Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Exam Results

Results, by ed school, via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

October, 2015 data request:

January 2014-August 2014 .xls. .docx

September 2014-August 2015 .xls .docx

To Date (2015) .xls .docx

July 2017 Request:

2013-2014 .xls

2014-2015 .xls

2015-2016 .xls

2016 – YTD .xls

Much more on Wisconsin’s Foundation of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge exam, here.

Background: An MTEL toe dip, Wisconsin adds a teacher content knowledge exam – and later tries to waive it.

How Intelligence Leads to Stereotyping

Olga Khazan:

But a new study complicates the narrative that only unintelligent people are prejudiced. The paper, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, suggests smart people are actually more at risk of stereotyping others.

The study consisted of a series of experiments, all of which suggested that people who performed better on a test of pattern detection—a measure of cognitive ability—were also quicker to form and apply stereotypes.

First, researchers from New York University showed 271 participants a series of pictures of red, blue, and yellow cartoon aliens with different facial features, paired with a statement of either a nice behavior (“gave another alien a bouquet of flowers”) or a rude one (“spat in another alien’s face”):

Google told to come clean on how it tracks what you buy offline

Liam Tung:

Privacy rights group the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) will file a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over a system Google is using to link web activity with in-store card purchases.
 The complaint concerns Google’s new Store Sales Measurement program, which aims to demonstrate to advertisers that clicks online do lead to purchases at the register.
 According to The Washington Post, EPIC wants Google to be more transparent about what data on credit and debit card purchases it’s accessing, how it’s getting the information, and what encryption it’s using to ensure user data remains anonymous.
 Announcing the system in May, Google said third-party partnerships allow it to capture 70 percent of all payment card transactions in the US. The system matches transactions back to Google ads, which Google said was done in a “secure and privacy-safe way”. It also reports aggregated and anonymized store sales data to advertisers.

It is easy to expose users’ secret web habits, say researchers

Mark Ward

The data analysed by the pair connected a list of sites and links visited to a customer identifier. However, he said, by drawing on public information that people share about their browsing habits, it became possible to connect that entry on a list to an individual.
 “With only a few domains you can quickly drill down into the data to just a few users,” he said.
 The public information included links people shared via Twitter, YouTube videos they reported watching, news articles they passed on via social media or when they posted online photos of items they bought or places they visited.
 In many cases, he said, it was even easier to de-anonymise because the clickstreams contained links to people’s personal social media admin pages which directly revealed their identity.
 “The public information available about users is growing so it’s getting easier to find the information to do the de-anonymisation,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult to de-anonymise it even if you have the intention to do so

Constitutional Parenthood

Michael Hidden:

Despite having recognized the constitutional rights of parents almost a hundred years ago, the Supreme Court has not weighed in on the subject of who qualifies as a “parent” under the Fourteenth Amendment in thirty years. In light of the Court’s silence, the states have been forced to individually grapple with the issue of constitutional parenthood—a task made exponentially more difficult by the fact that the last thirty years have ushered in an avalanche of change when it comes to the American family. With such societal changes as advances in assisted reproduction, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the increased frequency of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation, states now regularly encounter claims of parental identity that thirty years ago would have been unimaginable. Nonetheless, the states have persevered, adopting a number of approaches to deal with these increasingly thorny issues. The problem, however, is that the constitutional protections that are afforded parents now vary by state. Even more troubling is the fact that some states have defined “parent” in such a way as to discriminate against those families that do not comport with those states’ conception of the “ideal” family. To solve this problem, this Article makes two proposals. First, the Supreme Court must offer more guidance on how states may define constitutional parenthood. Although a definitive definition of the term is both impractical and unrealistic, the Court can and should delineate the outer boundaries of that constitutional standard. Second, taking a cue from some of the tests developed by the states, this Article proposes what exactly those boundaries should be so as to help craft a definition of constitutional parenthood that is more responsive to and protective of the twenty-first century family.

The Neurodiversity Case for Free Speech

Geoffrey Miller:

Imagine a young Isaac Newton time-travelling from 1670s England to teach Harvard undergrads in 2017. After the time-jump, Newton still has an obsessive, paranoid personality, with Asperger’s syndrome, a bad stutter, unstable moods, and episodes of psychotic mania and depression. But now he’s subject to Harvard’s speech codes that prohibit any “disrespect for the dignity of others”; any violations will get him in trouble with Harvard’s Inquisition (the ‘Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’). Newton also wants to publish Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, to explain the laws of motion governing the universe. But his literary agent explains that he can’t get a decent book deal until Newton builds his ‘author platform’ to include at least 20k Twitter followers – without provoking any backlash for airing his eccentric views on ancient Greek alchemy, Biblical cryptography, fiat currency, Jewish mysticism, or how to predict the exact date of the Apocalypse.

Newton wouldn’t last long as a ‘public intellectual’ in modern American culture. Sooner or later, he would say ‘offensive’ things that get reported to Harvard and that get picked up by mainstream media as moral-outrage clickbait. His eccentric, ornery awkwardness would lead to swift expulsion from academia, social media, and publishing. Result? On the upside, he’d drive some traffic through Huffpost, Buzzfeed, and Jezebel, and people would have a fresh controversy to virtue-signal about on Facebook. On the downside, we wouldn’t have Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Let’s take a step back from this alt-history nightmare and consider the general problem of ‘neurodiversity’ and free speech. In this article, I’ll explore the science of neurodiversity, and how campus speech codes and restrictive speech norms impose impossible expectations on the social sensitivity, cultural awareness, verbal precision, and self-control of many neurodiverse people.

Teachers With Student Debt: These Are Their Stories

Elissa Nadworny:

Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor’s degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. We’ve reported on the factors that make this particular job even more vulnerable to a ton of debt, including chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master’s degree and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.

More than 2,000 teachers responded to our first survey about the issue, and we’re following up to hear a few of their stories:

Lauren Peńa is a 10th-grade English teacher in Oklahoma City with 10 years of experience. She’s married and lives with her husband, stepson and 10-month-old daughter. She makes $43,000 a year.

After starting off with $30,000 in loans, she has $6,000 left to pay off. She took out a 15-year loan, but she’s hoping to pay it off next year, 12 years after she took it out.

Some of her loans were forgiven because she worked in a Title I school and taught Spanish, a designated “high-need” subject.

Betty Shannon, Unsung Mathematical Genius Her husband, Claude, helped create the computer revolution, but few knew that she was his closest collaborator

Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman

His name has faded in our era, but in mid-20th century America, Claude Elwood Shannon of Bell Telephone Laboratories was a bona fide scientific star. In 1954, for example, Fortune featured Shannon in a list of the nation’s 20 most important scientists, alongside future Nobel Laureates Richard Feynman and James Watson, among others. Shannon also made the pages of Time and Life magazines, appeared on national television, and even earned a spread in Vogue, complete with a photo shoot by the renowned Henri Cartier-Bresson.

There was ample reason for the acclaim. Shannon’s landmark 1948 paper, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” launched the field of information theory, and his stunning MIT master’s thesis proved that binary circuits could perform logic. Together, the two papers formed the basis for the digital age. And he wasn’t just a theorist: Theseus, an “artificially intelligent” mouse Shannon built, garnered national attention as an early example of a thinking machine.

Self-driving cars will affect everything you know

Anika Patel

These were just a few drops in an ocean of secondary effects that came to be when we massively adopted the first feasible cars. When most people were able to afford a car, society went through an evolution.
 And while AVs will be more of a socioeconomic revolution rather than an evolution, we could still see a lot of secondary effects in the decades to come. An example includes changes in the workforce — taxi drivers, certain car mechanics, and traffic officers will no longer be professions.
 But here are three less obvious areas that I think will experience secondary effects when we massively adopt AVs:
 Land and Property Use

The digital native is a myth The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people — and is no better at multitasking.


Some people put the cut-off at 1984, but for most it is 1980. People born after that date are the digital natives; those born before are digital immigrants, doomed to be forever strangers in a computer-based strange land.
 The generational difference between the groups goes beyond their numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers: it can also help to explain differences in how they buy insurance. At least, that’s according to a report released this week for the insurance industry. Targeting Millennials with Insurance explains that young people aren’t like those who came before and queued passively for cover. They “prioritize holidays”, for one, which might surprise some of them. Because they are digital natives, they “will favor technologically innovative insurance policies”.

Commentary On Charter School Climate And Madison’s Non Diverse Governance

Alan Borsuk

These reasons feed my thought that the forecast for creating independent charters outside Milwaukee isn’t strong, no matter what state law says.

Under Gary Bennett, the UW System charter office has moved carefully. It does not want to create angry politics around schools in Madison or elsewhere. With the exception of plans to open a special charter school for up to 15 teenage opioid addicts somewhere in Wisconsin, the first charter schools created by the UW office are unlikely to arrive before 2019, if any come at all.

What’s likely to be in the state budget for charters? Not much different than for any other schools — increases of about $200 per student in funding in each of the next two years. That would raise the per-student amount in 2018-’19 to a bit over $8,600, which is less than conventional public schools get.

And the Milwaukee scene, in broad strokes? Chartering by city government has pretty much come to a halt. The UWM charter list includes some very good schools, but the prospects for new charters are iffy.

Why we should learn German

John le Carré:

Clear language – lucid, rational language – to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language, there is no standard of truth.


I began learning German at the age of 13, and I’m still trying to explain to myself why it was love at first sound. The answer must surely be: the excellence of my teacher. At an English public school not famed for its cultural generosity, Mr King was that rare thing: a kindly and intelligent man who, in the thick of the second world war, determinedly loved the Germany that he knew was still there somewhere.

Rather than join the chorus of anti-German propaganda, he preferred, doggedly, to inspire his little class with the beauty of the language, and of its literature and culture. One day, he used to say, the real Germany will come back. And he was right. Because now it has.

Why was it love at first sound for me? Well, in those days not many language teachers played gramophone records to their class, but Mr King did. They were old and very precious to him and us, and he kept them in brown paper bags in a satchel that he put in his bicycle basket when he rode to school.

U.S. Defense Budget May Help Fund “Hacking for Defense” Classes at Universities

Tekla Perry:

In 2016, Stanford students started hacking for defense—that is, they took on real projects from National Security Agency, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Army Cyber Command, the Veterans Administration, and other agencies with defense-related problems. The students actually came up with prototype solutions.

The innovative Hacking For Defense (H4D) class, which requires each student team to conduct at least 100 interviews with defense industry “clients,” caught on quickly. Today, according to Steve Blank, an instructor at Stanford and one of the creators of the curriculum, eight universities in addition to Stanford have offered or will offer a Hacking for Defense class this year: Boise State, Columbia, Georgetown, James Madison, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern Mississippi. The class has spun out Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and other targeted classes that use the same methodology.

Charter Grads Get a Leg Up in College The NAACP and NEA have chosen the wrong time to double down on failing traditional schools

Richard Whitmire:

The NAACP on Wednesday reported findings from its nationwide “listening tour” on charter schools, and there were no surprises: Charters must be stopped. The National Education Association, even less surprisingly, said the same thing earlier this month in Boston.

The nation’s oldest civil-rights organization and the largest teachers union worry about charters for similar reasons. Independently run charters generally don’t employ unionized teachers, and they pull students from traditional district schools to which the NAACP is deeply committed. In short, charters disrupt the status quo—for adults.

The timing of the intertwined anticharter campaigns, however, may prove awkward because of new data just released by The 74. The data comes from the first cohort of charter students, who are beginning to graduate from college. Here’s what we know now that the NEA and NAACP didn’t know when they adopted their anticharter positions: Graduates from the top charter networks—those with enough high school alumni to measure college success accurately—earn four-year degrees at rates that range up to five times as high as their counterparts in traditional public schools. These are low-income, minority students from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Their college success is going to make bashing charter schools far more challenging for the NEA and the NAACP.

Before this revelation, charter-school gains were largely measured by upticks in student test scores. Critics often wrote them off as meaningless, suggesting that charters abandoned educating kids in favor of “teaching to the test.” But now we see that charter school gains in the K-12 years have real-world consequences. Higher test scores, along with a swarm of strategies charter networks employ to make their students more successful after they graduate, lead to actual four-year college degrees.

Roughly half the graduates of Uncommon, YES Prep and the KIPP New York schools—among the biggest and best known charter networks in the country—earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. About a quarter of the graduates of the lower-performing charter networks earn degrees within six years. That may not strike wealthy parents as something to brag about. Eighty percent of children from America’s wealthiest families earn four-year degrees within six years. But charters primarily serve low-income families, where only 9% of students earn such degrees. Charters make a difference for poor families.

Advocating (continued) Non Diverse Madison School Governance

Marj Passman (Former Madison School Board Member):

It is applaudable for a private school to want to serve all students, regardless of their financial situation. Unfortunately, the contract is not in line with this good intention and fails to ensure the school reflects the diverse demographics of surrounding neighborhoods, or even the district as a whole. Enrollment would be determined by a districtwide lottery, and the application process will favor privileged families. Even if the school successfully recruits low-income families in nearby neighborhoods, there is no guarantee those students will be admitted through the lottery, where they will have to compete with students from across the district.

This week, the NAACP reaffirmed its position recommending a moratorium on all charter schools. The NAACP argues that, before charters should be allowed to go forward, they must end “de facto segregation.” If Isthmus Montessori attracts wealthier, whiter students, neighboring schools will experience further segregation, draining them of resources and the proven benefits of diverse schools.

Even if Isthmus Montessori admits diverse students, it would not be equipped to support them. The school would have no math or literacy interventionists, no behavior support staff, and only 1.5 staff positions to cover the need for a social worker, psychologist, guidance counselor and school nurse. In fact, compared to MMSD elementary and middle schools, Isthmus Montessori would have 40 percent fewer staff per student, and the highest student-to-staff ratio in the district, by a long shot. Isthmus Montessori also lacks any foreign language instruction, and there are no resources in the budget dedicated to art, music or physical education.

Much more on Marj Passman, here.

ABA Meets To Consider Elimination Of 49% Adjunct Professor Cap And Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions

Paul Caron::

The Standards Review Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar met July 14-15 in Chicago. Here are the agenda and meeting materials.

The ABA Journal reports on comments received on proposed changes to Standard 403(a) to eliminate the requirement that more than 50% of law teaching be performed by full-time faculty. Here are links to all of the comments:

Not for Free: Exploring the Collateral Costs of Diversity in Legal Education


This essay examines some of the institutional costs of achieving a more diverse law student body. In recent decades, there has been growing support for diversity initiatives in education, and the legal academy is no exception. Yet for most law schools, diversity remains an elusive goal, some of which is the result of problems with anticipating the needs of diverse students and being able to deliver. These are some of the unseen or hidden costs associated with achieving greater diversity. Both law schools and the legal profession remain relatively stratified by race, which is an ongoing legacy of legal education’s origins as a project dominated by white male elites predominantly serving white male clients. Today’s law schools still lack in diversity, but major developments are increasingly changing student demographics. Perhaps the first push toward diversification of law schools came after the 1920s, when women won suffrage and began to enroll in law school in increasing numbers. Advocacy efforts over the next century would produce many breakthroughs, including in the present,where an unprecedented three women sit on the Supreme Court. With the creation of The Historically Black College/University (“HBCU”) law schools, which enrolled significant numbers of African American students, Civil Rights legislation and court cases in the 1950s and 1960s paved the way for a growing number of ethnic minorities to apply to law school and for a female explosion of matriculants. Today’s diversity initiatives seek to create classrooms with profiles based on a range of intellect and experience as a means to enhance learning for all students. As such, diversity may be understood as supporting the marketplace of ideas concept by seeking to create an environment where study and problem solving draw from a broad range of knowledge and experience. Law schools are also enrolling individuals with lower credentials to assuage the sting of lower enrollment. Maintaining and servicing diverse student bodies inevitably incurs downstream costs. This essay attempts to offer a snapshot of some the administrative, pedagogical, and regulative costs involved, and provide commentary on how law schools might meet these challenges.

Related: Commentary on diversity and academic goalposts.

Interestingly, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Psychology of intelligence analysis

Richards J. Heuer, Jr.

This volume pulls together and republishes, with some editing, updating, and additions, articles written during 1978-86 for internal use within the CIA Directorate of Intelligence. Four of the articles also appeared in the Intelligence Community journal Studies in Intelligence during that time frame. The information is relatively timeless and still relevant to the never-ending quest for better analysis.

The articles are based on reviewing cognitive psychology literature concerning how people process information to make judgments on incomplete and ambiguous information. I selected the experiments and findings that seem most relevant to intelligence analysis and most in need of communication to intelligence analysts. I then translated the technical reports into language that intelligence analysts can understand and interpreted the relevance of these findings to the problems intelligence analysts face.

The result is a compromise that may not be wholly satisfactory to either research psychologists or intelligence analysts. Cognitive psychologists and decision analysts may complain of oversimplification, while the non-psychologist reader may have to absorb some new terminology. Unfortunately, mental processes are so complex that discussion of them does require some specialized vocabulary. Intelligence analysts who have read and thought seriously about the nature of their craft should have no difficulty with this book. Those who are plowing virgin ground may require serious effort.

Decoding the Enigma with Recurrent Neural Networks

Sam’s Resaerch:

By hand. Long ago, cryptanalysis was done by hand. People would count the frequencies of symbols, compare encrypted text to decrypted text, and try to find patterns. It was a meticulous process which required days and weeks of concentration. Starting with World War II, the heavy lifting was transferred to machines and humans experts started spending their time on problems in pure mathematics which enabled them to crack all but the toughest ciphers. But even today, cryptanalysts spend much of their time meticulously dissecting the structure of the cipher they’re trying to crack. Does this need to be the case?

This Is the Way the College ‘Bubble’ Ends

Derek Thompson:

For the past few decades, the unstoppable increase in college tuition has been a fact of life, like death and taxes. The sticker price of American college increased nearly 400 percent in the last 30 years, while median household income growth was relatively flat. Student debt soared to more than $1 trillion, the result of loans to cover the difference.

Several people—with varying degrees of expertise in higher-ed economics—have predicted that it’s all a bubble, destined to burst. Now after decades of expansion, just about every meaningful statistic—including the number of college students, the growth of tuition costs, and even the total number of colleges—is going down, or at least growing more slowly.

Be Very Worried About The Future Of Free Expression

David Harsanyi:

“Ads that perpetuate gender stereotypes will be banned in UK, but not in the good ol’ USA!” reads a recent headline at the Web site Jezebel. Yay to the good ol’ USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not.

Why would a feminist — or anyone, for that matter — celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about “gender stereotypes”? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them.

Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child

Wendy Berliner:

When Maryam Mirzakhani died at the tragically early age of 40 this month, the news stories talked of her as a genius. The only woman to win the Fields Medal – the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel prize – and a Stanford professor since the age of 31, this Iranian-born academic had been on a roll since she started winning gold medals at maths Olympiads in her teens.

It would be easy to assume that someone as special as Mirzakhani must have been one of those gifted children who excel from babyhood. The ones reading Harry Potter at five or admitted to Mensa not much later. The child that takes maths GCSE while still in single figures, or a rarity such as Ruth Lawrence, who was admitted to Oxford while her contemporaries were still in primary school.

These college students lost access to legal pot — and started getting better grades

Keith Humphreys

The most rigorous study yet of the effects of marijuana legalization has identified a disturbing result: College students with access to recreational cannabis on average earn worse grades and fail classes at a higher rate.

Economists Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz took advantage of a decision by Maastricht, a city in the Netherlands, to change the rules for “cannabis cafes,” which legally sell recreational marijuana. Because Maastricht is very close to the border of multiple European countries (Belgium, France and Germany), drug tourism was posing difficulties for the city. Hoping to address this, the city barred noncitizens of the Netherlands from buying from the cafes.

Six Business Moves the NEA Doesn’t Want You to Know About

Mike Antonucci:

The National Education Association is America’s largest labor union and a potent political force. It is also a $367 million–a-year corporate entity with a bewildering number of affiliates, subsidiaries, interlocking directorates, and business partnerships.

The details of NEA’s interactions are unknown to the public and a mystery even to its most dedicated activists. While members of the union’s “highest decision-making body,” the 7,000-delegate Representative Assembly, devoted themselves at an annual conference to choosing articles to be published on the NEA website, the union’s executive officers conducted weightier transactions that failed to elicit a single question or comment from delegates. Here are six of them:

1) NEA Properties Inc. In May 2009 the Indiana State Teachers Association Insurance Trust went bust due to bad investments, poor oversight, and financial mismanagement. The Indiana union itself was in danger of collapse, prompting NEA to place it under trusteeship. NEA then created a real estate firm — NEA Properties Inc. — for the sole purpose of purchasing the ISTA headquarters building and leasing it back to the state union. The Indiana affiliate has been a tenant of NEA Properties ever since.

How the straight-talking, coyote-shooting, tobacco-chewing John Sharp has led a bonanza at Texas A&M.

Michael Hardy:

“This campus is growing faster than any other campus in Texas,” Sharp said as he drove me around College Station in his pickup, pointing out construction site after construction site. “Without being too arrogant, we have become the school of choice. This is where kids want to go.”

Despite its long rivalry with UT, A&M is increasingly setting its sights beyond Texas, a reorientation symbolized by the university’s attention-grabbing move of its athletics teams to the Southeastern Conference, in 2011. “I think that was a shot in the arm in a lot of ways,” said Porter S. Garner III, the president and CEO of A&M’s powerful Association of Former Students. “Culturally, it got us out of what was primarily an in-state focus. Now we’re traveling through ten states through the SEC. On a national scale, it brought much more interest and focus on A&M. I can’t tell you how many people from other schools come here for the first time, more than likely for a football game, and say, ‘I had no idea.’ ”

A&M is asserting itself beyond the gridiron as well. In 2013, Sharp established the Chancellor’s Research Initiative, a $150 million fund devoted to luring world-class researchers to A&M campuses. The Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, which offers yearlong visiting fellowships to rock-star academics, has since 2010 brought in two Nobel Laureates and fourteen members of the National Academy of Sciences. Some of the fellows have elected to stay on at A&M as full-time faculty.

One of Sharp’s most high-profile coups was recruiting Michael K. Young to become president of Texas A&M University, the system’s flagship, in 2015. Young, then serving as president of the University of Washington, recalls Sharp flying up to Seattle for lunch. At the end of the meal, Sharp said that Young had to return the favor. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve flown up here, now you have to fly down and have lunch with me in College Station,’ ” Young recalled. “I said I wasn’t going to come, and he said, ‘No, I flew all the way up here. Now you have to come.’ So it started with guilt.”

It is useful to compare College Station, TX and Madison, WI.

College Station, with about half the number of students, spends nearly 80% less than Madison

Creating the honest man

Kai Strittmatter:

It is actually very simple, the professor in Beijing says. “There are two kinds of people in the world: good people and bad people. Now imagine a world in which the good ones are rewarded and the bad ones punished”. A world in which those who respect their parents, avoid jaywalking, and pay all their bills on time are rewarded for good behavior. A world where such people enjoy special privileges, where they are allowed to buy “soft sleeper” tickets on a train or get easy access to bank loans. In contrast, the poorly behaved – the ones who cheat on university admissions tests, download films illegally, or have more children than the state allows – are denied this extra comfort. It is a world in which an omnipresent, all-knowing digital mechanism knows more about you than you do. This mechanism can help you improve yourself because it can tell you, in real time, where you failed and what you can do to become a more honest and trustworthy person. And who doesn’t want a world full of fairness and harmony?

Honesty. In Shanghai, there is an app for that: it’s called “Honest Shanghai”. You just download it and register. The app uses facial recognition software to recognize you and gain access to troves of your personal data, which is drawn from different government entities. According to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, where the data converge, the app can currently access exactly 5,198 pieces of information from a total of 97 public authorities. It knows whether you’ve paid your electricity bill, donated blood, or travelled on the subway without paying for a ticket. The software then processes the information and lets you know whether your recorded behavior is considered “good”, “bad” or “neutral”. Good Shanghaiers are currently allowed, for instance, to borrow books from the public library without paying the mandatory 100-yuan deposit.

Civics: To Shrink Jails, Let’s Reform Bail

Kampala Harris and Rand Paul:

Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old New Yorker, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack in 2010. To ensure he would show up for trial, and because of a previous offense, the judge set bail at $3,000. But his family could not afford to pay. So Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island to await his day in court. He spent the next three years there before the charges were dismissed. Haunted by his experience, Mr. Browder hanged himself in 2015.

Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Most and least educated American cities


College opens many doors. Besides providing invaluable cultural experiences and the opportunity to build lifelong connections, a college education can lead to better job opportunities and increase future earning potential. And the more degree holders earn, the more tax dollars they contribute over time, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

One way to strengthen an economy, the EPI suggests, is to attract well-paying employers “by investing in education and increasing the number of well-educated workers.” In states where workers have the least schooling, for instance, the median wage is $15 an hour compared with $19 to $20 an hour in states where 40 percent or more of the working population hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Local governments appear to be catching on and maximizing the appeal of their cities to college graduates.

Deep Learning in Robotics: A Review of Recent Research

Harry A. Pierson, Michael S. Gashler:

Advances in deep learning over the last decade have led to a flurry of research in the application of deep artificial neural networks to robotic systems, with at least thirty papers published on the subject between 2014 and the present. This review discusses the applications, benefits, and limitations of deep learning vis-\`a-vis physical robotic systems, using contemporary research as exemplars. It is intended to communicate recent advances to the wider robotics community and inspire additional interest in and application of deep learning in robotics.

Evergreen College, Free Speech, and the Meaning of Social Justice

A Jay Adler:

“Identity politics” rises on all sides. Identity politics are commonly attributed to the political left, where they are a response to the original, historical identity politics – male, and, in the modern era, significantly white and Eurocentric. Reactionaries on the right deny this original phenomenon. They call it reality. Nothing to see here. Look right through it. Yet in response to humankind’s increasingly global reorientation, reactionaries now reassert their racial and national identities. Their more moderate, which is to say conservative, intellectual defenders offer covert, rationalized support for this cultural revanchism. Its representatives, they say, are angry; they feel left behind by the confluence of progressive internationalism and neoliberal economics; they feel, of all things, marginalized. In offering this empathic defense of, for instance, the Trump voter, conservatives manage to ignore the contradiction between this desire for reclamation and denials of the historical politics of white, Eurocentric identity.

The death of reading is threatening the soul

Philip Yancey:

I am going through a personal crisis. I used to love reading. I am writing this blog in my office, surrounded by 27 tall bookcases laden with 5,000 books. Over the years I have read them, marked them up, and recorded the annotations in a computer database for potential references in my writing. To a large degree, they have formed my professional and spiritual life.

Books help define who I am. They have ushered me on a journey of faith, have introduced me to the wonders of science and the natural world, have informed me about issues such as justice and race. More importantly, they have been a source of delight and adventure and beauty, opening windows to a reality I would not otherwise know.

My crisis consists in the fact that I am describing my past, not my present. I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (Okay, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.

There’s Nothing Funny About Campuses Chilling Free Speech

Adam Carolla:

You know our country is in serious trouble when the voice of reason is a comedian known for making prank calls with puppets. But, alas, here we are. Congratulations, America—you’ve made me, Adam Carolla, the sane one in the room.

I’ve been asked to testify before Congress Thursday morning on the topic of free speech on college campuses. I talk for a living. Words matter to me. I earn my paycheck from making people laugh, but what’s going on across the country at many of our nation’s universities is anything but funny. (See what I did there!)

I realize my brief stint in a San Fernando Valley community college doesn’t necessarily qualify me as the most distinguished, academic spokesperson on the subject. But as someone who has made a career by challenging ideas through humor, social commentary, and if warranted, ridicule; I represent someone on the front line.

Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like Utilities

Ryan Grim:

TECH COMPANIES LIKE Facebook and Google that have become essential elements of 21st-century life should be regulated as utilities, top White House adviser Steve Bannon has argued, according to three people who’ve spoken to him about the issue.
 Bannon’s push for treating essential tech platforms as utilities pre-dates the Democratic “Better Deal” that was released this week. “Better Deal,” the branding for Democrats’ political objectives, included planks aimed at breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors, suggesting that anti-monopoly politics is on the rise on both the right and left.
 Bannon’s basic argument, as he has outlined it to people who’ve spoken with him, is that Facebook and Google have become effectively a necessity in contemporary life. Indeed, there may be something about an online social network or a search engine that lends itself to becoming a natural monopoly, much like a cable company, a water and sewer system, or a railroad. The sources recounted the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give the accounts on record, and could face repercussions for doing so.

Kindergartners get little time to play. Why does it matter?

Christopher Brown:

Being a kindergartner today is very different from being a kindergartner 20 years ago. In fact it is more like first grade.

Researchers have demonstrated that five-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.

As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who’ve recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.

Why Brilliant Girls Tend to Favor Non-STEM Careers

Lee Jussim::

There are many problems with such explanations, including but not restricted to:

1. Much of the “evidence” cited in support of discrimination does not actually demonstrate discrimination. For example, some gender gaps in funding and in graduate admissions have been conclusively shown to result, not from discrimination, but from the fact that women disproportionately apply in more competitive fields.

2. Some of the “evidence” is correlational (e.g., correlating beliefs with some gap), and is interpreted as causal, without any evidence of causality.

What we learned analyzing 100 million headlines

Steve Rayson:

It is difficult to overstate the importance of headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, to read, and to share your content. In many cases headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. So you knew that. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?
 To help answer this question we analyzed 100 million article headlines. We have set out below our findings from the research including the:
 Headline phrases that drive most engagement on Facebook
 Worst performing headline phrases on Facebook
 Most effective phrases that start or end headlines
 Optimum number of words and characters to use in a headline
 Most impactful numbers to use in headlines
 Most engaging Twitter headline phrases
 Differences between B2C and B2B headlines
 While there is no magic formula for creating a viral or popular headline, there are many lessons we can learn to improve our content engagement. We shared our findings with a number of content experts to reflect on the implications of the research for writers. We have included their expert thoughts and advice at the end of this post. We have also included a section on how you can analyze headlines yourself using BuzzSumo.

Trump’s Labor Secretary Tells State Lawmakers: ‘Fix Occupational Licensing’

Eric Boehm:

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta says state lawmakers should work to eliminate unnecessary state licenses.

Speaking Friday to state lawmakers gathered in Denver for the annual American Legislative Exchange Council’s conference, Acosta called for repealing licensing laws that exist solely to block competition or create a privileged class within the workforce. While only one job out of 20 required a government-issued permission slip in the 1950s, today about a quarter of all jobs in America are subject to licensing. Acosta said that’s “part of a nationwide trend where we regulate, and regulate, and regulate” at the expense of individual workers and the economy as a whole.

Here’s how Acosta broke it down:

Excess licensing hinders the American workforce.

First, the cost and complexity of licensing creates an economic barrier for Americans seeking a job, especially for those with fewer financial resources.

Second, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans that move from state to state.

Third, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans looking to leverage technology and to expand their job opportunities.

The Vietnam of Computer Science

Ted Neward:

Although it may seem trite to say it, Object/Relational Mapping is the Vietnam of Computer Science. It represents a quagmire which starts well, gets more complicated as time passes, and before long entraps its users in a commitment that has no clear demarcation point, no clear win conditions, and no clear exit strategy.

The Neurodiversity Case for Free Speech

Geoffrey Miller:

Imagine a young Isaac Newton time-travelling from 1670s England to teach Harvard undergrads in 2017. After the time-jump, Newton still has an obsessive, paranoid personality, with Asperger’s syndrome, a bad stutter, unstable moods, and episodes of psychotic mania and depression. But now he’s subject to Harvard’s speech codes that prohibit any “disrespect for the dignity of others”; any violations will get him in trouble with Harvard’s Inquisition (the ‘Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’). Newton also wants to publish Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, to explain the laws of motion governing the universe. But his literary agent explains that he can’t get a decent book deal until Newton builds his ‘author platform’ to include at least 20k Twitter followers – without provoking any backlash for airing his eccentric views on ancient Greek alchemy, Biblical cryptography, fiat currency, Jewish mysticism, or how to predict the exact date of the Apocalypse.

Newton wouldn’t last long as a ‘public intellectual’ in modern American culture. Sooner or later, he would say ‘offensive’ things that get reported to Harvard and that get picked up by mainstream media as moral-outrage clickbait. His eccentric, ornery awkwardness would lead to swift expulsion from academia, social media, and publishing. Result? On the upside, he’d drive some traffic through Huffpost, Buzzfeed, and Jezebel, and people would have a fresh controversy to virtue-signal about on Facebook. On the downside, we wouldn’t have Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Let’s take a step back from this alt-history nightmare and consider the general problem of ‘neurodiversity’ and free speech. In this article, I’ll explore the science of neurodiversity, and how campus speech codes and restrictive speech norms impose impossible expectations on the social sensitivity, cultural awareness, verbal precision, and self-control of many neurodiverse people.

Louisiana Threads the Needle on Ed Reform

Robert Pondisco:

“It was one of the most powerful visits I’ve ever taken,” says Sheila Briggs, an assistant state superintendent with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. She is describing a visit last fall to Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School, a low-income school in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, about 30 miles northwest of New Orleans. “The ability to hear what the state education agency was doing and then go into classrooms and see direct evidence was phenomenal,” Briggs gushes. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.”

We Are (Still) Living in an Orwellian World

Thomas Ricks:

Some critics speculated that George Orwell’s relevance would fade after the year 1984. Harold Bloom wrote in 1987 that Orwell’s great novel of totalitarianism, 1984, threatened to become a period piece, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Even the literary critic Irving Howe, a longtime supporter of Orwell, had thought it possible that 1984 would have “little more than ‘historic interest” for future generations.

Yet instead of fading away, Orwell has enjoyed a new surge of global popularity. The passing of the historical context of 1984 seems to have liberated the novel, its message speaking to a universal problem of modern humankind.

The Diversity Fundamentalists

Richard Epstein:

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is the new catchphrase of today’s elite businesses and universities. Those institutions assume D&I is both a means—to excellence—and an end in itself, making them more closely resemble the larger world of which they are a part. So understood, companies from Facebook to Apple to Goldman Sachs, and academic establishments from UC Berkeley to Harvard to Yale, have found their new holy grail. Their commitment to D&I is all too often treated as a self-evident truth that none should be allowed to question in public discourse. But this new consensus for D&I, if left unchallenged, has an unintended consequence: unthinking intellectual rigidity, a malaise that all successful institutions must guard against.

The first difficulty with D&I is that it says very little about whom to admit and whom to exclude. Scarcity of places is a major constraint, so any institution committed to D&I has to decide whom to exclude from its community. Ironically, these institutions depend for their success on the institution of private property, which gives them the breathing room on which their cooperative activities rest. Defenders of D&I constantly bewail the bogeyman of exclusion, but no one is suggesting that these D&I stalwarts should select their new students and employees at random, in order to spare every poor soul from the heavy burden of being turned down on the merits. Institutions pursuing D&I necessarily have to adopt policies that privilege some people at the expense of others.

Having chosen its members, D&I champions next embrace a message of “fairness and protection to all regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But rarely do they face up to the conceptual ambiguities and practical tradeoffs that this grandiose statement conceals. Does any organization welcome the individual who is bold enough to reject D&I? More concretely, does D&I make accommodations for employees or students who on bona fide religious grounds are opposed to same-sex marriage? More generally, does D&I embrace, or even tolerate, true intellectual and political diversity? If so, why are there, from top to bottom, so few Republicans or libertarians within their diverse and inclusive ranks? Or does D&I unwisely overvalue skin-deep diversity at the expense of the necessary technical skills needed for particular jobs, like computer programming? D&I supporters pretend that these inescapable trade-offs do not exist: indeed, they all too often take pride in demonizing and excluding those who disagree with them.

I trained an A.I. to generate British placenames

Dan Hon:

Find a list of British placenames. Here’s one you can download as a CSV. You just need the names, so strip out all the other columns. To save some time, you can use the one I prepared earlier.

Pick a multi-layer recurrent neural network to use. The first time I did this, Karpathy’s char-rnn was all the rage, this time I used jcjohnson’s torch-rnn.

If you’re using a Mac, don’t bother trying to get OpenCL GPU support working. I wasted 3 hours. Just use crisbal’s CPU-based docker image. (If you know what you’re doing, then you’re already comfortable doing this all on AWS or you’ve got an nVidia GPU).

Follow jcjohnson’s instructions in the readme (pre-process your data, etc.)

Go and have a cup of tea while you train your model.

Middleberry and the First Amendment

Tom Meyer:

In June, Middlebury College announced it had officially disciplined students for disrupting a forum featuring sociologist Charles Murray two months earlier. In a Wall Street Journal editorial trumpeting the college’s dedication to free speech, President Laurie Patton described how dozens of students not only forced Murray and Professor Allison Stanger to relocate to a makeshift studio to livestream the event, but physically attacked them afterwards as they walked to their car.

After completing an investigation, Patton and her staff decided to place letters in the permanent files of the more serious student malefactors; the rest were merely given probation. As Murray noted in response, the upshot of Middlebury’s months-long investigation was that “[n]ot one single solitary person” was actually punished, neither for disrupting the event nor for hospitalizing one of the school’s professors.

The first amendment.

Girl, 5, fined £150 for lemonade stand


A five-year-old girl was fined £150 by a council for selling 50p cups of lemonade to festival goers.

The girl’s father Andre Spicer said his daughter had set up the stall in Mile End, east London, while thousands of music fans were on their way to the Lovebox Festival at the weekend.

Mr Spicer said his daughter burst into tears and told him “I’ve done a bad thing”.

Tower Hamlets Council has since cancelled the fine and apologised.

Scoop! High School Students Interview Defense Secretary Mattis

Emily Richmond:

Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day. Among the issues Mattis discussed: the role education plays in combatting the rise of radicalization and extremism, and suggestions for how U.S. high schools might foster better relations between the U.S. and other countries. Fischer and Gormley share the backstory to their surprisingly wide-ranging interview, the editorial process that went into its publication, and what they’ve learned from the experience.

E-Commerce as a Jobs Engine? One Economist’s Unorthodox View

Andrew Ross Sorkin:

Mr. Mandel is turning heads from Washington to Silicon Valley with a provocative and unorthodox argument: He asserts that the move toward e-commerce is creating more jobs than are being lost in the brick-and-mortar retailing industry — and that these new jobs are paying much higher wages than traditional retail jobs.

Mr. Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, contends that most economists are using the wrong job numbers to measure the e-commerce industry. He says that government numbers and conventional industry classifications don’t properly count all the jobs associated with e-commerce — in particular, the numbers miss large parts of the industry like fulfillment centers and distribution warehouses. As anyone who has noticed the growing volume of big brown boxes being delivered to people’s homes can imagine, facilities like that, which are tied to the e-commerce sector, are expanding rapidly.

Advocating Stretch Targets

Neil Heinen:

Baskerville is hoping to have 10,000 signees. “What they’re saying are two things,” says Baskerville, “one … from all political perspectives, we agree on these two stretch targets. And we want you, governor, gubernatorial candidates, school superintendents, to make these goals.”

Baskerville has a scorecard, something he considers crucial, which will be updated every two years. He’s hoping for citizens from every part of the state and every walk of life and, most importantly, from every political persuasion to sign on. But that’s not necessary. “The point is not to unify, it’s to get results,” he says. The results will be radical change in three areas that profoundly motivate Baskerville: “business, jobs and quality of life is one. Real social justice is two and national security is three.”

Baskerville is humble and self-deprecating. He frequently refers to his idea as a shot in the dark. It is a stretch. But short-term thinking, stubborn partisanship, a lost sense of common good and shared values have resulted in, among others things, Wisconsin falling behind economically to neighbors to the north, and educationally around the world, and thus competitively. In doing so, we are selling ourselves, our children, our state and our country short. If you agree with Baskerville, go to stretchtargets.org to join others willing to stretch a little for long-term change.

Stretch Targets

Civics: A Deportation at M.I.T., and New Risks for the Undocumented

Steve Coll:

President Obama deported more people than any of his immediate predecessors did—a record that is a stain on his legacy—but he did change course during his second term, to insure that ice prioritized the deportations of felons, not of law abiders. “After eight years of struggle, we ended up with a very substantial decline in deportations under the Obama Administration, and the key to that was the establishment of enforcement policies that began—not consistently, but more and more—to filter into the conduct of ice agents,” Deepak Bhargava, the president of the Center for Community Change, a nonprofit advocacy group that works in low-income areas, told me. “Essentially, what this Administration has done is undo the whole concept of prosecutorial discretion.” This has “empowered the worst rogue ice agents, who can act as they want.”

Rodriguez’s case has become a cause célèbre at M.I.T. The university arranged for an attorney to represent him pro bono. His union, S.E.I.U. Local 32BJ, has advocated for his release, and a public rally for his freedom attracted about a thousand people from the community. A judge has stayed his removal from Massachusetts, but his ultimate fate is uncertain. For one thing, it’s not clear whether, at today’s ice, having the support of an institution like M.I.T. is likely to help your case or hurt it. For another, Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, told me that the Trump Administration, pandering to nativists demanding that every undocumented resident of the United States be thrown out, has “done away with priorities altogether.” Day to day, from city to city, prosecutorial discretion at ice “is about the individual agent looking at the totality of circumstances and trying to decide whether to detain or deport” a person—a form of discretion similar to that exercised by police officers in their daily duties. Without clear guidelines, and in an atmosphere of hatred and demagoguery, there is now, Hincapié said, “such a level of chaos and fear.”

How bad could things get? Under Obama, the D.H.S. stepped up deportations as part of a political strategy to persuade Republicans that the Administration was serious about law enforcement, in the hope that this would produce a grand compromise on immigration reform—one that would create a path to citizenship for people like Rodriguez. It didn’t work out that way. At the end of Obama’s first term, the United States was deporting more than four hundred thousand people a year. By the end of his Presidency, the number was less than half that. Now Trump officials talk about deporting as many as eight million people.

110 NFL Brains

Joe Ward, Josh Williams and Sam Manchester:

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

C.T.E. causes myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped.

Exploiting Racism Blocks Reformative Change in Ed!

Jason Allen:

I’ve heard it all before… and hearing it now still doesn’t change the idea that racism has been exploited to block educational reform. Here’s why I say this. I’m a long time support and member of the NAACP. I believe in the mission, the legacy and those committed, on the ground workers. I am also a Charter school Leader and Board Chairman. In reading the reading comments and criticism of Randi Weingarten on the charter movement, I find it to be an example of the very thing she’s claiming the movement to be. We have to first stop suppressing innovation and options for others to find academic success. We have to also work even harder to find a healthy balance and relationship for public traditional and charter schools. We have to be intentional about how we bridge this gap. It’s like a co parenting situation. In order for the child to truly be healthy and happy is for the parents to come to a mutual understanding and respect of each other.

The notion and claim that the charter movement drives segregation and is built on racism is almost like acknowledging that Brown Vs the Board of Education didn’t happen because of the same antics happening in public schools. We use racism as a way to generate buzz and to keep people from working together. Racism is misused to perpetuate the us for them mentality instead of building trust through collaboration and change through compromise. Let’s be clear, no one has the perfect fix to education. However, we all have best practices that if connected can help repair the broken design for this educational system. That’s the impact of reform. Tactics that create a divide amongst us when we all want our children to have a quality education within an environment that provides excellent academic and cultural opportunities.

Say Goodbye To X+Y: Should Community Colleges Abolish Algebra?


Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads.

It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. So if you’re not a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, math), why even study algebra?

That’s the argument Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system, made today in an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel.

At American community colleges, 60 percent of those enrolled are required to take at least one math course. Most — nearly 80 percent — never complete that requirement.

Oakley is among a growing number of educators who view intermediate algebra as an obstacle to students obtaining their credentials — particularly in fields that require no higher level math skills.

A global censorship and surveillance platform

John Robb:

Facebook has an initiative to prevent the creation fake accounts (something Facebook strangely calls recidivism).

This initiative is a small part of a larger overall effort being undertaken by Facebook, Google and others, to become what can best be described as fully functional global censorship and surveillance systems. I know that people have been concerned about this for a while, but it’s not speculation anymore folks. It’s here.

The surprising thing to me? The US and nearly all of the governments of the world (outside of China and Russia) are pushing them to do it.

New fast.ai course: Computational Linear Algebra

Rachel Thomas:

I am thrilled to release fast.ai’s newest free course, Computational Linear Algebra, including an online textbook and a series of videos, and covering applications (using Python) such as how to identify the foreground in a surveillance video, how to categorize documents, the algorithm powering Google’s search, how to reconstruct an image from a CT scan, and more.

Jeremy and I developed this material for a numerical linear algebra course we taught in the University of San Francisco’s Masters of Analytics program, and it is the first ever numerical linear algebra course, to our knowledge, to be completely centered around practical applications and to use cutting edge algorithms and tools, including PyTorch, Numba, and randomized SVD. It also covers foundational numerical linear algebra concepts such as floating point arithmetic, machine epsilon, singular value decomposition, eigen decomposition, and QR decomposition.

The writings of the late Harvard political scientist anticipate America’s political and intellectual battles — and point to the country we may become.

Carlos Lozada

Sometimes a prophet can be right about what will come, yet torn about whether it should.

President Trump’s recent speech in Warsaw, in which he urged Europeans and Americans to defend Western civilization against violent extremists and barbarian hordes, inevitably evoked Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” — the notion that superpower rivalry would give way to battles among Western universalism, Islamic militance and Chinese assertiveness. In a book expanded from his famous 1993 essay, Huntington described civilizations as the broadest and most crucial level of identity, encompassing religion, values, culture and history. Rather than “which side are you on?” he wrote, the overriding question in the post-Cold War world would be “who are you?”

Toronto man builds park stairs for $550, irking city after $65,000 estimate

Josh Elliott:

Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job.

“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours.

Astl’s wife, Gail Rutherford, says the stairs have already been a big help to people who routinely take that route through the park. “I’ve seen so many people fall over that rocky path that was there to begin with,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement over what was there.”

I’ve seen similar situations in our schools, were maintenance is limited to union employees.

Related: maintenance referendum audit.

Madison school district budget information, now about $20k/student.

Steve Jobs on the Government K-12 Governance Monopoly

Joe Kent:

But Jobs blamed teachers unions for getting in the way of good teachers getting better pay. “It’s not a meritocracy,” said Jobs. “It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what’s happened. And teachers can’t teach, and administrators run the place, and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.”

He noted that one solution is school choice: “I’ve been a very strong believer that what we need to do in education is go to the full voucher system.” Jobs explained that education in America had been taken over by a government monopoly, which was providing a poor quality education for children.

He referenced the government-created phone monopoly, broken up in 1982: “I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell logo on it and it said, ‘We don’t care, we don’t have to.’ That’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.”

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Erin Einhorn:

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

Education technology is changing what happens when a child goes to school

The Economist

FOR a ten-year-old, Amartya is a thoughtful chap. One Monday morning at the Khan Lab School (KLS) in Mountain View, California, he explains that his maths is “pretty strong” but he needs to work on his writing. Not to worry, though; Amartya has a plan. He will practise grammar online, book a slot with an English teacher and consult his mentor. Later he will e-mail your correspondent to ask for help, too.

This is the sort of pluck KLS produces. Its pupils do not have homework or report cards or spend all day in classrooms. They are not stratified by age; they share common spaces as they pursue individual goals and schedules, using software built by in-house developers to take tests and watch video lessons from the school’s sister organisation, Khan Academy, which makes online tutorials. Half the teachers act like tutors, helping with academic work. The rest mentor pupils in character traits such as curiosity and self-awareness.

Why riding a bike to school is often illegal

Matt McFarland:

Maura Flanagan teaches at the Brooklyn Transition Center, a high school for students with emotional disorders. Some students are autistic, others have been kicked out of previous schools.
 BTC has a full complement of guidance counselors, therapists and special educators to work with its students, but one of the most promising additions has been a bikeshare program.
 Last fall the school was selected for a first-of-its kind experiment from the New York Department of Health. A handful of Flanagan’s students were recruited to ride to and from school. They took a bike safety class, were given helmets, and started pedaling around Brooklyn’s streets. By this spring, 15 students had bikeshare memberships—as well as a greater sense of independence and confidenc

‘A feature, not a bug’: George Church ascribes his visionary ideas to narcolepsy

Sharon Begley:

Church stood throughout an interview last week in his office at Harvard Medical School — where his lab’s past and current projects range from using DNA for data storage to resurrecting the wooly mammoth, from creating mini-brains on plates to doing a gut renovation of pig genomes so their organs might be transplantable into people. For the first time, he opened up about his journey with narcolepsy: when he realized he had it, how he copes, why he’s avoided the standard drugs, the virtues of parking brakes, what happened when he and his daughter (who also has narcolepsy) both fell asleep while speaking with her teacher … and how his narcolepsy underlies his creativity and scientific achievements.

Church said “almost all” of his visionary ideas and scientific solutions have come while he was either asleep or quasi-asleep, sometimes dreaming, at the beginning or end of a narcoleptic nap. Such as? The breakthrough during graduate school that ushered in “next gen” genome sequencing, a fast and cheap way to “read” DNA. “Writing genomes,” or constructing them from off-the-shelf molecules as a way to improve on what nature came up with. Innovations in editing genomes.

These brainstorms, and more, occurred while he was “either daydreaming or night dreaming or in that period when I’m really refreshed right afterward,” said Church, who will be 63 in August. “It took me until I was 50 or 60 years old” to realize that narcolepsy “is a feature, not a bug.”

Some advice for journalists writing about artificial intelligence


Keep in mind: AI is a big field, and very diverse in terms of topics and methods used. (True, it’s not as diverse as it should be in some other senses.) The main AI conferences (such as IJCAI, AAAI, ICML and NIPS) have thousands of attendees, and most of them only understand a small part of what goes on in the conference. When I go to one of these conferences, I can perhaps follow maybe 20% of the talks and get something out of them. While I might be a bit dim myself, it’s rare to find anyone who can keep up to date with sub-fields as diverse as constraint propagation, deep learning and stochastic search.

Recommendation: Do not assume that researchers you talk to knows “what’s going on right now in AI”. Even more importantly, if someone says they know what’s going on right now in AI, assume that they only know a small part of the big picture. Double-check with someone working in another field of AI.

Brain gains

The Economist

IN 1953 B.F. Skinner visited his daughter’s maths class. The Harvard psychologist found every pupil learning the same topic in the same way at the same speed. A few days later he built his first “teaching machine”, which let children tackle questions at their own pace. By the mid-1960s similar gizmos were being flogged by door-to-door salesmen. Within a few years, though, enthusiasm for them had fizzled out.

Since then education technology (edtech) has repeated the cycle of hype and flop, even as computers have reshaped almost every other part of life. One reason is the conservatism of teachers and their unions. But another is that the brain-stretching potential of edtech has remained unproven.

Today, however, Skinner’s heirs are forcing the sceptics to think again. Backed by billionaire techies such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, schools around the world are using new software to “personalise” learning. This could help hundreds of millions of children stuck in dismal classes—but only if edtech boosters can resist the temptation to revive harmful ideas about how children learn. To succeed, edtech must be at the service of teaching, not the other way around.

Related: Frederick Taylor.

California Teachers Association Has A $188M Budget

Mike Antonicci:

Just as local chapters are preparing for the loss of fair share fees, CTA also has the responsibility to prepare for this reality. There are currently two legal cases moving through the courts with the goal of reaching the U.S. Supreme Court as early as next year. We know losing fair share fees will have an immediate $7.7 million impact on the CTA budget. CTA is committed to maintaining services to our members and wants to avoid the staff layoffs of up to 50 percent experienced in Wisconsin and Michigan when they lost agency fee. This means we must plan ahead and that’s what we’re doing.

Related: WEAC: Four Senators for $1,570,000.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Another blow for heartland workers: Slashed pensions

Ed Leefeldt:

February was a bad month for Larry Burruel and thousands of other retired Ohio iron workers. His monthly take-home pension was cut by more than half from $3,700 to $1,600.

Things have been rough in the Rust Belt, but this was a particularly powerful punch in the pocketbook for Burruel, who started in the trade at 19 and worked 36 years before opting for early retirement to make way for younger workers. Unfortunately, this sagging industry doesn’t have enough younger workers to pay for retirees like Burruel, whose pension plan is in what the U.S. Treasury Department calls “critical and declining status.”

Burruel and the 400,000 members of his Central States Pension Fund are the canaries in the coal mine as far as pension cutbacks go. At least 50 Midwestern pension plans — mostly the kind jointly administered by trustees for a labor union and a group of employers — are in this decrepit condition. Several plan sponsors have already applied to the Treasury D


Alex Emmons:

DONALD TRUMP’S JUSTICE Department revived a federal program on Wednesday that gives state and local law enforcement more power to seize property from people who haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

The practice — known as “civil asset forfeiture” — became widespread as part of the drug crackdown in the 1980s, after Congress passed a law in 1984 that allowed the Department of Justice to keep the property it seized. At the time, forfeiture was billed as a way to undermine the resources of large criminal enterprises, but law enforcement saw it as a way to underwrite their budgets, and have overwhelmingly gone after people without the means to challenge the seizures in court.

The practice has become so widespread that in 2014, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than all home and office burglaries combined.

Civil liberties organizations have called asset forfeiture “legalized theft,” and as the practice has become more widespread, it has become deeply unpopular. According to a poll last year by the Cato Institute, 84 percent of Americans oppose property seizures from people not convicted of a crime. Most states have passed laws restricting the practice, or banning it outright.

Telecom Lobbyists Downplayed ‘Theoretical’ Security Flaws in Mobile Data Backbone

Joseph Cox::

In a white paper sent to members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security, CTIA, a telecom lobbying group that represents Verizon, AT&T, and other wireless carriers, argued that “Congress and the Administration should reject the [DHS] Report’s call for greater regulation” while downplaying “theoretical” security vulnerabilities in a mobile data network that hackers may be able to use to monitor phones across the globe, according to the confidential document obtained by Motherboard. However, experts strongly disagree about the threat these vulnerabilities pose, saying the flaws should be taken seriously before criminals exploit them.

SS7, a network and protocol often used to route messages when a user is roaming outside their provider’s coverage, is exploited by criminals and surveillance companies to track targets, intercept phone calls or sweep up text messages. In some cases, criminals have used SS7 attacks to obtain bank account two-factor authentication tokens, and last year, California Rep. Ted Lieu said that, for hackers, “the applications for this vulnerability are seemingly limitless.”

In May, the DHS published an in-depth, 125-page report on government mobile device security, which noted that SS7 “vulnerabilities can be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and nation-state actors/foreign intelligence organizations.” DHS noted that it currently doesn’t have the authority to require carriers to perform security audits on their network infrastructure, or the authority to compel mobile carrier network owners to provide information to assess the security of these communication networks.

CTIA took several issues with the report. In its own white paper responding to the DHS, CTIA told US politicians in May that focusing on some SS7 attacks is “unhelpful,” said the report “focuses on perceived shortcomings” in the protocol, and claimed that talking about the issues may help hackers, according to the white paper obtained by Motherboard. Specifics from the paper were discussed by Motherboard with CTIA officials. l

‘Charter czar’ prepares launch as charter popularity plateaus

Chris Rickert:

It can be easy to forget about the “charter czar.”

More than two years after his office was created within the University of Wisconsin System and more than a year after he was hired, the czar has yet to authorize a single charter school. His office doesn’t even have a website.

Education reformers can have some confidence he hasn’t just been loafing around these last 16 months, even as state education data suggest the popularity of charters could be waning.

The czar — also known as former legislative staffer and elementary school teacher Gary Bennett — said the website is slated to go up next week, as are two requests for proposals. One will be for a so-called recovery school aimed at letting teen addicts continue their education while getting treatment; the other will be for straight-up charter schools in either Milwaukee or Madison.

Bennett acknowledged getting familiar with the recovery school concept took some time. Among the funding models he’s looked at are those used by Hope Academy in Indianapolis and Insight Recovery School in Minnesota. To cover the $12,000 to $24,000 per-student cost generally seen at recovery schools, they have used city and district money, respectively, to augment state funding.

Recovery School District RFP.

Money isn’t the problem facing Wisconsin schools

Will Flanders and Rick Esenberg:

Let’s look at the long run and the short run. Since 1993, per-pupil spending, after adjusting for inflation, has increased by 7.2%. Although measures of student performance have been flat over that time period, the long-term trend in spending has clearly been up.
And the short term is no different. Here is an oft-overlooked fact. Since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011, nominal per-student spending in Wisconsin has increased in every year but one. The one exception to annual per-student increases was 2012. In that year, the state began to feel the effects of the end of the federal stimulus package that had infused more than $700 million into the state’s education coffers, and cuts were required across state government.

Indeed, Act 10, which substantially reduced school personnel costs, was, in part, an attempt to manage that decline in revenue while minimizing a reduction in services. But revenue has rebounded and so has spending.

Madison K-12 spending is up significantly, now near $20k/student.

This, despite long term, disastrous reading results.

Oregon’s New Bike Tax and the Future of Transportation Taxes

Jared Walczak::

Oregon’s new $5.3 billion transportation package includes an interesting wrinkle: a bicycle tax. Although it represents a miniscule share of the new revenues adopted under House Bill 2017, the $15 excise tax undeniably captured the attention of cycling enthusiasts in Oregon and elsewhere. It also inspired others, with a Colorado legislator floating the idea of a $15 a year tax, though a negative response was enough for him to lay on the brakes.
 Oregon’s tax is an excise on the purchase of bicycles with a retail price of $200 or more and a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches—in other words, adult bikes, and not the inexpensive ones you might find in a big box store. The briefly floated Colorado tax proposal would have taken the form of a tangible personal property on a specific class of property, namely bicycles.
 A bike tax is unusual—currently, only the city of Colorado Springs imposes a bike tax—but it plays into a larger debate about how states should navigate the taxation of preferred policy outcomes. Many advocates would like to see more people biking to work, just as many would like to see more people driving electric cars. So do you tax bicycles (and electric cars) or not?
 A lot depends on why you think the taxes exist in the first place.
 Revenue is a big part of it, of course, but if a secondary priority is to get people out of standard vehicles and into electric cars or onto a bicycle, then one might favor substantial tax preferences for those other modes of transportation. On the other hand, one might just as well conceptualize these taxes as paying for the roads (or bike paths) used and the wear-and-tear of traffic, and perhaps to help “price” contributions to congestion. In that case, the preferences make less sense.

Where in the privacy cost of “free apps”


AppCensus is created by an international collaboration of researchers with combined expertise in the fields of networking, privacy, security, and usability. We’re centered in Berkeley, California.
 Our mission is to give app users better transparency into how their mobile apps use and misuse their personally identifying information. We want to explore whether apps are following standard best practices when handling private data. We hope that by giving out this transparency, we will foster a better mobile app ecosystem, because users are exposed to hidden privacy costs and app developers are better made aware of best practices for their future apps.

Why are some D.C. schools underreporting student suspensions?

Washington Post Editorial (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Post):

AFTER POST reporters raised questions about the accuracy of suspension rates in some D.C. public schools, a warning went out to principals. “Inappropriate, unprofessional and fraudulent” was how the system’s instructional superintendent described failure to accurately record students barred from classes. It’s good that such practices were soundly denounced, but more needs to be done to determine the extent of the problem as well as possible solutions.

D.C. schools, like a growing number of districts across the country, have recognized that more harm than good is done in suspending students from school. There are situations in which a student’s conduct is so egregious or dangerous that the only option is removal from school. But suspending students for minor misbehavior such as running in the hallways, being late for class and using profanity is counterproductive, often worsening behavior problems and leading to academic failure. The question that emerges from The Post’s investigation is whether the push to reduce suspensions caused some officials to camouflage students who had been excluded from instruction.

Related: Police calls near Madison Schools: 1996-2006.

Background and a gangs/school violence forum.

Commentary on Diversity and Academic Goalposts

Ed Hughes:

Madison West students did better in every category where there is a basis for comparison. (The number of Madison West students of two or more races who took the test was below the threshold for DPI to calculate an average score.) So why does Middleton have the higher overall average? This outcome is completely determined by the demographics of the schools. There are more West students than Middleton students in the lower-scoring categories, and this effect overwhelmed West’s clear superiority in the category-by-category comparisons.

There is more evidence of diversity’s negative impact on school comparisons all around us. For example, Google “best schools in Dane County.” You’ll get greatschools.org, or perhaps Zillow, which incorporates GreatSchools ratings. GreatSchools assigns a rating on a 1-to-10 scale to every school around. From all that appears, the GreatSchools ratings are the most commonly referred to sources of information about the relative quality of schools available to newcomers to our area or those contemplating relocation.

The GreatSchools rankings of Dane County schools appear to be entirely based on the results of standardized tests, undifferentiated by school demographics, income levels, or anything else. Not surprisingly, there is a substantial diversity deduction in these rankings. To understand why, we need to focus on how the ratings reflect the achievement levels and preponderance of white students at our schools.

Looking at the standardized test scores of white students provides an evenhanded if partial basis for comparison, unaffected by the schools’ differing demographics. In addition, it is the white families in the Madison area who are in the best position to affect the level of diversity in our schools, primarily through their choices of whether to enroll their students in Madison public schools or suburban or private alternatives. In light of this, it makes sense to tailor the analysis to the considerations that would be most relevant for them, in part so that we can have some basis to assess the validity of a “school quality” explanation for choosing a non-MMSD school.

The following tables shows three data points for the high schools in the Madison area: 2015-16 average composite scores for white students taking the ACT Statewide exam administered to all students in grade 11; percentage of the student body comprised of white students; and GreatSchools ranking on its 1-to-10 scale.

Paul Fanlund commentary. Mr. Hughes served three terms on the Madison School Board. His candidacies were unopposed in each election!

He ran for a fourth term earlier this year in a three way primary, but, withdrew prior to the spring general election.

Ed Hughes (2005): :

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

A few notes on Mr. Hughes’ words:

a. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results (Mr. Hughes on the District’s reading results in 2016). I see no benefit to muddying the achievement waters until we see substantial improvements in what should be the District’s core mission: reading, writing, math, history and science.

b. Why did he and a majority of the Madison School Board support the expansion of our least diverse schools, rather than addressing the substantial diversity gap in those buildings?

How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.

Ed Yong:

In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.

At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.

“No institution in America has done more to perpetuate segregation than public schools”

Peter Cunningham:

No institution in America has done more to perpetuate segregation than public schools. Until 1954, segregated schools were legal in America and it was the standard practice in much of the South.

Less recognized, but equally pernicious, is the structural segregation all across America, where zoned school systems maintain racial and economic segregation. Some parents of color have been jailed for trying to enroll their children in schools where they don’t live.

Today, one of America’s most segregated school systems is in New York City, where Randi Weingarten once ran the teachers union. As a recent fight on the Upper West Side of Manhattan shows, even white progressive parents resist integration.

School systems across America and the colleges and universities that prepare teachers have also done a terrible job recruiting people of color into the teaching profession and an even worse job keeping the few they have. Nationally, the student body is over 50 percent people of color, but the teaching profession is just 17 percent people of color. Only about two teachers in 100 are Black males.

The roots of this institutional racism in the teaching field go back to the 1950s, when the Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal. Tens of thousands of Black teachers working in all-Black schools could not find work in integrated schools.

Madison has recently expanded its Least diverse schools.


Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner

AFSCME’s demands ignore four significant facts about Illinois state-worker compensation:

• Illinois state workers are the highest-paid state workers in the country

• AFSCME workers receive Cadillac health care benefits

• Most state workers receive free retiree health insurance

• Career state retirees on average receive $1.6 million in pension benefits

It’s not fair that Illinois residents, struggling with stagnant incomes in one of the nation’s weakest economies, continue to subsidize AFSCME benefits to such an extent.

Many other unions that contract with the state have recognized that taxpayers can’t withstand higher taxes to fund workers’ pay and benefits. Officials from more than 17 unions, including the Teamsters, understand the depth of Illinois’ fiscal crisis and have been willing to compromise and come to affordable contract agreements with the state.

AFSCME, which represents a mere 0.5 percent of Illinois’ total labor force (35,000 state workers out of a total 6.5 million workers), is putting undue pressure on the state and its finances.

Advocating K-12 governance choice

Volume & Light:

You see, I was fortunate to join a 150-strong group of #PowerfulParents on a trip from Tennessee to Cincinnati, where the NAACP vote was being held. I was one of a small group of Nashvillians picked up en route—most of the parents were from Memphis and members of a take-no-prisoners parent advocacy organization called The Memphis Lift.

These uber-committed parents left their families to embark on a 34-hour, one-thousand mile mission: to make a statement and ensure the message was received.

Peaceful, but battle-ready (and tested), these men and women were properly revved. I sat beside a Memphis dad, who told me, understandably exhausted from the long trip, “I just want to get a shower, talk to my kids and get ready for tomorrow.”

I listened to parents, grandparents and great-grandparents express blinding pride in their children and the schools they’ve chosen for them. I watched organizers lovingly plan meals and lodging, problem-solve and nurture, while preparing to execute their mission. The commitment to successfully execute and return home with a win was palpable.

The ages of distraction Busy, distracted, inattentive? Everybody has been since at least 1710 and here are the philosophers to prove it

Frank Furedi

The rise of the internet and the widespread availability of digital technology has surrounded us with endless sources of distraction: texts, emails and Instagrams from friends, streaming music and videos, ever-changing stock quotes, news and more news. To get our work done, we could try to turn off the digital stream, but that’s difficult to do when we’re plagued by FOMO, the modern fear of missing out. Some people think that our willpower is so weak because our brains have been damaged by digital noise. But blaming technology for the rise in inattention is misplaced. History shows that the disquiet is fuelled not by the next new thing but by the threat this thing – whatever it might be – poses to the moral authority of the day.

Many of the papers now judged most original and significant rely on massive compute resources, usually beyond the financial reach of academia. So where does that leave academic research?

Libby Kinsey:

Last week, I travelled to the South of France (such a hardship) to attend deep learning conference ICLR (International Conference on Learning Representations*).
Lots to take away, but one thing struck me in particular — many of the papers deemed most significant relied on massive compute resource that is usually unavailable to academics. I wondered — what avenues remain open for compute-limited academic contribution? I try to answer that question below. (I also wondered whether this will soon be a moot question, when GAFA et al have finished recruiting all the academics!).

In Milwaukee, steady as she goes replaces boldness in the school scene

Alan Borsuk::

It’s a good thing we don’t need to change much about the overall success of students in Milwaukee because there really isn’t much change coming these days.

Fewer than 20% of students in both Milwaukee Public Schools and the 100-plus private schools in the publicly funded voucher program were rated as proficient in reading in the most recently released results.

Fewer than 15% of students in both MPS and the voucher schools were rated as proficient in math.

Fewer than 60% of MPS kids graduated high school in four years in the most recent data (Class of 2015) and the percentage has declined a notch each year, starting with the Class of 2011.

Oh, well. What can you do?

Not too much different. At least that seems like a reasonable summary of the answers emerging as a new school year comes close.

China Unrisen

John Robb

I was just got back from a great conference in Singapore. A central theme of the conference was that China (and Asia in general with substantial US help) isn’t ‘rising’ anymore, it has risen (again), and that the US and much of the rest of the world hasn’t recognized this yet. This makes sense. China has risen economically with India is soon to follow and it will require a big rethink in terms of how we manage the world (the UN, IMF, etc.).

The California Bar Exam Is The Tip Of The Lawyer Licensing Iceberg

Nicolas W. Allard:

Traditional bar exam and licensing practices have outlived their sell-by date. In their present state they are increasingly hard, if not impossible, to justify as serving the best interests of the profession or the public.

Dissatisfaction with “take it or leave it” business as usual by the bar testing industry is not a local phenomenon in just the Golden State. Although the particular circumstances are unique that are precipitating the still to be finalized California judicial intervention, it is likely a forerunner of other major tectonic shifts. This is because, if for no other reason, the progress in California signals that major changes are possible.

Legal educators, professionals, judges and regulators across the country increasingly are asking themselves after years and years of concerns, and when they gather together professionally they are seriously discussing, a simple powerful question: Can we do better?

The answer for a rapidly growing number of knowledgeable people is obvious. The bar exam is only offered twice a year although we live in an on demand 24/7/365 world. The exam is a “one time, all or nothing” ordeal rather than effectively testing knowledge and skills as they are acquired. In New York State, the courts have imposed many other requirements and paths for determining readiness for practice. Consequently, the ritual, burdensome testing covered in much of the traditional bar exam seems like an unnecessary, quaint but expensive redundancy. It also is fair to ask why it is necessary for graduates to pay the profitable cram course industry thousands of dollars to prepare for an exam when earning a JD already required them to undergo constant rigorous testing after studying exactly what the ABA, local bar associations, state courts and law faculties require a law student to learn.

Graduates even have to pay to use their own laptop to take the test — like in Lord Nelson’s old-time British Navy, the perversely cruel practice of forcing sailors to braid the Cat-O’-Nine-Tails used for their own lashing. The exorbitant fee charged to use your own laptop, which everyone needs to do, seems to bear even less relationship to the cost of the special security software licensing needed to take the exam than the high price of the crummy lunches bar takers or their school must pay for or go without in our state. Unlike tests in other professions, for law grads it takes waiting months, often without paychecks, to get bar exam results and longer still to go through the process of the character and fitness review of candidates and finally be admitted to practice. (Parenthetically, the LSAT is offered more often and results come out faster, but not as fast as results in other learned professions.) While it has been commonplace to blame bar exam failure rates on educators and the test takers themselves, there has been too little attention paid to the relevance, or lack thereof, of the bar exam to the increasingly strong practical education and training that today’s law students receive everywhere, as everyone agrees they should. Similarly, the need persists to credibly determine through objective, independent, well designed and verifiable studies whether or not there is a disparate impact of the exam on test takers based on their gender, economic background, race and other factors.

Ph.D.-Level Position, $28K Salary

Nick Roll:

The average monthly rent for an apartment in Chicago is $1,770, according to real-estate website Zillow.

If you were to take a recently advertised position at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and take an apartment at the average rate, you’d have about $600 left over after paying rent each month, not including money that goes to taxes or food.

The position in question is described as a “visiting lecturer-German basic language program director for AY 2017-2018.” The position is listed with a preference for a candidate holding a Ph.D., and one with experience in language direction experience, although those still working on their dissertations are welcome to apply.

And it pays $28,000 a year.

The job is billed as a “67 percent” position, meaning it’s not quite a full workload. But based on the work description, some are calling that into question, as well as the salary for a position based in a major city.

More families expect kids to go to college, but don’t have a plan to pay for it as students pay more

Katen Herzog:

Through a combination of work, savings and borrowing, students covered 30% of college costs for the 2016-’17 academic year, while parents picked up 31%, according to the 10th annual Sallie Mae “How America Pays for College” survey of undergraduate families.

The report also says that while 9 in 10 families always knew their child would go to college, fewer than 4 in 10 actually created a plan to pay for it by saving, researching costs and identifying sources of funding, the survey found.

Those who have a plan to pay for college save more and borrow less, according to Sallie Mae surveys through the years.

Too many people believe that slavery is a “peculiar institution.”

Walter E Williams:

That’s what Kenneth Stampp called slavery in his book, “Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South.”

But slavery is by no means peculiar, odd, or unusual. It was common among ancient peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Armenians, and many others.

Large numbers of Christians were enslaved during the Ottoman wars in Europe. White slaves were common in Europe from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages. It was only after A.D. 1600 that Europeans joined with Arabs and Africans and started the Atlantic slave trade.

As David P. Forsythe wrote in his book, “The Globalist,” “The fact remained that at the beginning of the 19th century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom.”

Wisconsin Superintendent’s Race Cost $1 Million

Wisconsin democracy campaign:

Spending by the candidates and outside special interest groups in the state school superintendent’s race last spring totaled about $1 million, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Fundraising and spending reports filed this week show the three candidates spent about $767,650.

Candidate spending was led by incumbent School Superintendent Tony Evers, whose campaign doled out about $553,000 to win reelection to his third four-year term. Evers’ general election opponent, Lowell Holtz, spent about $143,900. The third candidate John Humphries, who lost in the February primary, spent $70,680 through March 20. There was no campaign report available for Humphries for the latest fundraising and spending period through June 30.

Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Bill To Extend Expired Teacher & Municipal Contracts Indefinitely

Katherine Gregg

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s veto of a bill to extend expired municipal and teacher contracts indefinitely has sparked an override campaign by teachers unions, ending whatever temporary peace she may have forged with them.

“I think that the classified ad is out: ‘Real Democrat wanted for governor of Rhode Island,”’ Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, said Thursday.

Alleging that Raimondo told him face-to-face, in a private meeting, that she intended to veto the contract-extension bill because her “donors don’t like it,” Walsh said his union feels obligated to actively recruit a candidate to run against Raimondo in a 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Walsh named several up-and-coming Democrats, suggesting they may have awakened on Thursday morning to the realization they don’t have to wait until 2022 for their next big political move.

“I think there are 10,000 scenarios out there where people of ambition are now looking at timing and saying this may be their time, and I don’t think that was the case three months ago,” he said.

Raimondo’s spokesman David Ortiz responded: “This isn’t a partisan issue.”

“The governor deeply respects the important role that organized labor plays in our shared efforts to grow the economy and provide opportunity for every Rhode Islander and she firmly supports collective bargaining,” he said.

But “the governor is most urgently concerned with protecting Rhode Island’s taxpayers. Mayors, town managers and school leaders from every corner of Rhode Island — most of them Democrats — urged the governor to veto this legislation.”

Student facing beheading in Saudi Arabia was to attend Western Michigan

David Jesse:

A Saudi Arabian student who was arrested five years ago as he was about to fly to Michigan to attend college is believed to be facing imminent execution by beheading, officials say.

Mujtaba Al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012, was moved Friday from detention in Dammam to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by beheading customarily take place.

Earlier that year, Al-Sweikat allegedly attended a pro-democracy rally, which led to his arrest.

More: Muslim mom responds to Kalkaska official; he responds, too

Al-Sweikat intended to visit Western Michigan University, where he had applied as a student, according to Reprieve, an international human rights group that has offices in New York and London and operates with partners around the world. He was later accepted by the university as a student. The Free Press has seen a copy of the acceptance letter from Western.

Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Office of Educational Opportunity (PDF):

Identifying Information

Name of Organization:

Year Founded:

Revised 5/31/2017, 11:30 a.m.

Recovery School Request for Proposal

First and Last Name of Primary Applicant:

Mailing Address:
Preferred E-Mail Address
Preferred Phone Number:

Attach the names, professional affiliation, and role in the proposed school for all school leaders and board members.

Summarize the purpose and brief history of the organization. (For instance, is this a new non profit created for this proposed school, or is it an existing nonprofit seeking to expand or replicate its portfolio?)

Evidence of Incorporation in Wisconsin and IRS status

Organizational Background

Do you currently operate a school, if yes where for how long and how is it operated (public district, private, other)?

Is your proposal a fresh start campus, replication campus, or a conversion campus?

If it is a conversion campus, why are you seeking to reorganize your operations into a public charter school?

Have you applied for charter status before? If yes with what authorizer, what was the outcome, and what reasons were given for the outcome?
May we contact the authorizer to discuss your prior application?

Much more on Gary Bennett’s Wisconsin – non traditional government school district – charter school authorizing body.

Related: A majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Also rejected: the Studio School.

This University of Wisconsin system office has the authority to authorize Charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

Despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Note that charter and voucher schools must operate on less than half of Madison’s per student spending. They receive only redistributed state tax dollars, nothing from local property taxes or other typical government sources.

Civics: Fusion Gps Illuminates The Brave New World Of Manufactured News For Her

Lee Smith:

Yet at the same time that Fusion GPS was fueling a campaign warning against a vast Russia-Trump conspiracy to destroy the integrity of American elections, the company was also working with Russia to influence American policy—by removing the same sanctions that Trump was supposedly going to remove as his quid pro quo for Putin’s help in defeating Hillary. Many observers, including the press, can’t quite figure out how the firm wound up on both sides of the fence. Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to know if Fusion GPS has violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

As the founders of Fusion GPS surely understand, flexibility is a key recipe for success—and the more room you can occupy in the news cycle, the bigger the brand. After all, they’re former journalists—and good ones. Fusion GPS is the story of a few journalists who decided to stop being suckers. They’re not buyers of information, they’re sellers.


Fusion GPS was founded in 2009—before the social media wave destroyed most of the remaining structures of 20th-century American journalism—by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. They picked up former colleagues from the Journal, Tom Catan, and Neil King, Jr., who were also well-respected by their peers. When the social media wave hit two years later, print media’s last hopes for profitability vanished, and Facebook became the actual publisher of most of the news that Americans consumed. Opposition research and comms shops like Fusion GPS became the news-rooms—with investigative teams and foreign bureaus—that newspapers could no longer afford.

As top reporters themselves, the principals of Fusion GPS knew exactly what their former colleagues needed in order to package and sell stories to their editors and bosses. “Simpson was one of the top terror-finance investigative reporters in the field,” says one Washington-based journalist, who knows Simpson professionally and personally, and who asked for anonymity in discussing a former reporter. “He got disillusioned when Rupert Murdoch took over the Journal because there was less room for the kind of long-form investigative journalism he thrived on.”

Joyce in Court and The Ulysses Trials review – the law, murder and obscenity

Colm Toibin::

In October 1899, James Joyce, aged 17, attended all three days of the trial in Dublin of Samuel Childs for the brutal murder of his brother. This allowed him later to stitch references to the case throughout his novel Ulysses, including a moment when his protagonist Leopold Bloom and others are on their way to Paddy Dignam’s funeral in Glasnevin cemetery and pass Bengal Terrace, where the murder occurred: “Gloomy gardens then went by: one by one: gloomy houses.” When one man says: “That is where Childs was murdered … The last house,” Simon Dedalus replies: “So it is … A gruesome case. Seymour Bushe got him off. Murdered his brother. Or so they said.”

This, as Adrian Hardiman writes in his fascinating, painstaking book on Joyce and the law, “is the first mention in Ulysses of the Childs murder case. In one way or another the case or its protagonists are referred to more than 20 times in the text, sometimes very plainly, at other times obscurely. The case thus emerges as just one of the numerous threads, often submerged but constantly recurring, that form the fabric of the novel.”
Is James Joyce’s Ulysses the hardest novel to finish?
Read more

Hardiman takes us through a number of law cases that are referred to in this way in Ulysses with such clarity and vivid use of detail that it is easy to imagine how they preoccupied the characters as they wandered in Dublin on 16 June 1904.

Mind the Gap: The State of Skills in the U.S.

Rachel Stephens:

Third Way conducted an original, multi-dimensional analysis of skill gaps across the country using five kinds of data to identify patterns in industry labor markets.
The health care sector stands out as having the most dire skills shortages nationwide, and they’ll only get worse as our population continues to age.
Education and tech-related jobs are also facing serious skilled labor shortages across the country.
Manufacturing labor shortages are not quite as bad as some say, but the shortage will worsen before it improves due to a pending wave of Baby Boomer retirements.
Other shortages, such as those in construction or transportation jobs, vary by region and will also change with retirements.
Many jobs with these shortages are middle-skill jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree but do require training and a credential. Stigma, poor delivery of information to students, and an education finance system focused on four-year degrees push too many people away from these jobs.

How AWS Cloud is demolishing the cult of youth

James Governor:

“A distinguished engineer not only leads; they also take responsibility. A distinguished engineer will not throw any of his or her team under the proverbial bus to protect themselves, nor will the make technical decisions that involve a massive pay back later (technical debt) without explaining why and getting buy in and understanding for the decision.”

His description fits the people AWS is currently hiring quite well. The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM.

IQ costs Oregon parents their kids, but is that fair? (Column)

Samantha Swindler:

The nursery in Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler’s home is filled with unread children’s books and unworn baby clothes. A Winnie the Pooh blanket lies untouched inside a crib where a child has never slept.

For nearly four years, the Redmond couple has been fighting to prove to the state of Oregon that they are intellectually capable of raising their children. The Department of Human Services has removed both of their boys, saying the parents are too mentally limited to be good parents.

Fabbrini, 31, and Ziegler, 38, lost custody of their older son, Christopher, shortly after he was born. Five months ago, the state took their second child, newborn Hunter, directly from the hospital. Both are now in foster care.

“I love kids, I was raised around kids, my mom was a preschool teacher for 20-plus years, and so I’ve always been around kids,” Fabbrini said. “That’s my passion. I love to do things with kids, and that’s what I want to do in the future, something that has to do with kids.”

Hedge Fund Uses Algae to Reap 21% Return

Vincent Bielski:

Desmond Lun’s AI trading model draws on computational biology

Biologists are ‘kicking butt’ in data science, professor says

Hedge fund manager Desmond Lun’s 21 percent average return over the last four years springs from an unlikely source — a petri dish of algae.

Lun, 37, is a new kind of quant, combining AI wizardry with old-school biology to trade futures. Although his Taaffeite Capital Management is small, Lun makes a big claim: His research into one of the natural world’s most byzantine systems — the biological cell — has given him an edge in untangling the secrets of financial markets.

Saving the Future: The Importance of Teaching Ethnic Studies in School

David McGuire::

The KKK chapter of Indiana had major influence in the areas of prohibition, politics, and education. This caused Indianapolis to build a school, Crispus Attucks, for black students that they assumed the students would fail in. Despite being 100 plus years removed from these injustices, we live in a country where there is a lack of trust and divide between our black teenagers and the police. Times like this call for a need to ensure we are educating the future adults of our state to understand those who are different from them.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Charter School Conference in Indiana.

2016-17 Summary of Results and 2017 Employee Handbook Member Survey

Madison Teachers, Inc::

As we prepare for the start of this summer’s Employee Handbook review discussions which will lead into the 2017-18 school year, we are sharing with you:

Our MTI Summary of Results from 2016-17. Last year was a significant one for MTI as we transitioned from Collective Bargaining Agreements to an Employee Handbook, and from payroll deduction of dues to direct payment of dues. Our successes this past year would not have been possible without a committed and engaged membership who supports the work of their union. Please take a few moments to review this summary. We think that you’ll agree that we have collectively made some significant progress.

Our 2017 MTI Employee Handbook Survey. Each summer, the MMSD and MTI get together to review the Employee Handbook and discuss potential revisions. This summer we will discuss potential changes which will take effect for the 2018-19 school year. Agreed upon revisions are then forwarded to the Board of Education for action. This link provides a summary of those items we plan to discuss and offers you the opportunity to provide your input on other issues that you would like us to address. Please review this summary and provide any feedback you would like us to consider by July 28, 2017.

Thank you for all you do for Madison’s students, and thank you for your continued support of MTI.

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