two-by-four-meter room with five others. I spent most of my time meditating, praying, and reading any available books. I wrote letters to friends and family, talked to fellow prisoners, and taught English.

Weekly visits with my wife and daughter (and sometimes my sister) provided a connection to the outside world. They brought news of calls, e-mails, and visits from my friends and colleagues. Once my daughter brought me a copy of MIT Technology Review, which I read line by line and page by page, including all the advertisements! But the authorities did not allow me to receive the next issue, because it was in English and no one there could verify its contents.

What’s Marriage Got to Do With Poverty?

Dwyer Gunn:

Earlier this month, the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution—two Washington, D.C.–based think tanks that typically occupy opposite ends of the ideological spectrum—released a joint report on poverty in America. The report, authored by an “ideologically balanced” working group of conservative, liberal, and centrist experts, lays out a comprehensive plan for fighting poverty that’s admirable for its emphasis on evidence-based solutions from across the political spectrum.

The report recommends a variety of policies aimed at increasing the skills and wages of low-income workers, closing the education gap, and increasing economic mobility. But it’s the section on family, particularly its emphasis on the declining institution of marriage and the perils of non-marital childbearing, that likely required particularly delicate negotiations between the working group’s more liberal and conservative scholars. The authors’ conclusion: Childbearing should be delayed until couples tie the knot, and marriage should be promoted as “the most reliable route to family stability and resources.”

Rise of the humanities

Peter Mandler:

The humanities are in crisis. It’s become orthodoxy. In fact, so much attention has been paid to the ‘crisis of the humanities’ that few have stopped to ask if there actually is such a crisis. Over just the past few generations, enormous changes have transformed higher education. These changes have brought a greater proportion of 18-year-olds to university. In the case of most countries apart from the United States, this brings a huge increase, from a low base – and thus tremendous changes in the composition of that student body in terms of class, gender, ethnicity and other key markers. In each generation, commentators have predicted (and policymakers have demanded) that the humanities would suffer from a more utilitarian, career-oriented, tech-savvy influx. But it hasn’t happened.

In the English-speaking world, over the past half-century, the proportion of students studying humanities at university has hardly changed. True, as one might expect, in the US, the United Kingdom and Australia, there have been fluctuations and important changes in educational demographics, most importantly more women going to college. The crude picture is this: in 1971, humanities students outnumbered business students; now it’s the other way around. But in 1971 there were also about 50 per cent more business majors than science majors; now there are about 250 per cent more.

Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball

Brian Costa:

This shift threatens to cost Major League Baseball millions of potential fans, raising concerns about the league’s future at a time when revenues are soaring and attendance is strong.

“The biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. An MLB spokesman cited fan polling conducted by the league last year as proof. When asked to assess the factors that drove their interest in sports, fans between the ages of 12 and 17 cited participation as a major factor more often than watching or attending the sport. That was particularly true among male fans in that age group, 70% of which cited “playing the sport” as a big factor in building their interest.

The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen

Medium Col:

years after publishing Ralph 124C 41+ in the pages of his pop technology magazine Modern Electrics, Hugo Gernsback published a second, far less studied work in his second imprint, The Electrical Experimenter. This novel, The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen, ran from May 1915 to February 1917.

As a work of fiction, the novel is insufferable. It reads as a series of lectures on physics, chemistry, and astronomy, all situated within a stock fantastic setting and strung together with the thinnest of narrative expositions. But because this is a budding work of “scientifiction,” and beholden to the Gernsbackian tenets of scientific rationality, the narrative has to explain exactly how these lectures are transmitted from locations such as the Moon or Mars.

And here’s where things get interesting. Münchausen, before leaving for Mars, sets up a relay station on the Moon capable of receiving his long distance audio transmissions and amplifying them for reception by the novel’s narrator, I.M. Alier, on Earth. Gernsback selects the obscure recording device known as the telegraphone, patented by Valdemar Poulsen in 1898, to be the substrate on which Münchausen’s transmissions are recorded for rebroadcast in the form of serial fiction.

What Is EFF Reading?


What books, TV shows, and movies helped shaped the way EFF staff were thinking about cutting edge issues this year? Each December we like to look back at some of the new and noteworthy media we took in. We don’t endorse all the arguments you’ll find in them, but we think they at least add something valuable to the discussion. Also, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list—more of a conversation starter.

Some notes about this list: it’s presented in alphabetical order by author’s last name, and most links contain our Amazon affiliate code, which means EFF will receive a portion of purchases made through this page. Books reviewed by Cory Doctorow point to his original review. Descriptions are by Parker Higgins except where otherwise specified.

License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle
James Bond may only live twice in the movies, but in the imaginations of his readers he can live a thousand different times—and tell as many different stories. In Canada, where the novels describing his adventures entered the public domain this January, that’s exactly what’s happened. Under the editorship of established authors Madeline Ashby and David Nickle, a diverse collection of writers have reimagined the famous secret agent and his escapades in 19 new stories.

Sheryl Sandberg is Wrong: Silicon Valley Wants MBAs


Hiring managers overwhelmingly disagree

We analyzed over 50,000 job listings by major technology companies, and another 50,000 job listings at major companies outside of tech. It appears that the hiring managers at Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies didn’t get Sheryl’s memo.

In absolute terms, Facebook has a large number of job listings that prefer, or strongly prefer an MBA, including internships specifically for current MBA students. In fact, they are currently looking to fill 75 positions, or 9% of their total openings with a preference for an MBA.

Why isn’t Harvard getting rich off its scientific research?

Rebecca Robbins:

A STAT analysis of data updated in September finds that Harvard — used to being at the top of most rankings that count — isn’t even in the same league as many US universities by several measures of success in commercializing faculty research.

Harvard ranks 25th among universities and university systems in terms of the number of faculty inventions it licensed or optioned out to industry in the 2012-14 fiscal years, according to data from the Association of University Technology Managers.

Digital America: A tale of the haves and have-mores

James Manyika, Sree Ramaswamy, Somesh Khanna, Hugo Sarrazin, Gary Pinkus, Guru Sethupathy, and Andrew Yaffe:

Digital capabilities, adoption, and usage are evolving at a supercharged pace. While most users scramble just to keep up with the relentless rate of innovation, the sectors, companies, and individuals on the digital frontier continue to push the boundaries of technology use—and to capture disproportionate gains as a result.

The pronounced gap between the digital “haves” and “have-mores” is a major factor shaping competition at all levels of the economy. The companies leading the charge are winning the battle for market share and profit growth; some are reshaping entire industries to their own advantage. Workers with the most sophisticated digital skills are in such high demand that they command wages far above the national average. Meanwhile, there is a growing opportunity cost for the organizations and individuals that fall behind.

Our new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, Digital America: A tale of the haves and have-mores, represents the first major attempt to measure the ongoing digitization of the US economy at a sector level. It introduces the MGI Industry Digitization Index, which combines dozens of indicators to provide a comprehensive picture of where and how companies are building digital assets, expanding digital usage, and creating a more digital workforce. In addition to the information- and communication-technology sector, media, financial services, and professional services are surging ahead, while others have significant upside to capture.

A record number of Chinese students are enrolling in American primary and secondary schools

Miriam Jordan:

Chinese students are enrolling in American primary and secondary schools, public and private, according to new figures from the Department of Homeland Security, many with the goal of getting an edge in U.S. college admissions.

The number of Chinese K-12 students rose 290% to 34,578 as of November from 8,857 five years ago, according to data collected by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program, a DHS unit that tracks foreigners on student visas and the schools they attend.

Chinese students now make up roughly half of the 60,815 foreign pupils in U.S. high schools and the 6,074 in primary schools.

What Wittgenstein Learned from Teaching Elementary School

Spencer Robins:

Every philosophy major has at some point had to answer the standard challenge: “What are you going to do, teach?” It’s especially frustrating after you realize that, for someone with a humanist bent and a disinterest in worldlier things, teaching is a pretty good career choice. Unemployables in the humanities might take comfort from the fact that one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, made the same choice. He revolutionized philosophy twice, fought with shocking bravery in World War I, inspired a host of memoirs by people who knew him only glancingly—and for six years taught elementary school in the mountains of rural Austria. Biographers have tended to find this bizarre. Chapters covering the period after his teaching years, when Wittgenstein returned to philosophy, are usually called something like “Out of the Wilderness.” (That one’s from Ray Monk’s excellent Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. The next chapter is called “The Second Coming.”)

Facebook ‘Selfie’ Provokes Debate On Online Civility, Teacher Diversity

Vanessa de la Torre:

Teacher Heather Zottola was at a training session for city educators on the evening of Sept. 2, hearing about ways they can better serve students of color — the bulk of Hartford’s students — when she noticed one of the attendees angling a cellphone camera in her direction.

“I remember thinking, at first, ‘Oh, she’s taking a selfie.’ Then I was like, ‘Oh, look it, I’m in her picture,'” Zottola recalled this month. The woman, city board of education member Shelley Best, was seated only a few feet away in a downtown banquet room.

Every Move Will Be Recorded

Grégoire Chamayou:

In 1749, in the middle of the eighteenth century, Jacques François Guillauté, a French police officer and a mechanical engineer, who would later become an “Encyclopediste,” dedicated a richly illustrated manuscript to King Louis the 15th. The title of his manuscript was “Mémoire sur la Réformation de la Police de France.” With this token, he sought to convince the king to adopt a radical plan to reform the old French police system.

This work, along with numerous others in Europe at the time, formed part of a flourishing new genre which sought to constitute a new “science of police,” one which would not only improve the fight against crime, but moreover lay the basis for a whole new rationality of government. If this forgotten manuscript is worth remembering today, it is because it was one of the first attempts to articulate a new technology of power, one based on traces and archives, and which has since been widely perfected.

Guillauté’s prospectus contained a drawing of a strange machine, which formed the core of the whole project. Guillauté, proud of what he considered to be a revolutionary invention, called it “le serre-papiers,” the “Paperholder.”

Computer Scientists and Mathematicians Are Stunned by This Chicago Professor’s New Proof

Whet Moser:

A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my favorite radio shows, BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. It’s about as adult-contemporary as a podcast gets: a roundtable of British academics talking about one subject every week, everything from the Lancashire Cotton Famine to Beowulf to Dark Matter.

Last month they covered a famous math question, the P vs. NP problem. It’s an arcane problem, though famous enough that it turns up as a Simpsons joke. And its implications are genuinely immense.

What is P vs. NP? While it’s one of the hardest unsolved problems in math, it’s conceptually very simple. Start with Wikipedia’s definition of the problem: “Informally, it asks whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified by a computer can also be quickly solved by a computer.”

Trustees need to exert control on UT

Frank Cagle:

The NCAA often comes down hard on athletic programs under the rubric of “lack of institutional control.” It means a university has been asleep at the switch while things damaging to the university were willfully ignored.

The University of Tennessee already had one kerfuffle over its Office for Diversity and Inclusion trying to promote idiotic gender-neutral pronouns. Given the tone deafness of that office, you would think that Chancellor Jimmy Cheek would keep an eye out for any further controversies that might arise. He is chancellor of a public university that needs taxpayer support.

But his Diversity Office put out suggestions that the university community not engage in holiday parties that might be construed as Christmas parties. Even “disguised Christmas parties,” whatever those might be. Lest you think this is about Christians, the memo also suggests no Dreidels, a traditional Jewish Hanukkah game. They also warned against “Secret Santa.” Attacking Santa? Really?

I Don’t Care Where My Children Go To College

Catherine Perlman:

I don’t care where my children go to college. I’m not saying I don’t care in the but-deep-down-I’m-hoping-they-get-a-full-ride-to-Harvard way. And I’m not saying that I don’t care because my kids are complete failures destined for a life of living in my basement watching Family Guy re-runs. Nope, it isn’t any of that.

I really don’t care where they go to college. Where they end up has no effect on me. I will be equally satisfied if they go to a prestigious university as I would if they decide community college is a better fit. They might even decide to travel the world and work for a few years before choosing a college and subsequent career. Fine with me.

I’ve been thinking about this for more than a decade. With general despair, I have watched parents–from the moment Junior emerges from the womb–dedicating themselves to the sole purpose of getting their child into the very best college. First, there was Baby Einstein and flash cards. Soccer is now beginning for 4-year-old children. Piano at 5. Karate and Mandarin at 6. Then there is travel baseball and private trainers at 10. By middle school children are so programed they have no down time. No time for family dinners. No time to decide for themselves what they enjoy doing. No exploring with friends in the woods behind the house for hours and discovering hidden passions and talents. No leadership that isn’t force-fed through planned undertakings.

Parenting in the Age of Awfulness

Leonard Sax:

Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, “How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?” Mom said, “I’m thinking it’s been about two days.” Then Kyle replied, “Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old.

I have been a physician for 29 years. This sort of language and behavior from a 10-year-old was very rare in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have been unusual a decade ago. It is common today. America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.”

For the New Year, Let’s Resolve to Improve Our Tech Literacy

Farhad Manjoo:

Silicon Valley luminaries are easily mocked as having a precious, narrow take on the world. People in the tech industry can’t see past themselves, critics often charge; they act as if the products they build sit at the center of everything.

But this year, the techies were right: Technology did rule many issues in 2015. And not only did tech dominate the news, it often moved too quickly for politicians, regulators, law enforcement officials and the media to understand its implications. This year we began to see the creaking evidence of our collective ignorance about the digital age.

Ensuring Safety of Human Rights Defenders in the Digital World

Samita Thapa:

Today, on Human Rights Day, we focus on the importance of digital safety for human rights defenders around the world. In an increasingly digitally connected world, it is even more crucial for human rights defenders – whether activists, journalists or aid workers, to be safe online as they fight for the rights of marginalized and oppressed groups.

One of the organizations working to keep human rights defenders safe online is Security First. Established in 2013, Security First aims to make it easier for human rights defenders (HRDs) to work safely. We spoke to the co-founder, Holly Kilroy to learn about their work and their latest app, Umbrella.

How Colleges Make Racial Disparities Worse

Richard Sander:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ignited a firestorm last week at oral arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas, a case concerning that school’s affirmative-action policies. The media pounced after Justice Scalia suggested that it might be not be a bad thing if fewer African-Americans were admitted to the University of Texas. Many rushed to call the comments racist.

Subsequent reports clarified that Mr. Scalia had been invoking the “mismatch” hypothesis, which posits that students who receive large admissions preferences—and who therefore attend a school that they wouldn’t have gotten into otherwise—often end up hurt by the academic gap between them and their college peers. But on the whole even this coverage has spread confusion.

Low Pay, Long Commutes: The Plight Of The Adjunct Professor

Eric Westervelt:

More than half of the professors in the United States are adjuncts. As largely part-time educators, they’re excluded from most of the benefits and security granted to full-time faculty. Even though their numbers have dramatically increased in recent decades, that doesn’t necessarily translate into power. Many struggle to attain any recognition at all for their hard work, low pay and often terrible commutes.

Artist Dushko Petrovich is one of those adjuncts, and he has an extreme story. He teaches at four colleges: Boston University, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design and New York University. That’s right, four different states. Talk about a nightmare commute.

Are Americans losing faith in democracy?

Yascha Mounk and Roberto Foa:

When citizens lose faith in liberal democracy, they will eventually start to consider illiberal forms of government. This is beginning to happen. Most Americans are still horrified by the idea of living in an authoritarian regime, but the number of citizens who are open to some form of illiberal rule is going up. One of the most striking shifts we have seen concerns the number of Americans who think it would be a “good” or “very good” thing to “have the army rule.” Twenty years ago, when the World Values Survey first asked this question, one in 15 Americans agreed with this sentiment. Today it’s one in six.

Educated Germans avoid social media


people have higher incomes – and therefore more gadgets and data plans – to peruse social media in their free time?
Or is it historical? Have well-educated Germans better internalized the lessons of German history under Nazi and communist rule? Do they therefore distrust the collection of their data more than in other countries?

Or is it instead a sign that the well educated in Germany are simply satisfied with their rustling newspapers, weekly magazines and evening news programs? Do they better trust traditional German media sources? An extension of this argument is that educated individuals in countries like Turkey or Hungary, whose media records are less than pristine, are seeking raw, unfiltered and accurate information beyond state-controlled channels.

U.S. Helps Shaky Colleges Cope With Bad Student Loans

Andrea Fuller & Josh Mitchell:

Arkansas Baptist College got a dire warning from the Education Department last year. So many students had defaulted on their loans that the college was at risk of losing access to federal aid.

That threat is one of the biggest weapons the agency has to police the performance of colleges and universities. But the warning to Arkansas Baptist also came with an offer of help, says Yvette Wimberly, a dean at the college.

For the next six months, the Education Department told the college how to look for errors in its student-loan data. Arkansas Baptist identified at least three students who were murdered after they left the college. Fixing that and other data problems cut the default rate enough to save Arkansas Baptist.

Good governance: CBSE books to be made available online for free

Economic Times:

All CBSE books and learning material will be made available online for free as part of the Centre’s good governance efforts, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said here today.

At a function organised at a Kendriya Vidyalaya in east Delhi, she also said that initiatives would be undertaken to ensure holistic nurturing and improve learning outcomes at these schools.

“We made NCERT books available online for free through e-books and mobile applications a month-and-a-half ago. We are similarly going to make CBSE books available online along with additional learning material and videos as part of our good governance efforts,” Irani said at the inauguration of a new building of the school in Khichripur.

How Art Became Irrelevant

Michael Lewis:

As fate would have it, I had just shown my students at Williams College the grainy footage of Burden’s shooting when we learned of his death in May. Curiously, the clip did not provoke them as it had their predecessors in my classrooms in decades past. No one expressed any palpable sense of shock or revulsion, let alone the idea that the proper response to the violation of a taboo is honest outrage. One student fretted about the legal liability of the shooter; another intelligently placed the work in historical context and related it to anxiety over the Vietnam War.


Refusal to offer low-achieving school list creates new front in California’s school war

Dan Walters:

years ago, the Legislature adopted a landmark measure to give parents – particularly poor parents – more power over their children’s educations.

The education establishment, especially unions, didn’t like it, but refusing to compete for a “Race to the Top” federal grant was an unpalatable option.

The best-known aspect of the measure, carried by Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero, was the “parent trigger” that allowed parents of children in low-performing schools to intervene – even seizing control.

Another provision, however, required the state schools superintendent, then and now Tom Torlakson, to publish annually a list of the state’s 1,000 lowest-achieving schools, as shown by academic tests, and allowed parents of children in those schools to move them to higher-rated schools.

The basis for those judgments was the Academic Performance Index, a test-based scoring system for schools that teacher unions and other elements of the education establishment also disliked.

Two years ago, the testing regime upon which the API was based was changed, and the API itself was suspended. The state Board of Education is devising a “multiple measures” accountability program that downplays testing and is likely to seek a repeal of the API.

Citizen Maths: free/open adult math education for practical real-world numeracy

Seb Schmoller:

Last week we released a big batch of new CC-BY licensed content for Citizen Maths a free online course for adults who want to improve their grasp of maths at what in the UK is known as Level 2 (the level that 16 year old school leavers are expected to reach, though many do not).

The new course content covers the powerful ideas in maths of “uncertainty” and “representation”. It sits alongside the content for “proportion” which was published last year.

Learning about each idea is supported by a mix of short video tutorials, practical exercises, and quizzes. The practical exercises use a range of approaches including:

It’s not just factory and back-office jobs with big automation potential

James Pethokoukis:

McKinsey offers a great tool that looks at the automation potential of various job categories. Or to be more precise, the consultancy “analyzed more than 750 occupations in the United States to determine the percentage of time that could be automated by currently demonstrated technology.”

So this is less about robots replacing workers than parts of jobs being automated. Indeed, McKinsey has found “that even the highest-paid occupations in the economy, such as financial managers, physicians, and senior executives, including CEOs, have a significant amount of activity that can be automated.”

The question that education can’t afford to ignore.

John Fallon:

The OECD has just released their annual ‘Education At A Glance’ report. At over 800 pages, there’s quite a lot to it. But you don’t need to read too far in to get to one of its key points: “Efforts to achieve universal access to education must go hand-in-hand with a renewed focus on education quality…”. In other words, access with progress.

At Pearson, we have put a huge focus on measuring how what we do helps to improve learning outcomes. It’s something we started talking about over two years ago, and though it’s a commitment that’s seen our company totally transformed, the basic principle remains unchanged – everyone in education should seek to measure the effect of their impact. The consequences are too important not to do so.

Here’s how I made the case back in June 2014 at the Harvard University Global Education Conference.

buying childhood, piece by piece

The Economist:

Disney is its determination to put storytelling at the heart of its business, and its ability to get its hands on new characters capable of bringing fans back again and again. Disney’s purchase of Pixar Animation Studios and Marvel Entertainment brought Buzz Lightyear of “Toy Story” and Iron Man of “The Avengers” to a stable of mice and Muppets. Lucasfilm added Star Wars to the cast of characters that the firm has amassed since Mr Iger succeeded Michael Eisner as CEO.

These new franchises have joined the world’s most formidable licensing and entertainment empire, one that encompasses toy shops, video games, theme parks, cruises, comics, music, television and feature films. Disney is commercialising childhood through lots of channels—and making the companies it bought, as well as itself, far more valuable in the process.

The legacy of No Child Left Behind and where we go from here

Alan Borsuk:

This just in: Every child in America will not be reading and doing math on grade level by the end of 2014.

You know that. You knew that years ago.

But as 2015 headed toward its end, it was the law of the land.

My actual focus today is on the new federal education law that is taking the place of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law that was on the books for almost 14 years, which I’d suggest was at least nine too many. What will the new law mean to Wisconsin?

But first I can’t resist recounting an anecdote. In 2008, Margaret Spellings, then secretary of education for President George W. Bush, met with the editorial board of the Journal Sentinel during a visit to Milwaukee. I sat in.

I told her that it was obvious that 100% of students nationwide were not going to be proficient in reading and math by 2014, as the law required. I asked what was a realistic goal.

Our obsession with elite colleges is making our kids feel worthless

Julie Lythcott-Haims:

In order to understand why our children are making the decision to die, Silicon Valley parents need to be willing to examine what is perhaps our community’s most sacred cow: the false but tightly-held belief that students must attend a highly selective college to be worth anything in life, and that our worth as parents is also measured by that metric.

With this mindset as mantra, and with those colleges routinely denying 90-95% of applicants, we set our children on a grim racecourse to try to beat those nearly impossible odds. We’ve created a way of life in which kids have no time for play—which is an inalienable right for every child around the globe, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Instead, we insist that every moment of our children’s lives be enriching, as if each activity, athletic endeavor, quiz, and piece of homework is a make or break moment for their future. As if every afternoon must be harnessed for usefulness.

Collegiality as Pedagogy: a Response to Ron Srigley

Sean Michael Morris:

The only explanation for Ron Srigley’s recent article in the Los Angeles Review of Books is chagrin. His own, or his hope to lather with chagrin the parents of university students, his fellow teachers — in particular those he refers to as “not scholars but employees” — and even students themselves. His voice comes off the screen acerbic and self-satisfied, and the nakedness of his spite for current trends in education (“student-centered learning”, YouTube lectures, and the veering away from a tradition of classic texts, grade- and professor-centered university culture) is so palpable it’s a feast of bile.

I am not trying to shame or malign or even chide Ron Srigley. What would be the point of that? To respond to him in kind would be to agree with him. I do not agree with him; most particularly, I don’t agree with what his argument evidences of his pedagogy, namely that learning happens through shaming, maligning, chiding. For I think we can make no mistake in his intention: his article is not meant as just a testament or epistle — it’s meant to teach. To teach us and the rest of his audience about the insolence of today’s educators, the erosion of the ivy-covered tower, and to remind us about the inevitable laziness of college students. And he teaches through scorn. It’s that scorn I disagree with.

The rich-poor divide on America’s college campuses is getting wider, fast

Jon Marcus and Holly K. Hacker

The main dining hall at Trinity College starts you off with a choice of infused water: lemon, pineapple, strawberry, melon. There are custom-made smoothies, all-day breakfasts, make-your-own waffles, and frozen yogurt, along with countless choices of entrees hovered over by white-jacketed chefs.

Sun pours in through windows overlooking the leafy, manicured campus fringed with stately red brick dorms and classroom buildings past which students stroll with their noses in books. A new student center that will include a Starbucks is going up beside the tennis courts. As a college worker clears her dishes, one senior talks over lunch about the job she’s already lined up after graduation with the help of an alumna.

Almanacs Online! – Medieval manuscripts

British Library:

Portable almanacs were most probably made to be used by physicians and those with an interest in astronomy, astrology and prognostication. They were small, consisting usually of 6 to 8 parchment leaves folded in half and then into 4 or 6 oblong sections, sewn together at one edge with a tab that could be fastened to the girdle with a piece of cord. On the outside of each section were often titles for easy reference so that the correct page could be selected. – See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2015/12/all-manacs-on-line.html#sthash.7NFUandT.dpuf

Are we becoming indifferent to freedom and democracy?

Larry Sanger:

Support for democracy is declining. First, let’s talk a bit about support for democracy—yes, democracy itself, as in voting for your leaders and representatives and holding them accountable in the arena of public debate. Only one in five Millennials aged 18 through 29 cast a ballot in the 2014 elections—the lowest youth voter turnout in 40 years, says the Atlantic.

As Vox recently asked, “Are Americans losing faith in democracy?” The article makes a series of points illustrating that Americans, especially younger Americans, are ignorant of and aren’t engaging in American political life. The article’s main source is a forthcoming paper by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk titled “The Democratic Disconnect,” together with the World Values Survey. The writers summarized their own work in the New York Times last September.

Asked how much interest they have in politics (as Vox reports), Americans born in the 1930s said “very interested” or “somewhat interested” almost 80% of the time; for those born in the 1970s, the figure dropped to about 50%, and for those born in the 1980s, it was continuing to drop just as precipitously.

Why Students Should Read a Work of History in High School

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email:

(was a literature major in college, and only came to read history seriously afterwards. No one emphasized the benefits of history when I was in school. And I realize that the appreciation of history is a bit cumulative. That is, when a student first reads history she doesn’t know who these people are or what they are doing or why that might be important to know.

Teachers have to assume some responsibility for expressing their assurance that history is not only interesting but also essential—that is, if they are aware of that themselves. Things go slow in learning any new language. Students can’t love French poetry or Chinese philosophy right away. They have to work to learn the language basics first.

That goes for history as well. But after reading history for a few years, people and events come to be more familiar, and the chronology turns out to be no more difficult and perhaps even more interesting than irregular verbs.

This Parent Trap Involves $71 Billion of Federal Education Debt

Janet Lorin:

The U.S. government is sitting on a growing pile of debt backed by little more than parental love.

That’s because parents can borrow tens of thousands of dollars a year for their kids’ college education without showing they can pay it back. About 3 million parents have $71 billion in loans, contributing to more than $1.2 trillion in federal education debt. As of May 2014, half of the balance was in deferment, racking up interest at annual rates as high as 7.9 percent.

“It’s deeply problematic that the federal government is making relatively high-interest loans without thinking about, much less checking, whether the people they’re lending to will be crippled by this debt,” said Toby Merrill, a Harvard Law School lecturer who has counseled defaulted parents through the school’s Project on Predatory Student Lending. “We’re impoverishing the less-privileged population who are aging. That’s a terrible policy.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Subprime Chartering

Bruce Baker

A short while back, I explained how, in our fervor to rapidly expand charter schooling and decrease the role of large urban school districts in serving their resident school-aged populations, we’ve created some particularly ludicrous scenarios whereby, for example – charter school operators use public tax dollars to buy land and facilities that were originally purchased with other public dollars… and at the end of it all, the assets are in private hands! Even more ludicrous is that the second purchase incurred numerous fees and administrative expenses, and the debt associated with that second purchase likely came with a relatively high interest rate because – well – revenue bonds paid for by charter school lease payments are risky. Or so the rating agencies say.

So how much of this debt is accumulating? And when does it come due? Who is issuing this debt? Are we looking at a charter school subprime bubble? Here are some snapshots:

Madison’s government schools spend > $17K per student annually.

Professors worry about the ‘crisis in the humanities’. But more people than ever, especially women, are studying them

Peter Mandler:

The humanities are in crisis. It’s become orthodoxy. In fact, so much attention has been paid to the ‘crisis of the humanities’ that few have stopped to ask if there actually is such a crisis. Over just the past few generations, enormous changes have transformed higher education. These changes have brought a greater proportion of 18-year-olds to university. In the case of most countries apart from the United States, this brings a huge increase, from a low base – and thus tremendous changes in the composition of that student body in terms of class, gender, ethnicity and other key markers. In each generation, commentators have predicted (and policymakers have demanded) that the humanities would suffer from a more utilitarian, career-oriented, tech-savvy influx. But it hasn’t happened.

In the English-speaking world, over the past half-century, the proportion of students studying humanities at university has hardly changed. True, as one might expect, in the US, the United Kingdom and Australia, there have been fluctuations and important changes in educational demographics, most importantly more women going to college. The crude picture is this: in 1971, humanities students outnumbered business students; now it’s the other way around. But in 1971 there were also about 50 per cent more business majors than science majors; now there are about 250 per cent more.

Black students are drastically underrepresented at top public colleges, data show

Meredith Kolodner:

As racial unrest sweeps across major college campuses, and African-American students demand more equitable treatment, college administrators need look no farther than their own admissions offices to find one root of the problem.

The nation’s flagship public universities — large, taxpayer-funded institutions whose declared mission is to educate residents of their states — enroll far smaller proportions of black students than other colleges, and the number appears to be declining, according to federal records and college enrollment data analyzed by The Hechinger Report and The Huffington Post.

“Another University Is Possible”: Thoughts on Student Protests and Universities in Postcolonial Africa

Desiree Lewis

VARIOUS COMMENTATORS, both in and beyond South Africa, are currently documenting and interpreting the waves of student protests in this country. These protests initially focused on the Higher Education and Training Minister’s announcement of massive fee increases, but the student call to reject the fee increase from 2016 has morphed into a broad-based movement focusing on South Africans’ constitutional rights to social justice and equality. At the time of this writing, student groupings at several campuses are continuing to act on the call to challenge University Management, the Education Department, and institutional arrangements that sanction inflated HE fees, the exploitation of outsourced workers on campuses, and the non-transformation of universities curricula, staffing, and student admission arrangements.

In my own effort to understand these movements, I’ve begun to reflect increasingly on regional and continent-wide processes. I have been reminded of two in particular: on the one hand, the use of crowdsourcing citizen journalism that culminated in Ushahidi (literally, “testimony” in Swahili), originally an activist movement that gathered knowledge from below in the wake of the violence in Kenya during 2007; and on the other, the centrality of student protest, also driven predominantly by crowdsourcing and ICT activism, at the core of the Egyptian revolutions from 2011.

The mystery of India’s deadly exam scam

Aman Sethi

On the night of 7 January 2012, a stationmaster at a provincial railway station in central India discovered the body of a young woman lying beside the tracks. The corpse, clothed in a red kurta and a violet and grey Puma jacket, was taken to a local morgue, where a postmortem report classified the death as a homicide.

The unidentified body was “a female aged about 21 to 25 years”, according to the postmortem, which described “dried blood present” in the nostrils, and the “tongue found clenched between upper and lower jaw, two upper teeth found missing, lips found bruised”. There was a crescent of scratches on the young woman’s face, as if gouged by the fingernails of a hand forcefully clamped over her mouth. “In our opinion,” the handwritten report concluded, “[the] deceased died of asphyxia (violent asphyxia) as a result of smothering.”

The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font

Nikhil Sonnad:

The story of Chinese characters begins with, of all things, turtle bellies.

The kings of the Shang Dynasty—which ruled from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC—had questions. Questions about what the king should do, like whether to “perform a ritual for Father Ding and offer to him thirty captives from the Qiang nomad tribe as well as five penned sheep,” according to one translation (pdf, p. 5). As with many ancient human-rights abusers, the king turned to his royal soothsayers to decide the lives of these captives.

‘It is claimed some US states predict their need for future prison beds simply by looking at school literacy rates’

Gillian Tett:

Earlier this month, I visited a hilly corner of North Carolina to spend time with family friends. As we sat around the kitchen table, a former musician whom I shall call Dave revealed that he had recently started an entrepreneurial sideline to supplement his meagre family income. During part of the week, he works in a local pawnshop but he does not lend out cash. Instead, Dave fills out application forms for people who want to buy firearms — but cannot read or write. He only charges a few dollars for this but the service is so popular that it provides a steady income. “Lots of people round here can’t read and write,” Dave told me with a rueful laugh. “But they all want guns. So they pay me to do that — I use their driving licences to get all the details.”

Welcome to an oft-ignored feature of America in 2015 — and I am not just talking about firearms. These days, there is hand-wringing aplenty, particularly on the political left, about income inequality. As a Financial Times series indicated last week, the gap between rich and poor is yawning ever wider as the middle class shrinks.

But what is often forgotten is that this income inequality reflects and reinforces other pernicious cultural chasms. Today, millions of Americans are enjoying the bonanza of an information boom, with once unimaginable power at their fingertips or, more specifically, on the buttons of their tablets and smartphones. They are “haves”, in the sense of having access to the 21st-century economy. But there is also an underbelly of “have-nots”, who lack access to this economic and information engine, sometimes for the most basic reason of not being able to read or write.

Much of the time this underbelly is concealed; at least from people like me, fortunate to live among information-blessed urban elites who take reading skills for granted. But the issue is surprisingly widespread. And it is not just a problem of rural communities or non-white groups — indeed, many of Dave’s North Carolina clients are white.

Madison, despite spending more than $17,000 per student annually, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Calculus Trap

Richard Rusczyk:

You love math and want to learn more. But you’re in ninth grade and you’ve already taken nearly all the math classes your school offers. They were all pretty easy for you and you’re ready for a greater challenge. What now? You’ll probably go to the local community college or university and take the next class in the core college curriculum. Chances are, you’ve just stepped in the calculus trap.

For an avid student with great skill in mathematics, rushing through the standard curriculum is not the best answer. That student who breezed unchallenged through algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, will breeze through calculus, too. This is not to say that high school students should not learn calculus – they should. But more importantly, the gifted, interested student should be exposed to mathematics outside the core curriculum, because the standard curriculum is not designed for the top students. This is even, if not especially, true for the core calculus curriculum found at most high schools, community colleges, and universities.

Developing a broader understanding of mathematics and problem solving forms a foundation upon which knowledge of advanced mathematical and scientific concepts can be built. Curricular classes do not prepare students for the leap from the usual – one step and done – problems to multi-step, multi-discipline problems they will face later on. That transition is smoothed by exposing students to complex problems in simpler areas of study, such as basic number theory or geometry, rather than giving them their first taste of complicated arguments when they’re learning a more advanced subject like group theory or the calculus of complex variables. The primary difference is that the curricular education is designed to give students many tools to apply to straightforward specific problems. Rather than learning more and more tools, avid students are better off learning how to take tools they have and apply them to complex problems. Then later, when they learn the more advanced tools of curricular education, applying them to even more complicated problems will come more easily.

Islam And The Public Schools

Emma Green:

In seventh grade, kids study world geography and history, including a unit on “the Islamic world” up to the year 1500 A.D. “Williamson County parents and taxpayers have expressed concerns that some social-studies textbooks and supplemental materials in use in Tennessee classrooms contain a pro-Islamic/anti-Judeo- Christian bias,” one school-board member, Beth Burgos, wrote in a resolution. She questioned whether it’s right to test students on the tenets of Islam, along with the state and district’s learning standards related to religion. She also said the textbook should mention concepts like jihad and not portray Islam as a fundamentally peaceful religion. “How are our children to reconcile what they’re seeing happening in the Middle East when they’re not even exposed to the radical sects of Islam like ISIS?” she said at a working meeting in mid-October. (Burgos did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.)

The campaign to topple Oxford University’s Cecil Rhodes statue is too silly for words

Daniel Hannan:

Ah, well, you might say, after the monstrosities of apartheid, race is an understandably charged issue in South Africa. Perhaps a little bit of overshoot is only to be expected: a guilty conscience, allied to fear of a self-righteous mob, can be a powerful thing.

Except that this isn’t just happening in South Africa. Cecil Rhodes also handsomely endowed his – and, as it happens, my – old college: Oriel, Oxford. Having made a fortune in diamonds, Rhodes became a keen philanthropist and, among many similar bequests, left Oriel two per cent of his estate on his death in 1902. Part of that sum was used to fund a new building, to which a statue of the dapper nabob was added on its completion in 1911.

Now, an Oxonian mob, using the same cretinous #RhodesMustFall hashtag as in South Africa, has complained that walking past that statue inflicts violence on them. Incredibly, rather than telling them to mind their own business, Oriel has rushed out a statement to the effect that it is talking to the planning authorities about removing the effigy and, in the mean time, has put a notice next to it, with the following text:

DSST PARCC Results (open Enrollment STEM Schools)

Bill Kurtz:

Today the Colorado Department of Education released results from the Colorado standardized test (PARCC) from 2014-15. We are excited that under this much more rigorous test, our schools remain some of the highest performing in the city:

All of DSST’s high schools (DSST: Cole, DSST: GVR and DSST: Stapleton) rank in the top four out of 45 DPS high schools for English and math.

Parenting in America


Contemporary debates about parenthood often focus on parenting philosophies: Are kids better off with helicopter parents or a free-range approach? What’s more beneficial in the long run, the high expectations of a tiger mom or the nurturing environment where every child is a winner? Is overscheduling going to damage a child or help the child get into a good college? While these debates may resonate with some parents, they often overlook the more basic, fundamental challenges many parents face – particularly those with lower incomes. A broad, demographically based look at the landscape of American families reveals stark parenting divides linked less to philosophies or values and more to economic circumstances and changing family structure.

Legislative Action Could Impact UT’s Accreditation

Clay Duda:

Threats by Tennessee lawmakers to defund the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion could have lasting impacts on the school’s academic standing if those representatives make good on their promises.

Several conservative legislators have called for action since that office published suggestions online earlier this month for making sure campus holiday parties did not emphasize one particular religion. In part, the recommendations (which have since been updated) advised staff to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise,” and warned against participating in things like “Secret Santa” or “Dreidel.

Inside Stanford Business School’s Spiraling Sex Scandal

David Margolick:

Phills assured the Stanford lawyer he was “speaking hypothetically.” Only he wasn’t. By the time of the seminar, the dean of the business school, Garth Saloner, had been involved with Phills’s estranged wife, Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist and professor of organizational behavior there, for more than a year. And while Saloner had ostensibly removed himself from all decisions involving either Phills or Gruenfeld, Phills believed Saloner had remained enmeshed in his affairs, penalizing him professionally and injecting himself into his divorce and custody battles, all to drive him out of Stanford.

Some of this was not just conjecture. For three months in the summer and fall of 2012, as the incipient romance between Saloner and Gruenfeld developed, Phills, either sitting at his home computer or manning one of his other electronic devices—including, in one key instance, playing with the cell phone his wife had asked him to fix—had monitored and preserved the e-mails, text messages, and Facebook chats between the two. He’d followed their first walk together, and their first drinks, and their first date, and their first intimacies, real and cyber, fumbled and consummated. And all of this unfolded as he believed the Stanford Graduate School of Business (G.S.B.) was slowly squeezing him out, denying him crucial and lucrative teaching assignments and, by calling for a $250,000 loan to be repaid within less than a year, attempting to force him out of his house on the Stanford campus.

Results of UW tenure survey released, but questioned

Karen Herzog:

A University of Chicago professor who fanned a firestorm over tenure with a recent survey of University of Wisconsin System faculty members came to Madison on Wednesday to reveal his results, including responses to his hot-button question about how much money it would take for faculty to give up their tenure protections.

The resounding message he received from faculty: Tenure is not for sale.

Faculty responded to the survey without knowing it was funded by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a think tank that is financially supported by the conservative Bradley Foundation.

After faculty became suspicious about the questions, and uncovered the funding source, 228 faculty members who had completed the survey asked the researcher if they could opt out, citing concerns about confidentiality of their responses and whether it was politically motivated as part of a Republican effort to kill tenure.

The researcher was forced to shut down the response window less than 48 hours after it opened in mid-September.

Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores

David Leonhardt:

When the Education Department releases its biennial scorecard of reading and math scores for all 50 states this week, Florida and Texas are likely to look pretty mediocre. In 2013, the last time that scores were released, Florida ranked 30th on the tests, which are given to fourth and eighth graders, and Texas ranked 32nd.

But these raw scores, which receive widespread attention, almost certainly present a misleading picture — and one that gives short shrift to both Florida and Texas. In truth, schools in both states appear to be well above average at teaching their students math and reading. Florida and Texas look worse than they deserve to because they’re educating a more disadvantaged group of students than most states are.

Madison, despite spending more than $17,000 per student annually, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Chicago school has the answer for PARCC Test

Sun Times:

new test designed to see whether students are meeting tougher national educational standards has been attacked by more than a few vocal critics.

But rather than lambaste the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, critics should take a close look at one Chicago school that chose to make the test work — with amazing results.

At Lazaro Cardenas Elementary School, which serves low-income children, students scored far above Chicago Public Schools and state averages in math. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Three years ago, Cardenas teachers committed to new nationwide educational standards, called the Common Core, and decided as a team how to redesign their tea

Teachable Moment for Andrew Cuomo: Lead the State, Not Just the Loud

Laura Waters:

Poor Andrew Cuomo: he just can’t get it right. First he signed the Education Transformation Act of 2015 that, in part, ties teacher evaluations to student outcomes and was toasted by those who believe that we can do a better job of ensuring that effective teachers are in New York State classrooms.

Then teacher union leaders fomented a boycott of Common Core-aligned tests by rich suburban white folk, who happen to be a key part of the Governor’s constituency. So, in what his advisors must have believed was a necessary political pander, Cuomo reversed himself and ordered a Task Force to review the state’s standards and assessments program.

Success Academy Schools, in Shortening Their Day, Shed a Distinction

Kate Taylor:

Among the things that set the Success Academy charter schools apart from public schools is the length of the school day: eight hours 45 minutes for elementary students, nine hours 15 minutes for middle schoolers.

But on Tuesday, Eva S. Moskowitz, the head of the Success network, which operates 34 schools in New York City, said the students’ days would get shorter. Her reasoning: Because we can now.

“We have gotten much better at teaching over time, and our teacher training has gotten more effective, so the amount of time it takes us to get to mastery has actually improved,” Ms. Moskowitz said in an interview on Wednesday.

Starting in August, elementary students will spend 45 minutes less at school, while middle schoolers’ day will be trimmed by one hour 45 minutes. Some middle school students in need of extra support will come in early for a “zero period.”

Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?

Pierre Azoulay, Christian Fons-Rosen and Joshua S. Graff Zivin:

We study the extent to which eminent scientists shape the vitality of their fields by examining entry rates into the fields of 452 academic life scientists who pass away while at the peak of their scientific abilities. Key to our analyses is a novel way to delineate boundaries around scientific fields by appealing solely to intellectual linkages between scientists and their publi- cations, rather than collaboration or co-citation patterns. Consistent with previous research, the flow of articles by collaborators into affected fields decreases precipitously after the death of a star scientist (relative to control fields). In contrast, we find that the flow of articles by non-collaborators increases by 8% on average. These additional contributions are dispropor- tionately likely to be highly cited. They are also more likely to be authored by scientists who were not previously active in the deceased superstar’s field. Overall, these results suggest that outsiders are reluctant to challenge leadership within a field when the star is alive and that a number of barriers may constrain entry even after she is gone. Intellectual, social, and re- source barriers all impede entry, with outsiders only entering subfields that offer a less hostile landscape for the support and acceptance of “foreign” ideas.

A Shifting Education Model in China

The Atlantic:

Just as President Obama steps back from student testing and governors coast to coast retreat from high-stakes accountability in schools, China’s leaders are pushing to enrich their national exams and nudge teachers away from rote instruction, aiming to nurture cognitively nimble and socially committed graduates.

No Child Left Behind—for all its blemishes and endless rules—did signal stiffer expectations for America’s schools, setting ambitious standards that they needed to meet in order to dodge sanctions. But the policy pendulum now swings back toward a lenient approach, enabling states to forge their own accountability tools, defining their own learning goals and tests.

New York eased expectations for students last month, as state officials revealed plans to simplify its math test, because pupil scores had fallen too low. Massachusetts, once setting the highest bar for pupil proficiency, has reversed its support for standards. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles school board has proclaimed that homework should not exceed 30 minutes of effort each night for high-school students.

Why Aren’t You Banned Yet?

Jeffrey Wasserstrom:

My provocation will take the form of a self-criticism. I want to come clean about an incident that haunts me, which found me altering my plans for publishing a commentary due to concern over possible repercussions. Aware that I am a China specialist, you might think you know where this is heading, especially given the intentionally misleading title I’ve chosen for this piece. I’m not, though, going to confess to an act self-censorship carried out due to wanting to maximize my odds of continuing to get visas to go to the Chinese mainland. Instead, I’ll describe a time that I worried about how people living on this side of the Pacific would respond to a U.S.-China comparison that I was convinced some Americans would not appreciate.

Let me begin, though, with the issue of my not being banned by Beijing, since colleagues and friends periodically express surprise that I keep being able to get PRC visas. This is natural. They’ve heard that some people in my field have had trouble getting them. They know I’m interested in hot button topics, such as the events of 1989, which Beijing’s leaders think should be avoided or talked about only in very circumscribed ways. This leads to them to make some or all of the following assumptions about me:

Dear Parents: Everything You Need to Know About Your Son and Daughter’s University But Don’t

Ron Srigley

MY TITLE IS NOT AN AFFECTATION, or at least not entirely so. For years I have been attempting to persuade colleagues, university administrators, and students that something is going desperately wrong in modern universities. To no avail.

Readers may have a sense of the type of problem that concerns me from recent events at Yale, in which no less than 13 administrators felt compelled to compose a letter advising adult students on how to dress for Halloween. This was clearly an absurd thing to do, as was a segment of the student response to a lecturer who had the audacity to point out the absurdity in a reasoned and principled email. It was a strange situation in which students and administrators found themselves on the same side of the barricades on the question of the need for sensitivity and creating a place of comfort in the academy. Students siding with administrators against professors? Young people wanting comfort more than truth? If you’re over 50 it will seem strange indeed, but it’s not — not any more. It is the rule now, and it explains in part the trouble I’m having finding someone to talk to.

MTI Files Suit Against WERC

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:

Given the unique and retaliatory provisions of Act 10 that:

Any person eligible to vote in the recertification election who does not vote is counted as a NO vote;

To prevail in the election, a union must receive affirmative votes from 51% of those eligible to vote; and

For a Union to not receive at least 51% of the votes of those eligible to vote, it would not be recertified as the employees’ bargaining agent.
Thus, with so much at stake, assuring that all who are eligible to vote are aware of the importance of their vote is a high priority for the Union, and to all whom it represents. MTI had numerous volunteers, retirees and current members to assist with the important task of gaining the largest number voting as possible in the recently concluded recertification election. To be sure these individuals were not wasting their time calling and disturbing those who had already voted, MTI asked the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) for the names of those who had voted. The information should have been supplied under Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. MTI specified it did not want information as to how a person voted, only that they had voted. However, the WERC refused to comply with MTI’s request, claiming that providing the information would violate “the secrecy of the ballot.” That is not a valid claim. Who votes in any Wisconsin election is a public record. In its request, MTI specifically asked the WERC to redact any reference as to how one voted. Ironically, at the conclusion of last year’s and this year’s election, the WERC gave MTI the names of all who voted. Doing it during the election as MTI requested would be no different.

Of those eligible to vote, 82.78% voted and 98.36% of those voted for recertification.

Madison Teachers, Inc. 14 December 2015 newsletter is available here.

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker:

Test results released in October from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests known as the Nation’s Report Card, reaffirmed Wisconsin’s poor record of educating black children: The state had the worst achievement gap between black and white students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. This is the second time in a row Wisconsin has been ranked the worst among the states assessed.

Wisconsin also has the biggest disparity in graduation rates between black and white students, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education. The rate for black students in Wisconsin held steady in 2013-14 at 66 percent, while the graduation rate for white students rose a half-point from just over 92 percent to just under 93 percent.

The causes of this gap are complex and extend beyond the four walls of a classroom, often preceding students’ first steps through the schoolhouse doors, researchers say. Factors include poverty and unemployment, historic discrimination, segregated schools and neighborhoods, racial bias and low expectations that damage students’ motivation.

Madison, despite spending more than $17,000 per student annually, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Strange Off-Balance State Of Local Investigative Journalism About Schools

Alexander Russo:

and journalism experts for their thoughts on (a) whether there has been a real decline in investigative work on local education coverage and (b) reasons why (beyond the obvious). I’ll let you know whatever responses I get.

In the meantime, it’s my impression that there have been some amazing examples of local investigative journalism about education, like the Tampa Bay Times series about the re-segregation of some schools in Florida’s Pinellas County (recently recognized by CJR as one of the best stories of the year), or Catalyst Chicago’s look into the infamous $20 million SUPES contract that led to the downfall of Barbara Byrd-Bennett. The LA Times’ Howard Blume unearthed the plan to expand charter schools in LA not too long ago.

There’s also been a bit of growth in local coverage thanks to a few outlets like ChalkBeat, and national coverage via EdWeek, Hechinger, and the mainstream outlets.

But either by intention or lack of sufficient resources, most of these outlets don’t seem particularly investigative in their focus — they’re usually covering events and announcements or telling sometimes amazing stories about schools and programs. The recent Baltimore Sun series on immigrant students was amazing and revealing but not particularly investigative in its focus. Ditto for the recent Hechinger Report series. Even The Seventy Four, which I had thought/hoped would be deeply investigative in its approach (along the lines of VICE or Al Jazeera), seems to have focused more on explainers and interviews.

Mike Rowe to Bernie Sanders: Stop Telling Everyone College is The Only Thing

Nick Gillespie:

Mike Rowe, the popular host of CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It and former host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, lays into Bernie Sanders for pushing everyone to go to college.

Rowe, whom Reason interviewed in December 2013 (see below), isn’t against college, but he takes exception to the idea that the only legit way to get ahead these days is to get a university sheepskin. Rather, he argues, there are lots of excellent trade jobs available that many people would not only be successful at but happy to do. He sees a systematic, elitist attempt to denigrate such work in the name of college for all.

Meal Plan Costs Tick Upward as Students Pay for More Than Food

Stephanie Saul:

Before his 35-mile commute through Appalachian hills to classes here at the University of Tennessee, Michael Miceli eats a gigantic breakfast. It is his way of getting through the day without spending money on a campus lunch.

Food deprivation is merely one trick Mr. Miceli uses to minimize his college debt, now creeping past $22,000. So the $300 bill he got from the university this semester — for food — sent him into a tailspin.

“I was in near panic at the thought of having to borrow more money,” said Mr. Miceli, 23, a linguistics major.

For the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a “Top 25” public university.

Big(ger) Guns on Campus

Jake New:

Northeastern University is arming some members of its police force with semiautomatic rifles, despite the apprehensions of the nearby Boston Police Department and critics who worry about an increasing militarization of campus law enforcement.

The decision — motivated by a string of recent shootings on campuses and elsewhere — has proven to be controversial, and drawn sharp condemnation from Boston’s police commissioner. But in adding tactical rifles to its arsenal, the Northeastern University Police Department joins dozens of other campus forces that already carry military-style weapons.

“There is no higher priority than the safety and well-being of our campus community,” the university said in a statement Wednesday. “Like other universities with police departments, our officers are trained to employ a number of capabilities to protect the campus community, including the use of tactical rifles if necessary.”

How to Get Your Children to Eat Better

Bee Wilson:

No loving parent sets out to make a child unhealthy or fat. So why are some 18% of American children aged 6 to 11 now obese, with many more overweight? Why are pediatricians seeing rising numbers of children who eat no vegetables at all?

We often blame the food industry for the terrible diet that many kids eat—who could resist those high-sugar concoctions in cute packages? But there is no intrinsic reason for children to prefer junk food to home-cooked lunches. Any child can enjoy a balanced diet. Our basic mistake is treating meals as occasions for getting a child quickly fed, rather than opportunities for learning how to eat.

As omnivores, children aren’t born knowing what or how to eat. Each of us learns that for ourselves, and the science shows that children’s food preferences are surprisingly malleable. We start life drinking milk, but after that, it’s all up for grabs.

Author of controversial UW faculty survey on tenure to release results to the media

Pat Schneider:

William Howell, the University of Chicago researcher behind a controversial survey of University of Wisconsin faculty’s views on tenure, is hosting a media event at the Madison Club Wednesday to release his findings.

Academics typically present the findings of such a study to peers for publication in a journal, said Mark Sorkin, associate director of communications for the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Instead, Howell will publicly release his survey results to the media without analysis or interpretation, Sorkin said Tuesday.

“Given the extraordinary amount of attention and concern around the survey, there was interest in presenting the findings with no interpretation and no policy prescriptions, purely in the interest of transparency,” Sorkin said.

MTI-Represented Employees Again Vote Overwhelmingly for Recertification

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:

“In solidarity, we move forward together” came through loud and clear as MTI-represented District employees in all five (5) MTI bargaining units voted overwhelmingly to recertify MTI as their representative. Of those voting, the teacher unit voted 98.51% to recertify (as compared to 98.46% last year) with 2,484 voting. Of those voting, the educational assistant unit (EA-MTI) voted 99.97% to recertify (as compared to 98.92% last year) with 535 voting. Of those voting, the clerical/technical unit (SEE-MTI) voted 93.71% to recertify (as compared to 94.74% last year) with 175 voting. The substitute teacher unit (USO-MTI) voted 98.41% to recertify (as compared to 97.82% last year) with 378 voting. The security assistant unit (SSA-MTI) voted 100% to recertify (the same percentage as last year) with 18 voting. In all, 82.78% of those eligible voted (as compared to 85.35% last year). MTI has not been challenged for continued representation since it became the bargaining agent for teachers in 1964. Since its creation, MTI has grown from 900 to 4,700, and has gained the reputation as one of the most successful public sector Unions in the country. It is Governor Walker’s Act 10 that forced the recertification election. MTI had to pay fees of $3,550 to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to conduct the election. Additional costs were experienced for educational and promotional materials related to the election which, under Act 10, must be conducted annually. MTI’s margin of victory last year and this were among the highest in the State.

The large turnout is a testament to MTI members’ appreciation and support of their Union’s accomplishments on the members’ behalf, to the hard work of the over 150 MTI Member Organizers who engaged their colleagues in conversations about their Union, and to the many members and retired members who made calls from Union headquarters reminding members to vote. MTI members clearly understand that students & staff are better served, if all “Stand Together.”
Thanks goes to all who made their voice heard loud and clear by voting!

MTI’s 23 November newsletter is available here.

John Matthews, longtime head of Madison teachers union, to retire in January

“I would guess, frankly, that no other school district union in the country has had a leader who has served as long as John,” Bellman said. “Because a union is democratic, his longevity is vivid evidence of the way he’s perceived by the people he serves. His ability to interact with members, to serve them, to be appreciated by them — I just don’t think there’s anyone else in the country like that.”

Former Madison schools superintendent Art Rainwater, who led the district for 10 years with Matthews as head of the union, said that while the two had disagreements, “we also did a lot of good things together to strengthen the district.”

Asked if Matthews ever angered him, Rainwater said, “Of course, and I’m sure I made him mad. But the goal was not to let that anger linger or let that anger affect the way we worked.”

Regardless of the tenor of their interactions, “you never doubted when you worked with him that his primary interest was in protecting his employees,” Rainwater said. “That was his job, that was his role, and he was really good at it.”

To many MTI members, Matthews has been a beloved presence, known as much for his personal kindness as his fiery leadership. He routinely receives standing ovations from members when he’s introduced at union gatherings.

Notes and links on John Matthews, Art Rainwater and Act 10.

In San Bernardino, an Epidemic of Questionable Arrests at School

Susan Ferriss and Amy Isackson

His girlfriend walked off, and Muniz saw the officer approaching again and directing him to go with him. The cop reached out and “put his hand on my throat,” Muniz said. “That’s when I start freaking out. He tells me to stand up. And that’s when his grip on my throat got a little stronger and when I started really panicking.”

Alarmed, Muniz pushed at the officer to get him “just a little bit off me,” he said. They tumbled to the ground and the officer “showered” the student with pepper spray, Muniz alleges in a civil lawsuit that’s still pending. The cop handcuffed him, he said, dragged him into a nearby security office by the cuffs and planted a knee in between his shoulder blades while delivering “multiple blows” as Muniz lay face down on a carpet.

The educator

Julia Thiel:

Salgado is president and CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino, an organization that works to provide education, training, and employment opportunities for Latinos in Chicago. The 46-year-old has received numerous awards for his work, including, most recently, the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.


run two charter schools, one focused on health care [the Health Sciences Career Academy]. Hospitals in the area said, “You’re doing a good job with nurses; we need doctors and surgeons.” They’re having to bring in talent from all over the world in order to meet their needs. Why can’t our kids achieve that?

A big part of the reason is they have to start thinking about it from seventh and eighth grade. Their parents are like mine—they’re factory workers, restaurant workers. They have to have course work that gets them ahead, because they’re going to have to compete for spots in nursing school or med school. So we created a school focused on incorporating a bunch of health-care courses, so that the kids that graduate really understand the human body.

Multiculturalism is a sham, says Angela Merkel

Rick Noack:

may have surprised supporters of her policies: “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a ‘life lie,’ ” or a sham, she said, before adding that Germany may be reaching its limits in terms of accepting more refugees. “The challenge is immense,” she said. “We want and we will reduce the number of refugees noticeably.”

Although those remarks may seem uncharacteristic of Merkel, she probably would insist that she was not contradicting herself. In fact, she was only repeating a sentiment she first voiced several years ago when she said multiculturalism in Germany had “utterly failed.”

Online Degree Hits Learning Curve

Melissa Korn:

The Georgia Institute of Technology turned heads in 2013 when it announced plans to offer an inexpensive, online version of its master’s degree in computer science to what top administrators predicted would be a “massive” audience.

The program graduated its first class of students on Friday. All 20 of them.

Georgia Tech, with $3.5 million in backing from AT&T Inc., was on the forefront of an effort to harness the technology of massive, open, online courses, or MOOCs, to offer a high-quality education at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree.