How Business Got Schooled

Peter Elkind:

When Exxon Mobil, GE, Intel, and others pushed for the education standards, they incurred the wrath of Tea Party conservatives and got a painful lesson in modern politics.

In February 2014, two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Charles Koch, dined together at a West Coast restaurant.

They made quite the odd couple: the Seattle Microsoft MSFT -1.40% co-founder, now devoting his time and fortune to changing the world, and the Kansas industrialist, still running his private conglomerate while working to shrink government to the size of a pea.

The two discussed many subjects and even touched, diplomatically, on topics they disagree about, such as climate change. There was a second sensitive subject that Gates broached, and it didn’t come up by chance. His team at the Gates Foundation had engaged in a process it calls a “faction analysis” and identified Koch as a key opponent on a crucial issue. Gates had a mission that night: He wanted to persuade Koch to change his mind about Common Core.

It’s time to say No to our pampered student emperors

Harry Mount:

Universities are reaping the whirlwind of two decades of child-centred education. That whirlwind has imported imbecilic trigger warnings – when academics have to warn students that western European literature, from the Iliad on, is full of sex and violence. It has also brought the pernicious idea of “no-platforming” – when students refuse to give a stage to anyone who doesn’t fit with their narrow view of the world.

We shouldn’t blame the student emperors for all this. Their warped supersensitivity is the fault of the generation above – the teachers and parents who have so indulged them. I first noticed the disaster of child-centred education six years ago. Near my childhood home in north London, there is a late-Victorian school. According to the noticeboard outside, it didn’t have a headmaster. Instead, Mr MJ Chappel was called the “lead learner”.

Compare Property Taxes Around Madison

Dean Mosiman:

In Madison, the tax bill for a fair market home valued at $200,000 was $4,690. Outside Madison, the tax bill for a fair market home with the same value ranged from $2,815 in the town of Christiana in the Stoughton School District to $4,736 in the village of Brooklyn in the Oregon School District.

The tiny town of Blooming Grove saw average drops in average bills for homes that didn’t change in value between 7.43 percent and 11.47 percent depending on which of four school districts property is located.

The decreases came from savings in an intergovernmental agreement under which the city of Madison is now providing fire and emergency medical service to the town, town administrator-clerk-treasurer Mike Wolf said.

The town had employed three full-time firefighters supplemented by volunteers and interns, but contracting with the city saves $100,000 and makes sense because the town is set to dissolve in 2027, he said.

A similar Middleton home pays 13 to 16% less than a Madison property.

Despite spending more than most school districts (currently $17k/student), Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A Familiar Feeling, But Worse This Time

Nate Bowling:

Elijah was the most energetic student I have ever taught. He drove me up the wall freshmen year. But, over the next three years I had the pleasure of watching him grow, mellow slightly, and turn into one of the hardest working students I had last year. He was a captain of the wrestling team. He sat in the front seat in my AP Government class. He grinded for me like no other student last year. And I remember how proud of him I felt as I read his name last June at graduation. Now I can’t believe he’s gone.

We’ve lost kids before, we lost Chandler and Hector in the last few years. Last year, we lost Jalon–that one really hurt me too. But I have never felt a loss this personal.

The next thing I remember was finding his math teacher in her classroom. She also had a very close relationship with Elijah. We had just discussed a few days prior how much we missed him–now he was gone. We hugged and cried in her doorway for what seemed like an eternity. I was a mess; she was worse. Neither of us knew what to say. We just cried. There really aren’t words for moments like that, if there are I certainly am not smart or composed enough under pressure to know them. We just cried.

It was Election Day and I had an armful of Voters’ Pamphlets to use in Government with me. As I shuffled past pockets of students, some with tears in their eyes, other completely unaware of what had happened, I just cried.

An Aging America Shies Away From Risk

Justin Fox:

have also been studies that purport to measure risk aversion by country. One recent attempt using Gallup polling data on happiness, by Nestor Gandelman of Universad ORT in Uruguay and Ruben Hernandez-Murillo of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found the Dutch to be among the least risk-averse people on the planet (only Zimbabwe and Belarus scored lower), while U.S. risk aversion came out on the high side (among developed countries, only France, Belgium and Taiwan scored higher, as did nine developing countries).

I’m not sure how much stock to put in that result, which uses happiness data “to estimate how fast the marginal utility of income declines as income increases using an iterated maximum likelihood procedure, assuming a constant relative risk aversion utility function.” But there do seem to be a lot of indications that the famously footloose and risk-tolerant citizens of the U.S. are becoming less willing to take leaps into the unknown. Along with the entrepreneurship decline mentioned above, median job tenure has risen markedly since 2004 and the percentage of Americans who change residences each year has been in a long decline. As the New York Times reported last week, the “typical adult” in the U.S. now “lives only 18 miles from his or her mother.”

10-y Risks of Death and Emergency Re-admission in Adolescents Hospitalised with Violent, Drug- or Alcohol-Related, or Self-Inflicted Injury: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Annie Herbert, Ruth Gilbert, Arturo González-Izquierdo, Alexandra Pitman, Leah Li:

Hospitalisation for adversity-related injury (violent, drug/alcohol-related, or self-inflicted injury) has been described as a “teachable moment”, when intervention may reduce risks of further harm. Which adolescents are likely to benefit most from intervention strongly depends on their long-term risks of harm. We compared 10-y risks of mortality and re-admission after adversity-related injury with risks after accident-related injury.

Presidential Perks: Students, Staff Complain About Spending at Montgomery College

Tisha Thompson, Rick Yarborough and Jeff Piper:

The News4 I-Team started investigating Montgomery College after receiving multiple letters from staffers throughout the summer complaining about the school’s president, Dr. DeRionne Pollard, and how much she spends on travel and transportation, including an armed driver recently hired by the school to protect her.

The I-Team obtained a copy of Dr. Pollard’s contract after filing a public records request with the school, and it shows she receives a $281,000 salary with a possible 5 percent annual bonus, along with an additional $3,000 housing allowance each month for her home in Germantown, Maryland.

According to the contract, the school’s Board of Trustees also agreed to pay for all of her work-related travel — and for all of her wife’s travel costs anytime she accompanied her on business trips.

The Counterfeit High School Diploma

New York Times:

Teachers unions and other critics of federally required standardized tests have behaved in recent years as though killing the testing mandate would magically remedy everything that ails education in the United States. In reality, getting rid of the testing requirement in the early grades would make it impossible for the country to know what if anything children were learning from year to year.

Congress understood this fundamental point, and kept the testing requirement, when it reauthorized the No Child Left Behind Act — now called the Every Student Succeeds Act — last month. But lawmakers ducked the most important problem: the fact that most states still have weak curriculums and graduation requirements that make high school diplomas useless and that leave graduates unprepared for college, the job market or even meeting entry requirements for the Army.

The costs associated with this problem are demonstrated in a recent report by Motoko Rich in The Times, which focused on Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., where the graduation rate has risen to 80 percent, from under 65 percent just four years ago. But college entrance exams given to 11th graders last year showed that only one in 10 students was ready for college-level reading and only about one in 14 was prepared for entry-level college math. On a separate job skills test, only about half of students demonstrated the math proficiency needed to succeed at most jobs.

With results like that, it’s no wonder some South Carolina business leaders are worried that the state is producing high school graduates who are not qualified to compete for higher-skilled jobs at companies like Boeing, Volvo and BMW.

This is a national problem. A recent study from Achieve, a nonpartisan organization that works with the states to raise academic standards, showed that only 18 states and the District of Columbia required all graduates in the class of 2014 to meet the minimum preparation requirements for college — four years of English and math through Algebra II, or its equivalent.

Related:Young Americans cannot do tricky sums without a calculator and Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Silencing Students

Robby Soave:

Eric Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, hasn’t actually censored anyone, so he doesn’t make the list. But he certainly provides a great deal of intellectual ammunition for people working to restrict free expression rights—including and especially university administrators, as well as the police. Whether he is arguing that 18-year-olds are better off with fewer rights, or that vast infringements on internet freedom are necessary in order to protect the U.S. from ISIS, Posner is a reliable ally of would-be muzzlers everywhere.

Food Timeline

Food Timeline:

Ever wonder how the ancient Romans fed their armies? What the pioneers cooked along the Oregon Trail? Who invented the potato chip…and why? So do we!!! Food history presents a fascinating buffet of popular lore and contradictory facts. Some experts say it’s impossible to express this topic in exact timeline format. They are correct. Most foods are not invented; they evolve. We make food history fun.

Superintelligence: fears, promises, and potentials

Ben Goertzel:

Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, in his recent and celebrated book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, argues that advanced AI poses a potentially major existential risk to humanity, and that advanced AI development should be heavily regulated and perhaps even restricted to a small set of government-approved researchers.

Bostrom’s ideas and arguments are reviewed and explored in detail, and compared with the thinking of three other current thinkers on the nature and implications of AI: Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (formerly Singularity Institute for AI), and David Weinbaum (Weaver) and Viktoras Veitas of the Global Brain Institute. Relevant portions of Yudkowsky’s book Rationality: From AI to Zombies are briefly reviewed, and it is found that nearly all the core ideas of Bostrom’s work appeared previously or concurrently in Yudkowsky’s thinking.

However, Yudkowsky often presents these shared ideas in a more plain-spoken and extreme form, making clearer the essence of what is being claimed. For instance, the elitist strain of thinking that one sees in the background in Bostrom is plainly and openly articulated in Yudkowsky, with many of the same practical conclusions (e.g., that it may well be best if advanced AI is developed in secret by a small elite group).

The declining productivity of education

Jonathan Rothwell:

College tuition, net of subsidies, is 11.1 times higher in 2015 than in 1980, dramatically higher than the 2.5 increase in overall personal consumption over the period. For private education, from pre-K through secondary, prices are 8.5 times higher now than in 1980. For public schools, the rise is lower—4.7 from 1980 to 2013

—but still far above general inflation.
…but learning has stagnated

For the nation’s 17-year-olds, there have been no gains in literacy since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began in 1971. Performance is somewhat better on math, but there has still been no progress since 1990. The long-term stagnation cannot be attributed to racial or ethnic differences in the U.S. population. Literacy scores for white students peaked in 1975; in math, scores peaked in the early 1990s.

China officially ends one-child policy with legislation allowing two-child families for all married couples


The change, which was announced in October by the Communist Party, would take effect on January 1, Xinhua reported.

All married couples will be allowed to have a second child but the legislation maintains limits on additional births. The law was formally adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress as it wrapped up its bimonthly session.

The one-child policy, instituted in the late 1970s, restricted most couples to only a single offspring and for years authorities argued it was a key factor to the country’s economic boom and had prevented 400 million births