OK Google, Get Out of My Face

Rachel Metz:

Today I got a glimpse of the future. It’s overwhelming. And it’s amazing. But it’s also very scary.

I was at a press event Wednesday in San Francisco, where Google introduced its newest slate of products. There were a lot of updates to existing products: shiny Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, a new version of the Daydream virtual-reality headset, smaller and larger versions of Google’s Home personal assistant speaker, and a convertible Pixelbook laptop. There were also two less-expected items: a square life-logging camera called Pixel Clips and a pair of wireless earbuds called Pixel Buds aimed at real-time (or, probably more realistically, close to real-time) translation when used with one of the company’s Pixel smartphones.

Lies, damned lies and UNC.

JD King:

he sad thing is we bought it.

For a long time, we bought it – the whole business. The idea that UNC was a public Ivy. The idea that there was such a thing as the Carolina Way. The idea that the crucible of the ‘60s scandal was so severe that UNC, scorched as it was, would stay away from the dark side of the game forevermore.

Worse, when Duke lost to these cheaters, we consoled ourselves, and our readers, that at least UNC did things the right way. It wasn’t like losing to, say, Kentucky or worse, Vegas. UNC still had some honor.

It took awhile but we began to catch on. We heard rumors in the ‘90s, some very specific. We heard one that Dean Smith called a professor and left a message asking for a lenient grade for one of his players.

When the professor called back, the rumor said, Smith told him never mind. I got it from someone else.

We knew about the 400 SAT of course, everyone knew that. We didn’t know until later what FSU coach Pat Kennedy said about how it wasn’t fair to play UNC when the Tar Heels started five academic exceptions.

There was another rumor about a player who went to the NBA in the late ‘90s. The rumor was that he cheated in summer school. The details were pretty specific.

Brain Stimulation Partly Awakens Patient after 15 Years in Vegetative State

Sharon Begley:

Patients who lose consciousness for more than a year are considered extremely unlikely to regain it, but a 35-year-old Frenchman who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years has shown hints of awareness after having key brain regions electrically stimulated, scientists reported on Monday.

The patient was able to follow an object with his eyes, turn his head when asked to, and widened his eyes in surprise when a researcher’s head came close to his face — none of which he did in a vegetative state. Although he is far from recovered, and although hopeful results in one patient don’t mean the technique will work for others, the study adds to evidence that there might be a way to restore consciousness to some patients — even years later.

The new report shows that even in a very low functioning brain “a shift in observable behaviors from none, a vegetative state, to some limited ones — a minimally conscious state — can occur,” said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medical College who was not involve in the current case. He led a 2007 study in which a minimally conscious patient (a person who shows occasional intention, attention, awareness, and responsiveness) improved somewhat with deep brain stimulation of the thalamus..

The Mathematical Genius of Auto-Tune

Zachary Crockett:

Auto-Tune — one of modern history’s most reviled inventions — was an act of mathematical genius.

The pitch correction software, which automatically calibrates out-of-tune singing to perfection, has been used on nearly every chart-topping album for the past 20 years. Along the way, it has been pilloried as the poster child of modern music’s mechanization. When Time Magazine declared it “one of the 50 worst inventions of the 20th century”, few came to its defense.

But often lost in this narrative is the story of the invention itself, and the soft-spoken savant who pioneered it. For inventor Andy Hildebrand, Auto-Tune was an incredibly complex product — the result of years of rigorous study, statistical computation, and the creation of algorithms previously deemed to be impossible.

Land of the Free? 50 state study on how professional licensing laws lead to fewer jobs

Will Flanders & Collin Roth:

Occupational licensing laws, or state permission slips to work in certain regulated professions, serve as a major barrier to entry for workers in America. For aspiring cosmetologists, manicurists, massage therapists, and aestheticians, licensing requirements can mean thousands of hours of training, tens of thousands of dollars for school, and regular fees to the state. These laws force people with skills and aspirations to take on debt they cannot afford, defer their dreams, or conduct their trade underground with the accompanying threat of fnes and prosecution.In 1950 just 1 in 20 workers required a license to work, now close to 1 in 4 do. With more professionals, and aspiring professionals, running into licensing laws, the case for reform has found an increasingly broad and diverse audience. Coalitions of liberal and conservative activists and policy experts, Democrat and Republican governors, and the Obama and Trump administrations have all embraced the cause of licensing reform. And while progress has been made in this reform movement, rigorous research into the effects of licensing on workers and the broader economy are still in their infancy.This peer-reviewed1 study examines, for the frst time, the impact of licensing requirements across the country on ten low and moderate income professions. For each state we created a Red Tape Index which measures the license requirements, i.e. fees, training hours, exams required, and minimum age, for ten professions. Then we looked at how employment related to a state’s score on the Red Tape Index. Our

This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like

Megha Rajagopalan:

This is a city where growing a beard can get you reported to the police. So can inviting too many people to your wedding, or naming your child Muhammad or Medina.

Driving or taking a bus to a neighboring town, you’d hit checkpoints where armed police officers might search your phone for banned apps like Facebook or Twitter, and scroll through your text messages to see if you had used any religious language.

You would be particularly worried about making phone calls to friends and family abroad. Hours later, you might find police officers knocking at your door and asking questions that make you suspect they were listening in the whole time.

For millions of people in China’s remote far west, this dystopian future is already here. China, which has already deployed the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, is building a surveillance state in Xinjiang, a four-hour flight from Beijing, that uses both the newest technology and human policing to keep tabs on every aspect of citizens’ daily lives. The region is home to a Muslim ethnic minority called the Uighurs, who China has blamed for forming separatist groups and fueling terrorism. Since this spring, thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have disappeared into so-called political education centers, apparently for offenses from using Western social media apps to studying abroad in Muslim countries, according to relatives of those detained.

Wikipedia’s Fate Shows How the Web Endangers Knowledge

Hossein Derakhshan:

That happy news masks a more concerning problem—a flattening growth rate in the number of contributors to the website. It is another troubling sign of a general trend around the world: The very idea of knowledge itself is in danger.

The idea behind Wikipedia—like all encyclopedias before it—has been to collect the entirety of human knowledge. It’s a goal that extends back to the Islamic Golden Age, when numerous scholars—inspired by Muhammad’s famous verdict of ‘Seek knowledge, even from China’—set themselves to collecting and documenting all existing information on a wide variety of topics, including translations from Greek, Persian, Syrian, and Indian into Arabic. In the 9th century, a Persian scholar named Ibn Qutaybah collected the first true encyclopedia, 10 books on power, war, nobility, character, learning and eloquence, asceticism, friendship, prayers, food, and women. He was followed a century later by another Persian scholar, al-Khwārizmī who, in addition to inventing algebra, produced an encyclopedia covering what he called indigenous knowledge (jurisprudence, scholastic philosophy, grammar, secretarial duties, prosody and poetic art, history) and foreign knowledge (philosophy, logic, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, mechanics, alchemy). The Chinese had their own encyclopedia dating back to the 7th century.

In Europe, the quest to compile a modern encyclopedia started with the Enlightenment in the 18th century. (Immanuel Kant coined a fitting Latin motto for the movement: “Sapere aude,” or “Dare to know.”) French Enlightenment thinkers like Francis Bacon and Denis Diderot began compiling ambitious encyclopedias, inspiring others throughout France, Germany, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The religious ruling class’s discomfort with the effort only helped its financial feasibility; there was an obvious market for these massive collections, often published in numerous volumes, for an increasingly secular middle-class. The first volume of Encycopedie was sold in 1751 to 2,000 subscribers, who would go on to receive the entire twenty-eight-volume set. Notable revolutionary thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were involved in the editing of the work and several even ended up in prison. Only 17 years after the publication of the last volume in 1772, the French revolution began, leading to perhaps the most secular state in human history.

NCAA’s ‘student-athlete’ hypocrisy comes full circle with North Carolina verdict

Reid Forgave::

On Friday morning — 17 days after the college basketball world was shaken to its core with the arrest of 10 people involved in the sport, including top-tier assistant coaches and shoe-company executives — the NCAA washed its hands of an investigation into academic misconduct within the University of North Carolina athletic department that began seven years ago. Instead of coming down with the hammer, taking down banners and reinforcing that there is still some holiness left in this unholy marriage between academics and athletics, the NCAA said, basically, “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”

The dichotomy of these two simultaneous cases — the UNC case and the FBI case — is stunning.

For nearly two decades, UNC had, according to a university investigation, offered a “shadow curriculum” of so-called “paper classes.” These classes, nearly 200 in total, required no attendance and only one paper. Some 3,100 students attended these paper classes, with some 1,500 student-athletes — ahem, “student-athletes” — being steered into these classes.

The Supreme Court Will Decide If the US Can Access Anyone’s Data on Earth

Louis Matsakis:

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would hear a major digital privacy case that will determine whether law enforcement officials can demand user data stored by technology companies in other countries.

In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant for emails and identifying information tied to a Microsoft Outlook account they believed was being used to organize drug trafficking. The problem was that the emails were stored overseas in Ireland, where the anonymous user of the account registered as a resident.

Microsoft turned over information stored in the US, but refused to retrieve data stored on the Irish servers. The case was then escalated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which sided with Microsoft, ruling that the emails were outside the reach of a search warrant because they were being held overseas.

Fraud Scandals Sap China’s Dream

Amy Qin:

Having conquered world markets and challenged American political and military leadership, China has set its sights on becoming a global powerhouse in a different field: scientific research. It now has more laboratory scientists than any other country, outspends the entire European Union on research and development, and produces more scientific articles than any other nation except the United States.

But in its rush to dominance, China has stood out in another, less boastful way. Since 2012, the country has retracted more scientific papers because of faked peer reviews than all other countries and territories put together, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks and seeks to publicize retractions of research papers.

Now, a recent string of high-profile scandals over questionable or discredited research has driven home the point in China that to become a scientific superpower, it must first overcome a festering problem of systemic fraud.

Standing on the Shoulders of Diversocrats

Heather Mac Donald:

Another academic year, another fattening of campus diversity bureaucracies. Most worrisomely, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are now prime targets for administrative diversity encroachment, with the commercial tech sector rapidly following suit.

The most significant new diversity sinecure has been established at the University of California, Los Angeles, where the engineering school just minted its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this new position is to encourage engineering faculty to hire more females and underrepresented minorities, reports the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. “One of my jobs,” the new dean, Scott Brandenberg, told the paper, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.”

The new engineering-diversity deanship supplements the work of UCLA’s lavishly paid, campus-wide Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, whose 2016 salary was $444,000. Kang, one of the most influential proponents of the “implicit-bias” concept, already exerts enormous pressure throughout the university to hire for “diversity.” Even before his vice chancellorship was created, any UCLA professor hoping for the top rank of tenure had to write a “contributions to diversity” essay detailing his efforts to rectify any racial and gender imbalances in his department. The addition of a localized diversity bureaucrat within the engineering school can only increase the focus on gender and race in hiring and admissions decisions. (Brandenberg, of course, expresses fealty to California’s beleaguered ban on racial and gender preferences in government. But it would be naïve to think that the ubiquitous mandate to increase “diversity” does not inevitably tip the scale in favor of alleged victim groups.)

An online game gives glimpse of life as an Uber driver

Kia Kokalitcheva:

A pebble made a small crack in your car’s windshield—do you want to spend $30 to fix it? This is just one of the many questions I had to answers while playing a new short game created by the Financial Times that offers a short simulation of life as an Uber driver. My mission: To make as much money while dealing with a variety of passengers and mishaps.

The bottom line: Designed based on interviews with real Uber drivers, the game offers a good glimpse into the long hours of driving and the complexities of the job, as the FT describes in this story. A full-time driver has to manage expenses, become familiar with traffic and business laws (don’t forget that business license!), and is constantly balancing Uber’s game-like and financial incentives to drive more with sticking to sane and healthy hours.

Today’s turn-of-the-century problems

Michael Barone::

Is America in a new Gilded Age? That’s the contention of Republican political consultant Bruce Mehlman, and in a series of 35 slides he makes a strong case.

In many ways, problems facing America today resemble those facing what we still call “turn-of-the-century” America from the 1890s to the 1910s. Just as employment shifted from farms to factories a century ago, it has been moving from manufacturing to services recently.

Financial crashes are another point of resemblance, coming precisely one hundred years apart. The panic of 1907 was resolved when J. P. Morgan locked his fellow financiers in his library and required them to pony up funds to save failing banks. Something similar happened in 2007, this time with Ben Bernanke in the bowels of the Federal Reserve.

Technological advances providing new products, and threatening incumbent businesses, is a feature of both epochs: huge steel mills and automobile factories then, tiny smartphones and mouse clicks today. Monopoly power also reared its ugly head then and now. Railroads and steel and oil muscling potential regulators then, retail-dominating Amazon and political communication censors Google and Twitter now.

Income inequality was greater in the 1920s (and probably earlier, but the statistics are incommensurate) than today. Immigration as a percentage of pre-existing population was three times as high in peak year 1907 than in peak year 2007.

Kmele Foster Gets Shouted Down by Black Lives Matter Activists After Pointing out That MLK Used Free Speech Protections—Wait, What?

Matt Welch:

So the “Unsafe Space” campus speaking tour sponsored by Spiked (and hosted at least once so far in an emergency backup way by Reason) continues to generate interesting collisions between libertarian commentators and the angry campus progressives who seek to shout them down. One recent incident, while not coming close to a Berkeley-style riot, or a “Cocks Not Glocks” dildo-waving protest of gun-right speaker Katie Pavlich, or even the latest Charles Murray kerfuffle, nonetheless caught my attention because it involved old pal Kmele Foster, and my favorite piece of writing by Martin Luther King.

Foster (see video below) had just sat through a series of emotional audience harangues defending identity politics and speech-sensitivity as necessary pushbacks against a racist power structure, when he attempted to make a case familiar to Reason readers—that free-speech protections are crucial precisely for minority populations’ struggles against the majority:

Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans

Andrew Kreighbaum::

New federal data show that college students are taking out more student loan debt and also taking longer to pay it off.

The report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, released today, examines patterns of student loan repayment for two separate groups of borrowers — those who started college in the 1995-96 academic year and those who started eight years later, in 2003-04. Twelve years after beginning their postsecondary educations, the second group had paid off a smaller proportion of their student loans and had defaulted at a higher rate on at least one loan.

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Opaque and sky high bills are breaking Americans — and our health care system.

Sarah Kliff:

On September 28, 2016, a 3-year-old girl named Elodie Fowler slid into an MRI machine at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Doctors wanted to better understand a rare genetic condition that was causing swelling along the right side of her body and problems processing regular food.

The scan took about 30 minutes. The hospital’s doctors used the results to start Elodie on an experimental new drug regimen.

Fowler’s parents knew the scan might cost them a few thousand dollars, based on their research into typical pediatric MRI scans. Even though they had one of the most generous Obamacare exchange plans available in California, they decided to go out of network to a clinic that specialized in their daughter’s rare genetic condition. That meant their plan would cover half of a “fair price” MRI.

They were shocked a few months later when a bill arrived with a startling price tag: $25,000. The bill included $4,016 for the anesthesia, $2,703 for a recovery room, and $16,632 for the scan itself plus doctor fees. The insurance picked up only $1,547.23, leaving the family responsible for the difference: $23,795.47.

25% Of Madison’s 2014-2015 Budget was spent on benefits. Madison now spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Irfan Shahîd’s history of the Arab’s interactions with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam is available for download

Dumbarton Oaks:

We are happy to announce that all seven volumes of Irfan Shahîd’s monumental Byzantium and the Arabs, published by Dumbarton Oaks Publications, are available for free download from our website.

Irfan Shahîd knew even as an undergraduate at Oxford that the role of the Arabs in Roman history would be his life’s work. Rome in late antiquity was caught between the German tribes in the west and the Arabs in the east. German scholars had engaged with “the German problem,” but the Arabs did not have their historian, Shahîd recalled in his 2008 oral history for Dumbarton Oaks. “No one has really dealt with Arabs as part of Roman history.”

From an early interest in the role the Arabs in al-Andalus played in the creation of Western Europe, Shahîd’s encounter with the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz at the Institute for Advanced Study prompted him to start with the East—and to discover Dumbarton Oaks, where he was a Junior Fellow in 1954–55 and with which he would have a lifelong association. The outcome of this early shift in focus is the history of the Arabs’ relationship with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests of the seventh century. If his work has one virtue, Shahid said, “it will be because I’ll be the first historian to have filled the gap of all these centuries with my gaze fixed on the seventh to know exactly what happened and why it happened the way it did.”

Turkish minister of culture says 169,000 books to be withdrawn from libraries

Turkish Minute::

has said 169,141 copies of books are planned to be withdrawn from public libraries as part of an ongoing investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, the İhlas news agency (İHA) reported on Wednesday.

Speaking at Parliament’s general assembly, Kurtulmuş responded to a question regarding the number of books withdrawn from public libraries after an attempted coup on July 15, 2016.

Kurtulmuş said there are 1,142 libraries under the administration of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and that the books under investigation were either written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen or under pseudonyms referring to him. The minister also said the books had been acquired by the ministry either by donation or purchase between the years 1982 and 2014 and that they were published by printing houses that were shut down by government decree issued during an ongoing state of emergency declared after the failed coup.

The government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup attempt of July 15 even though the movement denies any involvement.

What Allan Bloom Got Right

Todd Gitlin::

ou can slam its young people into universities with their classrooms and laboratories, and when they come out all they can talk about is Babe Ruth. America is a hopeless country for intellectuals and thinking people.” Babe Ruth is the giveaway. These words were spoken in 1923, and the speaker was Theodore Dreiser, who had dropped out of Indiana University after one year.

So it is not a new thought that American universities are nests of self-betrayal and triviality where inquiring minds trade the nobility of their tradition for cheap trinkets and the promise of pieces of silver to come. Indeed, five years before Dreiser popped off, Thorstein Veblen was denouncing “the higher learning in America” for having surrendered to business domination, ditched the pure pursuit of knowledge, cultivated “conspicuous conformity to the popular taste,” and pandered to undergraduates by teaching them “ways and means of dissipation.” “The conduct of universities by business men,” to borrow from Veblen’s subtitle, had rendered university life “mechanistic.” Veblen anticipated that the academy would wallow in futility when it was not prostrating itself at the feet of the captains of finance. His original subtitle was A Study in Total Depravity. Veblen having dropped it, Allan Bloom should have picked it up.

To Inspire Young Communists, China Turns to ‘Red Army’ Schools

Javier Hernandez:

With the fiery zeal of a preacher, Xie Hong addressed her class of 50 fourth-grade students, all in matching red tracksuits.

“Today’s life is rich, blessed, happy and joyous,” she said. “Where does our happy life come from? Who gave it to us?”

In Ms. Xie’s classroom at the Workers and Peasants Red Army Elementary School, there was only one correct answer, and she had worked tirelessly to ensure her students knew it.

“It comes from the blood of revolutionary martyrs! From the Red Army!” said a 9-year-old boy, Li Jiacheng. The class burst into applause, and Ms. Xie beamed.

For decades, the Chinese Communist Party has pushed a stiff regimen of ideological education on students, requiring tedious lessons on Marx and Mao and canned lectures on the virtues of patriotism and loyalty. Now, amid fears that the party is losing its grip on young minds, President Xi Jinping is reshaping political education across China’s more than 283,000 primary and secondary schools for a new era.

Boys and Girls Club funding only start of the story

Chris Rickert:

Never have I seen such to-do over one $50,000 appropriation in a small city’s annual budget as the to-do over the $50,000 that is being stripped from the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Fitchburg’s proposed 2018 budget.

Then again, rarely does a $50,000 city appropriation serve as such a good reason to get worked up over race, class, parenting and the role of government.

For the past 13 years, the club has been getting a noncompetitive grant of between $40,000 and $50,000 from the city to help feed, transport and otherwise care for Fitchburg kids, generally at the club’s location just on the Fitchburg side of its border with Madison.

Last year, Fitchburg City Council members proposed replacing such grants with a process by which nonprofits would compete for funding through a presumably objective, staff-driven process. Amid vociferous opposition from Boys & Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson and his allies, that idea was dropped as it would apply to the club, and the club’s funding was restored.

Hecklers shout down California attorney general, assembly majority leader at Whittier College

Adam Steinbaugh:

Last week, Whittier College — my alma mater — hosted California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in a question-and-answer session organized by Ian Calderon, the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.

They tried to, anyway.

The event ended early after pro-Trump hecklers, upset about Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over DACA, continuously shouted slogans and insults at Becerra and Calderon. A group affiliated with the hecklers later boasted that the speakers were “SHOUTED DOWN BY FED-UP CALIFORNIANS” and that the “meeting became so raucous that it ended about a half hour early.”

The event, held in Whittier College’s Shannon Center theater, was free and open to members of the community, and featured introductions from both Whittier’s president and student body president. Becerra and Calderon were to have an hour-long question-and-answer session using audience questions randomly selected from a basket. As soon as they began the discussion, however, hecklers decked in “Make America Great Again” hats began a continuous and persistent chorus of boos, slogans, and insults.

How a Messaging App Challenged Traditional Banks and Captured 45% of the Market

Jene Park:

Messaging platform KakaoTalk has successfully entered the banking industry in Korea after obtaining a license from the regulator FSC in April this year. It was designated as one of the two online-only banks in the nation. This will likely be a critical disruption to a sector that has enjoyed a long period of stability but has lacked innovation.

KakaoBank was established in January 2016. It is led by chat platform KakaoTalk which has a 10% stake but the major shareholder is Korea Investment Holdings, a major financial group in Korea. It has positioned itself as a mobile only bank with no physical branches. All activities occur over the app which is a natural extension from its main messaging app KakaoTalk. KakaoBank fully leveraged the advantage of being linked to the leading messaging platform in Korea, KakaoTalk which is used by 42 million users out of the 50 million population in Korea.

Within just 24 hours of opening on July 27th 300,000 new accounts were opened with KakaoBank (this is more than what all other Korean banks got in 2016 through online channels). The number continued to rise throughout August. We estimate KakaoBank took close to 45% market share in all new bank accounts opened in August – including both offline and online. If we only count the mobile internet based accounts it was almost a 70% share. It extended US$1.2 billion in credit loans during August and this again accounted for 40% of the country’s total loans during the month.

Who do you trust? How data is helping us decide

Rachel Botsman:

My first lesson in the dangers of trusting strangers came in 1983, not long after I turned five, when an unfamiliar woman entered our house. Doris, from Glasgow, was in her late 20s and starting as our nanny. My mum had found her through a posh magazine called The Lady.

Doris arrived wearing a Salvation Army uniform, complete with bonnet. “I remember her thick Scottish accent,” Mum recalls. “She told me she’d worked with kids of a similar age and was a member of the Salvation Army because she enjoyed helping people. But, honestly, she had me at hello.”

Doris lived with us for 10 months. For the most part she was a good nanny – cheerful, reliable and helpful. There was nothing unusual about her, aside from a few unexplained absences at weekends.

Back then, our neighbours, the Luxemburgs, had an au pair Doris spent a lot of time with. Late one evening, Mr Luxemburg knocked on our door after discovering the pair had been involved in running a drugs ring. “They had even been in an armed robbery,” my father later related, “and Doris was the getaway driver.” The getaway car, it transpired, was our family’s Volvo estate.

My parents decided to search Doris’s room. In a shoebox under her bed, she had stuffed piles of foreign currency, stolen from my parents’ home office. My dad stood on guard by our front door all night with a baseball bat, scared Doris would come home. Thankfully, she didn’t.

Judge Comes Down On Side of District and Grants Restraining Order

Erik Sandi:

So while it’s true that the teachers have been working without a contract since 2015, there are legitimate reasons for that.

For example, the union will not settle for only 18 sick days. And regarding their demands to limit the number of special education students per class, the Superintendent and school committee have offered them the same language as any other district’s contract in the state. They have said No to that offer as well.

And none of this takes into account the backdrop of a staggering decline in student enrollment and subsequent underutilization of space. Despite the plummeting enrollment, the union is opposed to any reduction in staff.

The $100 million question: Did Newark’s school reforms work? New study finds big declines, then progress (less Than 4% Of School Spending…)

Matt Barnum:

The study comes with a few important caveats.
The spike in test-score growth toward the end of the five-year grant coincided with the introduction of a new test aligned with the Common Core, the PARCC. It also coincided with an increase in students opting out of state tests, both in Newark and statewide. The researchers try to account for this, but it’s not entirely clear if those changes skewed the findings.

Also, the researchers came to their conclusions by comparing test score growth of Newark’s students to students with similar backgrounds and in similar schools across New Jersey. That doesn’t guarantee that the study is able to isolate the effects of the reforms, but does allow for comparisons to places without the Zuckerberg money or attention.

The results don’t show whether the reforms “worked” — because that’s a complicated question.
The study is focused on standardized test scores, a significant limitation that means it doesn’t speak to other effects of the reforms on students. A separate analysis, funded by the Community Foundation of New Jersey and also released Monday, points out that high school graduation rates in Newark rose substantially in 2016 and 2017, after remaining flat between 2012 and 2015. Enrollment in the city schools has also trended upward in recent years.

Source: “Moving Up: Progress in Newark’s Schools from 2010 to 2017”
The results also don’t account for political turmoil or the sense that the reforms were done to — rather than with — the community in Newark, whose schools had been under state control for a over two decades. An agreement was finalized in September to return them to community control.

“Ultimately we’re giving the parents the opportunity to have their democratic rights back,” Baraka told NPR, who argued in the same interview that the Zuckerberg dollars had not improved the school district. “There is no real kind of causal relationship between that money and the development of the traditional public schools in Newark.”

Locally, we have spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society

MIT Technology Review::

Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.

5 facts about government debt around the world

Amy Budiman::

Public debt has increased sharply in many countries in recent years, particularly during and after the Great Recession. Globally, the total amount of government debt now exceeds $63.1 trillion, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of International Monetary Fund data.

Here are five facts about government debt around the world. This analysis is based on IMF data for 43 countries that are members of the Group of Twenty or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The figures used are for consolidated debt issued by all levels of government, less debt held by other governmental units (unless otherwise noted).

Commentary on campus politics

Daniel Payne:

Several recent demonstrations at various colleges across the country illustrate nicely the incoherent temper-tantrum style of politics that currently dominates campus life.

At the University of Oregon, the school’s president was delivering his yearly State of the University address when student protesters stormed the stage babbling about “neo-Nazis” and “fascism.” They chanted things like “shame.” One student announced: “Expect resistance to anyone who opposes us.” The protestors needn’t have worried about any opposition: the school cancelled the president’s speech and beat a hasty retreat

Denver, Boulder schools home to the state’s largest achievement gaps based on race, new data shows; Spend Far Less Than Madison.

Nic Garcia:

The data show wide differences between how different student groups score — for example, gaps separating black and Hispanic students from white students, or students with special needs from other students, or students who qualify for subsidized lunches and those who don’t.

On Monday, state officials quietly posted district- and school-level scores broken by student subgroups for the 2016 and 2017 tests. What took so long? Officials say they had to follow data suppression rules meant to prevent individual students from being identified, and it took time.

During the next few days, we’ll be examining this data — starting today with race and ethnicity-based gaps:

Denver plans to spend $968M during the 2017-2018 school year, or $10,637 per student for about 91,000 students.

Boulder plans to spend $13,372 per student, about 46% less than Madison.

Madison spends about 80% more (!), nearly $20,000 per student.

Technology companies may have to say whether they are data peddlers or data stewards

Rana Foroohar:

“We’re entering an era in which data can be used to solve all sorts of the most pressing problems, but only if there’s trust in how that data has been handled,” Ms Rometty told me in a phone interview last week. “We see ourselves as stewards of clients’ data. And we don’t need to be regulated to do the right thing. We’ve been doing the right thing for a hundred years.”
 The comment was a clear swipe at Google and Facebook, both of which have been fined by national privacy watchdogs for their data collection methods, as well as a reference to new UK and EU regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, that will make it tougher for companies to process, sell, or allow third-party access to personal data without consumers’ explicit consent. But it was also a new kind of marketing pitch: in a world in which most economic value is going to intellectual property, we are not only going to protect that value, we are going to offer a greater share of profits from it to clients.
 How would this work in practice? IBM, which serves mainly other businesses and governments, is now pitching the fact that they won’t keep any proprietary data in their servers for more than a specified contract period, and that the informational wealth garnered from using artificial intelligence to analyse that data would be owned by the clients themselves. For example, if a national health service gave IBM health records, the company could not then monetise information about the fact that certain populations in certain parts of the country have higher than average cancer rates.

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline

Electronic frontier foundation:

Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.
 To help illustrate Facebook’s shift away from privacy, we have highlighted some excerpts from Facebook’s privacy policies over the years. Watch closely as your privacy disappears, one small change at a time!

Entitled millennials? More like hamsters in a wheel

Robert Shrimsley:

Like middle-aged men through the ages, I have long worried about the character of the country’s youth while privately hoping my own spawn would be the exception. Sadly, events at home have now provided incontrovertible proof that this generation is veering badly off track.

Our saga began last Thursday, when the girl underwent an unpleasant tooth operation in which two molars that had failed to grow through were removed under general anaesthetic, in a procedure that involved cutting into the gums. All went well and she returned home later that day in good spirits, enjoying the attention and the copious amounts of ice cream we had bought while under the mistaken impression that this was the same as having your tonsils out.

I had taken the next day off work to look after her as the painkillers wore off and the side effects of the anaesthetic kicked in. So it was with some surprise — and indeed irritation — that I learnt she intended to go into school the next day. I know that a loving parent should have welcomed this speedy recovery. But as a concerned father I was, well, concerned. Clearly this was a sign of delirium. This was the drugs talking. Surely no child of mine would turn up her nose at the chance to miss school — on a Friday too? This is not a big exam year, so there seemed no justification for this display of diligence. But she was adamant: “I’ve already missed one day. I don’t want to have to catch up on two days’ work.”

Now, the girl has many virtues but a fanatical commitment to schoolwork has never been one of them. She will do what is expected, but keen is not a look she cultivates. She is also — how can I put this? — not one of those kids who is unknown to the school nurse. So her insistence was a surprise and, if I’m honest, a bit of a disappointment. I had always believed we had raised the spawn with strong principles and yet here she was, spurning a legitimate sick day. Where, I had to ask myself, did we go wrong?

The next morning, still only half-awake, I heard her leaving for school, abandoning me to a day of nursing duties bereft of a patient. I could, I suppose, have scrapped the day’s leave and headed into the office but the lure of a long weekend was too seductive and, anyway, I didn’t want to risk a reaction to the anaesthetic.

But the more I reflected on her action, the more it bothered me. The boy, in his A-level year, is working flat out but she, at 14, has only just reached what one might call the business end of her education. Her school, while good, is certainly no hothouse, and yet missing just two days is seen as falling impossibly far behind. Something has gone wrong when young teenagers dare not take a day to recuperate after an operation.

Increasingly, it feels that the pressure never lets up. From 14 on, they face GCSEs and then it’s straight into the lower sixth, where end-of-year exams determine university predictions and, finally, A-levels. We hear a lot of talk about entitled millennials — but all I can see in my children and their friends is the terror of the world into which they are moving, and the sense of being on a hamster wheel that never slows. They face job insecurity even if they are smart enough to know which of their possible chosen professions might still offer a viable career path in 10 years’ time. They feel an intensity of competition that I certainly never felt, hailing from a cohort in which fewer than 10 per cent went on to university.

China to build giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds

Stephen Chen:

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds.

The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy.

The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai.

The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project.

What you learn from the Very Short Introduction series.

Kathryn Schulz:

I learned this fact about myself (and you) from one of the more unlikely books I lately committed to reading: “Teeth: A Very Short Introduction,” by Peter S. Ungar, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. Like its subject, “Teeth” is both a freestanding entity and part of a larger body: the Very Short Introduction series, a project of Oxford University Press. At present, that series consists of five hundred and twenty-six books; “Teeth” clocks in at No. 384. If you are so inclined, you can also read a Very Short Introduction to, among a great many other things, Rivers, Mountains, Metaphysics, the Mongols, Chaos, Cryptography, Forensic Psychology, Hinduism, Autism, Puritanism, Fascism, Free Will, Drugs, Nutrition, Crime Fiction, Madness, Malthus, Medical Ethics, Hieroglyphics, the Russian Revolution, the Reagan Revolution, Dinosaurs, Druids, Plague, Populism, and the Devil.

Some of these books are concise introductions to topics you might later wish to pursue in greater depth: Modern India, say, or Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Others, like “Teeth,” contain pretty much everything the average layperson would ever want or need to know. All of them, however, take their Very Short commitment seriously. The length of each book is fixed at thirty-five thousand words, or roughly a hundred and twenty pages. (See Very Short Introduction No. 500, “Measurement.”) Never mind that the Roman Empire got some four thousand pages from Edward Gibbon, and that was just to chronicle its demise; here it gets the same space as Circadian Rhythms, Folk Music, and Fungi.

They Once Cheated in Class. Now They Teach.

Sam Hoisington:

Being caught cheating can tank a student’s academic career — it can mar a reputation, result in a failed class, or even, in extreme examples, lead to expulsion. In some cases, the difference between a scholar being able to climb the ladder of academic success or not is as simple as not being caught when cheating.

When The Chronicle asked instructors to tell us whether or not they had ever cheated during their studies, the majority replied emphatically in the negative (several had multiple exclamation marks). But a few admitted their misdeeds.

Some of those who spoke to The Chronicle wouldn’t admit to academic misconduct in a publication read by their peers. For that reason, we agreed to keep identities confidential in order to hear the full story of why they cheated, how they cheated, and how that experience changed their teaching.

The Monumental Task Of Reopening Puerto Rico’s Schools

Lauren Migaki::

The schools in Puerto Rico are facing massive challenges.

All the public schools are without electricity, and more than half don’t have water. More than 100 are still functioning as shelters.

But Puerto Rico’s secretary of education, Julia Keleher, tells us that the schools that are open are serving as connection points for communities. They’ve become a place where children and their families can eat a hot meal and get some emotional support, too.

On Wednesday, we reported on two schools that have reopened — one public and one private.

Caught Sleeping or Worse, Troubled Teachers Will Return to New York Classrooms

Kate Taylor:

Francis Blake has not held a permanent position in a New York City public school in at least five years. At his last job, in a Bronx elementary school, records show he was disciplined for incompetence, insubordination and neglect of duties — he had been caught sleeping in a classroom when he was supposed to be helping with dismissal.

Felicia Alterescu, a special-education teacher, has been without a permanent post since 2010, despite high demand for special education teachers. According to records, in addition to getting a string of unsatisfactory ratings, she was disciplined for calling in sick when she actually went to a family reunion. She also did not tell the Education Department that she had been arrested on harassment charges.

This month, Mr. Blake, Ms. Alterescu and hundreds of other teachers who are part of a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve could be permanently back in classrooms, as the city’s Education Department places them in jobs at city schools.

The Feds’ Grand Plan to Fix Chicago’s Gun Problem Is Not Going Well

Mike Dumke:

John Thomas set up the deal the way he had arranged nearly two dozen others. A friend said he wanted to buy as many guns as he could, so Thomas got in touch with someone he knew who had guns to sell.

The three of them met in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in south suburban Lansing at noon on Aug. 6, 2014. Larry McIntosh, whom Thomas had met in his South Shore neighborhood, took two semi-automatic rifles and a shotgun from his car and put them in the buyer’s car. He handed over a plastic shopping bag with four handguns.

None of the weapons had been acquired legally—two, in fact, had been reported stolen—and none of the men was a licensed firearms dealer.

Thomas’ friend, Yousef, paid McIntosh $7,200 for the seven guns. He always paid well.

US Undergraduate survey

Jim McLaughlin and Rob Schmidt:

Would you favor or oppose your college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty? A slight majority of students, 52%, now oppose having speech codes at their school, while 38% would favor them. This has changed from September 2015, when the plurality favored speech codes, 48% to 40%. By ethnicity, white students are most likely to oppose speech codes, at 58%. Conversely, African American students favor speech codes, 52% to 41%, while Hispanic students divide, 45% to 44%.

Reed and identity politics

Joe Kolman::

The photograph on the college website shows a confident, happy, young African-American woman using a bullhorn to address more than a hundred overwhelmingly white students holding protest signs. It was taken at a Black Lives Matter protest at Reed College, my alma mater, in September 2016. It was a beautiful day in Portland, Oregon, and the students were parading through campus, accompanied by drums and anything else that could make a sound. One of the cardboard signs in the crowd behind her said: ‘Brown People for Black Power.’ Another said: ‘1 out of 2 black students at Reed do not graduate.’

The demonstration marked the beginning of a year-long series of confrontations that turned the historically leftist college inside out. The young woman in the photo was responsible for organising most of them. I’ll call her Amanda, not her real name, because I don’t want her to be hounded by right-wing trolls. At most schools, demonstrations tend to flare up once or twice a year during a visit from a controversial right-wing speaker. At Reed, Amanda managed to create protests that occurred three days a week for most of the academic year.

Before Amanda, the Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t gained much traction at Reed. Although its students have been ranked as the most liberal in the Princeton Review’s survey of the top 382 liberal-arts colleges, only about three per cent of the student population is black. The school has had a hard time attracting them, in spite of a ‘fly-in’ programme that distributes free airline tickets to prospective black students. But in September 2016, on the heels of a national debate on race, the school got behind the movement, letting demonstrators set up an afternoon rally in the quad and allowing sympathetic professors to cancel classes, hold extra sessions and adjust assignment deadlines.

School district pulls ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from reading list; ‘makes people uncomfortable’

associated press:

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is being removed from a junior-high reading list in a Mississippi school district.

The Sun Herald reports that Biloxi administrators pulled the novel from the 8th-grade curriculum this week. School board vice president Kenny Holloway says the district received complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”

Published in 1960, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee deals with racial inequality in a small Alabama town.

A message on the school’s website says “To Kill A Mockingbird” teaches students that compassion and empathy don’t depend upon race or education. Holloway says other books can teach the same lessons.

Civics and the deep state: commentary On Millennials

John Schindler:

America’s intelligence agencies are having terrible problems keeping secrets these days, none more than my former employer, NSA, or, as I’ve termed it, the National INsecurity Agency. Since the recent rash of leaks and thefts of classified information has real implications for our national security, this issue needs public attention. If you can’t keep secrets, there’s hardly any point to having spy services—much less spending some $50 billion annually on a behemoth Intelligence Community that leaks like a sieve.

Take the recent case of the improbably named Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who was arrested in June for stealing an above-top-secret report and passing it to The Intercept, which published its revelations. A former Air Force linguist assigned to NSA Georgia, located in Augusta, the 25-year-old Winner took it upon herself to sneak highly classified intelligence out of her office—hidden in her pantyhose—because she felt the public had a right to know its contents.

According to Winner, she stole a Top Secret Codeword signals intelligence assessment on Russian hacking of our 2016 election because she felt it needed to be known: “Why can’t this be public?” she asked. Of course, she knew the answer: because it’s highly classified and therefore should be seen only by properly cleared people with a need to know, in the jargon of the espionage business.

$20 Trillion and Counting

Robert Bixby:

As of Friday, September 8, the total debt of the United States government topped $20 trillion.

That eye-catching number should prompt all of us to reflect on what the growing debt means for future generations (a lot) and whether our elected officials have a plan to deal with it (they don’t).

The most important thing to recognize about the $20 trillion debt is that its size in dollar terms is not as important as the fact that it is on an unsustainable track.

Two non-partisan agencies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have concluded that unless actions are taken to cut spending, raise taxes or both, the debt will continue to grow faster than the economy.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Trump’s debt clock ticks as Iowans try deficit reduction

Kathie Obradovich::

The Concord Coalition, which conducted the budget exercise at Drake on Tuesday, is in its 25th year of preaching the gospel of debt reduction. Concord Coalition doesn’t follow either party’s talking points on the budget. The organization argues for reining in spending, particularly on entitlements as the worker-to-retiree ratio continues to shrink. That’s not a popular subject with Democrats.

But it also does not embrace the GOP’s small-government mantra or the idea that cutting taxes magically leads to economic growth. The Concord Coalition’s bottom line is whether we want a big government or a small one, we should pay for the size of government we have.

Having admittedly failed to make financial restraint a priority in the 2016 election, the non-partisan organization was in Iowa trying to plant new seeds for 2020.

In the last presidential campaign, voters did not insist that candidates present detailed budget proposals. “The budget plans in the last cycle were a joke,” he said. “That just cannot happen again.”

The impact of the Obama administration‘s discipline policies on Wisconsin public schools

Will Flanders and Natalie Goodnow:

Much has been made in recent years about the rate of suspensions and expulsions across the country and the role that student race ostensibly plays in them. A 2016 U.S. Department of Education study showed that African American students were 3.8 times more likely than white students to be suspended. But other scholars claim that racial disparities in suspensions are emblematic of other problems, such as poverty (Eden, 2017; Kersten 2017). In an unprecedented, controversial manner, the Obama Administration took action to ensure that race was not a factor in school suspension decisions. Through the Supportive School Discipline Initiative and a “Dear Colleague memo,” the U.S. Justice Department and Education Department under the Obama Administration threatened public school districts with legal penalties in order to change their disciplinary policies. The letter told schools that unlawful discrimination can occur if it has a disproportionate effect on minority students and the school cannot justify the difference. None of these actions went through the traditional rulemaking, regulatory process – or were implemented into law though Congress. School districts changed disciplinary policies to comply. Since 2011-2012, according to the Manhattan Institute, over 50 of the largest school districts and 27 states changed their laws or policies relating to school discipline. These changes resulted in fewer suspensions and, as highlighted by Wisconsin talk radio show host Dan O’Donnell, made the classroom less safe. As a result, the disciplinary policy changes were unpopular; a 2015 EdNext poll found that a majority of the public – and nearly 60% of teachers – disapproved of the Obama Administration’s actions. Wisconsin was not immune to the national trend. This paper seeks to build on previous studies by providing the most comprehensive analysis, to date, of how the Obama Administration’s disciplinary policy changes have impacted Wisconsin public schools. We provide the historical context for changes in suspension policy before conducting extensive analyses of data on suspensions in Wisconsin since the 2007-08 school year. Some of our findings include:

‘Mindfulness’ Is a Meaningless Word With Shoddy Science Behind It

Kate Sheridan:

The benefits of meditation may have been seriously overhyped, a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, Buddhist scholars and mindfulness teachers warn—and the evidence to support mindfulness as a treatment certainly has been.

A new study by a multidisciplinary group of researchers at several universities calls out the “misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology” that pervade much of the evidence behind the benefits of mindfulness. They focus in particular on the problem of defining the word mindfulness and on how the effects of the practice are studied.

The long ride: A zoning decision sends kids in a west side condo complex to Cross Plains for school

Amber Walker::

In 1982, the city of Madison annexed the land where The Crossings now sits from the town of Middleton. That same year, Wisconsin passed a law that no longer required school district boundaries to follow municipal boundaries. While the land was in Madison, it was still a part of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. There are 747 students — about 10.5 percent of the district’s total enrollment — who have a Madison address, but are zoned to MCPASD.

Real estate developer Gary Gorman built The Crossings, then called Elver Park Apartments, in 1989. Gorman said his initial vision for the project was to provide affordable rentals for working-class families.

In the early stages of development, Gorman filed a petition with MCPASD to have the property detached from the district and turned over to the Madison Metropolitan School District so the students could attend school in their city.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board rejected Gorman’s petition in August 1989. In a last-ditch effort, Gorman filed an appeal with the statewide School District Boundary Appeal Board, which also denied his claim in March 1990.

“I recognized there were a number of Madison schools that were much closer than the Middleton-Cross Plains School District,” Gorman said. “I made my case, fundamentally, that for the convenience and safety of the kids, they should go to the school that is closest to them, and I lost. There was no effective appeal, that was the end of it.”

Gorman said he believes the MCPASD decision was motivated by funding. The more students in a district, the more money a district receives in state aid.

Related: 2006 Swan Creek (Fitchburg) seeks to leave Madison schools for Oregon.

Academic Freedom in an Era of Globalization

Martha Bayles:

For the past few years, the American principle of academic freedom has been under attack. On campus after campus, these attacks have come from extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. And while university administrators have struggled to cope, most of their efforts have been so ineffectual that zealous activists themselves are now proposing remedies—from even stricter campus speech codes on the Left to convoluted lawsuits on the Right—that will only make the situation worse.

Yet curiously, the international reputation and drawing power of the U.S. system of higher education remains high. Despite fluctuations in world opinion toward the United States as a whole, America’s universities continue to bask in the glow of global approval. As John Waters, former president of the American University in Beirut, once put it, “The word American is to education what Swiss is to watches.”

The American traveler will hear this sentiment echoed everywhere. In Jakarta a few years ago, the eminent Muslim intellectual Azyumardi Azra told me, “Even those Indonesians who oppose U.S. foreign policy have America as their first choice for higher education.” In Dubai, a Lebanese media executive remarked, “Even when Arabs have negative stereotypes of Americans, we dream of sending our kids to an American university.” And in Mumbai, a prominent Indian businessman commented, “Education is an incredibly farsighted form of public diplomacy for America.”

Majority of college students self-censor, support disinvitations, don’t know hate speech is protected by First Amendment

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education::

A new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education finds a majority of students on college campuses self-censor in class, support disinviting some guest speakers with whom they disagree, and don’t know that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. The study also finds that Republican and Democratic students have different opinions on campus protests, disinvitations, and hate speech protections.

The Corrosion of High School Debate—And How It Mirrors American Politics

Jack McCordick:

While high school football players burst out of locker rooms at halftime to vigorous cheers, their counterparts on the debate team exit their buses and cars to a more muted welcome: the quiet babble of a school cafeteria early on a Saturday morning, where teams of debaters rush to colonize their plots of tables and chairs nearest to the electrical outlets or concessions stand.

As extracurriculars go, debate may be the most grinding of them all. In my four years of high school debating, I spent many long nights holed up alone in my room poring over amicus briefs or economic analyses. I passed even longer weekends on buses and planes traveling to schools across the country and staying in hotels or with local families. From winter to spring, in settings as grand as a Harvard lecture hall and as cramped as a boiler room in a Salt Lake City public school, my debate partner and I held forth on everything from nuclear proliferation to sanctions against Russia to the private prison industry.

Do Parents Value School Effectiveness?

Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag A. Pathak, Jonathan Schellenberg, Christopher R. Walters :

School choice may lead to improvements in school productivity if parents’ choices reward effective schools and punish ineffective ones. This mechanism requires parents to choose schools based on causal effectiveness rather than peer characteristics. We study relationships among parent preferences, peer quality, and causal effects on outcomes for applicants to New York City’s centralized high school assignment mechanism. We use applicants’ rank-ordered choice lists to measure preferences and to construct selection-corrected estimates of treatment effects on test scores and high school graduation. We also estimate impacts on college attendance and college quality. Parents prefer schools that enroll high-achieving peers, and these schools generate larger improvements in short- and long-run student outcomes. We find no relationship between preferences and school effectiveness after controlling for peer quality.

America’s Ruling Class – And the Perils of Revolution

Angelo Codvilla:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

The Fraternity Paradox: Lower GPA, Higher Incomes

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Tragedies at college fraternities never seem to be out of the spotlight for very long.

Four men pleaded guilty in May in the beating death of a Baruch College freshman during a kind of racial-awakening ritual at an Asian fraternity. At Louisiana State University, a student died after a drinking game. A few weeks ago, a judge told 14 members of a now disbanded Penn State fraternity that they would not have to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter (the most serious charge) in the hazing death of a pledge, Timothy Piazza. Security cameras recorded the students’ cruelty and indifference to Piazza as he lay dying.

You might think that more and more parents are advising their sons to steer clear of fraternities. Instead, these associations seem to be more popular than ever. And no matter how many critics — liberal and conservative — condemn fraternity culture, joining one looks like a perfectly rational decision.

The Volcano That Shrouded the Earth and Gave Birth to a Monster

Gillen D’Arcy Wood:

One such group of English tourists, at their lakeside villa near Geneva, passed the cold, crop-killing days by the fire exchanging ghost stories. Mary Shelley’s storm-lashed novel Frankenstein bears the imprint of the Tambora summer of 1816, and her literary coterie—which included the poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron—serve as tour guides through the suffering worldscape of 1815–18.

Considered on a geological timescale, Tambora stands almost insistently near to us. The Tambora climate emergency of 1815–18 offers us a rare, clear window onto a world convulsed by weather extremes, with human communities everywhere struggling to adapt to sudden, radical shifts in temperatures and rainfall, and a flow-on tsunami of famine, disease, dislocation, and unrest. It is a case study in the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems.

Confronting the Myths of Segregation

Tanvi Misra:

The MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday its list of 2017 fellows—24 people from all walks of life who will receive $625,000 “genius” grants, as they’re often called. As Kriston Capps reported yesterday, this fresh batch of recipients has a healthy sampling of people who shape the conversation about cities.

Among them: acclaimed New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose recent work lays bare the institutional and individual decisions that continue to keep urban spaces separate and unequal. We caught up with her yesterday to talk about why that work is so important, and what she plans to do next.

One-Way Salesman Finds Fast Path Home

Mark Kim:

salesman has to visit every major city in the U.S. What is the cheapest way to hit them all exactly once and then return to the headquarters? The computation of the single best answer for what is known as the traveling salesman problem is famously infeasible. Nevertheless, computer scientists have long known how to find a pretty good route — one that incurs no more than 1.5 times the optimal cost.

The traveling salesman problem assumes that a trip between any two cities will cost the same going in either direction. But that’s often not the case. For example, perhaps a flight from Chicago to Denver is cheaper (or takes less time) than the flight from Denver to Chicago. Finding the optimal flight path under these conditions — known as the asymmetric traveling salesman problem — is also computationally infeasible. But unlike when solving the plain vanilla traveling salesman problem, researchers didn’t know how to find a near-optimal route for a trip to a large number of cities. That is, until last month, when three computer scientists announced that they had devised an approximation algorithm that remains efficient in all cases.

Pop goes the tax? Cook County soda tax moves closer to repeal

Rachel Hinton

With a 15-1 vote, the Finance Committee of the Cook County Board of Commissioners sent the sweetened beverage tax swirling toward the drain on Tuesday, setting in motion a likely repeal of the controversial penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

After nearly five hours of public comment — featuring Cook County Clerk David Orr, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown and Public Defender Amy Campanelli — the committee voted to sunset the tax by Dec. 1.

The only nay vote on the repeal came from Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston). W

Disadvantaged pupils learning watered-down curriculum, says Ofsted

Richard Smith:

Disadvantaged children are being shut out from learning a rich range of knowledge, as schools restrict low-attaining pupils to “badges and stickers” rather than history or geography, the chief inspector of schools in England has said.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, said social mobility could be at risk if some pupils were given restricted options and schools watered down their curriculum to concentrate on exam results.

“Low-attaining pupils need basic skills, as all pupils do, but they shouldn’t as a consequence be shut out of parts of the essential body of knowledge for any pupil,” Spielman said in a commentary published by Ofsted.

Her comments were based on initial results from research carried out by Ofsted, involving visits to 40 schools, discussions with headteachers and other data such as inspection reports and parent surveys.

School board to weigh charter school petition

Cambridge news:

The Cambridge School Board will consider Monday night, Oct. 16, whether to approve a petition to create an outdoor-agriculture charter school.

The board’s decision, to be made at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Cambridge High School, will be preceded by a public hearing at XXX.

Jennifer Scianna, director of the Severson Learning Center, the school farm in the town of Christiana, where Cambridge ACRES – Agriculture Center for Rural Environmental Sustainability – would be located, said the hearing will last about an hour. It will start with her giving an abbreviated version of a presentation about the school she made last month to the Cambridge School Board. Then, it will open up for comments and questions from community members.

Commentary on Charter School Financial models, Compare to K-12 Districts

School Finance:

About a year ago, I released this report:

In which Gary Miron and I discuss various methods by which charter school operators work largely within existing policy constraints, to achieve financial gain. While working on this report, I explored various other topics that did not make the final cut, in part because I was then, and continue to have difficulty gathering sufficient information. The other day, however this article was posted on LA Weekly about wage extraction by “Gulen” charter schools:

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student annually, despite long term, disastrous reading results.

After an eventful summer in Silicon Valley, there is blood in the water. At stake is democracy itself.

K Sabeel Rahman:

It was an eventful—and decidedly negative—summer for Silicon Valley. In August the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, not only sending shockwaves through the grocery business but adding to growing anxieties about Amazon’s dominance of the larger retail industry.

Around the same time, New America, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, was engulfed in controversy after an overly public parting of ways with one of its Fellows, Barry Lynn, who had been a leading advocate for expanded antitrust enforcement against tech platforms such as Google, one of New America’s funders. Whether or not Google played a direct role in Lynn’s dismissal, the incident nevertheless raised questions about the political influence of leading Silicon Valley firms.

Vladimir Voevodsky, Revolutionary Mathematician, Dies at 51

Julie Rehmeyer::

Vladimir Voevodsky, formerly a gifted but restless student who flunked out of college out of boredom before emerging as one of the most brilliant and revolutionary mathematicians of his generation, died on Sept. 30 at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 51.

Nadia Shalaby, his former wife, said he was found dead in his home by friends, whom she had called when she had not heard from him. They then called the police. He had been ill and had apparently collapsed, she said, but the exact cause of death had not been determined.

North Tonawanda law punishes parents for their kids’ bullying

Thomas Prohaska:

North Tonawanda has a message for parents of bullies: If your kid commits a crime, you might do the time.

Not a lot of time – no more than 15 days – but long enough to reflect on your bad parenting from the inside of a jail cell.

A new anti-bullying law passed by the North Tonawanda Common Council last week is the first of its kind in Western New York and may be the first in New York State, City Attorney Luke A. Brown said. It places the legal onus on parents of minors who bully other kids, host parties where laws are violated, or who stay out after the city’s curfew.

The law sprang from the frustration of parents and police over juvenile violence earlier this year in North Tonawanda.

Who runs Alameda, city manager … or the fire union?

Daniel Borenstein:

In Alameda, an island community with a long history of strong labor influence, the city manager could lose her job because she resisted political pressure to hire a union leader as fire chief.

The people who probably should be removed from City Hall are council members Malia Vella and Jim Oddie, who apparently violated the city charter by meddling in the selection process. Oddie even threatened to fire City Manager Jill Keimach if she didn’t bend to his wishes, the police chief says.

The charter specifies that hiring decisions rest with the city manager. Council interference is prohibited and grounds for removal from office for malfeasance. City Attorney Janet Kern said Monday she will hire an outside law firm to investigate.

Rather than capitulate to the union, Keimach conducted an open and rigorous recruitment for a new chief to manage the 111-person fire department and its $34 million annual budget.

Last week, she hired Edmond Rodriguez, the chief of the Salinas Fire Department, to fill the post. Questioned by four interview panels, Rodriguez ranked highest in the selection process.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 District has long resisted changing its non-diverse governance model, most recently rejecting a psuedo charter school proposal.

Opinion: Europe’s Strict New Privacy Rules Are Scary but Right

Jason King:

Apple defies industry logic.
 Apple is the only major tech company with a default assumption that consumers don’t want to be tracked or targeted across the web. Its leaders convey a belief that your data is your data until you say otherwise. In a world where data has been called the “new oil,” how does Apple side with privacy and stay so rich?
 Cynics argue that it’s because Apple depends less on advertising and commerce. I say it’s a benefit of Apple’s strategic decision to build trust with its customers.
 If you work in digital media, you need to know that the industry is one year from taking a big step toward Apple’s view. No, this isn’t a case of digital disruption coming (once again) from Silicon Valley. In this case, the seismic shift originates in the European Union. Much of the digital media industry is likely to panic over the coming months. But mark my words: The EU will ultimately lead publishers and advertisers to a better place.

Freedom of Speech isn’t About Speech

Geoff Grear:

There’s been a lot of debate about free speech lately, and I’ve noticed that people on both sides often misunderstand why it’s a good idea. It’s commonly assumed that freedom of speech is about the right of the speaker to express their ideas, but if you read early formulations of the concept, you’ll find a totally different justification: Free speech is good because it benefits the audience, including those who disagree with the speaker. Freedom of speech isn’t about speech. It’s about hearing.

Study: Percentage of CPS students who go straight to college up over last decade

Juan Perez:

In 2015, 63 percent of Chicago Public Schools high school graduates immediately enrolled in a two- or four-year college, a substantial increase from a decade ago, according to a new report from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research.

The 13-percentage-point increase from 2006 was driven in part by a growing number of students enrolling in four-year colleges, researchers found. But the enrollment rate gains were not shared equally by African-American and Latino graduates in 2015, according to the study. Race-based gaps in immediate college enrollment that year “were much wider in Chicago than gaps seen nationally,” the report said.

The district’s overall 63 percent college enrollment rate lagged behind a national average of 69 percent, researchers said. Graduates who attended low-income high schools nationally had an immediate college enrollment rate of 54 percent, the study said.

The percentage of CPS ninth-graders the consortium estimated would earn a bachelor’s degree within a decade of starting high school last year didn’t change from the estimate a year earlier. Researchers again estimated, based on data from 2016, that 18 percent of CPS ninth-graders would graduate from a four-year college within 10 years of starting high school. That projection includes students who first enroll in a community college after leaving high school or delay starting higher education.

From Last to Leading: How Chicago Public Schools Made the Leap

Beth Swanson:

Thirty years after being labeled the worst school district in the nation and after two decades of fiscal crisis, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) welcomed more than 381,000 students back to class last month as a leader among the nation’s urban school districts. If Education Secretary William Bennett intended to motivate the city with his harsh critique in 1987, mission accomplished.

A recent spate of independent studies documents substantial gains made by Chicago students:

Oxford college bans ‘harmful’ Christian Union from freshers’ fair

Camilla Turner and Tony Diver:

An Oxford College has banned the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for students of other religions, and constitute a “micro-aggression”.

The organiser of Balliol’s fair argued Christianity’s historic use as “an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism” meant that students might feel “unwelcome” in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.

Freddy Potts, vice-president of Balliol’s Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, said that if a representative from the Christian Union (CU) attended the fair, it could cause “potential harm” to freshers.

Who Are ‘The People’ Anyway?

Paul Gottfried:

I’m asking these questions because I’d like to know how 39 percent of the voting public can become all of “the people.” I asked myself a similar question as I read The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch—a work that tries to dissociate “the people” from the vile, transnational “overclass” that Lasch blames for the decline of the family and a traditional sense of community. Lasch studiously ignores a major reason that the entertainers, authors, and other celebrities whom he deprecates have done so remarkably well. It’s because “the people” adore them and their cultural products and have made them what they are. Without Lasch’s “people,” the overclass that he despises would not be prospering.

Non-leftist populists have certain groups in mind when they use their conjuring term, just as Democrats do when they refer to grievance-bearing lifestyle and racial minorities as “the people.” Lasch, a defender of settled communities, typically holds up as his paradigm a mid-twentieth century working-class family, featuring very traditional gender roles. Lasch’s ideal mommy packs a lunch pail for his ideal blue-collar dad, who goes off to work in a factory. This is also the image of the populist family that comes to mind when Pat Buchanan tells us about the declining rustbelt and about all of the jobs that have fled from our blue-collar communities to Third World countries. Unlike Buchanan—who is linked to the Old Right—Lasch was considered to be a part of the socialist Left during his lifetime. And yet, the two figures are rhetorically and often programmatically indistinguishable. Both would now exemplify a populism of the Right, combining demands for the protection of the indigenous workforce with fond images of a disappearing America. Since I can easily identify with these images, I am noting this regretfully.

By contrast, most of those who I hear celebrating Trumpian populism—like Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich on Fox News—are not about to restore “the people” as they used to be, or at least how they were perceived to be. After all, cohesive societies with traditional gender and family roles that right-wing populists once took for granted are now much weaker than they once were. The last thing that our would-be populists would want to do is face the rage of LGBT and feminist activists on the social Left, and the unavoidable media outrage. Our self-advertised populists do not therefore attempt to take us back to mid-twentieth century communities, lest they be accused of praising the bad old times. In any case, Trumpian populists have different priorities. For example, Hannity and other pundits on Fox News want to mobilize their viewers against the Democrats and in favor of Republican political candidates. Although they occasionally criticize the GOP for not being up to speed, they then go on to hammer the Democrats for not caring about “the people.” We are urged to help “our president” fulfill the people’s will by voting for Republicans at every level.

Madison education research firm gets 7M grant to expand early literacy

Karen Riverdale:

Education Analytics, a Madison-based nonprofit focused on education research, has been awarded a $7.73 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to expand an early literacy program in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs in in Wisconsin, Alabama and South Carolina.

The SPARK Early Literacy program is a research-based, kindergarten-through-second-grade early reading intervention developed by the Milwaukee-based Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. With the grant, Education Analytics will implement the early literacy program in 15 high-needs schools in rural and urban locations in the three states, the nonprofit said.

The program expansion will serve 960 students in the 15 schools across several Wisconsin school districts, including public schools in Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Almond-Bancroft, Sparta, Antigo and Wisconsin Rapids, as well as Darlington, South Carolina and Huntsville City, Alabama.

Madison has Long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A record 78% of U.S. teens own iPhones

Michael Olson:

Apple’s share of smartphone ownership increased for the fifth consecutive Piper Jaffray Taking Stock With Teens survey. Of >6,000 respondents, 78% have an iPhone, the highest percentage we have seen in our survey (up from 76% in Spring-17). The iPhone may have room to move higher with 82% of teens anticipating their next phone to be an iPhone, also the highest ever recorded in our survey (up from 81% in Spring-17). Android was the runner up with 13%, flat from the spring.

Here are corrected figures for the percentages of students who scored proficient or better in English Language Arts on the 2016-17 Wisconsin Forward exam:

All students: 44.5%
Economically-disadvantaged students: 26.3%
Black students: 14.6%
Students with disabilities: 13.1%
We don’t want to make the results look any worse than they actually are. If you are exploring scores in Wisedash, be aware that the advanced percentages for many sub-groups are so small that the numbers don’t show on the graph. You need to hover your mouse above the thin blue “advanced” bar to find those numbers. Advanced percentages were 3.6 for economically-disadvantaged students, 1.7 for black students, and 1.6 for students with disabilities.

Given the ambitious goals of Wisconsin’s ESSA Plan to close gaps between sub-groups, it is also noteworthy that the gaps between economically disadvantaged and advantaged, black and white, students without and without disabilities, and English language learners and English proficient students all INCREASED from 2015-16.

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Wisconsin wins $95 million charter school grant

Wisconsin DPI, via a kind reader:

Wisconsin won more than $95 million from a competitive, five-year federal grant for the Wisconsin Charter Schools Program, according to an announcement last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant, the largest in the country this year, will support the growth of high-quality charter schools, especially secondary schools that serve educationally disadvantaged students; strengthen and improve charter authorizing quality; and promote and support collaboration and sharing of best practices across the state.

“Our federal grant will help us expand charter school access throughout Wisconsin, especially for our high school kids who are from low-income families,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “All kids, regardless of their circumstances, deserve access to innovative opportunities through our public schools. This grant will help us promote more collaboration and partnerships to take the lessons learned in charter schools and apply that success across the state.”

Wisconsin was an early adopter of the charter school concept, enacting legislation in 1993 with 13 public charter schools created under the initial law. Today, the state has 234 charter schools, enrolling more than 44,000 students. This is Wisconsin’s sixth and largest federal grant to support charter school development.

Unfortunately, Madison’s long non diverse K-12 environment has lead to disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

Honoring the English Curriculum and the Study of U.S. History—Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky, via Will Fitzhugh:

“Advocates of a writing process tended to stress autobiographical narrative writing, not informational or expository writing.”

It sounds excessively dramatic to say that Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards threaten the study of history. In this essay we show why, in the words of a high school teacher, “if implemented as their authors intend, the Common Core will damage history education.”

But we first clarify how the study of history in K-12 ever got tangled up in Common Core’s ELA standards.

How Common Core Came to Include Study of History

The sad story begins with the reason for the contents of a document titled Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

The bulk of the document is on ELA standards. But the last seven pages (pp. 59-66), titled Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, provide “literacy” standards for these subjects in grades 6-12. The introduction to the whole document explains why these standards are in this document.

The standards establish guidelines for English language arts (ELA) as well as for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Because students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, the standards promote the literacy skills and concepts required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines.

The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards form the backbone of the ELA/literacy standards by articulating core knowledge and skills, while grade-specific standards provide additional specificity. Beginning in grade 6, the literacy standards allow teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects to use their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields.

It is important to note that the grade 6–12 literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are meant to supplement content standards in those areas, not replace them. States determine how to incorporate these standards into their existing standards for those subjects or adopt them as content area literacy standards.

As indicated, Common Core’s literacy standards are justified on the grounds that college readiness means being able to read, write, and speak in all subject areas—a reasonable expectation if the “all” doesn’t mean every subject taught in college or a level of proficiency beyond the level of the coursework in the subjects taught in a typical high school.

The first public draft of the ELA standards—in September 2009—made the standards-writers’ vision even clearer than the final version does. It expected students in English classes to “demonstrate facility with the specific reading demands of texts drawn from different disciplines, including history, literature, science, and mathematics.” As the draft explained, “Because the overwhelming majority of college and workplace reading is non-fiction, students need to hone their ability to acquire knowledge from informational texts…[and] …demonstrate facility with the features of texts particular to a variety of disciplines, such as history, science, and mathematics.” That is the basis for entangling the study of history in the final version of Common Core’s ELA document and for the standards-writers’ misconceptions about how students learn to read and write intelligently in other subjects.

The attempt to make English teachers responsible for teaching high school students how to read history, science, and mathematics textbooks relaxed during 2009-2010 after critics made it clear that English teachers could not possibly teach students how to read textbooks in other disciplines. This criticism was supported by the common sense argument that teachers can’t teach students to read texts in a subject they don’t understand themselves, as well as by the total lack of evidence that English teachers can effectively teach reading strategies appropriate to other disciplines and thereby improve students’ knowledge in that discipline.

Nevertheless, Common Core’s ELA standards still expect English teachers to teach “informational” texts about 50 percent of their reading instructional time at every grade level. At least, that is what K-12 curriculum specialists nationwide sees as the curriculum implications of 10 standards for reading “informational” texts and only 9 for reading literary texts at every grade level in the ELA part of the ELA document, even if “informational” texts are called “nonfiction.”

Research on Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum (RAWAC)

Although it is now agreed that English teachers can’t be expected to teach students how to read texts in other subjects in order to improve student learning in these subjects, is it possible that teachers of these other subjects can teach reading strategies that improve students’s knowledge of their subject? The lack of a reference to even one study in a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) 2011 research brief on RAWAC and in a review of the research titled Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices, issued in August 2008 by the Institute of Education Sciences, strongly implies that there is little if any research to support the expectation that subject teachers can effectively teach reading skills in their own classes in ways that improve student learning. Not only are subject teachers reluctant to teach reading in their own classes (as the research indicates), there’s no evidence that even if they do, student learning will be enhanced.

So how do secondary students learn how to read their history books or their science and mathematics textbooks? We will return to this hugely important question at the end of this section—after we look at some literacy standards for history in Common Core—to better understand the problem the standards writers created for the entire secondary curriculum—and at the reasons for the failure of the movement called RAWAC.

What Are Common Core’s Literacy Standards?

Common Core’s literacy standards are clearly not academic, or content, standards, as the introduction to its ELA document promised. They are statements of different purposes for reading and writing in any subject. Here are three standards for History/Social Studies in grades 11/12 as examples:

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

What is telling in the introduction to the whole document is the expectation that subject teachers are to use the content of their subject to teach students how to read, write, and talk in their subjects, not the other way around. Teachers are not to draw on students’ reading, writing, and speaking skills (i.e., their intellectual or thinking processes) to learn the content of their disciplines. Secondary school learning has been turned on its head without any public murmur in 2010, so far as we know, from history, science, or mathematics teachers or their professional organizations, probably because most subject teachers did not know they were being required to teach reading and writing in a document ostensibly designated for English and reading teachers. (The National Council for the Social Studies apparently knew what the ELA standards writers intended, according to this article, but did not communicate any concerns to its members, so far as we know.)

This stealth requirement should have sparked broad public discussion when the final version of the Common Core standards was released (in June 2010) and before state boards of education voted to adopt them. But, so far as we know, there is no record of any attempt by a state board or commissioner of education to hear from a broad range and large number of secondary teachers in all subjects (including English and mathematics teachers).

Why Earlier Efforts at RAWAC Failed

A major attempt to get subject teachers to teach reading and writing skills called Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) or Reading and Writing across the Curriculum (RAWAC) took place in the 1960s and 1970s at the college level and in K-12, and it had gradually fizzled out with little to show for it. There was no explanation in the Common Core document of how Common Core’s effort was different, if in fact it was. Perhaps the standards writers simply didn’t know about these failed movements and why they failed. As noted above, NCTE’s 2011 policy research brief did not reference even one study after boldly declaring that the “research is clear: discipline-based instruction in reading and writing enhances student achievement in all subjects.”

RAWAC failed for many reasons, and we suggest some of the most obvious ones first.

No systematic information available: On the surface, the effort to make secondary subject teachers responsible for assigning more reading to their students and/or teaching them how to read whatever they assigned sounded desirable and eminently justifiable. But there was no systematic information on what the average student read, how much they read, or why they were not doing much reading if that were the case. Why assign more reading and/or try to teach students how to read it if there were reasons for not assigning much reading to begin with (e.g., no textbooks available, students couldn’t read whatever textbooks were available on the topic, students wouldn’t do much homework)?

Misunderstanding of what history teachers do: Part of the demise of RAWAC in K-12 may be attributed to a misunderstanding by its advocates of what history teachers actually do in a classroom when teaching history. They might ask their students, for example, to describe and document Lincoln’s evolving political position on how best to preserve the Union from the beginning to the end of the Civil War—after giving them a range of documents to read or look at. Such a directive requires application of CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 (integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem) to a history lesson, which is how the general skill gets developed. But, in doing so, history teachers are not trying to teach a literacy skill; they are aiming to expand students’ conscious knowledge base.

Take another possible example—a lesson on totalitarianism. History teachers might assign and discuss a reading on a totalitarian state in the 20th century—how it controls resources and people’s behavior. They might then ask directly: “According to this reading, what is a totalitarian state like? What does it try to do? What were the weaknesses of the Soviet Union as an example of a totalitarian state? History teachers are unlikely to talk about (or think in terms of) “main idea” or “supporting details” in discussing what students have read about a totalitarian state, but they are clearly talking about a main idea and supporting details when they raise specific questions for discussion about a specific topic. They are asking students to apply these general skills in topic-related language for the classroom lesson and thereby develop the skills.

History teachers (like science teachers) use the specific content of their discipline in ways that require students to apply their intellectual processes and their prior knowledge to what they have been assigned to read or do. If students cannot answer the questions on the grounds that they couldn’t read the assignment, other issues need to be explored.

Less and less reading outside of school: The demise of RAWAC in K-12 can also be traced to the diminishing amount of reading and writing done outside of school hours. How much reading have students been doing on the topic under discussion? In other words, do they have any prior knowledge? Are they familiar with the vocabulary related to the topic? The two are related. Students can absorb some of the discipline-related vocabulary of a discipline-based topic by reading and re-reading the material carefully (as in history) or by working carefully with material named by these words (as in a science lab) without constantly consulting a glossary. But how to get students to do more reading (or re-reading) is not the purpose of a standard. Getting students to address questions about particular topics in a discipline with adequate and sufficient information (i.e., to develop their conscious understanding of the topics) is one purpose of a standard.

Reading and writing as homework is the student’s responsibility, not the teacher’s. This responsibility is not shaped by the words in an academic standard. It is dependent on a student’s self-discipline and motivation, elements of the student’s character beyond the teacher’s control. Teachers can set up incentives and disincentives, but these must be reinforced by policies set by a school board, parents, and school administrators. They are not governed by academic objectives.

History teachers’ self-image: Needless to say, the demise of RAWAC in K-12 can in part be traced to content teachers’ self-image, an issue highlighted in the research literature. The need for writing in subject-based classrooms makes sense to most teachers, but significantly more writing activities didn’t take place in the secondary school in response to RAWAC efforts in large part because content teachers, with large numbers of students to teach on a daily or weekly basis, did not see themselves as writing teachers. They continue to see English teachers as teachers of writing (and literature), and themselves as teachers of specific subjects like math, science, or history. Students who read little or read mainly easy texts are unlikely to be able to do the kind of expository writing their subject areas require because the research is clear that good writing is dependent on good reading. This points to another possible reason for the demise of RAWAC.

Stress on autobiographical, narrative, or informal writing: The emphasis on non-text-based writing in the ELA class beginning in the 1970s. Advocates of a writing process tended to stress autobiographical narrative writing, not informational or expository writing. Students were also encouraged to do free “journal” writing because it was shapeless and needed no correction. Subject teachers were fighting an overwhelming emphasis on non-reasoned and non-text-based writing in elementary classrooms, secondary English classes, and teacher workshops from the 1970s on and may have decided that asking for reading-based writing and re-shaping what students submitted was not worth the effort. We simply don’t know because there is no direct and systematic research on the issue.

Professional development on different history content, not discipline-based reading: There may be yet another reason that subject teachers avoided implementing RAWAC. There is little in-depth research on this issue, and for good reason. We know little about the quality of the professional development they received. The focus of professional development for history teachers at the time RAWAC was being promoted was often the content or view of the content that was being introduced in the name of critical pedagogy or multiculturalism. The workshops described in “The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers”
have a decided focus on teaching teachers and their students what to think about U.S. and world history rather than on how to read and write in a history class. Reading and writing activities were included in these workshops, but the development of “literacy” skills was not their goal.

Providing professional development is a huge and very profitable industry because most of it is mandated by local, state, or federal authorities. But it has almost no track record of effectiveness in significantly increasing students’ knowledge of the subject. This was the conclusion of a massive review of the research on professional development for mathematics teachers undertaken by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) in 2008. There is no reason to consider the situation different for history teachers. Note that we are not talking about professional development to teach history teachers how to teach reading and writing in their own subjects; we are talking about workshops to teach teachers the content of the subjects they are already licensed to teach so they can better teach the content to their students.

No information on qualifications of workshop providers: Professional development to teach history teachers how to teach students to read and write in their disciplines presents an even bleaker picture. Not one study showing the effectiveness of the practice is cited in the NCTE report in 2011 or in an IES report in 2008 despite both reports lauding its benefits. None of the studies reviewed by the NMAP for its task group report on professional development looked at the adequacy of the academic qualifications of the professional development providers in the reviewed studies. Yet the qualifications of professional development providers was such a serious issue in implementing the state’s Education Reform Act of 1993 that the Massachusetts Department of Education required the involvement of historians in the “content” workshops for history teachers it funded even though it could not establish criteria for the organizers of these workshops.

How Common Core Damages the K-12 History Curriculum

The underlying issue is revealed by the titles offered in Appendix B as “exemplars” of the quality and complexity of the informational reading that history (and English, science, and mathematics) teachers could use to boost the amount of reading their students do and to teach disciplinary reading and writing skills. The standards writers do not understand the high school curriculum.

Inappropriate exemplars for informational reading: While English teachers in grades 9-10 may be puzzled about the listing for them of Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Second Virginia Convention,” Margaret Chase Smith’s “Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience,” and George Washington’s “Farewell Address”—all non-literary, political speeches—history teachers in grades 9/10 may be even more puzzled by the exemplars for them. Among a few appropriate exemplars (on the history of indigenous and African Americans) we find E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, 16th Edition, Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and Wendy Thompson’s The Illustrated Book of Great Composers. It’s hard to see any high school history teacher comfortably tackling excerpts from those books in the middle of a grade 9 or 10 world history or U.S. history course. Yes, these titles are only exemplars of the quality and complexity desired. But what would be appropriate for the courses history teachers are likely to teach in grade 9 or 10?

The informational exemplars in Appendix B for history teachers in grades 11/12 are even more bizarre. Along with a suitable text, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, we find Julian Bell’s Mirror of the World: A New History of Art and FedViews, issued in 2009 by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. These two titles clearly don’t fit into a standard grade 11 U.S. history course or a standard grade 12 U.S. government course. These exemplars are out of place not just in a typical high school history class but in a typical high school curriculum.

The standards writers wanted to make teachers across the curriculum as responsible for teaching “literacy” as the English teacher, which at first sounds fair, almost noble. But to judge from the sample titles they offer for increasing and teaching informational reading in other subjects, informational literacy seems to be something teachers are to cultivate and students to acquire, independent of a coherent, sequential, and substantive curriculum in the topic of the informational text. Strong readers can acquire informational literacy independent of a coherent and graduated curriculum. But weak readers end up deprived of class time better spent immersed in the content of their courses.

Inappropriate literacy strategies—a nonhistorical approach to historical texts: Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of Common Core’s approach to literary study is the advice given teachers by its chief writer David Coleman, now president of the College Board, on the supposed value of “cold” or “close” (non-contextualized) reading of historical documents like the “Gettysburg Address.” Doing so “levels the playing field,” according to Coleman. History teachers believe doing so contributes to historical illiteracy.

Aside from the fact that “close” reading was not developed or promoted by Yale English professors Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren as a reading technique for historical documents, no history or English teacher before the advent of Common Core would approach the study of a seminal historical document by withholding initial information about its historical context, why it was created at that particular time, by whom, for what purposes so far as the historical record tells us, and clear language archaisms. Nor would they keep such information from being considered in interpreting Lincoln’s speech. Yet, David Coleman has categorically declared: “This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students.”

As high school teacher Craig Thurtell states: “This approach also permits the allocation of historical texts to English teachers, most of whom are untrained in the study of history, and leads to history standards [Common Core’s literacy standards for history] that neglect the distinctiveness of the discipline.” Thurtell goes on to say that the “study of history requires the use of specific concepts and cognitive skills that characterize the discipline—concepts like evidence and causation and skills like contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration. These concepts and skills are largely distinct from those employed in literary analysis. Both disciplines engage in close readings of texts, for example, but with different purposes. The object of the literary critic is the text, or more broadly, the genre; for the historian it is, however limited or defined, a wider narrative of human history, which textual analysis serves.”

Causes of Poor Reading in High School

Not only did the writers of the Common Core English language arts standards profoundly misunderstand how reading in a history class differs from reading in a literature class, they basically misunderstood the causes of the educational problem they sought to remedy through Common Core’s standards—the number of high school graduates who need remedial coursework in reading and writing as college freshmen and the equally large number of students who fail to graduate from high school and go on to a post-secondary educational institution.

The architects of Common Core assumed that the major cause of this educational problem is that English teachers have given low-achieving students too heavy a diet of literary works and that teachers in other subjects have deliberately or unwittingly not taught them how to read complex texts in these other subjects. This assumption doesn’t hold up.

High school teachers will readily acknowledge that low-performing students have not been assigned complex textbooks because, generally speaking, they can’t read them and, in fact, don’t read much of anything with academic content. As a result, they have not acquired the content knowledge and the vocabulary needed for reading complex history textbooks. And this is despite (not because of) the steady decline in vocabulary difficulty in secondary school textbooks over the past half century and the efforts of science and history teachers from the elementary grades on to make their subjects as text-free as possible. Educational publishers and teachers have made intensive and expensive efforts to develop curriculum materials that accommodate students who are not interested in reading much. These accommodations in K-8 have gotten low-performing students into high school, but they can’t be made at the college level. College-level materials are written at an adult level, often by those who teach college courses.

Higher levels of writing are increasingly dependent on higher levels of reading. Students unwilling to read a lot do not advance very far as writers. The chief casualty of little reading is the general academic vocabulary needed for academic reading and writing. The accumulation of a large and usable discipline-specific vocabulary depends on graduated reading in a coherent sequence of courses (known as a curriculum) in that discipline. The accumulation of a general academic vocabulary, however, depends on reading a lot of increasingly complex literary works with strong plots and characters that entice poor readers to make efforts to read them. The reduction in literary study implicitly mandated by Common Core’s ELA standards will lead to fewer opportunities for students to acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for serious historical nonfiction, the texts secondary history students should be reading.


There are several possible solutions to the problem Common Core’s architects sought to solve—how to help poor readers in high school.

1. Schools can establish secondary reading classes separate from the English and other subject classes. Students who read little and cannot or won’t read high school level textbooks can be given further reading instruction in the secondary grades by teachers with strong academic backgrounds (like Teach For America volunteers) who have been trained to teach reading skills in the context of the academic subjects students are taking. It’s not easy to do, but it is doable.

2. A second solution may be for schools to enable English and history teachers to provide professional development to each other in the same high school. The context and philosophical/moral antecedents for our seminal political documents (e.g., Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) can be explained/taught to English teachers by their colleagues in the History department, while an analysis of their language and other stylistic features can be explained/taught to history teachers by their colleagues in the English department. ]

3. The most important solution to the problem of poor reading in high school is for state boards of education, governors, and state legislatures to require U.S. history courses in which all students, high- or low-income, native or immigrant, study together the common civic core spelled out in Paul Gagnon’s Educating Democracy. Surely the American Federation of Teachers could make this essay available in bulk to honor a historian who dedicated his academic life to advancing the education of the low-income students he taught in the Boston area.

We are left with an overarching question. Why were intelligent and educated people (state board of education members, state commissioners of education, and governors) so eager to accept the opinions of standards writers who had no understanding of the K-12 curriculum in ELA and were not literary scholars, historians or “experts” in history or English education, either? Why didn’t intelligent and educated people read Appendix B for themselves, especially in the high school grades, and ask how subject teachers could possibly give “literacy” instruction in the middle of content instruction? Self-government cannot survive if citizens are unwilling to ask informed questions in public of educational policy makers and to demand answers.

Will Fitzhugh @ The Concord Review.

Surprise! SBAC and CRESST stonewall public records request for their financial records

Richard Phelps:

Say what you will about Achieve, PARCC, Fordham, CCSSO, and NGA— some of the organizations responsible for promoting the Common Core Initiative on us all. But, their financial records are publicly available.

Not so for some other organizations responsible for the same Common Core promotion. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Center for Research on Educational Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) have absorbed many millions of taxpayer and foundation dollars over the years. But, their financial records have been hidden inside the vast, nebulous cocoon of the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA’s financial records, of course, are publicly available, but amounts there are aggregated at a level that subsumes thousands of separate, individual entities.

UCLA is a tax-supported state institution, however, and California has an open records law on the books. After some digging, I located the UCLA office responsible for records requests and wrote to them. Following is a summary of our correspondence to date:

“Equity in Education: The Transformative Power of a Strong Middle School Foundation”

Via a kind Matthew Frankel email:

Philadelphia, PA – October 4, 2017 – Young Scholars Charter School will bring together city and national leaders in the area of education, on Wednesday, October 11th, to help launch its first annual education forum, which hopes to kick off a series of needed discussions showcasing the challenges, aspirations and innovative best practices occurring across our nation’s schools.

The theme of this year’s inaugural event will be “Equity in Education: The Transformative Power of a Strong Middle School Foundation,” and will include noted policy leaders and experts such as W. Curtis Thomas, Pennsylvania State Representative, 181st Legislative District; Paul Harrington, Labor Economist, Professor and Director of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University; David Hardy, Founder, Boys Latin Charter School; Patty Alper, Author of Teach to Work, Rachel Willis, Founder and CEO, Elevating Equity; and TL Hill, Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Managing Director of the Fox Management Consulting Practice at Temple University, Fox School of Business.

The event, which will be moderated by Winston J. Churchill, Managing General Partner of SCP Partners and Chairman of the Board at Young Scholars Charter School, will include a discussion of research and programs across sectors that are positioning adolescents in urban centers for post-secondary success.

“We are thrilled to launch our Annual Young Scholars Education Forum with a discussion highlighting the importance of a middle school education, specifically for our nation’s traditionally underserved youth” stated Mr. Churchill.

“The purpose of these forums is to create a positive environment where city and national leaders can come together for a transparent best practices discussion that can ultimately serve as a learning hub for schools across the city. While there is great work happening across Philadelphia, more collaborative spaces to learn, share and innovate need to exist if we are going to create true and equitable access to opportunity. We hope that through sharing challenges and successes in the field, having honest dialogue and exploring ways to accelerate and amplify change, these forums will serve as a catalyst for greater information sharing, formation of partnerships and the birth of innovative ideas for our students and families,” shared John Amenda, Executive Director, Young Scholars Charter School.


Annual Young Scholar Education Forum – “Equity in Education: The Transformative Power of a Strong Middle School Foundation”


Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 3:00 pm.


Young Scholars Charter School, 900 N Marshall St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Civics: Rule of Law Edition – City attorney: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin should have sought approval before removing Confederate monument

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:/a>

Two community members weren’t sure Soglin had the authority to order removal of the plaques unilaterally. David Wallner, chair of the Board of Park Commissioners, and Stuart Levitan, chair of the Landmarks Commission, separately contacted the city attorney questioning the legal authority of the move.

Because the entire cemetery is designated as a landmark, Levitan thought the removal of the plaque required a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Landmarks Commission. Wallner wanted to know whether Soglin could remove the monument without the approval of the Board of Park Commissioners, which manages the cemetery.

“This came up fairly quickly about a month ago, and for the sake of the commission members I wanted to know what our role and authority was,” Wallen said.

The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ian Ground:

If you ask philosophers – those in the English speaking analytic tradition anyway – who is the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, they will most likely name Ludwig Wittgenstein. But the chances are that if you ask them exactly why he was so important, they will be unable to tell you. Moreover, in their own philosophical practice it will be rare, certainly these days, that they mention him or his work. Indeed, they may very fluently introduce positions, against which Wittgenstein launched powerful arguments: the very arguments which, by general agreement, make him such an important philosopher. Contemporary philosophers don’t argue with Wittgenstein. Rather they bypass him. Wittgenstein has a deeply ambivalent status – he has authority, but not influence.

For the more general reader, Wittgenstein’s status in contemporary philosophy will be puzzling. The general view is that Wittgenstein is surely the very model of a great philosopher. The perception is that he is difficult, obscure and intense, severe and mystical, charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his charisma and difficulty bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life he had to lead. This is perhaps why writers and artists have found him an object of fascination and inspiration. He is the subject of novels, poetry, plays, painting, music, sculpture and films. In the arts and the culture generally, Wittgenstein seems to be what a philosopher ought to be.

Free Speech Advocate Silenced at William & Mary

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf:

Students at the College of William & Mary affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement broke the code of conduct there last week when they shut down a talk by an American Civil Liberties Union representative, though officials at the public institution won’t say if or how they will be punished.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU’s Virginia chapter, attempted to discuss free speech issues with students at the college in Williamsburg, Va., on Sept. 27, but no more than a few minutes into her talk, students holding signs lined the stage where she was speaking and drowned her out with chants of “ACLU, free speech for who?” “The oppressed are not impressed,” “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too,” “Blood on your hands,” “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Your free speech hides beneath white sheets.”

Later, when it was clear her talk couldn’t continue, students interested in Gastañaga’s views tried to speak with her one on one. Those protesting simply yelled louder, preventing this. Gastañaga was never able to address the small crowd that had gathered, either broadly or individually.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Overlooked By ACA: Many People Paying Full Price For Insurance ‘Getting Slammed’

Julie Rovner::

Paul Melquist of St. Paul, Minn., has a message for the people who wrote the Affordable Care Act: “Quit wrecking my health care.”

Teri Goodrich, of Raleigh, N.C., has the same complaint. “We’re getting slammed. We didn’t budget for this,” she said.

Millions of people have gained health insurance because of the federal health law. Millions more have seen their existing coverage improved.

But one small slice of the population — including Melquist and Goodrich — are unquestionably worse off. They are healthy people who buy their own coverage but earn too much to qualify for help paying their premiums. And the premium hikes that are being announced as enrollment looms for next year — in some states, increases topping 50 percent — will make their situations more miserable.

‘It’s seen as a cool place to work’ – how China’s censorship machine is becoming a growth industry


Welcome to China’s new world of online censorship, where Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Silicon Valley start-up.

The young censors in the Tianjin office – or “auditors” – work for Beijing ByteDance Technology Co, better known as Toutiao, a popular and fast-growing news feed app.

Surrounded by noodle restaurants and construction sites, the Wisdom Mountain Twin Towers, where the censors do their work, don’t exactly look Orwellian.

Workers scan into bright offices using iPads. There are team building sessions typical of start-ups the world over. And the dress code is casual.

China warns WhatsApp to stop spread of ‘illegal information’

“Our corporate culture is really good; every afternoon, for example, we get together for tea,” said one censor at the Toutiao office. A “horizontal” management structure means “ordinary employees can send messages about their issues straight to the CEO”.

The censor added: “Overall the firm is seen as a cool place to work.”

Toutiao’s Tianjin “auditing” centre is at the heart of a vast Chinese censorship effort that is growing fast as official scrutiny of online content intensifies.

According to figures released by the state media outlet Beijing News, China had roughly 2 million online content monitors in government departments and private companies in 2013. Academics estimate that number has since risen sharply.

School exclusions data in England only ‘the tip of the iceberg’

Sally Weakle:

Government figures for the number of children permanently excluded from school are “the tip of the iceberg”, with five times more children being educated in schools for excluded pupils than official data suggests, according to research.

National figures from the Department for Education show that 6,685 pupils were permanently excluded from schools in England in 2015-16 – the majority of them in the run-up to their GCSEs – marking a 40% increase over the past three years.

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank claims these figures mask the true scale of the problem, with pupils forced out of mainstream schools by informal methods that are not captured in national exclusions data.

Spies on Campus How the CIA secretly exploits higher education

Daniel Golden:

n the crisp autumn afternoon of November 26, 2007, a black car picked up Graham Spanier, then president of Pennsylvania State University, at Dulles International Airport and whisked him to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Using his identification card — embedded with a hologram and computer chip — he checked in at security and was greeted by the chief of staff of the National Resources Division, the CIA’s clandestine domestic service. They proceeded to a conference room, where about two dozen chiefs of station and other senior CIA intelligence officers awaited them.

Spanier was expecting to brief them on the work of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, an organization he chaired and had helped create, which fostered dialogue between intelligence agencies and universities. First, though, the CIA surprised him. In a brief ceremony, it presented him with the Warren Medal, said to be the agency’s highest honor for nonemployees.

“Their communication skills and tolerance for ambiguity serve them well. The trick is getting that first job”

Matt Reed:

I think we’re asking the question too broadly. Instead, it’s probably helpful to distinguish between the skills that get someone in the door and the skills that get them promoted.

Part of the confusion comes from asking different people the same question. If you ask CEO’s what they want, you tend to get a lot of references to soft skills. That makes sense; they’re looking at their best people, and at what sets them apart from the rest. But actual hiring managers on the ground hire to solve more immediate problems. That tends to mean more focus on training that will solve the problem that’s right in front of them. If the employee also happens to have the soft skills, that’s great, and it bodes well for longevity, but it’s not what they’re looking for in the moment.

Why America Needs Foreign Medical Graduates

Aaron Carroll:

As our recent eight-nation bracket tournament showed, many people think the United States health care system has a lot of problems. So it seems reasonable to think of policy changes that make things better, not worse. Making it harder for immigrants to come here to practice medicine would fail that test.

The American system relies to a surprising extent on foreign medical graduates, most of whom are citizens of other countries when they arrive. By any objective standard, the United States trains far too few physicians to care for all the patients who need them. We rank toward the bottom of developed nations with respect to medical graduates per population.

Unless You Are Spock, Irrelevant Things Matter in Economic Behavior

Richard Thaler:

I wanted the exam to sort out the stars, the average Joes and the duds, so it had to be hard and have a wide dispersion of scores. I succeeded in writing such an exam, but when the students got their results they were in an uproar. Their principal complaint was that the average score was only 72 points out of 100.

What was odd about this reaction was that I had already explained that the average numerical score on the exam had absolutely no effect on the distribution of letter grades. We employed a curve in which the average grade was a B+, and only a tiny number of students received grades below a C. I told the class this, but it had no effect on the students’ mood. They still hated my exam, and they were none too happy with me either. As a young professor worried about keeping my job, I wasn’t sure what to do.

Finally, an idea occurred to me. On the next exam, I raised the points available for a perfect score to 137. This exam turned out to be harder than the first. Students got only 70 percent of the answers right but the average numerical score was 96 points. The students were delighted!

I chose 137 as a maximum score for two reasons. First, it produced an average well into the 90s, and some students scored above 100, generating a reaction approaching ecstasy. Second, because dividing by 137 is not easy to do in your head, I figured that most students wouldn’t convert their scores into percentages.

Britain announces 15 years in prison for reading banned literature

Rick Falkvinge:

British lawmakers have announced 15 years in prison for taking part of banned literature. However, the threat of prison only covers new story formats that lawmakers think don’t deserve the same kind of protection as old-fashioned books: it’s only people who watch video on the Internet who will be put in prison, and only when they watch something that promotes terrorism, whatever that means this week.

What the CIA’s Tech Director Wants from AI

Patrick Tucker:

But the CIA’s head of technology development has a different take. Dawn Meyerriecks is less worried about rival nation states might use AI to outflank the United States than about getting U.S. leaders to believe what AI is telling them. “If I want to increase [ certainty in a particular AI-aided assessment] what goes into it? What do I need in order to make a really good assessment on the back-end because that tells me what sort of collection I need to raise confidence to go address national leadership?”

The CIA currently has 137 pilot projects directly related to artificial intelligence, Meyerriecks, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology, told the Intelligence and National Security Summit in downtown DC. These “experiments” include everything from automatically tagging objects in video (so analysts can pay attention to what’s important) to better predicting future events based on big data and correlational evidence.

“Peer review” is younger than you think. Does that mean it can go away?

Ben Schmidt:

But even if peer review is ancient, “peer review” itself is quite new. I was surprised, a few years ago, in performing anachronism consulting for the show “Masters of Sex,” set in the early 1960s, to see my algorithms reject one character’s suggestion that Masters and Johnson needed to publish in peer reviewed journals as hopelessly anachronistic. But that is indeed the case. Google Ngrams shows only sporadic uses before about 1970; the adjectival form “peer reviewed,” as adhering to scholarship, barely exists before 1980. (As always, you should basically ignore Google Ngrams results from after 2000, but why not include them?)

2017 California school test scores: Why are they flatlining?

Sharon Noguchi::

Breaking with its steadily upward trend, California’s annual test scores have stagnated, with fewer than half of students proficient in math and English, and a wide ethnic achievement gap persisting.

State scores released Wednesday show just 49 percent of students proficient in English and 37 percent proficient in math. The numbers are half a percentage-point different from 2016 — down in English and up in math. Tests were administered last spring to students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade.

The state’s education leaders played down officials’ attitude.

Drastic reforms for better teacher pensions could help Louisiana schools financially

Chad Aldeman:

Louisiana has been pouring money into its schools over the last ten years at twice the rate of inflation, but that money isn’t reaching teachers or students.

There are two basic trends that explain this riddle. One, large increases in spending on noninstructional “support services” accounts for about half of the difference. And two, Louisiana has doubled the amount of money it is paying toward employee benefits. As a state, Louisiana’s schools and districts are now spending more than $3,000 per student on employee benefits.

Much of this is driven by huge increases in the cost of paying down unfunded liabilities in the state’s teacher pension system. Today, Louisiana has one of the most expensive teacher pension system in the country — and also one of the least generous.

To make up for a shortfall of almost $12 billion, Louisiana school districts are now forced to pay more than 30 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the state pension fund. The vast majority of that contribution goes to pay down debts, not for actual benefits for teachers. For at least the last 25 years, Louisiana has never paid its pension bills in full, causing the debt to grow and grow.

Did Facebook Play Favorites with Obama?

Tech President:

The fact that Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is working on the Obama campaign might have something to do with it. In writing up platform’s launch, Chris Wilson of USNews.com talked to Hughes last week and wrote that “the Illinois senator had a major advantage on this front in the form of staffer Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook who still serves as a consultant for the site.” And Amy Schatz, in her recent profile of Hughes for the Wall Street Journal, listed the Obama Facebook application as an example of the work Hughes and other Obama staffers are doing.

The Obama campaign demurs when asked about when Facebook gave it access to their API. “We are fortunate to have Chris and the incredible skill set he brings to the campaign on our team,” it said in a statement. “The Obama campaign produced the tools ourselves, followed the guidelines set out by Facebook and look forward to welcoming more friends to our network.”

Although Facebook has supported profiles for most of the candidates, apparently it intends to step much more directly into the political arena. According to a email memo sent out to the campaigns after Platform was launched, it is encouraging all campaigns to develop applications for Platform, and is currently building “US Politics” and “Canadian Politics” applications that will house all politicians’ profiles that will enable users to get updates from the candidates and allow them to advertise a candidate on their profile (Newsvine just launched it’s own application on Platform that can do just that). It will be adding more political features throughout the summer.


Matt Dougherty:

A Houston civil rights attorney says he is suing the Cy-Fair school district on behalf of his client who claims she was kicked out of school for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

India Landry, a Windfern High School senior, says she was in the principal’s office on Monday when the pledge came over the intercom. She says the principal told her to stand, but she refused.

“And then the pledge came on, and they both stood, and then I didn’t,” Landry said. “[The principal] asked me to, and I said I wouldn’t. And then she said ‘Well, you’re kicked out of here.’”

The end of free college in England: implications for quality, enrollments and equity

Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton and Gillian Wyness

Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university quality, enrolments, and equity. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head, rising enrolments, and a narrowing of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. In contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system keeps university free at the point of entry, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. We conclude that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.

A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments of Critical Thinking and Democratic Decency

Maria Popova:

British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of the most intellectually diverse and influential thinkers in modern history, his philosophy of religion in particular having shaped the work of such modern atheism champions as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. From the third volume of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1944-1969 comes this remarkable micro-manifesto, entitled A Liberal Decalogue (public library) — a vision for responsibilities of a teacher, in which Russell touches on a number of recurring themes from pickings past — the purpose of education, the value of uncertainty, the importance of critical thinking, the gift of intelligent criticism, and more.

It originally appeared in the December 16, 1951, issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”

A Comparison of Four Algorithms Textbooks

The Poetry Of Computer Science

At some point, you can’t get any further with linked lists, selection sort, and voodoo Big O, and you have to go get a real algorithms textbook and learn all that horrible math, at least a little. But which book? There are tons of them.

I haven’t read every algorithms book out there, but I have read four of them. Maybe my experience with these four can help guide your decision. The four books are Algorithms, by Dasgupta, Papadimitriou, and Vazirani (hereafter called Dasgupta); Introduction to Algorithms, by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein (hereafter called CLRS); The Algorithm Design Manual, by Steve Skiena (hereafter called Skiena); and The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3. I’ll do a five-point comparison, going over the prose style, code use, mathematical heaviness, breadth and depth of topics, and position on the continuum between theoretical and practical of each book.

There’s one thing you should know before I start: Skiena and Dasgupta are both available for free online, while Knuth and CLRS aren’t (well, they probably are, but not legally). So that might make your decision for you.

Teen with Down syndrome crowned Homecoming Queen by Coronado students

Bill Knight:

And, on Friday night, escorted by her proud father Mario Gardea, Gonzalez was presented at halftime of the Coronado-Pebble Hills football game in the traditional ceremonies.
“I am still so excited,” Gonzalez said Saturday. “Yes, I was very nervous when they were announcing the court Friday afternoon. And then I was just so happy; so happy.”
Samantha Gonzalez was born with Down syndrome but she has never let it stop her in her joyous journey through this life. She is who she is.