UC Berkeley’s ‘income inequality’ critics earn in top 2%

Marc Joffe:

Scholars from the University of California at Berkeley have played a pivotal role in making income inequality a major political issue. But while they decry the inequities of the American capitalist system, Berkeley professors are near the top of a very lopsided income distribution prevailing at the nation’s leading public university.

Among the most prominent of these scholars is Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Reich’s 2013 film, Inequality for All, is an indictment of a rigged U.S. economy that makes a select few richer while consigning the middle class to stagnation. A review of the film and Reich’s other work suggests that the economist and former Clinton-era Labor Secretary provided numerous talking points for Bernie Sanders’ high-profile – though ultimately unsuccessful – presidential campaign.

Heard in the Hutong: Beijingers on the Gaokao Exam

Wall Street Journal:

Do you think the gaokao is a good and fair way to select students?

Not so fair. For most ordinary families, Gaokao is a fair selection. I have watched some news reports that said people stole identity information to take the Gaokao. There is still vulnerability in this selection system.

Do you think Chinese students face more pressure than students in other countries?

Chinese students face more challenges, especially now it is hard to get a job in China. I just took the Gaokao this year. Chinese students have less happiness compared to students in other countries. Compared to the strict graduation here, it is easier to be enrolled in universities abroad. A lot of Chinese students lost their teenage during high school and are bound by their parents and teachers.

What do you think about the gaokao’s role in deciding a student’s future?

Gaokao is a turning point, but it can’t totally decide one’s life.

The dying breed of craftsmen behind the tools that make scientific research possible

Rosanna Xia:

Hunkered down in the sub-basement of the Norman W. Church Laboratory for Chemical Biology, underneath a campus humming with quantum teleportation devices, gravity wave detectors and neural prosthetics, Rick Gerhart chipped away at a broken flask.

Blowtorch in hand, he pulled the softened glass apart like taffy, tweezing out glass shards with a flick of his wrist. Peering into the dancing flames, he examined his work for wrinkles — imperfections invisible to the untrained eye.

“It not only should be functional,” he said, smoothing the rim with a carbon rod, “it has to look good.”

Miranda Warning Equivalents Abroad

Federation of American Scientists:

This report contains short summaries describing warnings similar to the Miranda warning that are required in 108 jurisdictions around the globe. The summaries are divided into sections based on broad geographic categories: Americas and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub- Saharan Africa.

The warnings specified in the surveyed jurisdictions vary, but typically include the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel. A number of countries also specify that a person who is arrested or detained has the right to be informed of the reasons for the arrest or detention or of the charges being brought. In some countries, the additional right to have these things explained in a language the detainee understands is explicitly stated. Commonwealth countries have traditionally followed the English Judges’ Rules developed in the early twentieth century, and some continue to do so, while many Member States of the European Union (EU) have adopted an EU directive on the issue.

Points of variance among the countries concern the timing of the warning and whether the detainee is told that the fact of remaining silent will or will not be used in legal proceedings.

Countries surveyed that have no Miranda-type warning were not included.

No grades, no timetable: Berlin school turns teaching upside down

Philip Olterman:

Anton Oberländer is a persuasive speaker. Last year, when he and a group of friends were short of cash for a camping trip to Cornwall, he managed to talk Germany’s national rail operator into handing them some free tickets. So impressed was the management with his chutzpah that they invited him back to give a motivational speech to 200 of their employees.

Anton, it should be pointed out, is 14 years old.

The Berlin teenager’s self-confidence is largely the product of a unique educational institution that has turned the conventions of traditional teaching radically upside down. At Oberländer’s school, there are no grades until students turn 15, no timetables and no lecture-style instructions. The pupils decide which subjects they want to study for each lesson and when they want to take an exam.

Where Are All the Principals of Color?

Melinda Anderson:

Nancy Gutierrez was primed to shine. As the new principal at Fischer Middle School in East San Jose, California, it was more than a new job for Gutierrez, it was a homecoming. She was a product of the heavily Mexican American, working-class, and immigrant community, and her mom still lived just a few blocks from the school in Northern California. “I grew up going to the same bodega on the corner as they did,” Gutierrez said, speaking of her students and their families. “I wasn’t someone who … had these expectations and didn’t know who the community was.”

Even so, she got a rude awakening at her first back-to-school meeting, and it ultimately changed her perspective. “Even though I was from that same [area], even though I was of the same [Hispanic] background, they still didn’t trust the school system,” she said. “I thought I would immediately earn credibility by just who I was, but that wasn’t the case. Rightfully so, I had to earn my stripes.”

Responding To Artificial Intelligence

The Economist:

After many false dawns, AI has made extraordinary progress in the past few years, thanks to a versatile technique called “deep learning”. Given enough data, large (or “deep”) neural networks, modelled on the brain’s architecture, can be trained to do all kinds of things. They power Google’s search engine, Facebook’s automatic photo tagging, Apple’s voice assistant, Amazon’s shopping recommendations and Tesla’s self-driving cars. But this rapid progress has also led to concerns about safety and job losses. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others wonder whether AI could get out of control, precipitating a sci-fi conflict between people and machines. Others worry that AI will cause widespread unemployment, by automating cognitive tasks that could previously be done only by people. After 200 years, the machinery question is back. It needs to be answered.

Brain Scanning Just Got Very Good—and Very Unsettling

Megan Scudellari:

Seven years ago, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to map all the connections in the brain. In 2010, the Human Connectome Project (HCP) was born. It has provided funding to the tune of $40 million to two collaborating consortia whose aim was to acquire and share high-resolution data of structural and functional connections in the human brain. The researchers have sought to understand, on a scale never before attempted, the neural pathways that make us human, and how changes in those pathways make us sick.

At a symposium yesterday at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, top researchers from the HCP came together to provide an update on the project’s achievements and future directions. To date, the consortia have released brain-scanning data from hundreds of individuals and that data has been used in more than 140 scientific publications. Perhaps even more importantly, the effort has produced impressive new tech, including unprecedented magnetic resonance (MR) hardware. Among the gadgets are high-powered scanners and customized head coils. In addition, there are legions of software for analyzing, visualizing and sharing the petabytes of neuroimaging data being generated.

Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year

Kim Liao:

Last year, I got rejected 43 times by literary magazines, residencies, and fellowships—my best record since I started shooting for getting 100 rejections per year. It’s harder than it sounds, but also more gratifying.

In late 2011, a writer friend was sharing her experiences of having months of uninterrupted writing time at her residencies at the Millay Colony, Ragdale, and Yaddo. I was staggered by her impressive rates of acceptance. You probably have one of those friends, too—you know the one I’m talking about, that friend who is a beautiful writer, but who also seems to win everything? I could barely believe that she had the balls to apply to—let alone, get accepted to—several residencies, a prestigious fellowship, and publications in journals I had actually heard of.

How Chinese Students Saved America’s Colleges

Justin Fox:

A survey released this week by Bain and Kantar Worldpanel found that Chinese shoppers are increasingly turning to domestic brands and abandoning foreign ones. That’s not happening with post-secondary education, though! The number of Chinese students at foreign universities rose from 417,351 in the 2005/2006 school year to 712,157 in 2012/2013 (the most recent year for which I could find data). The U.S. is by far the leading destination:

Milwaukee Schools’ Governance Battles

Alan Borsuk:

Another possibility: I have floated in the past a fantasy of creating a school oversight board that would control the faucet for public money for schools in Milwaukee. Leave the structure of MPS, vouchers and charters in place, but put a board above them that would require individual schools to show good cause why they are worthy of public support. Sort of like a super chartering authority.

Of course, there is the option of not doing much to change things. Every year, the percentage of Milwaukee children enrolled in the conventional MPS system goes down by one to two points. Most likely, within three to four years, less than half will be in MPS, with the rest generally in charter schools, private schools, or suburban public schools available through the open enrollment option. In other words, MPS is in deep long-term trouble already. Maybe those who don’t like MPS can just let existing trends keep working.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial.

As A Poor Kid From The Rust Belt, Yale Law School Brought Me Face-to-face With Radical Inequality

JD Vance:

During my first round of law school applications, I didn’t even apply to Yale, Harvard, or Stanford—the mystical “top three” schools. I didn’t think I had a chance at those places. More important, I didn’t think it mattered; all lawyers get good jobs, I assumed. I just needed to get to any law school, and then I’d do fine: a nice salary, a respectable profession, and the American Dream. Then my best friend, Darrell, ran into one of his law school classmates at a popular D.C. restaurant. She was bussing tables, simply because that was the only job available to her. On the next round, I gave Yale and Harvard a try.

I didn’t apply to Stanford—one of the very best schools in the country—and to know why is to understand that the lessons I learned as a kid were sometimes counterproductive. Stanford’s law school application wasn’t the standard combination of college transcript, LSAT score, and essays. It required a personal sign-off from the dean of your college: You had to submit a form, completed by the dean, attesting that you weren’t a loser.

I didn’t know the dean of my college at Ohio State. It’s a big place. I’m sure she is a lovely person, and the form was clearly little more than a formality. But I just couldn’t ask. I had never met this person, never taken a class with her, and, most of all, didn’t trust her. Whatever virtues she possessed as a person, she was, in the abstract, an outsider. The professors I’d selected to write my letters had gained my trust. I listened to them nearly every day, took their tests, and wrote papers for them. As much as I loved Ohio State and its people for an incredible education and experience, I could not put my fate in the hands of someone I didn’t know. I tried to talk myself into it. I even printed the form and drove it to campus. But when the time came, I crumpled it up and tossed it in the garbage. There would be no Stanford Law for J.D.

A Curious Emphasis On Debt, Rather Than Costs (or Market)

Alexander Holt:

Clinton’s second proposal is that “for young innovators who decide to launch either new businesses that operate in distressed communities, or social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit, she will offer forgiveness of up to $17,500 of their student loans after five years.”

Let’s see how that would work. Government officials would first have to define “distressed community.” Perhaps they would define it as any ZIP code where average earnings are less than 150 percent of the poverty line. That means that a bunch of Stanford graduates with master’s degrees in computer science who work out of office space in a poor part of Oakland could get $17,500 loan forgiveness after five years — even if their company is being funded by venture capitalists. Why would we ever want that? If anything, this seems like a plan to speed up gentrification in Northern California.

Education Reformers Reflect at 25

Rachel Cohen:

But challenges loom for the movement—politically and philosophically. Some tensions can be chalked up to growing pains: a nationwide bipartisan coalition is bound to disagree at times, and certainly policy implementation can be far more contentious than passing legislation. Transforming the public education system, reformers have found, turns out to be hard, messy work.

But the problems run deeper than that. Internally, two main camps of reformers—market-driven advocates and accountability hawks—have been butting heads increasingly over goals and political priorities. For a long time, these two groups seemed to be one and the same—“choice and accountability” have always been buzzwords for the movement. But over time, the divisions between Team Choice and Team Accountability have grown more apparent. Today, some veteran choice advocates, those who have been pushing market-driven reforms for the last 25 years, have expressed feelings of being hemmed in, and in some cases crowded out, by others who are demanding formal checks and balances.

42 million people owe $1.3 trillion in student debt.

Reveal News:

generation ago, Congress privatized a student loan program intended to give more Americans access to higher education.

In its place, lawmakers created another profit center for Wall Street and a system of college finance that has fed the nation’s cycle of inequality. Step by step, Congress has enacted one law after another to make student debt the worst kind of debt for Americans – and the best kind for banks and debt collectors.

Today, just about everyone involved in the student loan industry makes money off students – the banks, private investors, even the federal government.

Jessie Suren is an energetic 28-year-old who wanted a career in law enforcement. Albert Lord is a 70-year-old former accountant who became a multimillionaire executive. The two have never met, but their stories tell the history of America’s student debt crisis.

Suren attended a free boarding school for underprivileged youth in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and enrolled in La Salle University in Philadelphia. Scholarships didn’t cover the cost of the private college, so she borrowed about $71,000, much of it from Sallie Mae, the financial giant of the student loan industry.

Suren did well in school. But a job with the U.S. Marshals Service fell through, and by graduation in 2010, she had a soaring loan balance and no career prospects.

Just How Smart Are Smart Machines?

Thomas Davenport and Julie Kirby:

If popular culture is an accurate gauge of what’s on the public’s mind, it seems everyone has suddenly awakened to the threat of smart machines. Several recent films have featured robots with scary abilities to outthink and manipulate humans. In the economics literature, too, there has been a surge of concern about the potential for soaring unemployment as software becomes increasingly capable of decision making. Yet managers we talk to don’t expect to see machines displacing knowledge workers anytime soon — they expect computing technology to augment rather than replace the work of humans. In the face of a sprawling and fast-evolving set of opportunities, their challenge is figuring out what forms the augmentation should take. Given the kinds of work managers oversee, what cognitive technologies should they be applying now, monitoring closely, or helping to build?

How a Portuguese-to-English Phrasebook Became a Cult Comedy Sensation

Tucker Leighty-Phillips:

In the middle of the 19th century, a relatively unknown author named Pedro Carolino rapidly gained intercontinental popularity over a small Portuguese-to-English phrasebook. English as She Is Spoke (or O novo guia da conversação em portuguez e inglez) was originally intended to help Portuguese speakers dabble in the English tongue, but was penned by a man who spoke little to no English himself. And, instead of helping Portuguese speakers learn a second language, it became a cult classic for fans of inept and unintentional humor.

Milwaukee’s Governance Challenge

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee’s school kids face enormous challenges — many of those challenges are directly related to the fact that so many of them grow up in impoverished homes. Some are homeless. Some are hungry. Some have only one parent. Some have none. It is difficult — and expensive — to help students in such distress learn. And yet that is exactly what Milwaukee Public Schools must do. It must educate the children it has. Every school year, many teachers, principals and schools do exactly that. But for far too many children in MPS, the educational system is letting them down.

For too long, instead of trying sincerely to improve the schools — to put the kids first — various interest groups have fought one another and pointed fingers. The School Board and MPS administrators have played this game as well. This feels like another one of those times.

On Student Awareness

Minding the Campus:

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.

But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Why police were called to a South Jersey third-grade class party

Emma Platoff:

Dos Santos said that the school overreacted and that her son made a comment about snacks, not skin color.

“He said they were talking about brownies. . . . Who exactly did he offend?” dos Santos said.

The boy’s father was contacted by Collingswood police later in the day. Police said the incident had been referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The student stayed home for his last day of third grade.

Dos Santos said that her son was “traumatized,” and that she hopes to send him to a different Collingswood public school in the fall.

And she wants an apology. She said she graduated from Collingswood High School and has two other children, a 21-year-old who also went through Collingswood schools, and a 3-year-old. Her husband, the third grader’s father, is Brazilian, dos Santos said.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US budget wars reach nadir in Illinois

Lindsay Whipp:

Republican governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic House speaker Michael Madigan have refused to budge in their battle over how to eliminate the deficit — estimated to be $6.6bn according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Meanwhile, Illinois’ pension liabilities have hit $110bn; the state has racked up nearly $8bn in unpaid bills and $9.7m in fines for late payments, according to the state comptroller.

The dysfunction has pushed Illinois’ credit rating to the lowest level among the 50 US states. Fitch recently put Illinois’ BBB+ rating — just three rungs above junk — on negative watch over the implications of an extended budget impasse.

“It’s fairly clear to most people that you could not balance this budget with budget cuts alone, so there needs to be a meeting of minds on how to balance the budget — how to raise taxes,” said Karen Krop, a senior director at Fitch.

Policymakers finally agreed on Thursday afternoon on a stopgap budget to fund schools for the year starting on Friday, without which they would not have been able to open in the autumn. However, the rest of the stopgap budget only lasts six months and does little to address most of the key issues.

Money has been distributed through a series of ad hoc measures, creating a sense of uncertainty over funding, raising fears of school shutdowns and leaving a distrust in the state government that will be difficult to eliminate.

Illinois’ extensive financial problems have been a long time in the making. A pension bill passed 15 years ago delayed responsibility to pay into the fund and even now the requirement is not for full payments, Fitch said. An income tax increase had started to chip away at the unpaid bills and helped balance the budget but it was discontinued more than a year and a half ago.

The Climate of Opinion in Illinois 2008- 2016: Roots of Gridlock.

Civics: Facebook says it did ‘a test’ last year using people’s locations to make friend suggestions

Kashmir Hill:

Last week, a Facebook spokesperson told me that users’ smartphone location data was among the signals that the social network uses to suggest “People You May Know” in real life. But after I published a story about it (and people freaked out) Facebook retracted the statement and said that, actually, the company isn’t using location data to make friend suggestions.

Facebook’s communications team says the confusion arose because there was a brief time when the social network used location for friend suggestions. It involved a small percentage of Facebook users and stopped last year.

Shifting Incomes for American Jobs

Nathan Yau:

With some occupations, people make more annual income than others. Obvious. But we typically see figures in terms of means and medians when in reality, the difference between the person who makes the most and the one who makes the least can be significant.

The chart below shows the spread for major occupation groups, for several decades. Imagine you randomly select 50 people from each group, and this is what their annual income probably looks like.

How Children Went from Worthless to Priceless

Alex Mayyasi:

Pricing a product can be a thorny issue. Will customers interpret a low price as a bargain, or as a sign of a low quality? Is allowing people to pay what they want for a product a profitable strategy?

Despite Econ 101’s promise of finding the perfect price at the intersection of a supply and a demand curve, pricing advice accounts for countless books, management consulting projects, and Harvard case studies.

But the most fascinating case study about pricing does not have to do with iPhones, cable TV packages, or Uber rides. It concerns the price of a very special commodity: a human child.

Typically individuals only talk about a person’s “worth” in abstract terms. Yet there are situations that demand an exact financial figure. In wrongful death lawsuits, parents of a child who died in an accident will demand compensation from the negligent party. This puts a judge in the unenviable position of having to put a price on the parent’s loss.

Morocco Gets $100 Million for Girls’ Education as Part of Michelle Obama’s Visit

Sekar Krisnauli

Morocco will receive millions of dollars in funding from the United States government through programs aimed to address challenges that prevent girls in the country from quality education, according to a Monday White House press release.

The Millenium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. Government foreign-aid agency, is expected to give nearly $100 million dollars to invest in a new model for secondary education in Morocco, the announcement stated. The U.S. Agency for International Development will also invest $40,000 to build five girls’ dormitories, known as “Dar Talibas”, by the next school year.

“I am so proud that the U.S. is working with the Moroccan Government to make…transformative new investments to educate and empower girls across Morocco,” stated United States First Lady Michelle Obama in the release.

The announcement was made as Obama visited Marrakesh Tuesday where she was joined by actresses Merryl Streep and Freida Pinto in a panel moderated by CNN’s Correspondent Isha Sesay to promote quality education for girls worldwide through the Let Girls Learn initiative.

NYT Hatchet Job on Charters

Jay Greene:

And on the specific claim the article makes that “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools” this is what the Stanford study has to say: “In reading, 47 percent of charter schools perform significantly better than their traditional public school market, which is more positive than the 35% for Michigan charter schools as a whole. In math, 47 percent of Detroit charter schools perform significantly better than their local peers, the same proportion as for the charters as a whole statewide.” The study found that only 1% of Detroit’s charters performs significantly worse than the traditional public schools in reading and only 7% in math. (See Table 7 on p. 44) To claim that half the charters perform the same or worse than traditional public schools is a grotesque distortion of the study’s findings.

Look, I don’t accept the Stanford CREDO study as “the gold standard” in charter evaluations. But if the reporter cites that research to demonstrate that one charter management organization has sub-par performance, it is journalistic malpractice not to mention the positive overall results. And those positive overall results contradict the very foundation of the entire article.

Besides a few anecdotes and a mis-reporting of the CREDO study,
the article mostly consists of scary words like “chaos” and “glut.” Imagine if the article were about phone providers instead of schools. Would anyone find it persuasive to wring one’s hands over the glut of phone companies after Ma Bell was broken up, causing “chaos” in the telephone market? I understand there are differences between phones and schools, but reporting should be based on evidence of outcomes rather than just invoking scary words.

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results might suggest the benefit of avoiding non diverse governance.

Student builds Daphne Oram’s unfinished ‘Mini-Oramics’

Phienix Fry & Sarah Cox:

PhD student Tom Richards has spent the last three years poring over an unfinished project by Daphne Oram (1925 – 2003), one of the central figures in the development of British experimental electronic music.

Oram was the co-founder and first director of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and is credited with the invention of a new form of ‘drawn sound’ synthesis – Oramics, which was recently the subject of the ‘Oramics to Electronica’ exhibition at the Science Museum.

Why America’s Business Majors Are in Desperate Need of a Liberal-Arts Education

Yoni Applebaum:

American undergraduates are flocking to business programs, and finding plenty of entry-level opportunities. But when businesses go hunting for CEOs or managers, “they will say, a couple of decades out, that I’m looking for a liberal arts grad,” said Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.

That presents a growing challenge to colleges and universities. Students are clamoring for degrees that will help them secure jobs in a shifting economy, but to succeed in the long term, they’ll require an education that allows them to grow, adapt, and contribute as citizens—and to build successful careers. And it’s why many schools are shaking up their curricula to ensure that undergraduate business majors receive something they may not even know they need—a rigorous liberal-arts education.

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