Wisconsin’s schools seek to shorten the workforce pipeline

Matthew DeFour:

While schools are ramping up their focus on employment, fewer employers are offering training. Over the past two decades the percentage of American companies that train their employees has dropped from 35 percent to 20 percent, according to Ed Gordon, a Chicago-based economist and author of “Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis.”

“We’re seeing the same problem across every major business sector,” Gordon said. “The number of well-trained individuals who have all the skills — there aren’t enough of them. The reason is the education system that was the best in the world really hasn’t changed a whole lot in terms of what it’s producing in terms of educated people. But the job market has changed dramatically.”

Madison’s Pathways
The Madison School District’s Personalized Pathways program may be going even further than many districts in emphasizing career readiness. This fall it is altering the high school experience for hundreds of freshmen by focusing classes on health services topics.

Online training has exploded…

Essayism review: Its own kind of self-made masterpiece

John Banville::

For those of us elders who went to school under the old dispensation, nothing was more surely calculated to make us detest the essay form than that stout textbook of English prose forced on us as part of the general memory test that in those days passed for education.

The piece from that ponderous compendium everyone remembers is Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation upon Roast Pig – children are always interested in food – but how many years had to pass before it dawned on us that the likes of William Hazlitt and Robert Louis Stevenson were surpassingly fine writers?

Clifton Fadiman Didn’t Mind Being Called Schoolmasterish

Danny Heitman:

In 1960, a new book promised to point Americans toward enough literature to last them for decades. In The Lifetime Reading Plan, author Clifton Fadiman surveyed roughly 100 celebrated literary works from antiquity to the modern age, providing brief essays on everything from Homer to Herman Melville to Aldous Huxley in hopes that readers would engage with them on their own.

Nearly six decades after its debut—and almost two decades after Fadiman’s death—his Reading Plan remains in print, now in its fourth edition. It’s the most visible legacy of a man who, in his heyday, used print, radio, and television to explain literature to the vast middle of moderately educated Americans, becoming a national celebrity along the way.

Fadiman’s resumé defies easy summary. He helped establish the Book-of-the-Month Club and served on its board for more than a half century. He was also a force in shaping Encyclopedia Britannica, served as book editor of the New Yorker, and moderated a game show, carried on radio and later TV, called Information, Please, in which an erudite panel of commentators fielded questions from audience members, who would win a set of the Britannica if they stumped the experts. Additionally, Fadiman worked in book publishing, as a magazine columnist, anthologist, and familiar essayist, his musings gathered in charming collections such as Party of One, Any Number Can Play, and Enter, Conversing. With typical self-deprecation, Fadiman called himself an “odd job man” in describing his Olympian output.

Artificial intelligence pioneer says we need to start over

Steve LeVine:

In 1986, Geoffrey Hinton co-authored a paper that, four decades later, is central to the explosion of artificial intelligence. But Hinton says his breakthrough method should be dispensed with, and a new path to AI found.

Speaking with Axios on the sidelines of an AI conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Hinton, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a Google researcher, said he is now “deeply suspicious” of back-propagation, the workhorse method that underlies most of the advances we are seeing in the AI field today, including the capacity to sort through photos and talk to Siri. “My view is throw it all away and start again,” he said.
Keep reading 158 words

The bottom line: Other scientists at the conference said back-propagation still has a core role in AI’s future. But Hinton said that, to push materially ahead, entirely new methods will probably have to be invented. “Max Planck said, ‘Science progresses one funeral at a time.’ The future depends on some graduate student who is deeply suspicious of everything I have said.”

Civics: Has The New York Times Gone Collectively Mad?

Robert Parry:

What is stunning about the lede story in last Friday’s print edition of The New York Times is that it offers no real evidence to support its provocative claim that—as the headline states —“To Sway Vote, Russia Used Army of Fake Americans” or its subhead: “Flooding Twitter and Facebook, Impostors Helped Fuel Anger in Polarized U.S.”

In the old days, this wildly speculative article, which spills over three pages, would have earned an F in a J-school class or gotten a rookie reporter a stern rebuke from a senior editor. But now such unprofessionalism is highlighted by The New York Times, which boasts that it is the standard-setter of American journalism, the nation’s “newspaper of record.”

In this case, it allows reporter Scott Shane to introduce his thesis by citing some Internet accounts that apparently used fake identities, but he ties none of them to the Russian government. Acting like he has minimal familiarity with the Internet—yes, a lot of people do use fake identities—Shane builds his case on the assumption that accounts that cited references to purloined Democratic emails must be somehow from an agent or a bot connected to the Kremlin.

Strict Mothers Have Better Children (New Research Says)


Erica Rascon, a professor from the University of Essex has conducted a study which showed that strict mothers have successful children, and that successful people had highly demanding mothers. The research analyzed surveys of more than 15 000 children aged 13-14 between 2004 and 2010. According to Rascon, “the measure of the expectations in this study reflects a combination of aspirations and beliefs about the likelihood of access to higher education declared by the majority of parents, in most cases the mother.”

The children whose mothers had high expectations are much more confident and secure. The results of the study showed that daughters who had persistent and nagging mothers have 4% lower chances of getting pregnant prematurely. Children who had persistent mothers were also more likely to finish college and get a nice job. It may sound unrealistic, but demanding and strict mothers do have more successful children.

“In many cases we have success doing what they believe to be most convenient for us, even against our parents. “But no matter how much we esmeremos to avoid our parents, any recommendations form influence, albeit subtly in the decisions we make, but we believe t

Adult employment and the Madison School Board’s self interest

Chris Rickert:

Like the rest of the board, both also voted to approve the 304-page employee handbook that replaced union contracts beginning in summer 2016.

District legal counsel Dylan Pauly pointed to two board policies that include provisions related to managing conflicts of interest among board members.

One says board members should “avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest,” including those set forth in a state law that prohibits “any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.”

In such cases the board member should refrain from participating in discussions about or voting on such matters in work groups and regular board meetings, and can even choose to leave the room, according to the policy.

Pauly told me Tuesday that she was “not going to address any specific issue or question regarding conflicts of interest for any particular board member.” (She wouldn’t say if it’s district taxpayers, the media or this particular member of the media who can’t get an opinion on the behavior of taxpayer-paid, publicly elected board members from the taxpayer-paid lawyer for the school district.)

But two years ago she pointed to a 1997 opinion from the old state Ethics Board as reason why board members with close personal relations employed by the school district can vote, in some capacity, on policies that affect those close personal relations.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Preparatory IB Charter School and the more recent Montessori pseudo Charter School.

This, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,0000 per student and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

An emphasis on adult employment, and what’s different this time.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Feds Collect Record Taxes Through August; Still Run $673.7B Deficit

Terence Jeffrey:

The federal government collected record total tax revenues through the first eleven months of fiscal 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 through the end of August), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Through August, the federal government collected approximately $2,966,172,000,000 in total tax revenues.

That was $8,450,680,000 more (in constant 2017 dollars) than the previous record of $2,957,721,320,000 in total tax revenues (in 2017 dollars) that the federal government collected in the first eleven months of fiscal 2016.

At the same time that the federal government was collecting a record $2,966,172,000,000 in tax revenues, it was spending $3,639,882,000,000—and, thus, running a deficit of $673,711,000,000.

Entering her 4th year at helm, Darienne Driver assesses state of Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

So how is MPS doing? Maybe the best and broadest answer I’d give is: Somewhat better, probably better than a lot of people think, but there is still a mountain to climb and reasons to worry.

That’s not much different from the answer MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver gives. As she starts her fourth year at the top of the system, I asked her what shape things are in.

“Big-picture wise, we have definitely made some progress,” Driver said. “We’ve been willing to make some tough decisions around our infrastructure and how we are organized, how we are prioritizing things to get things done. But it’s clear we have a long way to go.”

Driver is an energetic booster for MPS. She can rattle off initiatives and changes that are encouraging — expansion of successful programs, new offerings, some improvements in ACT scores, attendance and suspension rates. The large majority of MPS schools now have policies for kids to wear uniforms and many schools started in mid-August, instead of in September.

Census Bureau: D.C. Suburbs Remain Nation’s Richest Counties

Terence Jeffrey:

T he three richest counties in the United States with populations of 65,000 or more, when measured by their 2016 median household incomes, were all suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to data released today by the Census Bureau.

Eight of the 20 wealthiest counties with populations of 65,000 or more were also suburbs of Washington, D.C.–as were 10 of the top 25.

Loudoun County, Va., with a median household income of $134,464, was nation’s wealthiest county, according to the Census Bureau.

Loudoun was also the wealthiest county in 2015. But from 2015 to 2016 its median household income increased by $8,564–rising from $125,900 to 134,464.

Howard County, Md., with a median household income of $120,941, was the nations’ second wealthiest county. Fairfax County, Va., with a median household income of $115,717, was the third wealthiest.

Civics & Domestic Spying

Jonathan Easley::

CNN reported on Wednesday that Rice told House investigators that in December — after Trump had won the election and before his inauguration — she authorized the unmasking of the identities of his advisers Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner in an intelligence report, revealing them internally.

Rice said she did so because the three were meeting with United Arab Emirates (UAE) crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, who had apparently not informed the Obama administration that he was traveling to New York City. Nahyan was not required to do so, but Rice said it would have been standard diplomatic procedure at the time.

Rice says she ordered the unmasking to find out why Nahyan had come to the U.S. and that the revelation he was meeting with Bannon, Flynn and Kushner was incidental to that effort.

The New York meeting preceded an effort by the UAE to assist in setting up a back-channel line of communication between Trump’s team and Russia.

Related: Trump Administration Says It’s Classified If They Can Let The NSA Spy On Americans.

In prison for more than 20 years, was chosen for Harvard’s elite graduate history program — until the university decided her redemption was not enough.

Marshall Project

In a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation, Jones, now 45, became a published scholar of American history while behind bars, and presented her work by videoconference to historians’ conclaves and the Indiana General Assembly. With no internet access and a prison library that skewed toward romance novels, she led a team of inmates that poured through reams of photocopied documents from the state archives to produce the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year. As prisoner No. 970554, Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays, one of which is slated to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.N.Y.U. was one of several top schools that recruited her for their doctoral programs. She was also among 18 selected from more than 300 applicants to Harvard University’s history program. But in a rare override of a department’s authority to choose its graduate students, Harvard’s top brass overturned Jones’s admission after some professors raised concerns that she downplayed her crime during the application process.

The Organisation of School Time in Europe. Primary and General Secondary Education – 2017/18


The school calendar contains national data on the length of the school year, the start and the end dates of each school year, the timing and length of school holidays and the number of school days. It covers both primary and general secondary education and key points are illustrated by comparative figures. The information is available for 37 countries.

Some variations in the number of the school days across Europe

The number of school days varies between 162 days in France (except in upper secondary education) and 200 days in Denmark and Italy. In around half the countries, it is between 170 and 180 days; in 15 countries, the number varies between 181 and 190 days. In general, the number of school days is the same in primary and secondary education but there are a few exceptions: in Belgium, France (upper secondary education) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republica Srpska), the number of schools days is higher in secondary education than in primary.
The opposite (fewer school days in secondary education than in primary education) is observed in Ireland, Greece, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

Professors told to report students who make campus ‘less inclusive’ to Behavior Assessment Team

Andrew Johnson:

Most recently, the dean’s office of Utah Valley University, a public institution located in the north-central part of Utah, distributed a guidance letter to all faculty encouraging them to report to the school’s Behavior Assessment Team any students who use “inappropriate language,” are “argumentative,” or who speak “loudly.”

The letter, titled “Recognizing and Responding to Students of Concern,” was provided to The College Fix by a professor at Utah Valley. The document instructs faculty on the various types of behaviors that merit concern, including stalking, angry outbursts and bullying, as well as the signs that a student may harm himself or others.

The guidance letter gave professors advice on how to respond to a wide range of student behaviors. Professors are instructed to use techniques ranging from “supportive gestures” to calling 911, depending on the severity of the situation.

A “Chicago high school serving detainees at the Cook County Jail falsely inflated its enrollment and attendance data and awarded course credits that were not earned”

Inspector General: Chicago Board of Education:

From the 2012–13 school year through the 2015–16 school year, 342 students were kept on the rolls improperly after their release from jail a total of 352 times

On average, those students were listed falsely as being enrolled at the school for 42 days following their release from jail In 54 instances those students were kept on the rolls for more than 100 days after their release.

The school also falsified attendance. During the 2015–16 school year alone, 45 students were reported falsely as being present for the full school day a total of 351 times after they were already released from the jail

The attendance of students still in the jail was inflated as well.

The school frequently awarded students credits when the students had not received enough classroom instruction to qualify for them.

One teacher told the OIG the school was a “credit mill.

First the diploma, then the date: how China’s educated elites find love

Zhuang Pinghui:

One afternoon in early September, Lucy Zhou decided to skip her usual Saturday lectures. Instead, the 34-year-old new media executive put on a traditional Chinese dress, let down her long hair and applied some light make-up: she was going to a group date in northern Beijing.

When she arrived, Zhou was asked to join other guests in a circle and was partnered with the man sitting next to her. After a brief conversation, their host invited each guest to introduce their partner to the 70-odd participants.

As some details were omitted and others played up, one thing that never went unmentioned was where these single people, mostly in their early 30s and some in their late 20s, received their education.

Like Zhou and the others at this matchmaking event, an increasing number of young people in China are prioritising an elite academic background over other considerations such as salary and looks when looking for a partner. Relationship experts said those with the most prestigious educations were more likely to find a match within their peer group.

The participants at the matchmaking event Zhou attended had graduated from top universities, either in China or in the United States or Britain, and many were postgraduates.

Mathematicians Measure Infinities, Find They’re Equal

Kevin Hartnett:

In a breakthrough that disproves decades of conventional wisdom, two mathematicians have shown that two different variants of infinity are actually the same size. The advance touches on one of the most famous and intractable problems in mathematics: whether there exist infinities between the infinite size of the natural numbers and the larger infinite size of the real numbers.

The problem was first identified over a century ago. At the time, mathematicians knew that “the real numbers are bigger than the natural numbers, but not how much bigger. Is it the next biggest size, or is there a size in between?” said Maryanthe Malliaris of the University of Chicago, co-author of the new work along with Saharon Shelah of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Rutgers University.

In their new work, Malliaris and Shelah resolve a related 70-year-old question about whether one infinity (call it p) is smaller than another infinity (call it t). They proved the two are in fact equal, much to the surprise of mathematicians.

Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser

Marty Swant:

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.
 Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.
 In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as “opaque and arbitrary,” warning that the changes could affect the “infrastructure of the modern internet,” which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more “generic and less timely and useful.”
 “Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Adweek this morning. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: One in Five Californians Live in Poverty

Lisa Pickoff-White and Erika Aguilar

More Californians live in poverty than in any other state, according to a measure used by the U.S. Census Bureau that takes into account the cost of living and government assistance programs.

About 20 percent of Californians lived below the Census’ “supplemental” poverty measure from 2014 to 2016, according to data released by the Bureau on Tuesday.

The supplemental poverty measure factors in the government programs for low-income families and individuals, as well as housing costs, which are not included in the official poverty measure.

Locally, Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student (far more than most), despite long term, disastrous reading results.

A&M and TCU climb, Baylor and SMU slip in 2018 U.S. News college rankings

Matthew Watkins:

Rice University in Houston is by far the best college in Texas — and the 14th-best school in the nation — according to U.S. News and World Reports’ latest college rankings.

No other Texas universities broke the top 50 of the magazine’s influential rankings.

But five jockeyed for position in spots 50 to 80, including the University of Texas at Austin (second in Texas, 56th overall) and Dallas’ Southern Methodist University (61st overall).

Texas A&M University ranks fourth in the state this year, climbing from 74th in the nation last year to 69th this year. A&M surpassed Baylor University, which fell four spots this year to 75th overall. Texas Christian University climbed from 82nd to 78th in the country this year, and now ranks fifth in Texas.

Illinois’ student exodus should drive a higher ed overhaul

Chicago Tribune:

But be wary, Governor. You’ll have trouble convincing some special interests, including legislators from university towns, that a campus isn’t first and foremost a cash cow for the local economy. Illinois can’t continue to prop up so many schools that have duplicate administrators, duplicate overhead and duplicate curriculums. Too many campuses are competing for scarce resources to do what other universities are doing better.

Whenever you encounter pushback, keep repeating: “Nine university boards to oversee 12 schools.”

The idea isn’t to weaken already-faltering universities, but to strengthen and rationalize the statewide system. By making schools accountable to centralized oversight. By streamlining procurement and consolidating other business operations. By sending a larger chunk of cash into classrooms and labs, and a smaller chunk into overhead and administration.

Fix this system now, lawmakers, and give individual schools the missions that will let them shine. Or watch more students flee.

Sandra Boynton’s whimsical animals have been delighting kids for 40 years –

Ellen McCarthy:

Sandra Boynton lives on a farm in rural Connecticut. She works out of a converted barn, surrounded by pigs in overalls, frogs wearing cowboy hats, a clutch of bemused chickens and a few skeptical sock puppets.

Standing there, you get the feeling that at any moment they might all come alive and break into a high-stepping song-and-dance. Which they probably will. Because this is Boynton’s world, and in Boynton’s world, animals do whatever she wants. And what she wants them to do, mostly, is make her smile.

It’s nice that along the way the charming creatures have sold tens of millions of children’s books and hundreds of millions of greeting cards, recorded six albums, nabbed a Grammy nomination and co-starred in a music video with B.B. King. They’re not slackers, these furry and feathered friends. They always do their job — they make Boynton smile. And then they go out into the world and do the same for untold multitudes of kids.

Liberal Arts in the Data Age

JM Olejarz:

College students who major in the humanities always get asked a certain question. They’re asked it so often—and by so many people—that it should come printed on their diplomas. That question, posed by friends, career counselors, and family, is “What are you planning to do with your degree?” But it might as well be “What are the humanities good for?”

According to three new books, the answer is “Quite a lot.” From Silicon Valley to the Pentagon, people are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do. Call it the revenge of the film, history, and philosophy nerds.

In The Fuzzy and the Techie, venture capitalist Scott Hartley takes aim at the “false dichotomy” between the humanities and computer science. Some tech industry leaders have proclaimed that studying anything besides the STEM fields is a mistake if you want a job in the digital economy. Here’s a typical dictum, from Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla: “Little of the material taught in Liberal Arts programs today is relevant to the future.”

The Blind Traveler: How James Holman Felt His Way Around the World to Become History’s Most Prolific Explorer

Lucas Reilly:

Nobody aboard could see what had happened. It was midnight, and the HMS Saunders-Hill—a merchant vessel anchored along a sleepy bend of the River Thames—shuddered violently. Crewmen clambered from their beds and grasped at tilting walls. Cries filled the briny air. In the darkness, it was difficult to make sense of what had happened.

James Holman, one of the passengers who had rushed to the deck, expected to find the Saunders-Hill wrecked to splinters. Instead he felt the boat—the whole boat—lurch from its anchorage and drift into the middle of the Thames.

The anchor chain had snapped. An errant coal ship, Holman would learn, had collided with the Saunders-Hill, sending the schooner’s rigging—the cat’s cradle of ropes, cables, and chains strung from the masts—bobbing in the current.

The good news was that the heaving ship remained afloat. Holman, a former sailor in the Royal Navy, clutched a railing and inched his way toward the helm to assist the captain.

K-12 Governance Diversity: Nashville Edition (Madison lacks substantive choice)

We hope that our commitments set forth here will inspire you to make a similar commitment to do the job you were each elected to do. We look forward to seeing you commit to a focus on ensuring that ALL Nashville children have the ability to attend great public schools. We look forward to the day when a public school family knows that they can make the best choice for their children without receiving the worst treatment from our elected officials.

Thank you.

1,012 Proud Nashville Public Charter School Parents

Locally, a majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and more recently a non independent Montessori Proposal.

Despite spending nearly $20k per student annually, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Conservatives, liberals unite against Silicon Valley

 Nancy Scola:

Simpson’s group has long criticized the country’s biggest tech companies, saying they abuse consumers on everything from privacy to pricing. But across Washington, liberals and conservatives are beginning to find common ground in the view that the industry’s power over American life has grown too vast and unchecked — and the new dynamic is upending traditional ideological alignments.
 Tech’s new critics include Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has begun sounding the alarm that Google has grown into “the most powerful company in the history of the world.”
 Carlson recently aired an interview with Matt Stoller, a member of an antitrust team that lost its jobs at the left-leaning think tank New America after praising a $2.7 billion fine that the European Commission levied against Google this summer for stifling competition. The New York Times reported that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, a New America funder, had complained about the statement posted by Stoller’s team — a turn of events that Carlson described as a sign of Google’s “terrifying” power.
 Stoller, a former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), later praised Carlson as “one of the few on TV willing to talk about it.”

Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Jon Marcus:

Behind the deceptive quiet of a small college campus in the summer, things are buzzing at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Faculty at the 175-year-old liberal-arts school, which has about 1,700 undergraduates, are preparing new majors in high-demand fields including data analytics and computational neuroscience. Admissions officers are back from scouting out prospective students in China, India and Pakistan. Recruiters have been on the road closer to home, too, in Cleveland and Chicago. In the athletics department, work is under way to add two sports and a marching band.

More money has been put into financial aid, the process of transferring to the college is being streamlined, and the ink is still wet on contracts with Carnegie-Mellon University and a medical school to speed Ohio Wesleyan students more quickly to graduate degrees. The number of internships is being expanded, along with short-term study-abroad opportunities. The university is considering freezing, lowering or slowing the rate of increase of its tuition and fees, which are now $44,690.

Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System


A new book by the Progressive Policy Institute’s David Osborne, is a story of transformation.

It is a bracing survey of the most dramatic improvements taking place in urban public education today, in cities as diverse as New Orleans, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis.
Read excerpts from Osborne’s new book.
Explore the cities on the forefront of innovation.

Meet some of the creators and changemakers leading the revolution.
Think about what the future of public education can hold for students.
Join us on this journey as we continue to share more stories of America’s changemakers in the coming months.

“I placed too much faith in underpowered studies:” Nobel Prize winner admits mistakes

Retraction Watch

What the blog gets absolutely right is that I placed too much faith in underpowered studies. As pointed out in the blog, and earlier by Andrew Gelman, there is a special irony in my mistake because the first paper that Amos Tversky and I published was about the belief in the “law of small numbers,” which allows researchers to trust the results of underpowered studies with unreasonably small samples. We also cited Overall (1969) for showing “that the prevalence of studies deficient in statistical power is not only wasteful but actually pernicious: it results in a large proportion of invalid rejections of the null hypothesis among published results.” Our article was written in 1969 and published in 1971, but I failed to internalize its message.

A Few Bad Scientists Are Threatening to Topple Taxonomy

Benjamin Jones

Before you go rushing to the hospital in search of antivenin, you’re going to want to look up exactly what kind of snake you’re dealing with. But the results are confusing. According to the official record of species names, governed by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), the snake belongs to the genus Spracklandus. What you don’t know is that almost no taxonomists use that name. Instead, most researchers use the unofficial name that pops up in Wikipedia and most scientific journal articles: Afronaja.

This might sound like semantics. But for you, it could mean the difference between life and death. “If you walk in [to the hospital] and say the snake that bit you is called Spracklandus, you might not get the right antivenin,” says Scott Thomson, a herpetologist and taxonomist at Brazil’s Museum of Zoology at the University of São Paulo. After all, “the doctor is not a herpetologist … he’s a medical person trying to save your life.”

The Do-Not-Think Tank

Christine Rosen:

So when Lynn issued a press release on June 27, 2017, congratulating the European commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, for fining Google $2.7 billion, it could hardly have come as a surprise to anyone at New America. “Google’s market power is one of the most critical challenges for competition policymakers in the world today,” Lynn wrote, and he called on U.S. regulators “to build upon this important precedent, both in respect to Google and to other dominant platform monopolists including Amazon.”

Yet it was a surprise to New America’s most-prominent donor, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Google and Schmidt have given more than $21 million to New America in recent years, and Schmidt chaired the think tank’s board for eight years. So displeased was he by Lynn’s praise for the EU decision that, according to one of the current co-chairs of the board, Jonathan Soros, he asked to be removed as chairman emeritus. Days later, Lynn and his team of 10 full-time employees were out.

When a New York Times story about the ouster appeared online on August 30, Anne-Marie Slaughter immediately tweeted, “This story is false.” This was followed by another tweet a few hours later saying, “Let me be clearer in an era of fake news; facts are largely right but quotes are taken way out of context and interpretation is wrong.” She would later delete her first tweet.

Coming on the heels of the August firing of engineer James Damore for challenging what he described as an ideologically liberal “echo chamber” at the company, this episode has seen Google do the hardest thing possible in Washington—it’s brought left and right together to question the company’s power and generated a wave of anti-monopoly fervor.

The controversy also revives perennial questions about how think tanks operate: How do institutions that take tens of millions of dollars from corporations and wealthy individuals maintain their integrity? Can policymakers and the public trust the research that emerges? And in an age that demands transparency, in which missteps and scandals are instantly magnified thanks to social media, how can research institutions pursue both relevance and rectitude?

For two years, I received financial support—$50,000 a year—from New America to study and write about technology. After my fellowship ended in 2014, I was invited to continue my relationship with the foundation as an unpaid Future Tense fellow, part of a team that sponsored debates, panels, and book events on technology-related subjects in conjunction with Arizona State University and Slate. Everyone I know at New America is hardworking and intellectually curious.

Are elite universities ‘safe spaces’? Not if you’re starting a union

Thomas Frank:

Tough-minded columnists will sputter against fancy colleges that are covering up offensive sculptures and censoring offensive speakers. Readers will be invited to gape at the latest perversity served up by our radicalized professoriate and to mourn the decline of their dear old alma mater. What, oh what is this generation coming to, they will cry.

But while they weep, let us turn our attention to an entirely different aspect of life on the American campus that doesn’t fit into the tidy narrative of fancy colleges coddling the snowflake generation. Let us look instead into the actual conditions under which the work of higher education is done. Let us talk labor.

In August 2016, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington decided that graduate students who teach classes at private universities can be considered employees of those universities, eligible to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers. It was the end point of a decades-long process in which the Board has oscillated between ruling in favor of grad student unions and then against them.

In the aftermath of the NLRB decision, graduate student teachers at Columbia and Yale universities, both schools in the Ivy League, held elections and voted to form unions. More organizing elections are scheduled for the next few weeks at a number of other private universities, and as the school year gets under way grad students should rightfully be negotiating new contracts throughout the United States.

But here’s the catch: thanks to the election of Donald Trump last November, the NLRB will soon be under the sway of his extremely anti-union Republican party.

Once Trump’s members are seated on the Labor Board, there is every likelihood they will revisit the matter of graduate student teachers and reverse themselves on the question, which would in turn permit university administrations to refuse to negotiate and even to blow off the results of these elections.

Innovation in public schools key to Colorado’s future –

Denver Business Journal

Embracing innovation and taking calculated risks are two core values that successful companies encourage every day. Whether they are in Tokyo, Silicon Valley, London, Bangalore or Denver, companies that embrace the unknown and challenge conventional wisdom position themselves for a greatness traditional companies that play it safe will never experience.

We are fortunate to live in a state whose citizens embody this philosophy. Whether it is established financial services firms who see opportunity in the state’s highly educated workforce or entrepreneurs seeking high-quality partners to help them achieve their vision, Colorado has a spirit of innovation and opportunity that fosters a positive business environment

97 (!) Emergency Elementary Teacher Licenses Granted to the Madison School District in 2016-2017

Wisconsin Reading Coalition (PDF), via a kind email:

As we reported recently, districts in Wisconsin, with the cooperation of DPI, have been making extensive use of emergency licenses to hire individuals who are not fully-licensed teachers. Click here to see how many emergency licenses were issued in your district in 2016-17 for elementary teachers, special education teachers, reading teachers, and reading specialists. You may be surprised at how high the numbers are. These are fields where state statute requires the individual to pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test to obtain a full initial license, and the emergency licenses provide an end-run around that requirement.

These individuals did not need to pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test, which would be required for full initial licensure *districts include individuals that are listed only once, but worked in multiple locations or positions

Information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

New Online Certificate Program
Now there is an even more misguided opportunity for districts to hire unprepared teachers. The budget bill, set for an Assembly vote this Wednesday, followed by a vote in the Senate, requires DPI to issue an initial license to anyone who has completed the American Board online training program. That program, for career switchers with bachelor’s degrees, can be completed in less than one year and includes no student teaching (substitute or para-professional experience is accepted). We have no objection to alternate teacher preparation programs IF they actually prepare individuals to Wisconsin standards. In the area of reading, the way to determine that is for the American Board graduates to take the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). If they cannot pass, they should not be granted anything more than an emergency license, which is what is available to individuals who complete Wisconsin-based traditional and alternate educator preparation programs but cannot pass the FORT. Wisconsin should not accept American Board’s own internal assessments as evidence that American Board certificate holders are prepared to teach reading to beginning and struggling students.

Action Requested
Please contact your legislators and tell them you do not want to weaken Wisconsin’s control over teacher quality by issuing initial licenses to American Board certificate holders who have not, at a minimum, passed the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test. Ask them to remove this provision from the budget bill. Find your legislators and contact information here.

How Should Wisconsin Address Its Teacher Shortages?
As pointed out in a recent fact sheet from the National Council on Teacher Quality, teacher shortages are particular to certain fields and geographic areas, and solutions must focus on finding and addressing the reasons for those shortages. This requires gathering and carefully analyzing the relevant data, including the quality of teacher preparation at various institutions, the pay scale in the hiring districts, and the working conditions in the district.


Am emphasis on adult employment.

How People Approach Facts and Information

John Horrigan:

The Eager and Willing – 22% of U.S. adults
 At one end of the information-engagement spectrum is a group we call the Eager and Willing. Compared with all the other groups on this spectrum, they exhibit the highest levels of interest in news and trust in key information sources, as well as strong interest in learning when it comes to their own digital skills and literacy. They are not necessarily confident of their digital abilities, but they are anxious to learn. One striking thing about this group is its demographic profile: More than half the members of this group are minorities: 31% are Hispanic; 21% are black and 38% are white, while the remainder are in other racial and ethnic groups.
 The Confident – 16% of adults
 Alongside the Eager and Willing are the Confident, who are made up of the one-in-six Americans and combine a strong interest in information, high levels of trust in information sources, and self-assurance that they can navigate the information landscape on their own. Few feel they need to update their digital skills and they are very self-reliant as they handle information flows. This group is disproportionately white, quite well educated and fairly comfortable economically. And one-third of the Confident (31%) are between the ages of 18 and 29, the highest share in this age range of any group.
 The Cautious and Curious – 13% of adults

We need to nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon. Here’s why

Nicole Smicek:

The platform – an infrastructure that connects two or more groups and enables them to interact – is crucial to these companies’ power. None of them focuses on making things in the way that traditional companies once did. Instead, Facebook connects users, advertisers, and developers; Uber, riders and drivers; Amazon, buyers and sellers.

Reaching a critical mass of users is what makes these businesses successful: the more users, the more useful to users – and the more entrenched – they become. Ello’s rapid downfall occurred because it never reached the critical mass of users required to prompt an exodus from Facebook – whose dominance means that even if you’re frustrated by its advertising and tracking of your data, it’s still likely to be your first choice because that’s where everyone is, and that’s the point of a social network. Likewise with Uber: it makes sense for riders and drivers to use the app that connects them with the biggest number of people, regardless of the sexism of Travis Kalanick, the former chief executive, or the ugly ways in which it controls drivers, or the failures of the company to report serious sexual assaults by its drivers.

Before You Study, Ask for Help

Sue Shellenbarger:

Many students will plunge into marathon study sessions this fall, rereading textbooks and highlighting their notes late into the night. The more effort the better, right?

Not so, new research shows. Students who excel at both classroom and standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT aren’t necessarily those who study longest. Instead, they study smart—planning ahead, quizzing themselves on the material and actively seeking out help when they don’t understand it.

Carl Wilke, a Tacoma, Wash., father of six children ages 4 to 22, sees the studying challenges that students face almost every school day. He coaches his children to pick out the main points in their notes rather than highlight everything, and to look for headings and words in bold type to find the big ideas in their textbooks.

Several months ago, his 18-year-old daughter Eileen tried to study for an advanced-placement exam. Eileen says she struggled with a practice test and realized that she didn’t know how to study. She asked her mother, Catherine, for help. Ms. Wilke sat with Eileen for two hours while Eileen used an answer guide for the test to explain why her answers were wrong on questions she’d missed, then discuss the correct ones. As they worked together, Eileen says, “I was teaching her while simultaneously teaching myself” the material—a study technique that enabled her to ace the test.

Arguments over free speech on campus are often seen as an issue of left v right. But the left v left battles can be just as vitriolic

The Economist

Many students have said privately that the campus has become a place where they are afraid to express dissenting opinions. Students who disagree with the protesters’ views, on social media, have been denounced as racists by activist leaders. A newly accepted international student was mocked when she asked her future classmates if there were any libertarian groups on campus. White students have complained that they have been told by other students that they are unjustified in speaking about race and identity in class. When one student voiced a dissenting opinion on social media, his classmate threatened to get him fired from his job at the college bookstore. “It’s an environment with limited representation of opinion, and it can be hostile to students who hold other views,” says Yuta Kato, a sophomore.

Yet at Reed College this term there are also signs of a counter-revolution. A professor of Muslim studies refused to lecture in front of protesters and taught his class of 150 students outside, under a tree. Some freshmen have shouted down protesters. One (black) student told them: “This is a classroom. This is not the place. Right now we are trying to learn. We are freshmen students.” The rest of his speech was drowned out by applause.

Teachers Union Document Reveals Master Plan for Unionizing Charter School Networks

Mike Antonucci:

Over the past few years we have seen major efforts to unionize teachers in charter schools in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Some have been successful, others not, but teachers unions and their allies continue to hope they can make significant inroads in the charter school movement.

These efforts face significant challenges, not the least of which is the unions’ continuing opposition to the establishment of new charter schools and hostility to many that currently exist.

In public statements the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers say they aspire to provide the best education for students and the benefits of collective bargaining for teachers. But if we want a more complete picture, we can find it in a remarkable document produced by the Pennsylvania State Education Association almost 17 years ago.

Contra the “McDonaldization” of Higher Education

LC Sheehan:

The term “McDonaldization” was coined by sociology professor George Ritzer in 1993. He meant for it to describe “the industrial process of rationalization that [was] expanding beyond industry into the cultural and educational spheres.”

Ritzer’s term caught on and in 2002, Dennis Hayes and Robin Wynyard applied it to higher education in a book they edited entitled The McDonaldization of Higher Education.

The book describes the attempt by education bureaucrats to improve higher education through the same processes of rationalization applied to industry, to make the university more efficient at delivering its “product” (degrees) to its “customers” (students).

For Hayes and Wynward, the effects of McDonaldization were negative. The point of a degree prior to McDonaldization was to signal that one had acquired a certain amount of knowledge, but after it, degrees lost their connection to education in a meaningful sense. The point of the McDonaldized degree is just to have the credential needed as an increasingly dubious means to a good job.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Where have all the workers gone? An inquiry into the decline of the U.S. labor force participation rate

Alan Krueger

The increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation (LFP) during that same period.

In “Where have all the workers gone? An inquiry into the decline of the U.S. labor force participation rate” (PDF), Princeton University’s Alan Krueger examines the labor force implications of the opioid epidemic on a local and national level.

Among other findings, the research suggests that:

Regional variation in opioid prescription rates across the U.S. is due in large part to differences in medical practices, rather than varying health conditions.

The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy

Emily Yoffe:

Kwadwo “Kojo” Bonsu, 23, was on track to graduate in the spring of 2016 with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Bonsu, who was born in Maryland, is the son of Ghanaian immigrants. He chose UMass because it gave him the opportunity to pursue his two passions, science and music. He told me he hoped to get a doctorate in polymer science or chemical engineering. At UMass he was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. He also joined a fraternity (he was the only black member), played guitar in a campus jazz band, and tutored jazz guitarists at a local high school.

Commentary on Madison’s lack of K-12 Governance Diversity

Chris Rickert:

I’d like to believe that the “us” in that statement refers not just to the adults who run and work in the schools, but the children who attend them.

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

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School, and recently, the proposed Montessori Charter.


On the Way to a Rare-Disease Cure, Parents Tackle the High Price Tag of Research

Amy Dockser Marcus:

After Luke Rosen’s 3-year-old daughter, Susannah, was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, he wanted to do what many parents increasingly have done—help accelerate the search for a treatment.

Mr. Rosen, an actor who doesn’t have a science background, quickly learned many of the steps he would need to build a research program to help Susannah and others with KIF1A-related disorder, a neurodegenerative condition that causes some children to lose the ability to walk and speak. Among the steps: set up a foundation; find…

I Failed To Prevent My Kid From Going to College

James Altucher:

I failed.

I dropped off my kid at college the other day. I didn’t want her to go to college.

In 2005 or 2006 I wrote a column in The Financial Times that nobody should go to college anymore. I then wrote a book, “40 Alternatives to College”.

For a long time that book was the #1 seller on Amazon in the category of…”College”.

A lot of people were upset at me about this. Everyone had an argument why college was a good thing and that kids should go.

Then people said to me, “Well you went to college so now you are trying to keep people beneath you by not having them go to college.”

And one person threatened to kill me. When I tracked him down it turned out he was a senior at Brown University. HIgher education.

And other people who had spent a lot of money on college stopped returning my calls because I was calling into question the decisions they had made for themselves their entire life.

School choice expansion continues in Wisconsin

Alan Borsuk:

Statewide vouchers: A big reason the voucher scene in Wisconsin is so complicated is that there are separate programs for Milwaukee, Racine and the rest of Wisconsin, each with its own rules. In this round of state budgeting, it was decided to make more people eligible for vouchers statewide by raising the maximum household income for qualifying from 185% to 220% of the federal poverty table. (For Milwaukee and Racine, the figure is 300%.) Last year, there were just over 3,000 voucher students in the statewide program. Expect that number to go up in the coming year. And an early bet: An issue in the budget two years from now will be listing the statewide income level to 300%.

Milwaukee and Racine vouchers: There wasn’t much new for these two programs in this budget. It’s easy to get vouchers in both cities and lots of families qualify. Last year in Milwaukee, more than 27,000 students used vouchers, almost a quarter of all the kids in the city getting a publicly funded education. In Racine, there were about 2,500 kids using vouchers. Enrollment in Racine United public schools was just over 19,000. How much will voucher use increase in these two cities in the next few years? Interesting question.

Charter schools: For the more independent type of charter schools (those that are to a large degree self-governed), the scene in Wisconsin is heavily concentrated in the Milwaukee area (more than 16,000 students from Milwaukee alone in such schools last year). The new budget includes ways such independent schools might expand statewide, but I recommend a wait-and-see attitude. One point to keep in mind: Charter schools cannot be religious; the large majority of voucher schools are religious.

Teacher brands

Natasha Singer

Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education start-ups like Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag like T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops. She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media.

“I will embed it in my brand every day,” Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. “I get to make it better.”

Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by start-ups like Seesaw, but by giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, to influence which tools are used to teach American schoolchildren.

Wisconsin budget proposal opens the door to controversial online teacher prep program

Annysa Johnson:

The measure is one piece of the 2017-’19 budget proposal that will be taken up by the Assembly, then the Senate, beginning Wednesday.

It was not clear initially how the measure made its way into the budget. There was no free-standing bill with sponsors’ names attached. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which drafts the budget document on behalf of lawmakers, considers the drafting documents confidential under state law.

The chairs of the Joint Finance Committee — Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) — did not respond to requests for comment.

But Olmstead said Friday that American Board has been working with Darling and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) for the last year or two in an effort to get into Wisconsin.

Tony Evers, state Superintendent of Public Instruction and Democratic candidate for governor, said he was blindsided by the measure and called it an affront to collaborative efforts already underway “to develop legitimate solutions to our teacher shortage.”

How Many Years of Life Does That House Cost? The Relative Dreaminess of the American Dream…


Nationally, there is a wide range in the accessibility of home ownership. It’s a seemingly-simple mix of a local population’s income and the price of homes there. But there are loads of factors contributing to each of those variables. So places with lots of employment opportunity will naturally attract lots of employees. But where to fit them? Conversely, areas without booming economic growth may have residents with lower incomes but the homes are also commensurately affordable (and then some). I found myself in the exceptionally limited scenario of being among the working class in an elite playground.

The Debt Limit is More Trouble Than It’s Worth

Concord Coalition:

The original purpose of creating a statutory debt limit in 1917 was not to prevent the government from running up too much debt, but to remove the requirement that Congress authorize individual issuances of debt. The intent was to help ensure that sufficient and timely credit would be available to finance World War I.

One hundred years later, things are very different. The main use of the debt limit now is to prevent the government from paying its bills on time, putting the nation’s creditworthiness at risk and threatening a global financial crisis.

Twice in recent years, 2011 and 2013, the nation was needlessly driven to the brink as policymakers debated over conditions for a debt limit increase in order to avoid a partial default on government obligations.

Financial markets, government creditors and the public looked on with increasing horror and frustration. Yet, there is no guarantee that similar brinkmanship on the debt limit will not be used in the future.

Return of the city-state

James Bartlett:

If you’d been born 1,500 years ago in southern Europe, you’d have been convinced that the Roman empire would last forever. It had, after all, been around for 1,000 years. And yet, following a period of economic and military decline, it fell apart. By 476 CE it was gone. To the people living under the mighty empire, these events must have been unthinkable. Just as they must have been for those living through the collapse of the Pharaoh’s rule or Christendom or the Ancien Régime.

We are just as deluded that our model of living in ‘countries’ is inevitable and eternal. Yes, there are dictatorships and democracies, but the whole world is made up of nation-states. This means a blend of ‘nation’ (people with common attributes and characteristics) and ‘state’ (an organised political system with sovereignty over a defined space, with borders agreed by other nation-states). Try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, are bound up in them.

A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America

Josh Lauer

The first consumer credit bureaus appeared in the 1870s and quickly amassed huge archives of deeply personal information. Today, the three leading credit bureaus are among the most powerful institutions in modern life—yet we know almost nothing about them. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are multi-billion-dollar corporations that track our movements, spending behavior, and financial status. This data is used to predict our riskiness as borrowers and to judge our trustworthiness and value in a broad array of contexts, from insurance and marketing to employment and housing.

In Creditworthy, the first comprehensive history of this crucial American institution, Josh Lauer explores the evolution of credit reporting from its nineteenth-century origins to the rise of the modern consumer data industry. By revealing the sophistication of early credit reporting networks, Creditworthy highlights the leading role that commercial surveillance has played—ahead of state surveillance systems—in monitoring the economic lives of Americans. Lauer charts how credit reporting grew from an industry that relied on personal knowledge of consumers to one that employs sophisticated algorithms to determine a person’s trustworthiness. Ultimately, Lauer argues that by converting individual reputations into brief written reports—and, later, credit ratings and credit scores—credit bureaus did something more profound: they invented the modern concept of financial identity. Creditworthy reminds us that creditworthiness is never just about economic “facts.” It is fundamentally concerned with—and determines—our social standing as an honest, reliable, profit-generating person.

Jeffrey Young:

In a time of towering tuition costs, it’s easy to criticize colleges for trying to differentiate themselves by building climbing walls, luxury dorms or lazy rivers. But as more colleges move to offer online programs, there’s another new cost that has nothing to do with delivering education: buying ads on Google and other online platforms to hook new students.

Colleges with significant online programs can spend millions each year trying to get their name out online. It’s a practice that was pioneered by for-profit colleges as they built their brands, but some college leaders worry that traditional colleges have now entered an arms race of marketing and advertising.

Pizza Over Privacy? A Paradox of the Digital Age

May Wong:

People say they want to protect their personal information, but new research shows privacy tends to take a backseat to convenience and can easily get tossed out the window for a reward as simple as free pizza.
 The study — co-authored by Susan Athey, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research — provides real-life evidence of a digital privacy paradox: a disconnect between stated privacy preferences and actual privacy choices. And it serves policymakers with some food for thought about how to regulate data sharing without creating more hassles for consumers.
 “Generally, people don’t seem to be willing to take expensive actions or even very small actions to preserve their privacy,” Athey says. “Even though, if you ask them, they express frustration, unhappiness, or dislike of losing their privacy, they tend not to make choices that correspond to those preferences.”

W hat maths are critical to pursuing ML/AI?

Chris Herd:

You absolutely need a solid grounding in multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, probability theory and information theory. It will also be helpful to be well versed in graph theory.
In my opinion one of the best starting points is “Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms” by David MacKaye. It’s a bit long in the tooth now, but it is still one of the most approachable and well written books in the field.
Another old book that stands up very well is “Probability Theory: the Logic of Science” by E. T. Jaynes.
“Elements of Statistical Learning” by Tibshirani is also good.
“Bayesian Data Analysis” by Andrew Gelman is another great read.
“Deep Learning” by Ian Goodfellow and Yoshua Bengio is useful for getting caught up with recent advances in that field.

Tech companies endure near-doubling of requests for personal data

Aliya Ram:

The US and UK governments have almost doubled their requests to obtain data from technology, media and telecoms companies over the past three years, highlighting a growing regulatory burden for businesses that are preparing for many more requests, under tough new EU privacy rules.

The number of times 26 companies — including AOL, AT&T, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn — were asked to assist the UK and US governments with investigations in 2016 increased to 704,678, up from just 354,970 three years previously, according to an analysis of public data by Deloitte, the consultancy.

The surge will vindicate claims from some companies that they face an impossible task in dealing with requests for information. Technology groups have warned that this challenge will increase dramatically under the General Data Protection Regulation, which will give EU citizens more rights over their data.

“You’ve gone from a situation 15 to 20 years ago where these requests were few and far between but, over time, the number of requests has increased and alongside that the variety of requests,” said Peter Robinson, partner at Deloitte. “Dealing with them is quite time-consuming, risky and expensive.”

Two candidates for California state superintendent raise more than $2 million

Sarah Favot:

The election is 10 months away, but the two candidates for the state superintendent of schools have together raised more than $2 million.

Marshall Tuck, who narrowly lost the 2014 contest against Tom Torlakson, leads in fundraising, reporting $1.2 million in contributions from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to the latest reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Torlakson was elected in 2010 and can’t run again due to term limits.

Tony Thurmond, a state assemblyman from Northern California, raised nearly $1.1 million in the same period.

Tuck’s past jobs include CEO of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit formed by former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that runs struggling district schools. He was also CEO of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school network in LA. Tuck was the first candidate to enter the race in March.

Betsy DeVos: The Era of Weaponized Title IX in Campus Rape Cases Is Over

Robby Soave:

“The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” her speech says, referencing the Obama-era Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, which fundamentally changed the way schools handle sexual misconduct issues. “Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach.”

The Dear Colleague letter was released on April 4, 2011, by the Office for Civil Rights, an Education Department sub-agency charged with ensuring that federally funded schools comply with Title IX, which mandates equality between the sexes. The letter holds that sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of gender inequality, and that it is thus the responsibility of colleges to vigorously investigate and adjudicate rape disputes rather than leaving such matters to the criminal justice system.

The new guidance encourages—and in some cases requires—university administrators to neglect the rights of accused students. It specifies, for instance, that colleges should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for determining guilt; officials need only be 51 percent sure an accusation is credible to expel an accused perpetrator. It also discourages officials from allowing students to cross-examine each other, because that might be too traumatizing for a survivor of sexual assault. Never mind that cross-examination is one of the best ways for an objective jury to determine who is telling the truth.

Department of education, why?

David Burkhead:

tion? Why?

In 1979, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the Federal Department of Education was created as a Cabinet Level department. In the 38 years since then, we have spent $1.5 trillion on this department. It was created in response to a study of Education in America that famously said “If a foreign nation imposed this system of education on us, it would be considered an act of war.” It was supposed to “fix” the problem and dramatically improve education in America. [Ed: The source where I got that information was apparently chronologically challenged as that quote was from the 1983 “A Nation At Risk” study. It was instead created apparently to fulfill a promise Carter made to the National Education Association gaining their support during his campaign]

New York’s Bad Teachers, Back on the Job

Marc Sternberg:

On Thursday, a million New York City children will return to school. Educators have long been concerned about a “summer slide” — the learning loss that often occurs when students are out of school for two months. It’s a serious problem. But it’s not just students who can slide backward during these months. Facing political and budgetary pressures, an entire school system can slide without strong leadership. That’s now happening in New York.

In July, two weeks after the State Legislature reauthorized mayoral control of the public school system, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration quietly announced a policy reversal: In the coming year, schools will once again be forced to hire teachers that no other school has wanted to hire. As a former principal of a high school in the Bronx, I find it hard to imagine receiving worse news.

The new policy concerns the approximately 800 teachers in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve pool, a remnant of a teacher-placement system based on seniority, not what’s best for schools or children. These are teachers who, for whatever reason, have not gotten a job in any of the city’s 1,700 schools, sometimes for many years. The city is in this position because the union contract makes dismissing teachers a virtual impossibility. A result is that taxpayers spend more than $150 million a year to pay them not to teach. Given the alternative, though, it’s money well spent.

The Tradeoff Fallacy

Joseph Turrow, Michael Hennessy and Nora Draper:

New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americans give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. To the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal.

The findings also suggest, in contrast to other academics’ claims, that Americans’ willingness to provide personal information to marketers cannot be explained by the public’s poor knowledge of the ins and outs of digital commerce. In fact, people who know more about ways marketers can use their personal information are more likely rather than less likely to accept discounts in exchange for data when presented with a real-life scenario.

Our findings, instead, support a new explanation: a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data—and that is why many appear to be engaging in tradeoffs. Resignation occurs when a person believes an undesirable outcome is inevitable and feels powerless to stop it. Rather than feeling able to make choices, Americans believe it is futile to manage what companies can learn about them. Our study reveals that more than half do not want to lose control over their information but also believe this loss of control has already happened.

By misrepresenting the American people and championing the tradeoff argument, marketers give policymakers false justifications for allowing the collection and use of all kinds of consumer data often in ways that the public find objectionable. Moreover, the futility we found, combined with a broad public fear about what companies can do with the data, portends serious difficulties not just for individuals but also—over time—for the institution of consumer commerce.
Marketers justify their data-collection practices with the notion of tradeoffs, depicting an informed public that understands the opportunities and costs of giving up its data and makes the positive decision to do so. A 2014 Yahoo report, for example, concluded that online Americans “demonstrate a willingness to share information, as more consumers begin to recognize the value and self-benefit of allowing advertisers to use their data in the right way.”1 This image of a powerful consumer has become a way to claim to policymakers and the media that Americans accept widespread tracking of their backgrounds, behaviors, and lifestyles across devices, even though surveys repeatedly show they object to these activities.

Our study challenges the assertion that tradeoffs explains what most Americans are doing. With the help of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, we conducted a representative national cell phone and wireline phone survey of 1,506 Americans age 18 and older who use the internet or email “at least occasionally.” We presented them with everyday circumstances where marketers collect people’s data, phrasing the situations as tradeoffs— and learned that very many feel those tradeoffs are unfair.

Academia is too important to be left to academics

Maximillian Alvarez:

WHAT CAME FIRST,” in the immortal words of Nick Hornby, “the music or the misery?” During one of the most highly anticipated panels at the biggest academic conference of the year in my field, I’m sitting on the floor with a bunch of other eager dopes who didn’t show up in time to snag a seat. Everyone’s still in high spirits, though. One of the hottest names in “theory” today is running the panel and all the papers sound fascinating, in an obsessive hobbyist sort of way—it all promises to be a thunderous nerdgasm.

Then, halfway through the panel, it hits me: this is awful. The redeeming insights are just so few and far between, stranded between deserts of lame, forced conference humor and straightforward, even banal points dressed up in comically unnecessary jargon. And everyone in the audience keeps nodding. I’m annoyed first, then just overwhelmingly sad. Being overwhelmingly sad is, to be fair, a regular part of being an academic, and oftentimes it can feel like there’s just something about the profession that attracts overwhelmingly sad people. But, for the first time, I start to wonder if it’s not just me. In my head, all I can hear is Hornby by way of John Cusack . . . Did I join academia because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I joined academia?

Mother gives up custody of newborn at Waco firehouse under ‘Baby Moses’ law

Kristin Hoppa

Burnett said this is the first time a baby has been relinquished at a Waco fire station in his tenure. He said other firefighters could not remember another infant left at a Waco fire station. But the firefighters’ focus was on the health and well-being of the child and mother.

‘One of our youngest’
“We talked with her and made sure that she didn’t need medical attention either, but she said she was fine,” Burnett said. “In our job, it is our mission to take care of the oldest citizen down to the youngest, so we knew we would definitely be taking care of one of our youngest that night.”

Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said the woman told firefighters that she did not know she was pregnant before the child’s birth. She said she had other children at home and brought a diaper bag with supplies for the baby, but she believed she could not properly care for the infant.

“I’ve been told this is the first child who has been taken to a fire station under the Baby Moses law (in Waco),” Tatum said. “The mom left minimal information, but we are very grateful that she left the baby at a safe place, because you always hear about situations about a baby being left in a Dumpster or in a dangerous situation.”

When the woman left the fire station, police and emergency medical professionals were called to retrieve the child. The baby was taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center for medical evaluation.

The law
Texas became the first state to enact safe haven laws in 1999, allowing a parent to bring an infant 60 days old or younger to a designated safe place, including a hospital, freestanding emergency medical care facility, fire station, or emergency medical services station. Officials will take temporary custody of the child and the parent’s identity will remain confidential, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.

Unlearning the myth of American innocence

sSuzy Hansen:

When my best friend from Wall revealed one night that she hadn’t heard of John McEnroe or Jerry Garcia, some boys on the dormitory hall called us ignorant, and white trash, and chastised us for not reading magazines. We were hurt, and surprised; white trash was something we said about other people at the Jersey Shore. My boyfriend from Wall accused me of going to Penn solely to find a boyfriend who drove a Ferrari, and the boys at Penn made fun of the Camaros we drove in high school. Class in America was not something we understood in any structural or intellectual way; class was a constellation of a million little materialistic cultural signifiers, and the insult, loss or acquisition of any of them could transform one’s future entirely.

In the end, I chose to pursue the new life Penn offered me. The kids I met had parents who were doctors or academics; many of them had already even been to Europe! Penn, for all its superficiality, felt one step closer to a larger world.

Still, I cannot remember any of us being conscious of foreign events during my four years of college. There were wars in Eritrea, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Kashmir. US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. Panama, Nicaragua (I couldn’t keep Latin American countries straight), Osama bin Laden, Clinton bombing Iraq – nope.

I knew “Saddam Hussein”, which had the same evil resonance as “communism”. I remember the movie Wag the Dog, a satire in which American politicians start a fake war with foreign “terrorists” to distract the electorate during a domestic scandal – which at the time was what many accused Clinton of doing when he ordered a missile strike on Afghanistan during the Monica Lewinsky affair. I never thought about Afghanistan. What country was in Wag the Dog? Albania. There was a typical American callousness in our reaction to the country they chose for the movie, an indifference that said, Some bumblefuck country, it doesn’t matter which one they choose.

$330,000 in financial aid bought me a slot in the American meritocracy. Now I see its flaws.

Andrew Granato:

I grew up attending public schools in Iowa and Ohio until increasing frustration with my schooling led my family and me to reply to a flier about boarding schools. Up until then, I believed boarding schools only existed in England; I had never heard of “Exeter” or “Andover.” I applied to four schools and chose to attend the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, despite knowing essentially nothing about the place, because it gave me full need-based aid.

I do not come from a low-income family; for most of my childhood, my family’s income was close to that of the median American household, which was $56,516 last year. However, at Middlesex, I had one of the lowest family incomes in the entire school: More than 70 percent of the student body did not receive any need-based aid at a school that cost over $50,000 a year for boarding students and over $40,000 a year for day students.

Many students came from families with storied histories. Many others, while not necessarily the kids of CEOs, had parents who were financiers, doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. In my senior speech to the school  —  part critique and part love letter  —  I talked about the culture clash between my upbringing in the Midwest and my years at an institution that has long been part of the Northeast’s WASP culture.

The economy does best when talented risk-takers are driven by the chance to strike it rich.

Noah Smith:

In the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” a middle-aged businessman has one word of life advice for our hero: “plastics.” He meant that the younger man should try to get rich by going into the booming plastics industry. In the 1960s, plastics and other technology industries of the day seemed like a gold rush. But they weren’t the first or the last.

From whale oil and the actual California gold rush in the 1800s, to the dot-com boom and the finance mania in recent decades, Americans have always been entranced by the idea of an industry where everyone can get rich quick. Like Bill Gates dropping out of college to start Microsoft Corp., millions of young entrepreneurs over the centuries have picked up and moved to where they saw opportunity.

Now, though, the U.S. economy looks like it might have run out of gold rushes. Overall, the economy is doing pretty well — unemployment is low, labor force participation is recovering, wages have risen and stock markets are at record highs. But if you’re a young, energetic American entrepreneur or talented worker looking to strike it rich, where do you go in 2017? The Wall Street and real estate booms of the 2000s are now ancient history. What’s left?

Some school districts tail parents to check where family actually lives

Shannon Gilchrist

Fake addresses, leased apartments that go unused, long-distance commutes to drop kids off at school bus stops: Some parents go to great lengths to enroll their children in a desirable school district, or to keep them there once they have to move away.

Often, those are the same school districts that work hard to root out people they suspect of being outsiders.

In April, lots of Bexley residents chimed in over social media when an outraged mother posted that the Bexley school district hired a private investigator to tail her for months to see if she and her young son actually live at her mother’s house. She said she works multiple jobs and isn’t at home much.

In the Facebook post that has since been removed, she said her son had been kicked out of school with only five weeks left in the year, and that she was talking to a lawyer. Some commenters were appalled that the school would be so unwelcoming to kick out any child; some called the investigation process “creepy”; but others were dubious about her claim that she lives there and said the district had the right to do it.

One of the world’s most influential math texts is getting a beautiful, minimalist edition

Andrew Liptak:

A couple of years ago, a small publisher called Kroncker Wallis issued a handsome, minimalist take on Isaac Newton’s Principia. Now, the publisher is embarking on its next project: Euclid’s Elements.

The publisher is using Kickstarter to fund this new edition. Euclid’s Elements is a mathematical text written by Greek mathematician Euclid around 300 BCE and has been called one of the most influential textbooks ever produced. The treatise contains 13 separate books, covering everything from plane geometry, the Pythagorean theorem, golden ratio, prime numbers, and quite a bit more. The books helped to influence scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Sir Isaac Newton. In 1847, an English mathematician named Oliver Byrne re-wrote the first six books of Euclid’s Elements, taking its concepts and illustrating them.

The publisher explains that this is an attempt to complete Byrne’s work. It is working with a group of mathematicians and academics to illustrate all thirteen books in the style of Byrne’s original book in a beautiful, minimalist edition.

How to handle an HireVue interview with an investment bank

Sarah Buchter:

t can read your mind

If you’re interviewing for a graduate position with an investment bank for 2017 and you haven’t heard of HireVue, wake up. HireVue is the new, new thing. Goldman Sachs is using it this year. So is J.P. Morgan. So, undoubtedly are many others.

At its most fundamental, HireVue is a digital interviewing system. The bank or finance firm in question asks you to film yourself answering some prerecorded interview questions using HireVue’s portal. So far, so normal. Except….HireVue is more than that. The HireVue system also incorporates something known as “predictive analytics.” This allows it to analyze your responses in almost frightening detail.

‘You Have to Know History to Actually Teach It’

David Cutler:

It’s tough for a historian to earn the adoration of both academia and popular culture, but Eric Foner has managed to do it. His books on American history are assigned reading at universities and colleges across the country. Reviewers have praised his work as “monumental in scope” and declared that it “approaches brilliance.” He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2011 book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery—and appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss it. (In addition, I can’t overstate the lasting influence that Foner has had on my career as a high-school history teacher. I constantly refer to his growing body of work when teaching students not only original thinking, but also effective writing and analysis. I’ve also used his textbook to teach Advanced Placement United States History with terrific results.)

I recently spoke to Foner about the teachers who influenced him and how high-school history teachers can better prepare students for college.

Choose Your Paradox – the downside of the Axiom of Choice

Bill Wadge:

This trouble takes many forms. The Banach Tarski paradox is just one. AC also (obviously) implies that there are sets that don’t have a volume (or area, or length).

The supposed existence of nonmeasurable sets seriously complicates analysis. (Analysis is, roughly speaking, generalized calculus.) Analysis textbooks are full of results which state that such-and-such a procedure always generates a measurable set. If students ask to see an example of one of these mysterious objects that don’t have a volume (or area, or length), the instructor is in trouble. AC tells you that such sets exist, but says nothing about any particular one of them. It’s non constructive.

In fact it can be shown that almost any set that is in any sense definable (say, by logical formulas) is measurable. For example, all Borel sets are measurable. If authors simply assumed that all sets are measurable, the average text would shrink to a fraction of its size. And they wouldn’t get into trouble – it is not possible, without AC, to prove the existence of a non measurable set.

The Fearless Speech Index: Who is afraid to speak, and why?

Sean Stevens:

Norms about speech seem to be changing rapidly on many college campuses. Universities are offering or requiring training in recognizing “microaggressions,” and they are creating “bias response teams” to make it easy for students to report professors and fellow students who commit microaggressions. In response, many students and professors say they now feel like they are “walking on eggshells”, not just in the classroom but in informal interactions as well.

But how do we know that these changes are real? Might the stories just be a collection of anecdotes from a few disgruntled people who are over-reacting to being censured for a rude remark? Where is the data showing that students are afraid to speak their minds?

We know of no good survey to measure this phenomenon, so a group* of social scientists at Heterodox Academy created one – the Fearless Speech Index. This post explains the first draft of the survey and reports preliminary results obtained from an internet sample.

The FSI was designed to give professors and administrators a tool to assess the degree to which students feel comfortable (or reluctant) to speak up and offer their opinions in a relatively small class, with 20-30 students. We use this as the focal situation because it is the place where it is most urgent for students to participate honestly. If students are self-censoring in such class discussions, they are harming their fellow students by giving them a less interesting class and a false impression of the social consensus.

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

Jon Marcus:

our floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine Research Institute resort often to Hollywood comparisons.

Thin beams of blue light shoot from thirty-six of the same kind of infrared motion cameras used to create lifelike characters for films like Avatar. In this case, the researchers are studying the movements of a volunteer fitted with sensors that track his skeleton and muscles as he bends and lifts. Among other things, they say, their work could lead to the kind of robotic exoskeletons imagined in the movie Aliens.

When Prosecutors Bully Defense lawyers who get threatened by opposing counsel rarely have a recourse. Here’s how that could change.

Jessica Brand

In February, San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood allegedly did just that. LaHood was prosecuting Miguel Martinez, who stood accused of shooting a graduate student named Laura Carter in the head during a drug deal gone bad. Martinez’s trial derailed soon after it began. On the second day, the government disclosed that its star witness, who was also a possible suspect in the killing, had once had a sexual encounter with a prosecutor in the DA’s office. The defense argued that the relationship gave the witness a motive to help the government and gave the government a reason not to investigate or charge the witness. The defense accused prosecutors of violating their constitutional duty by failing to disclose that information before trial. The defense lawyers asked for a mistrial and indicated they may ask the judge to bar further prosecution.
According to defense pleadings, LaHood threatened to shut down the opposing counsels’ practice during a meeting in the judge’s chambers. He allegedly said he would “go to the media and do whatever it took” and that he did “not care what happened to him.” Their client would also be at risk, LaHood allegedly said, because he would be “better prepared for trial the next time” and he would “pick a better jury.” The defense lawyers, Christian Henricksen and Joe Gonzalez, asked for a mistrial. Trial Judge Lori Valenzuela granted their motion.

A Bizarre Case at USC Shows How Broken Title IX Enforcement Is Right Now

Jesse Singal:

Setting aside the very real harm done to Katz and Boermeester here, it shouldn’t come as a shock that political conservatives feast on these cases to score points in the broader culture war. “The war on men on college campuses rages on …” intoned the subhed of the Daily Wire’s coverage. But these cases aren’t really about ideology, per se. Rather, they’re the predictable result of the past administration’s guidance, which put schools in a position where they quite reasonably inferred that if they didn’t pursue even questionable or flimsy cases aggressively, they risked running afoul of the government. Big, risk-averse, corporate-style bureaucracies created to handle what is perceived as a crisis are not going to make sage decisions about this sort of thing, and the confusing federal-enforcement climate has only exacerbated the problem. Things are so tangled that at one point in 2016, the Justice Department told universities that in some cases they could be in Title IX violation if they didn’t investigate certain types of constitutionally protected speech (courts have ruled that public but not private universities need to adhere to the First Amendment in their dealings with students). If universities are simultaneously being told by the government they need to respect students’ free speech, but also that they need to investigate protected speech in other instances, something is seriously wrong.


Mark Harris:

When Sergeant Lee DeBrabander marked a case confidential in the Long Beach drug squad’s Palantir data analysis system in November 2014, he expected key details to remain hidden from unauthorized users’ eyes. In police work, this can be crucial—a matter of life and death, even. It often involves protecting vulnerable witnesses, keeping upcoming operations hush hush, or protecting a fellow police officer who’s working undercover.
Yet not long after, someone working in the gang crimes division ran a car license plate mentioned in his case and was able to read the entire file. “Can you please look at this?” DeBrabander wrote to a Palantir engineer in an email, which was obtained by Backchannel in response to public records requests.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Sacramento sets its eye on taxing our drinking water

According to the California Tax Foundation, since the beginning of this year Sacramento lawmakers have introduced more than 90 bills that would cost taxpayers more than $370 billion annually in higher taxes and fees. Now these lawmakers want to add another tax but this time on your drinking water. Will there be anything that is not taxed in California?

Winston Churchill once said, “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” And I agree, continuously taxing Californians is not the answer.

When SB623 was presented in the Environmental Safety and Toxics Material Committee, I wanted to support it. It was a feel-good bill that was trying to find a solution for getting more clean drinking water in California and it didn’t have any burdensome tax language. It was my hope that the bill would improve once it left the Appropriations Committee. But in the end, I was wrong. The solution they came up with was to add more than one tax to help fund the program.


minding the campus:

The campus witnessed two dramatic racist events during the past academic year. A white student threw a banana at an African-American student in her dorm room and scribbled obscene graffiti on her door’s whiteboard. Later, during final exams, someone hung nooses with bananas marked with racist messages, including one attacking the African-American sorority of the new student body president, at three separate locations on campus, and vicious white supremacist attacks on her followed.

Both incidents were widely and laudably condemned by students, faculty, and administration alike in a positive exercise of free speech. The student who perpetrated the invasion of another student’s room was caught and disciplined by the university. AU has enlisted the FBI’s assistance and vowed to catch and to punish the other guilty parties.

But as those who follow campus news well know, racist or sexist events rarely end with punishment or a return to normality. They often trigger cries of “systemic” racism or sexism, curable only by reform programs, usually mandatory, to reshape the attitudes of all students.

West Virginia Revamps Vocational Track

Dana Goldstein:

West Virginia has especially big challenges transitioning students to life after high school. According to the Social Science Research Council, 17 percent of the state’s young adults are “disconnected,” neither working nor in school, the second-highest rate among states, behind only New Mexico.
But in few other states have the changes in vocational education — now rebranded as “career and technical education” — been as dramatic. Thirty-seven percent of West Virginia high school seniors completed a technical course of study in 2016, up from 18 percent in 2010.

Many are now in simulated workplaces where they learn to work with stethoscopes, welding torches and drafting tables as well as more sophisticated technology.


Allison Harbin

About two months before I submitted the full draft of my 300+ page dissertation to my committee for my Ph.D. approval, my computer died. But that is not what this story is about.

Panicked about the time lost without a computer, I rushed to the Apple store as soon as I could. I was spending winter break in my parent’s barn that had just been converted into an apartment next to their house so I could write without interruption. The Apple store was a solid hour and a half away, in a huge mall in the center of Atlanta. It felt strange to be in such a public place, the bright lights and minimalist design of the store had always unnerved me. It was loud and crowded. As I waited for my turn at the Genius Bar, I checked my email on a sample computer. At the top of my inbox was an email from Academia.edu alerting me that a professor on my dissertation committee, we’ll call them Dr. Mao here, had uploaded a paper they had recently published in a journal that I loved. Curious, I downloaded the paper and read it as I waited my turn.

As I read it, my stomach churned and my heart dropped. The constant murmur of conversation around me fell away, and all of a sudden, I was completely alone with my thoughts as I scrolled through the essay. The language was so familiar, though the argument had been expertly changed just enough. It sounded like my paper, one that I had sent to Dr. Mao for advice a year earlier. I never received that advice, but I guess it had been read after all.


Ben Southwood:

It’s so far unclear whether extra school in middle adolescence benefits or harms those affected—some studies find a benefit to cognitive or non-cognitive skills, others don’t. Some find benefits to earnings. These are all affected by the usual problems: issues with identification, lack of controls, fade-out, and publication bias. But the evidence on earlier schooling is much less divided—and it almost universally finds that going to school too early stunts child development.

What’s more, “too early” is well within the range of when we currently send kids to school. In Britain kids go to school at four or five. But a Danish study (pdf) found that even at around age seven starting school later led to less crime and delinquency through life. This study—and most of the others I present—used a “quasi-random” study design.

For example, the authors might use arbitrary cutoffs. If someone is born on 31st August and another person on 1st September it’s likely that a jump in some variable between them that isn’t seen between 30th & 31st August birthdays, or between 1st & 2nd September birthdays, is down to the effects of the cutoff.

Impact of Early Work Experiences on Subsequent Paid Employment for Young Adults With Disabilities

Arif A. Mamun, PhD, Erik W. Carter, PhD, Thomas M. Fraker, PhD, …

To better understand how early work experience shapes subsequent employment outcomes for young people (ages 18 to 20) with disabilities, we analyzed longitudinal data from the Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) evaluation to test whether the employment experiences of 1,053 youth during the initial year after entry affected their employment during the third year after entry. To derive causal estimates, we used a dynamic-panel estimation model to account for time-invariant unobserved individual characteristics that may be correlated with youth’s self-selection into both early and later employment. We also controlled for other socioeconomic and health factors that may affect later employment. We found that early work experience increases the probability of being employed 2 years later by 17 percentage points. This estimate is an important advancement over the correlational approaches that characterize the current literature and provides stronger evidence that early work experience is a key determinant of subsequent labor market success.

One of the fathers of modern computing used this 6-step process to solve any problem


And if this is the case for some of the simplest human activities, it’s far more true for the most complex ones — writing symphonies and novels, developing new technologies, inventing new scientific paradigms. Geniuses are rarely the best teachers, the best critics, or the best explainers. So it’s rare to come across a genius’s account of “how genius works.”

But such accounts do exist, and we were lucky enough to unearth one near the end of our research into the life of Claude Shannon (1916-2001), the intellectual architect of the information age.

If the FBI Has Your Biometrics, It Doesn’t Have to Tell You


A new rule will prevent millions of people from finding out if their fingerprints, iris scans and other biometric information is stored in a massive federal database.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification system stores the biometric records of people who have undergone background checks for jobs, volunteer positions and military service, as well as of those who have criminal records. Effective Aug. 31, that database will be exempt from certain parts of the Privacy Act, a law that allows people whose records are held by the federal government to request more information about which records those are.

The exemption means the FBI doesn’t have to acknowledge if it is storing the biometric records of an individual in that database; the bureau has argued that notifying people that they were in the database could compromise investigations.

How Portland Is Driving Away New Residents of Color

Zahir Janmohamed:

At a lecture in Portland last October, Isabel Wilkerson—the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote about the great migration of Black Americans from the south to the north—said that when people leave a place, it’s often a referendum on the very place they leave.

So then what does it mean when I, and other people of color (POC), walk away from Portland because we can no longer stomach its racism? What does it say about Portland and specifically, the failure of its liberalism?

I’ve been wrestling with these issues ever since I moved to Columbus, Ohio, in July. But before I left, I spent my last month in Portland traveling the city, asking POC how their experiences mirrored or differed from my own. What struck me was the very frank and seldom heard opinions by POC born and raised in Portland who are tired—understandably so—by new transplants like myself criticizing their city.

They have a point. Perhaps I was naïve in thinking I would like Portland. When my partner and I moved to Oregon in 2015 from Santa Barbara, California, I thought Portland might be the place for me. After all, it’s a literary city, a soccer city, a food lovers’ city, and a solidly Democratic city—four things central to my identity. But almost immediately after I arrived, I found myself eager to get out.

I quickly grew accustomed to being asked by white people about my ethnic heritage—whether at the grocery store, sports bar, or on TriMet—and learned to say that I’m Indian American in the first few minutes of practically every conversation, just to set them at ease. It never really worked. They specifically wanted to know about the “Mohamed” in my last name.

Memories of Kurt Gödel

Rudy Rucker:

I didn’t know where his real office door was, so I went around to knock on the outside door instead. This was a glass patio door, looking out on a little pond and the peaceful woods beyond the Institute for Advanced Study. It was a sunny March day, but the office was quite dark. I couldn’t see in. Did Kurt Gödel really want to see me?

Suddenly he was there, floating up before the long glass door like some fantastic deep-sea fish in a pressurized aquarium. He let me in, and I took a seat by his desk.

Kurt Gödel was unquestionably the greatest logician of the century. He may also have been one of our greatest philosophers. When he died in 1978, one of the speakers at his memorial service made a provocative comparison of Gödel with Einstein … and with Kafka.

Like Einstein, Gödel was German-speaking and sought a haven from the events of the Second World War in Princeton. And like Einstein, Gödel developed a structure of exact thought that forces everyone, scientist and layman alike, to look at the world in a new way.

Impact of breast milk on IQ, brain size and white matter development

Elizabeth B. Isaacs, Bruce R. Fischl, […], and Alan Lucas:

Although observational findings linking breast milk to higher scores on cognitive tests may be confounded by factors associated with mothers’ choice to breastfeed, it has been suggested that one or more constituents of breast milk facilitate cognitive development, particularly in preterms. Because cognitive scores are related to head size, we hypothesised that breast milk mediates cognitive effects by affecting brain growth. We used detailed data from a randomized feeding trial to calculate percentage of breast milk (%EBM) in the infant diet of 50 adolescents.

Food guru who brought healthier meals to L.A. schools charged with mishandling district funds

James Queally:

Beck said he still can’t believe it took six years, and outside intervention by prosecutors, to get to the bottom of the conduct he uncovered long ago.

“All these internal control entities that were supposed to be exercising internal control were not doing it,” he said. “I brought it to their attention, and they did nothing about it.”

Moving Beyond the Turing Test with the Allen AI Science Challenge

Carissa Schoenick, Peter Clark, Oyvind Tafjord, Peter Turney, Oren Etzioni

The field of artificial intelligence has made great strides recently, as in AlphaGo’s victories in the game of Go over world champion South Korean Lee Sedol in March 2016 and top-ranked Chinese Go player Ke Jie in May 2017, leading to great optimism for the field. But are we really moving toward smarter machines, or are these successes restricted to certain classes of problems, leaving others untouched? In 2015, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) ran its first Allen AI Science Challenge, a competition to test machines on an ostensibly difficult task—answering eighth-grade science questions. Our motivations were to encourage the field to set its sights more broadly by exploring a problem that appears to require modeling, reasoning, language understanding, and commonsense knowledge in order to probe the state of the art while sowing the seeds for possible future breakthroughs.

A free, teacher-less university in France is schooling thousands of future-proof programmers

Jenny Anderson:

When you walk into École 42, a teacher-less coding school in Paris, a few things leap out at you: a killer collection of provocative street art, including an illustrated condom machine at the front desk; iMacs as far as the eye can see; and a palpable buzz from the roughly 1,000 students bustling around the building.

It is week two of la piscine (the “swimming pool”), a one-month, Hunger Games-like test students must endure to get a place at the school. No degrees or special skills are required to apply, and those who are accepted attend for free for three to five years. Around 80% of students get jobs before they finish the course; 100% are employed by the end.

The school is the brainchild of Xavier Niel, a French billionaire who has so far spent about €48 million ($57 million) on the Paris campus and an additional $46 million on a school in Silicon Valley. Niel founded Free, France’s second-largest internet service provider, among other ventures. He is a serial entrepreneur who is always looking for the best and brightest talent. In 2013, struggling to find it, he declared that France’s education system was broken and set out to fix one part of it.

What will it do to kids to have digital butlers they can boss around?

Rachel Metz:

Amazon’s Alexa, my four-year-old niece Hannah Metz is an early adopter. Her family has four puck-like Amazon Echo Dot devices plugged in around her house—including one in her bedroom—that she can use to call on Alexa at any moment.

“Alexa, play ‘It’s Raining Tacos,’” she commanded on a recent sunny afternoon, and the voice-controlled helper immediately complied, blasting through its speaker a confection of a song with lines like “It’s raining tacos from out of the sky” and “Yum, yum, yum, yum, yumidy yum.”

The story behind the birth of the information age.

Jimmy Sonu & Jessica Lin:

With his marriage to Norma Levor over, Claude Shannon was a bachelor again, with no attachments, a small Greenwich Village apartment, and a demanding job. His evenings were mostly his own, and if there’s a moment in Shannon’s life when he was at his most freewheeling, this was it. He kept odd hours, played music too loud, and relished the New York jazz scene. He went out late for raucous dinners and dropped by the chess clubs in Washington Square Park. He rode the A train up to Harlem to dance the jitterbug and take in shows at the Apollo. He went swimming at a pool in the Village and played tennis at the courts along the Hudson River’s edge. Once, he tripped over the tennis net, fell hard, and had to be stitched up.

His home, on the third floor of 51 West Eleventh Street, was a small New York studio. “There was a bedroom on the way to the bathroom. It was old. It was a boardinghouse … it was quite romantic,” recalled Maria Moulton, the downstairs neighbor. Perhaps somewhat predictably, Shannon’s space was a mess: dusty, disorganized, with the guts of a large music player he had taken apart strewn about on the center table. “In the winter it was cold, so he took an old piano he had and chopped it up and put it in the fireplace to get some heat.” His fridge was mostly empty, his record player and clarinet among the only prized possessions in the otherwise spartan space. Claude’s apartment faced the street. The same apartment building housed Claude Levi-Strauss, the great anthropologist. Later, Levi-Strauss would find that his work was influenced by the work of his former neighbor, though the two rarely interacted while under the same roof.

Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime

Sal Nuzzo & Trey Kovacs:

Over the past 20 years, Floridians have consistently made conscious decisions about the type of government we want to leave to our kids, our grandkids, and their grandkids. Those decisions have, for the most part, focused on a commitment to limited government, low taxes, and economic liberty. From the governorship of Jeb Bush through Rick Scott (in collaboration with our leaders in the House and Senate), with very few exceptions we have sought to control the size and scope of government encroachment in our lives. That commitment has largely been effective at providing a consistent and healthy business climate, and a small footprint of government reach at both the state and local levels. Floridians largely enjoy a quality of life free of government intrusion.

That same philosophy has also extended to our status as a “right to work” state. Florida has embraced the notion that individuals should be able to secure employment without being coerced into joining a union against their wishes. Right to work status is not unique to Florida – in fact a national trend is occurring even in typically “union heavy” states to guarantee the rights of workers to be free of coercion from unions. In February 2017, the state of Missouri became the 28th state to join the ranks of the free.