200 universities just launched 600 free online courses. Here’s the full list.

Dhawal Shah:

If you haven’t heard, universities around the world are offering their courses online for free (or at least partially free). These courses are collectively called MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.

In the past six years or so, close to 800 universities have created more than 8,000 of these MOOCs. And I’ve been keeping track of these MOOCs the entire time over at Class Central, ever since they rose to prominence.

In the past three months alone, over 200 universities have announced 600 such free online courses. I’ve compiled a list of them and categorized them according to the following subjects: Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, Data Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Teaching, Health & Medicine, Business, Personal Development, Engineering, Art & Design, and finally Science.

Laurier university starts independent probe after teaching assistant plays clip of gender debate

Michelle McQuige:

An Ontario university that has raised eyebrows among those concerned with questions of academic freedom has engaged a third-party investigator to probe an incident involving one of its teaching assistants.

Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she ran afoul of school authorities after she aired a clip in two tutorials of a debate on gender-neutral pronouns featuring polarizing University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.

The excerpt from TVO’s current affairs program The Agenda shows Peterson, who has famously refused to use gender pronouns other than “he” or “she,” defending his position against a professor who argued it was necessary to use the pronouns that a person prefers to be called.

Complex Problems Require Rapid Experiments

Paul Taylor:

Most of you will have taken part in the Marshmallow Challenge or a variant of it. It’s the team exercise where you get a load of spaghetti, some tape, a marshmallow, a piece of string, and 18 minutes to build the tallest freestanding structure.

Peter Skillman, who devised it, found something fascinating when he tested it on multiple participants.

Children out performed most groups – including business school students and CEOs.

When Vicky Green repeated this experiment in Bromford Lab a couple of years ago – the team that did worst were…..our Project Managers.

Sandburg maker space clubs give students choices

Pamela Cotant:

Fourth-grader Andi Paulsen is excited to get the chance to spend part of every Wednesday afternoon practicing with a new band at her Sandburg Elementary School.

“I’ve been dying to learn how to play guitar,” she said.

The band is one of the options during Sandburg ‘choice time,’ when third through fifth graders participate in a variety of clubs. Started last year, it was expanded this year and is being supported by “Making Spaces,” which is a new partnership between the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program, the Madison School District and the Foundation for Madison Public Schools to support maker education.

Disrupting the World of Private School With Tech and Guinea Pigs

Kate Taylor:

Long dominated by a small group of elite institutions, New York City’s private schools have limited seats, annual tuition approaching $50,000, and an admissions process that can drive even the most levelheaded parents to teeth-grinding anxiety. The schools range in philosophy from traditional to progressive, but in general, they change slowly, if at all.

Now, a rash of start-ups say they can offer more 21st-century alternatives — and make a profit in the process.

They are entities like AltSchool, a San Francisco-based start-up that says it can use technology to revolutionize education. It opened its first “micro-school” in New York in 2015, and has opened two more since then.

There are the cost-cutter schools, like the tiny Portfolio School, which opened last year in TriBeCa, and uses technology to keep administrative costs down but emphasizes experiential learning, like having students design a home for the class’s pet guinea pigs. BASIS Independent Schools, with campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, offer a traditional curriculum, with an emphasis on science, for about a third less in tuition than the city’s most prestigious private schools.

A Billionaire Is Trying to Ignite a Revolution in Russian Education

Emily Erken:

An education revolution could be coming to Russia. Its stage: the fields and forests on the outskirts of the country’s capital.

In 2012, the Russian government incorporated large swaths of land into Moscow, nearly doubling the city’s already vast area. Dubbed New Moscow, the new space was soon auctioned off under a mandate to develop it as an urbanist utopia of mixed housing, public transportation and recreational space.

Vadim Moshkovich, a Russian agriculture and real estate mogul, won the tender. Two years earlier, he had conceived Russia’s ideal private school to be set just outside the capital. New Moscow would serve as the perfect playground for his vision.

Moshkovich, whose net worth was estimated at $1.3 billion in 2014, created a 200 million dollar trust for his dream project, The Letovo School. The endowment will cover student tuition — $20,000 per year — a tantalizing carrot for most Russian families.

A Hedge Fund That Has a University

Thomas Gilbert and Christopher Hrdlicka:

Whatever you may hear, the Republican tax-reform proposal isn’t an assault on higher education. The House and Senate plans include a new 1.4% excise tax on the net investment income of university endowments, but the levy applies only to private colleges with at least 500 students and endowments of more than $250,000 a student. Schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton—which together hold over $100 billion—are predicting doom. Yet this long-overdue tax will benefit higher education in the end.

Over the past 30 years universities have chased higher returns on their endowments, leading them to take greater risks. Our research shows that more than 75% of the assets in university endowments are now in risky investments: equities, hedge funds and private equity. Think of Harvard as a tax-free hedge fund that happens to have a university.

A Chess Novice Challenged Magnus Carlsen. He Had One Month to Train

Ben Cohen:

Max Deutsch went through a month of training before he traveled across the ocean, sat down in a regal hotel suite at the appointed hour and waited for the arrival of the world’s greatest chess player.

Max was not very good at chess himself. He’s a 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco and plays the sport occasionally to amuse himself. He was a prototypical amateur. Now he was preparing himself for a match against chess royalty. And he believed he could win.

The unlikely series of events that brought him to this stage began last year, when Max challenged himself to a series of monthly tasks that were ambitious bordering on absurd. He memorized the order of a shuffled deck of cards. He sketched an eerily accurate self-portrait. He solved a Rubik’s cube in 17 seconds. He developed perfect musical pitch and landed a standing back-flip. He studied enough Hebrew to discuss the future of technology for a half-hour.

Higher Education’s Deeper Sickness

John M. Ellis:

The sheer public spectacle of near-riots has forced some college administrators to take a stand for free expression and provide massive police protection when controversial speakers like Ben Shapiro come to campus. But when Mr. Shapiro leaves, the conditions that necessitated those extraordinary measures are still there. Administrators will keep having to choose between censoring moderate-to-conservative speakers, exposing their students to the threat of violence, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on every speaker. It’s an expensive treatment that provides only momentary relief from a symptom.

What then is the disease? We are now close to the end of a half-century process by which the campuses have been emptied of centrist and right-of-center voices. Many scholars have studied the political allegiances of the faculty during this time. There have been some differences of opinion about methodology, but the main outline is not in doubt. In 1969 the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education found that there were overall about twice as many left-of-center as right-of-center faculty. Various studies document the rise of that ratio to 5 to 1 at the century’s end, and to 8 to 1 a decade later, until in 2016 Mitchell Langbert, Dan Klein, and Tony Quain find it in the region of 10 to 1 and still rising.

Conservative group challenges Wisconsin DPI’s rule-making authority

Todd Richmond:

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court. The lawsuit argues the Department of Public Instruction has been writing administrative rules without permission from the Department of Administration and the governor as required by the REINS Act.

Republicans passed the act this summer. It requires state agencies to submit rule proposals to DOA and the governor before drafting anything. Rules are the legal language that enacts statutes and agency policy. Requiring permission from DOA and the governor before agencies can start writing them essentially gives the governor oversight of every major move the agency makes.

Much more on Tony Evers, here.

UW-Madison’s corporate partnerships raise revenue and ethical questions

Nico Savidge:

The line to enter a pastel pink Google “Donut Shop” on UW-Madison’s Engineering Mall one cloudy morning earlier this month snaked around the grassy quad, filled with students and others who wanted to experience the pop-up promotion for the tech giant’s smart speaker.

“The new #GoogleHome Mini is the size of a donut, with the powers of a superhero,” @WisconsinUnion, the official Twitter account of UW-Madison’s student unions, wrote to its nearly 30,000 followers. “Get a taste today from 10-6. #ad #sponsored @madebygoogle.”

The Google event was the latest in a string of highly visible corporate partnerships at UW-Madison — others have included an Amazon location in a dorm and a campaign promoting Mentos Gum at the start of the fall semester — in which the university’s physical and digital spaces have been used as platforms for businesses.

New Orleans man locked up nearly 8 years awaiting trial, then drug case gets tossed

Matt Sledge:

When Kevin Smith was jailed on a drug charge in New Orleans in 2010, Blockbuster was still renting DVDs and President Barack Obama was still trying to pass his signature health care bill.

Smith’s case never went to a jury. On Monday, 2,832 days after he was locked up, Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier ordered Smith’s release, bowing to an appeals court ruling that prosecutors had violated his right to a speedy trial.

Her decision represents an extreme example of how slowly the wheels of justice can grind in Orleans Parish while defendants sit in jail. All sides involved in the complicated saga point fingers at each other for the delays. No one can guarantee it won’t happen again.

Smith, 51, who is supposed to go free within a few days, has served more time in custody than any other New Orleans inmate awaiting trial for a nonviolent crime.

“If you’ve been in jail for right at eight years on the same charge and it won’t go to trial, that’s injustice,” said Smith’s cousin, Michael Smith.

Statistical and Discrete Methods for Scientific Computing

CSE383M (65280) and CS395T (53715), Spring 2014:

Welcome to the course! The instructor is Professor William Press (Bill), and the TA is Jeff Hussmann (Jeff). We meet Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. in CBA 4.344 with Bill, and Fridays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. in CBA 4.348 with Jeff. The course is aimed at first or second year graduate students, especially in the CSEM, CS, and ECE programs, but others are welcome. You’ll need math at the level of at least 2nd year calculus, plus linear algebra, plus either more continuous math (e.g., CSEM students) or more discrete math (e.g., CS and ECE students). You’ll also need to be able to program in some known computer language.

Mechanics of the Course

The last two years, we have tried the experiment of a “flipped” course. This has worked so well that we are doing this again this year. “Flipped” means that the lectures are all on the web as recorded webcasts. You must watch the assigned webcasts before the class for which they are scheduled; maybe watch them more than once if there are parts that you don’t easily understand. Then, you will be ready for the active learning that we do in class. The class activities will not “cover the material”. Rather, class is supposed to be for “aha moments” and for “fixing” the material in your learning memory. We’ll thus do various kinds of “active learning” activities that will test and improve your understanding of the material in the lecture. Such in-class activities, often done in randomized groups of two or three, may include

Yes, Nafta Is Good for My Children

Patrick J. Ottensmeyer:

This week American, Canadian and Mexican negotiators will meet in Mexico City for the fifth round of talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. During the previous round of negotiations in Washington, I had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who leads the U.S. delegation. I wanted to explain how important Nafta is to my company and the communities we serve.

Near the end of our meeting, Mr. Lighthizer asked me a more personal question: “How is Nafta good for your children and grandchildren?” Afterward, I spent a good deal of time thinking about this. I also took the time to consider how this trade deal will affect America’s place in the world for decades to come. I think I can now give a definitive answer to Mr. Lighthizer’s question.

Can journalists ever regain Americans’ trust?

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson :

“Even journalists in this day and age have lost their mind on social media,” he says.

We can make space for “solutions journalism”, which, as Ford puts it, “is not about balancing bad news with puppies”, but highlighting constructive responses to the challenges that most worry our audiences. We might even take a leaf from Trump’s book by talking less like politicians and acknowledging the existence of communities such as Bowling Green. Most important, perhaps, we can start by admitting we have a deep-seated trust problem that will not go away on its own.

A week in Kentucky has also reminded me of what has not changed: the power of setting down the clearly attributed facts of a big story and the pleasure of well-crafted storytelling.

The year the fake news narrative took off has also seen some memorable journalism. The growth in subscriptions to organisations from the Washington Post to The New Yorker suggests high-quality reporting is being rewarded. Gallup and Reuters/Ipsos polls have even found the number of Americans expressing confidence in the press has ticked up in recent months.

I make one more stop as I drive to Nashville for the flight back to New York. Gold City Grocery is surrounded by fields. At the petrol pump outside, a tractor is refuelling under a sign advertising a cola brand that has not bothered Coke and Pepsi for decades. Inside is what’s known as a liars table, where regulars discuss the issues of the day. The walls are decorated with deer heads; rallying cries for God, the military and the Second Amendment; and a picture of a handgun with the warning to would-be miscreants: “We don’t dial 911”.

Five Questions for Any Free College Plan

Michael Dannenberg:

Nearly every Democrat — and likely a number of Republicans — running for statewide office this cycle will propose some sort of free college, debt-free college, or just general college affordability plan. Those plans need to be well-designed and in particular recognize the relationship between college affordability and college completion. Otherwise they’re apt at best to under deliver, and at worst, do more harm than good for a large number of students who end up dropping out with no degree and student loan debt for non-tuition and fee costs to boot.

What is transfer learning?

Pranoy Radhakrishnan:

Transfer learning make use of the knowledge gained while solving one problem and applying it to a different but related problem.

For example, knowledge gained while learning to recognize cars can be used to some extent to recognize trucks.


When we train the network on a large dataset(for example: ImageNet) , we train all the parameters of the neural network and therefore the model is learned. It may take hours on your GPU.

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

Abigail Hess:

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

Civics: Dark Cloud: Inside The Pentagon’s Leaked Internet Surveillance Archive


The UpGuard Cyber Risk Team can now disclose that three publicly downloadable cloud-based storage servers exposed a massive amount of data collected in apparent Department of Defense intelligence-gathering operations. The repositories appear to contain billions of public internet posts and news commentary scraped from the writings of many individuals from a broad array of countries, including the United States, by CENTCOM and PACOM, two Pentagon unified combatant commands charged with US military operations across the Middle East, Asia, and the South Pacific.

The data exposed in one of the three buckets is estimated to contain at least 1.8 billion posts of scraped internet content over the past 8 years, including content captured from news sites, comment sections, web forums, and social media sites like Facebook, featuring multiple languages and originating from countries around the world. Among those are many apparently benign public internet and social media posts by Americans, collected in an apparent Pentagon intelligence-gathering operation, raising serious questions of privacy and civil liberties.

Five graphs that will change your mind about poverty

Chrlsea Follett:

Angus Deaton, the Nobel-prize winning economist (who also sits on the advisory board of HumanProgress.org), recently reiterated his belief that on the whole the world is getting better – if not, as he accepted, everywhere or for everyone at once. Perhaps that comes as no surprise, but the idea that the world is getting better in regards to poverty is actually a deeply unpopular view.

Ask most people about global poverty, and chances are that they’ll say it is unchanged or getting worse. A survey released late last year found that 92 per cent of Americans believe the share of the world population in extreme poverty has either increased or stayed the same over the last two decades.

On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality

Phil Christman:

After my Texas-born wife and I moved to Michigan—an eleven-hour drive in the snow, during which time itself seemed to widen and flatten with the terrain—I found myself pressed into service as an expert on the region where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. “What is the Midwest like?” she asked. “Midwestern history, Midwestern customs, Midwestern cuisine?” I struggled to answer with anything more than clichés: bad weather, hard work, humble people. I knew these were inadequate. Connecticut winters and Arizona summers are also “bad”; the vast majority of humans have worked hard, or been worked hard, for all of recorded history; and humility is one of those words, like authenticity or (lately) resistance, that serves mainly to advertise the absence of the thing named.

I soon learned that I was hardly the only Midwesterner left tongue-tied by the Midwest. Articulate neighbors, friends, colleagues, and students, asked to describe their hometowns, replied with truisms that, put together, were also paradoxes: “Oh, it’s in the middle of nowhere.” “It’s just like anywhere, you know.” “We do the same things people do everywhere.” No-places are as old as Thomas More’s Utopia, but a no-place that is also everyplace and anyplace doesn’t really add up. Nor, at least in my experience, does one hear such language from people in other regions—from Southerners, Californians, Arubans, Yorkshiremen. Canadians live in a country that has been jokingly described as America’s Midwest writ larger—Canada and our Midwest share, among other things, manners, weather, topography, and a tendency among their inhabitants to downplay their own racism—yet they are hyperspecific in their language, assuming a knowledge of local landmarks that it never occurs to them non-Canadians may not possess. They assume that whatever their setting is, it is a setting, not, as Midwesterner-turned-expatriate Glenway Wescott once wrote of Wisconsin, “an abstract nowhere.”1

These 3 Student Data Bills Could Ruin Your Kid’s Life

Jenni White:

For years, I researched and wrote about the State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS) here in Oklahoma and across the nation (here, here and here), warning that these ill-advised legislative efforts to codify “transparency and accountability” in public schools would end up creating what could only be considered a national database.

In 2013 I testified before our state legislature on the dangers of SLDS, which are a system of interconnected state data streams that flow into a giant federal data river collecting information starting when small humans enter the public school system. Sorry, but I don’t happen to believe that lifelong surveillance and surveillance-based manipulation of my choices should be the price of a public education. Nobody needs his preschool discipline records following him for life because some data company in cahoots with the government—well beyond my control—wants to plunder education records to make a buck.

Attacks on Public-Sector Unions Harm States: How Act 10 Has Affected Education in Wisconsin

David Madland and Alex Rowell:

This issue brief examines the impact of the law on Wisconsin’s K-12 public education system and state economy. While this brief focuses on Act 10’s impact on Wisconsin teachers based on the data available, the same forces driving changes in the teaching workforce can also affect the broader public sector.3 Proponents of Act 10 insisted that reducing collective bargaining rights for teachers would improve education by eliminating job protections such as tenure and seniority-based salary increases. As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, “We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.”4 However, the facts suggest that Act 10 has not had its promised positive impact on educational quality in the state.
The authors’ analysis using data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) finds that since the passage of Act 10, teachers have received far lower compensation; turnover rates have increased; and teacher experience has dropped significantly. Importantly, the harms from Act 10 extend beyond public-sector workers to all Wisconsinites, as current research suggests that student outcomes could be negatively affected by the law as well. Rather than encouraging the best and brightest students to become teachers and to remain in the field throughout their career, the law appears to have had the opposite effect by devaluing teaching and driving many teachers out of Wisconsin’s public schools.

Much more on Act 10, here.

5 Lessons From a Diplomat for Bridging the Parent-Teacher Divide

Amy Robertson:

Recently, I’ve been using globally tested advocacy and solution-building strategies to help smooth a critical friction point close to home: the parent-teacher conference.

“Gosh, those teachers were defensive,” I said to my husband, Luca, as we walked out of a grade school parent-teacher conference for our son.

“Well …” he hesitated, and then cut to the chase. “Your question about spelling was a trap.”

I was indignant. “I was asking for their side of the story before I gave my observations.”

He shrugged. “You already had your opinion. It wouldn’t have mattered what they said.”

Welcome to the Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity (CSLA) database.

History at Oxford:

By the end of our project, on 31 December 2018, you will find here the vast majority of the early evidence for the cult of Christian saints (up to around AD 700), readily accessible and searchable, with key texts presented in their original language, and all with English translations and brief contextual commentary.

At the time of our launch (1 November 2017), only part of the evidence is fully accessible; but this will be added to steadily over the coming months.

It is important to note that this is a database of the surviving early evidence of cult, not a database of all early saints, of whom there will have been many who lived before 700, but for whom there is no unequivocal surviving early evidence of cult.

This database is built on the published work of hundreds of scholars, whom we hope to have credited fully and correctly; if you are unhappy with our use of your material, do please contact us.

We welcome constructive feedback on this database, since a principal aim in making it public before completion is to hear from users.

Historian gripes about access and quality of archives in China

Jiayun Feng:

Shen Zhihua 沈志华 is a famous Chinese historian who specializes in the history of the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and Sino-Soviet relations. As a professor of history at East China Normal University, Shen earned a reputation for his obsession with archival research, which, according to him, should always be a priority for historians. In a recent and surprisingly frank interview (in Chinese) with Paper.cn, Shen talked the absurd difficulties of obtaining permission to read historical documents in China, and how often they have been tampered with.

At the beginning of the conversation, Shen talks about how he collected a large quantity of declassified archival materials in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time, he paid out of his own pocket for most of the trips that he made to Moscow. But what bothered Shen more than the lack of funding was the quality of the documents he found: “In the U.S.S.R., many government reports submitted to top authorities were written to please superiors,” Shen said. “And archives preserved by Russia are poorly organized compared with those in Western countries such as the United States.”

The Hidden Science and Tech of the Byzantine Empire

Anthony Kaldellis:

In reality, Byzantium was also a pragmatic and down-to-earth culture—it developed sophisticated systems for taxation, justice, administration, and military deployment—and it also exhibited prowess in science and technology. My new book, A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from History’s Most Orthodox Empire, aims to capture this side of the Byzantines, too. Byzantine military inventors perfected Greek Fire, a combustible liquid like napalm that could be hurled at enemy ships (or lobbed against land armies as hand grenades); a Byzantine philosopher made two synchronized clocks, placing one at the frontier and one in the capital, so that messages could be sent across Asia Minor via a network of fire signals, each message keyed to the time of day or night that it was sent; and Byzantine theologians included ancient Greek science within the basic curriculum of learning that aspiring religious thinkers had to master.

The Irish public are wising up to data privacy, according to GDPR survey

Ellen Tannam:

The Irish public are enthusiastic about enacting new data rights under GDPR once it comes into force in May 2018.

GDPR looms large on the to-do lists of Irish companies, with less than a year to go until the strict regulations are put in place. However, it seems as though it hasn’t just been the business and tech industries paying attention, as noted by a new survey commissioned by SAS.

The Irish public are more than ready to implement their new data rights under GDPR, with 77pc of the 1,000 Irish adults polled intending to activate new rights over their personal data once it has been ratified.

Why Education Startups Do Not Succeed

Avichal Garg:

I co-founded PrepMe in 2001. We were one of the first education companies online and the first purely online, personalized platform. We were acquired in 2011 by Providence Equity-backed Ascend Learning. In the last month, I’ve had 3 VC firms bring me in to chat with their partnership about education and 6 independent entrepreneurs reach out to me about their new education startup. This is a summary of what I tell them in person.

Note: I am going to make some generalizations below. Clearly there are nuances around education policy, economic policy, technology, and more. But this is a blog post, not a book, so take it for what it’s worth. These views are my own, not PrepMe’s (or Spool’s).

Chula Vista’s Expansion of Dual Language Programs in an Era of English-Only Policies

Amaya Garcia:

In 1997, California became a focal point of debates around EL education through the “English for the Children” campaign spearheaded by Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz. The campaign sought to frame bilingual education as an ineffective instructional method that denied children the opportunity to learn English. In reality, the campaign was a response to the changing demographics of the state.

The campaign led to Proposition 227, a 1998 ballot initiative asking voters to eliminate bilingual instruction in favor of English-only approaches. Specifically, ELs were to be immersed in English for one year to help them attain proficiency in the language. California voters approved the measure by a wide margin, with 61 percent approving and 39 percent opposing. Over the next decade, bilingual education was eroded through sharp declines in programs and in bilingually certified teachers.

Civics: A Dare To Congress: Go Ahead, Vote A Golden Key Encryption Law!

Jean-Louis Gassee::

As I thought about Rosenstein’s “sensible” plea for responsible encryption, I began to wonder: Politicians and powerful civil servants aren’t ignorant or lazy, they know how to surround themselves with talent and ask the right questions. Certainly, they’re not unaware that what they ask for is pointless, right?

And then it struck me: Above all else, politicians play the crowd, it’s how they keep their jobs. The ostentatious plea for “responsible encryption” is mere grandstanding aimed at gaining Law and Order votes from people who justifiably don’t like the idea of Bad People being able to hide their communications from authorities.

The grandstanding often takes the form of a hackneyed hypothetical: A terrorist is hiding the location of a dirty bomb on his smartphone. Who wouldn’t want a trusted government agency to unlock the device and save a city?

The hypothetical isn’t just painful, it’s dishonest and manipulative.

The Great College Loan Swindle

Matt Taibbi:

But he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher’s $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan “rehabilitation” program that added to his overall balance. “That’s when the noose began to tighten,” he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. “In the middle of class too, while I was teaching,” he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward “rehabilitation,” and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. “Not one dollar of it goes to principal,” says Nailor. “I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die.”

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. “At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching,” he says.

When We Look Closer at the Results in Newark, the Arrow Is Unquestionably Pointed Up

Chris Perf:

But more significantly, every family is now empowered to choose the public school that will serve them best (district, charter or magnet) through a centralized, equitable and politically neutral system called Newark Enrolls.

Interestingly, the recent growth in charters has not resulted in a corresponding reduction in traditional schools. In fact, energized by family choice and increasing academic performance, total public school enrollment in Newark has increased over time, and is higher than at any point in recent history.

More importantly, this focus on a unitary, governance-indifferent approach to public school options in the city corresponds with (and I believe contributed materially to) significant improvements in all sectors. For example, 36 percent of our high school students now attend a non-charter public school that exceeds the state average in reading and math—and let me proudly say that New Jersey always ranks among the top two or three states in the nation.

In elementary and middle school, the following chart says it all. Combining district and charter public schools, during this period Newark’s standing relative to comparable districts in the state leapt from the 33rd percentile to the 83rd percentile in math and from the 44th to the 81st in reading.

Schools hire pricey specialists to deal with federal grant rules

Julie Grace:

In an ideal world, Jeff Kasuboski, superintendent of the Wautoma Area School District in central Wisconsin, would revamp his after-school program. Rather than students interacting only with kids their own age, he’d have them volunteer and spend time with an “untapped resource” — senior citizens.

But because the coordinator of the after-school program, which is partially financed with federal dollars, spends nearly 50 percent of her time also applying for and administering all of the district’s federal grants, as well as complying with their voluminous regulations, she doesn’t have time to coordinate visits by students to nursing homes, community centers or to seniors’ private homes. And Kasuboski doesn’t expect that to change.

“I just don’t see federal regulations getting less restrictive anytime soon,” he says.

Wautoma’s experience is not unique. Of the 451 local school officials who responded to a Badger Institute survey this summer, 56 say their district was forced to hire additional staff to keep up with the administration of federal grants, which help fund everything from special education to school lunches. Another 85 officials say they would hire more staff if their district could afford to. The two groups accounted for 31 percent of the officials who responded to the survey. And many of those who say they manage grants with current staff complain it often means overtime and added stress for their office employees.

Law student sues Pitt, claiming Title IX complaint was mistreated

The Pitt News:

A former Pitt law student has sued the University, claiming Pitt employees mistreated her when they responded to a Title IX complaint she filed.

Hannah Rullo filed a lawsuit Oct. 25 in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh against the University of Pittsburgh saying she was subjected to gender discrimination by Pitt employees and the University’s Title IX office.

Rullo had filed a Title IX complaint against her ex-boyfriend last September but says Pitt officials didn’t conduct a thorough investigation, the lawsuit claims. The incident ended with her being suspended from Pitt.

The lawsuit alleges Pitt did not take Rullo’s complaints seriously and engaged in “deliberate indifference” that resulted in an unsafe environment.

Rullo’s lawsuit singles out Kevin Deasy, associate dean of students at Pitt Law, and Kristy Rzepecki, a Pitt Title IX office employee, as discriminating against her during the process of filing a Title IX complaint.

University spokesperson Joe Miksch said in an email Monday that Pitt doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Rzepecki did not respond to a voicemail left on her office phone Monday morning. The Title IX office declined to comment and referred questions back to Pitt’s communication office.

Deasy, reached in his office, declined to comment and referred questions to Pitt’s general council. Late Monday morning, Susan McCarthy in the general council’s office said Geovette Washington, Pitt’s chief legal officer, was unavailable.

The End of the Modern Academy: At the University of Chicago, for Example

Richard Shweder (PDF):

The title of this essay is meant to suggest a particular understanding of the mission or end of the modern academy as exemplified by certain ideals associated in the minds of many academics around the world with the University of Chicago. The title is also meant to signal and raise concerns about contemporary threats to that mission, even at the University of Chicago itself

Examined in the essay are three core values of the modern academy. Are they foolish ideals? Have they become postmodern antiques?

The Brutal Fight to Mine Your Data and Sell It to Your Boss

Drake Bennett:

A small number of the world’s most valuable companies collect, control, parse, and sell billions of dollars’ worth of personal information voluntarily surrendered by their users. Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and Microsoft—which bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016—have in turn spawned dependent economies consisting of advertising and marketing companies, designers, consultants, and app developers. Some operate on the tech giants’ platforms; some customize special digital tools; some help people attract more friends and likes and followers. Some, including HiQ, feed off the torrents of information that social networks produce, using software bots to scrape data from profiles. The services of the smaller companies can augment the offerings of the bigger ones, but the power dynamic is deeply asymmetrical, reminiscent of pilot fish picking food from between the teeth of sharks.

New Orleans plans to turn one of its few remaining traditional schools to a charter

Steve Myers:

Last year, Mahalia Jackson was part of a push to turn the few remaining traditional schools in New Orleans into charters. When that fell through, Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. announced he wanted to close it. In April, a school board committee agreed, but the full board did not, which put the decision on hold.

Dryades YMCA plans to shift its lower grades at James M. Singleton Charter School to the Mahalia Jackson site, where it would maintain the current site partnerships. That’s in line with what Lewis has said he wants.

“It was just a natural fit.”
—Gregory Phillips, Dryades YMCA
Mahalia Jackson, which serves pre-kindergarten through sixth grades, is one of four remaining schools operated directly by the school district; the rest are charters.

Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion

SC Matz:

Building on recent advancements in the assessment of psychological traits from digital footprints, this paper demonstrates the effectiveness of psychological mass persuasion—that is, the adaptation of persuasive appeals to the psychological characteristics of large groups of individuals with the goal of influencing their behavior. On the one hand, this form of psychological mass persuasion could be used to help people make better decisions and lead healthier and happier lives. On the other hand, it could be used to covertly exploit weaknesses in their character and persuade them to take action against their own best interest, highlighting the potential need for policy interventions.

Finding Brave New World of District/Charter Collaboration in Rebirth of Newark Elementary School

Richard Whitmire:

Against all odds, a dowdy elementary school with bright blue doors located in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in one of America’s most beleaguered cities has become a beacon of hope — and not just for Newark.

Think of the North Star Academy Alexander Street school as the little charter school that could.

What has played out here has lessons learned for both Newark and New Jersey, but also for the rest of the nation: Buckle up for the next generation of education breakthroughs, where public charter schools and local school districts team up to produce win-wins for both sides.

More evidence of the power of that linkage emerged this week with freshly released test results from a summer school experiment where the Uncommon Schools charter network, which runs Alexander Street, collaborated on a catch-up literacy program aimed at struggling rising second-graders in traditional Newark schools. For now, it suffices to say: There were dramatic improvements (more details to come).

“The Grant Made Me Do It”: Federal rules distort local education policy

Badger Institute:

When a van used for transporting special education students in the Pulaski School District near Green Bay had piled on the miles and was due to be replaced, district officials thought the common-sense thing to do would be to reuse the van for lower-priority purposes, such as hauling athletic equipment and making deliveries between buildings.

But because the van was purchased under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, regulations wouldn’t allow it to be used for any other purpose. So the district was forced to sell the van and replace it or else face a reduction in federal funding equal to the value of the van.

“It’s probably not the most efficient way if we have a piece of equipment that still has some useful life, but because of the complexities of those federal funds, it’s easier to sell them than repurpose them in the district,” says Bec Kurzynske, Pulaski superintendent.

“We rely on federal dollars, and we don’t want that money to go away,” she says. “But sometimes (the federal government) just creates operational inefficiencies.”

Pulaski’s experience isn’t uncommon. When it comes to dealing with federal funding for local schools, dollars from D.C. not only come with myriad regulations, increased bureaucracy and other hidden costs, they also force local school officials to make decisions they wouldn’t make otherwise.

Those actions sometimes come at the expense of students, teachers and staff, officials say. That has some wondering whether to take the money at all and questioning what the federal government is adding to the education of their students, a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute survey finds.


Small Learning Communities“.

English 10″

High School Redesign

Madison plans to spend nearly $20,000 per student during the 2017-2018 school year, far more than most.

Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the U.S. Supreme Court’s Agenda

Greg Stor:

To get the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court’s agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution’s free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term’s most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court’s five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court’s liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment’s protections for speech and free association.

Chicago’s Charter High Schools: Organizational Features, Enrollment, School Transfers, and Student Performance

Julia A. Gwynne and Paul T. Moore :

This study—the Consortium’s first in-depth look at charter high schools—examines four key dimensions of charter high schools in Chicago Public Schools (CPS): school organization and policies; incoming skills and characteristics of charter high school enrollees; school transfers; and student performance. It expands the existing research base on charter schools in important ways by moving beyond test scores to look at a range of outcomes, and by examining variation among charter high schools.

This study finds differences between charter and non-charter high schools in CPS in terms of students’ incoming characteristics, performance in high school, and performance on post-secondary outcomes. It also finds variation on outcomes across charter schools. The study finds charter high schools in Chicago enroll students with higher eighth-grade attendance but similar or lower eighth-grade test scores than non-charter high schools. Once enrolled, students in charter high schools reported more challenging instruction, had higher attendance, and had higher test scores, on average, compared to students in non-charter high schools with similar attendance and test scores in the middle grades. Rates of four-year college enrollment and enrollment in more selective colleges were higher, on average, for students at charter schools than similar students at non-charter high schools. Using the five essentials framework to measure school climate, the study finds, on average, CPS charter high schools looked similar to non-charter, non-selective schools on some dimensions of organizational capacity, such as leadership, but looked quite different on other dimensions, such as preparation for post-secondary.

Lauren FitzPatrick:

Looking at data for students who attended high school between 2010 and 2013, researchers found that about one in every four ninth graders who started at a charter high school ended up at another Chicago school by 12th grade, compared to about one in six kids at a CPS-run school.

“I would say it’s a noteworthy difference and definitely something that should be investigated further,” lead author Julia A. Gwynne, said, adding that the transfers occurred not only for low-achieving students — whom charter critics suspected of being counseled out to keep numbers up — but also for high-achievers. The transfer rates were highest for students at charters with weak academic records — or ones too new to have any track record, where perhaps parents who opted into school choice continued to look for their child’s best option, Gwynne said.

Trade school, not 4-year college, is a better bet to solve the US income gap, researchers say

Thomas Franck:

Additional trade schools, and not four-year college degrees, may be a better bet for U.S. workers, according to new economic research.

The amount of vocational training available relative to the size of a country’s manufacturing sector may reduce income inequality, and improve the fortunes of workers earning below the top 10 percent of household incomes, the data show.

“Pushing more students to B.A. granting colleges may no longer be the most efficient way to deal with the challenges caused by the decline in manufacturing employment,” wrote Joshua Aizenman, the economics chair at University of Southern California. He did the research with academics at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellingt

The Hungarian Approach and How It Fits the American Educational Landscape

Ryota Matsuura:

Home to eminent mathematicians such as Paul Erdős, John von Neumann, and George Pólya, Hungary has a long tradition of excellence in mathematics education. In the Hungarian approach to learning and teaching, a strong and explicit emphasis is placed on problem solving, mathematical creativity, and communication. Students learn concepts by working on problems with complexity and structure that promote perseverance and deep reflection. These mathematically meaningful problems emphasize procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, logical thinking, and connections between various topics.

For each lesson, a teacher selects problems that embody the mathematical goals of the lesson and provide students with opportunities to struggle productively towards understanding. The teacher carefully sequences the problems to provide focus and coherence to the lesson. These problems do more than provide students with opportunities to learn the mathematical topics of a given lesson. Indeed, the teacher sees the problems she poses as vehicles for fostering students’ reasoning skills, problem solving, and proof writing, just to name a few. An overarching goal of every lesson is for students to learn what it means to engage in mathematics and to feel the excitement of mathematical discovery. Click here for a sample task from a 5th grade classroom at Fazekas Mihály School in Budapest.

“We would miss out on some incredible investment opportunities if we required three or five years of audited returns before backing somebody.”

Janet Lorin:

Yale University chief investment officer David Swensen, in a rare public appearance, spoke Tuesday to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin at the Council on Foreign Relations.

During the hour-long session, Swensen, 63, disclosed that annualized returns over his 32-year tenure have been 13.5 percent, higher than the endowment’s assumption of 8.25 percent a year.

Swensen said he favors private equity and doesn’t like quants, and talked about his efforts to get university officials to lower expectations for future returns. The endowment has swelled to a record $27.2 billion, the second-largest in U.S. higher education.

Reblogging Audre Lorde

Nora Battelle:

“Bell Hooks,” as she is often referred to, reminds us, again and again, “No black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much’. Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’…No woman has ever written enough.” bell hooks is quite literally gone from her words by the time they reach most of their rebloggers. What’s left behind is a general idea about the historical silence of women that can be hashtagged “intersectional,” “feminism,” “creative writing.” Teenagers and the political left aren’t the only culprits in this kind of dissociation between author and language/association between name and buzzword, as the episode of the GOP’s fake Abraham Lincoln quote exemplifies. Tumblr exists in the midst of a system of Internet sharing that supports and privileges rapid-fire associations and quickly digestible words; it just happens to be a corner of that system were the teenagers lurk, and teenagers, more than any other demographic, are ready to absorb and adapt to their surroundings. While Tumblr has historically been the Internet space for the least “cool” teens, even the least cool kids want to fit into their in-group.

Tumblr and Instagram’s buzzwords create their own economy of social capital. With stars like Blanchard to give a stamp of approval to a socially conscious image, progressive views on racism and intersectional feminism have become status symbols on the platforms, even if little serious thought has gone into the cultivation of those views. An image of liberal wokeness is rewarded with reblogs and follows.

Civics & The state of Journalism: “We ought to cry”

Oleg Kashin:

And yet the main problem with the allegations against Milner are his very accusers. Those writing that the Kremlin acted through him are the same outlets and individuals that have already demonstrated convincingly that anything they publish about Russia is, as a general rule, total garbage. The image of Putin’s Russia constructed by Western and, above all, American media outlets over the past 18 months shocks even the most anti-Putin reader in Russia.

Maybe separately all the stories about Russia wouldn’t trigger this response, but it’s different when looking at the coverage combined: Moscow suburban “power broker” Natalia Veselniktskaya playing the part of Putin’s agent, Dr. Rodchenkov’s tales of test tubes for doped urine, singer Emin Agalarov acting in the Kremlin’s interests, and Russian ads on social media — bought for pennies compared to the millions spent by the Clinton and Trump campaigns — that supposedly influenced American voters. There’s more, of course, and in this context the claims that Milner was working on behalf of the Kremlin become a joke by default — where there’s no need to refute or dispute anything, and the only thing Russians can do is laugh.

But what we ought to do is cry, of course, because for Russians everything that’s happening is a serious tragedy that has nothing to do with Yuri Milner or the other stars of Western investigative reporting, much less with America’s political infighting, which strictly speaking isn’t any of our business. Something else that’s important here is that Russia, compared to the United States, is a backward, small, and young country. Our political culture isn’t yet 30 years old, and what we’ve got is trampled by years of authoritarianism. Someday

Milwaukee’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School to double space in planned expansion into former Pick ‘N Save

Annysa Johnson:

“As our mission unfolds in Milwaukee, so does the vision for our school,” he said. “With this move we go from startup to sustainability … from our founding to our future.”

The move is being driven by enrollment. Cristo Rey has added a grade a year since opening, and it is fast outgrowing its 45,000 square feet of space in the former St. Florian Catholic School at 1215 S. 45th St. in West Milwaukee. Enrollment, now at 324, is expected to exceed 400 by next year and top out around 500, he said.

If those projections pan out, the local school would be only the fourth in the Cristo Rey network to exceed 400 students in its first four years, he said.

University Of Arkansas Profs Bash Proposal That Could Fire Profs For Not Being ‘Cooperative’

Rob Shimshock:

“Allowing attorneys to draft the fundamental rules that govern academic freedom in a university setting makes about as much sense as letting attorneys draft principles of medical ethics, or letting architects design the rules of evidence in court,” said Silverstein to TheDCNF.

Robert Steinbuch, another UA law professor, told his fellow faculty members that even UA’s own attorney described the proposed change as “limiting and may be controversial,” in electronic comments made on the policy document uncovered with a Freedom of Information Request filed by Silverstein and obtained by TheDCNF.


Via a kind Matthew Frankel email:

Broad Range of Small and Large Local Community Businesses Pledge their Support to Provide Students with Invaluable Work-Study Opportunity

Philadelphia, PA – October 8, 2017 – Young Scholars Charter School announced today that is has forged twenty-two strategic partnerships with local businesses from around the Philadelphia area to support “Experience Week,” which takes its full student body out of the classroom and into the workplace for a series of hands on learning experiences. The annual school event will be held this year during the week of November 13th with daily themes highlighting careers in areas such as “Vocational,” “Arts,” “Humanities, “Social Science,” and “Civic Engagement.”

“Experience Week provides real work-life perspective while directly connecting names, faces, and professionals to our student body,” stated John Amenda, Executive Director, Young Scholars Charter School. “Learning does not stop in the classroom and through the strong support of the Philadelphia area business and arts community, Young Scholars Charter students are provided with valuable hands-on opportunities. Most of all, ‘Experience Week’ is the first of ultimately many professional doors our students will open as they explore their interests and eventually build a career. We often forget how important a role model can be to a young adult. The businesses and people who support this effort provide example and inspiration for our students. We greatly appreciate the professionals who volunteer their time while our students travel around the city and we are grateful for their support.”

Some of the Philadelphia-based businesses and organizations who will participate in Young Scholars Charter School’s “Experience Week” include: Munroe Creative Partners, Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Keller-Williams Real Estate, The African American Museum, The National Museum of American Jewish History, Vetri Family Restaurants, Greater Philadelphia Health Action Inc., The Stephen Klein Wellness Center, the Castle Valley Flour Mill, CBS Radio and the Walnut Street Theatre.

Trips to these and other businesses and organizations will be scheduled throughout the week for the student body, with teachers monitoring and directing these out of classroom learning efforts. For each trip, students will meet with a diverse range of professionals, learn specifics about about each professional role, participate in onsite workshops and experiences and be provided with tours of each business, organization or arts institution.

WHAT: Young Scholars Charter School’s Experience Week

WHEN: Start Date – Monday, November 13th

WHERE: Trips Around Philadelphia will be Scheduled for Students Throughout the Week. Media wishing to Learn More about “Experience Week” and Review the Full Schedule of Off-Campus Visits May Contact the School at (215) 232-9727

‘We Need to Normalize the Black Family Again:’ Author Hopes to Reinforce Traditional Families with New Children’s Book

Hasani Malone:

Many kids are given the gift of exploring new worlds through storytelling. Many parents join in on the nighttime ritual of reading to their children before they go to bed, and these books often provide important life lessons from characters that the children can relate to.

But representation of kids of color in children’s books is often hard to find. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, in 2012 of the 3,600 books reviewed by the CCBC, over 93 percent of children’s books were written about white children. As of 2016, 73.3 percent of children’s books were primarily about white children, while 12.5 percent featured non-humans and animals.

While children’s books are getting more diverse over the years, the truth is they’re still disproportionately white. But Geiszel Godoy — alongside her husband, Manuel Godoy, a veteran children’s book author of the “Kids 2 Kings” series, which follows four royal children with superpowers — hopes to add her name to that slow-growing list of writers of children’s books that feature characters of color.

The Surprising Revolt at the Most Liberal College in the Country

Chris Bodenner, via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:>A required year-long course for freshmen, Hum 110 consists of lectures that everyone attends and small break-out classes “where students learn how to discuss, debate, and defend their readings.” It’s the heart of the academic experience at Reed, which ranks second for future Ph.D.s in the humanities and fourth in all subjects. (Reed famously shuns the U.S. News & World Report, as explained in a 2005 Atlantic article by a former Reed president.) As Professor Peter Steinberger details in a 2011 piece for Reed magazine, “What Hum 110 Is All About,” the course is intended to train students whose “primary goal” is “to engage in original, open-ended, critical inquiry.”

Beginning on boycott day, RAR protested every single Hum lecture that school year.

But for RAR, Hum 110 is all about oppression. “We believe that the first lesson that freshmen should learn about Hum 110 is that it perpetuates white supremacy—by centering ‘whiteness’ as the only required class at Reed,” according to a RAR statement delivered to all new freshmen. The texts that make up the Hum 110 syllabus—from the ancient Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt regions—are “Eurocentric,” “Caucasoid,” and thus “oppressive,” RAR leaders have stated. Hum 110 “feels like a cruel test for students of color,” one leader remarked on public radio. “It traumatized my peers.”

RAR was created on boycott day to mourn the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police nationwide. Speeches and open mics highlighted the angst that many students feel on a campus where African Americans account for just 5 percent of those enrolled. What’s more, the graduation rate among black students at the time was 65 percent, compared with 79 percent for all students. RAR has a sympathetic audience: Reed is home to the most liberal student body of any college, according to The Princeton Review. It’s also ranked the second most-studious—a rigor inculcated in Hum 110.


Meshed Society:

ten years, numerous new professions, jobs and ways to earn money have appeared. For many people, embracing these has been a necessity due to job loss. For others, new opportunities arose out of entrepreneurial foresight or the urge for independence and freedom from the constraints of traditional employments. Some of these new tasks can have concerning societal or psychological implications.

Let’s dive into the new jobs which didn’t exist ten years ago (without a claim for completeness). Overlaps are common.

Hong Kong pupils ‘have poor knowledge’ of modern Chinese history … and some think Mao is a woman

Su Xinqi:

The findings were part of a report on DSE performance released on Tuesday by the Examinations and Assessment Authority.

Last week, officials announced the decision to make Chinese history an independent and compulsory subject for pupils from Form One to Form Three in 2018. For pupils from Form Four to Form Six, Chinese history has been an independent elective subject since 2009.

In April this year, 6,090 pupils – or about 10 per cent of all candidates – sat for the DSE Chinese history test, which includes ancient history and contemporary history. Some 89.6 per cent were graded level two or above, achieving the minimum mark for university admission.

But examiners said they found some answers by pupils in the compulsory part of the test to be “incomprehensible”, when candidates were asked to identify a woman depicted in a modern poem. Among the names given in answers were Mao Zedong, his right-hand man Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao, once considered as Mao’s successor.

How Are American Cities Delivering on the Promise of Public School Choice?

Christine Campbell, Georgia Heyward, and Betheny Gross, via a kind email:

As school choice evolves in cities across the country, the heated debate among advocates and critics is too often disconnected from the reality for families. CRPE’s new report goes beyond the rhetoric to provide evidence about how public school choice is playing out in 18 cities, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Oakland, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.

Drawing on school performance data; interviews with district, charter, and community leaders; and a survey of parents, researchers looked across both district and charter schools to examine student and school outcomes and recent reform strategies. The cross-city analysis, Stepping Up: How Are American Cities Delivering on the Promise of Public School Choice? addresses three questions: Is the city’s education system continuously improving? Do all students have access to a high-quality education? Is the education strategy responsive to community needs?

Locally, Madison lacks K-12 governance diversity, recently rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

It’s time to stop trusting Google search already

Adi Robertson::

Alongside pushing Google to stop “fake news,” we should be looking for ways to limit trust in, and reliance on, search algorithms themselves. That might mean seeking handpicked video playlists instead of searching YouTube Kids, which recently drew criticism for surfacing inappropriate videos. It could mean focusing on reestablishing trust in human-led news curation, which has produced its own share of dangerous misinformation. It could mean pushing Google to kill, not improve, features that fail in predictable and damaging ways. At the very least, I’ve proposed that Google rename or abolish the Top Stories carousel, which offers legitimacy to certain pages without vetting their accuracy. Reducing the prominence of “Popular on Twitter” might make sense, too, unless Google clearly commits to strong human-led quality control.

Many Small Private Colleges Are Doomed

Ryan McMaken:

Needless to say, its hard to take advantage of economies of scale with an institution that has only a few hundred students. The overheard costs of old buildings alone must be enormous.

And from a student’s point of view, it’s hard to see why many of them would want to drop everything for 4 years and move to a small town in the middle of nowhere to attend a tiny college with few resources, and which few people have even heard of outside the surrounding region.

Even worse is the fact that these small private colleges tend to be incredibly expensive. Nowadays, few people have the resources and leisure time to pay $80,000 for an education at a small college in a small town where there are few opportunities for earning income to supplement one’s living expenses.

Indeed, many of these colleges have more the feel of a resort rather than a serious educational institution. Many of them are in bucolic settings with old-timey buildings that help one re-enact “the college experience” one sees in television shows and movies. And in the end, for those who earn degrees of little value, such as a women’s studies degree, this is essentially what an “education” at these institutions amounts to: a very costly four-year vacation from the realities of the world.

House GOP Bill Reduces Number Of Colleges Impacted By Proposed 1.4% Endowment Tax From 140 To 70

Nick Anderson and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

ouse Republicans have slashed the number of colleges they are targeting for a new tax on endowment income.

The GOP majority on the Ways and Means Committee voted Monday night to modify a tax bill that includes several provisions affecting higher education. Among them is a proposal that makes college presidents blanch: an excise tax on endowment income for certain private colleges.

Under the first version of the bill, made public last week, private colleges would have been subject to a 1.4 percent tax on net investment income if they had 500 or more students and an endowment of at least $100,000 per full-time student. A Chronicle of Higher Education analysis found that about 140 schools would have been affected. The American Council on Education estimated the number affected as 155.

Milwaukee’s school ‘sector wars’ move toward a new place — stability

Alan Borsuk:

Private schools, most of them religious, using vouchers. The total for voucher students this year (28,702) is up a few hundred from a year ago and is edging toward a quarter of all the Milwaukee kids who receive a publicly-funded education. What a huge change from a generation ago, when the number was zero.

Charter schools. In total, just over 15,000 students are in charters not run as part of conventional school systems. That’s 13% of all the publicly-funded kids. That percentage has stayed about the same in recent years and charter growth has slowed.

Open enrollment into suburban public schools. Wisconsin allows parents to enroll their children in schools in districts other than the one they live in. This year, about 5,600 Milwaukee kids (a bit under 5% of the city’s school kids) are going to public schools in other districts. But open enrollment has fallen since it hit 6,900 four years ago, in large part because suburban districts have made fewer seats available. Probably another reason MPS enrollment has stabilized.

How an Amateur Astronomer Became One of History’s Greatest Solar Observers

Sarah Laskow:

One night in Tokyo, in the years before World War II, Hisako Koyama looked up, out into space, and saw a shooting star. It could have been passing moment, one that others would miss or quickly forget. For Koyama, the impression left by the streaking meteoroid was an inspiration. Without formal training, she would go on to become an astronomer, who observed just one star, the Sun, with a dedication shared by only in a handful of people in the past 400 years. Her daily observations of the Sun’s dark spots, drawn by hand, are one of the most rigorous and valuable records of solar activity ever made, and put her alongside Galileo as a careful, dedicated observer of celestial spheres.

“The great ordinariness of her work, applied over more than 40 years, became extraordinary,” says Delores Knipp, a research professor of aerospace engineering at University of Colorado at Boulder, the lead author of a new Space Weather paper on Koyama’s life and work.

Outcomes and challenges in US cities with public school choice

Deb Britt, via a kind email:

Public school choice is the new normal in cities across the country, but it is still a hot-button issue for families, educators, and policymakers alike. To shed light on this debate, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has conducted research in 18 cities that are pursuing school choice reforms. CRPE researchers assessed the degree to which students have access to a quality education, school systems are continuously improving, and communities are part of the education strategy. They found encouraging signs coupled with evidence of persistent challenges.

On Nov. 14, the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings will partner with CRPE to convene a panel of education leaders and experts to discuss the current state of urban school choice. They will explore questions of what is—and is not—working well in cities that have pursued public school choice reforms, which cities are leading the way, and how today’s school choice initiatives can and must better meet the needs of students, families, and communities.

Access Across America: Transit 2016

University of Minnesota:

The 2016 edition of Access Across America: Transit reports that 36 of the 49 largest metros showed increases in job accessibility by transit. Though rankings of the top 10 metro areas for job accessibility by transit remain unchanged from the previous year, new data comparing changes within each of the 49 largest U.S. metros over one year helped researchers identify the places with the greatest increases in access to jobs by transit. Cincinnati and Charlotte improved more than 11 percent. Seattle, which ranks 8th for job accessibility by transit, improved nearly 11 percent.

“This new data makes it possible to see the change from year to year in how well a metro area is facilitating access to jobs by transit,” said Andrew Owen, director of the Observatory. “Transit is an essential transportation service for many Americans, and we directly compare the accessibility performance of America’s largest metropolitan areas.”

Unusual experiment reveals the power of non-mainstream media

Annalee Newitz:

To be more precise, it only takes three or more stories from small news outlets covering the same topic to make discussions of that topic go up by 62.7 percent on Twitter.

It took a group of Harvard researchers five years to reach this conclusion. They did it by tracking the effects of stories covered by 48 small media outlets, measuring how they affected conversations on Twitter. Harvard political scientist Gary King and his colleagues explain in the journal Science that they honed in on 11 broad topics in public policy, ranging from refugees and race to food policy and domestic energy production.

“If we’d been conducting this study 100 years ago, we would have gone into town squares and listened to what people said on soap boxes,” said King. “Today, it’s Twitter.”

Supporting the educational success of Latino students in California


Latino youth do not share a single identity or experience. They di er enormously by race, country of origin, languages spoken, cultural traditions, immigration status, and more. A teen who identi es as Black, of Dominican descent, bilingual in Spanish and English,
and third-generation American has a vastly di erent identity and life experience than one who identi es as Latino, recently immigrated from Mexico, and who speaks Mixteco. Yet, both these young people are Latino students in California’s schools and neighborhoods. And they are bound by a collective struggle to achieve a high-quality education that prepares them for good jobs and a rich, ful lling life.
Historically, our state and nation have treated this group of young people as a monolithic bloc, without recognizing the wide diversity of individuals within it. As a group, Latino students have been systemically denied equal opportunities in our communities and schools. When California became a state in 1850, Mexican Californians were treated as foreigners and denied access to education. Decades of segregation, political and economic oppression, and discrimination set the stage for Latino activists to signi cantly shape the Civil Rights Movements of the mid-20th century. Unfortunately, their stories and histories are often missing from history lessons and re ections on this era. For example, the lesser known Mendez v. Westminster struck down school segregation in California in 1947 and in uenced the monumental Brown v. Board of Education case that followed seven years later. (See policy timeline on p. 6-7.) Today, our Latino youth still experience forms of discrimination, and our schools are more segregated than in 1947. Yet, Latino individuals are also recognized as a collective political and economic force that wields enormous in uence on our country’s future and prosperity.

NY Times: Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Stanford, Texas & USC Are Among Colleges Using ‘Blocker Corporations’ To Avoid Taxes On Endowment Income

Adam Harris:

A trove of millions of leaked documents from a Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby, reflects some of the tax wizardry used by American colleges and universities. Schools have increasingly turned to secretive offshore investments, the files show, which let them swell their endowments with blocker corporations, and avoid scrutiny of ventures involving fossil fuels or other issues that could set off campus controversy.

Buoyed by lucrative tax breaks, college endowments have amassed more than $500 billion nationwide. The wealth is concentrated in a small group of schools, tilting toward private institutions like those in the Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. About 11 percent of higher-education institutions in the United States hold 74 percent of the money, according to an analysis in 2015 by the Congressional Research Service. …

New York City says testing waiver sought by state could lower standards for students with disabilities

Monica Disare:

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School.

New York State wants to allow some students with disabilities to take below-grade-level exams — a plan that special-education advocates opposed and New York City officials questioned, arguing that would lower the standards for those students.

The state asked the federal education department in September for permission to give students with significant cognitive disabilities tests matched to their instructional level, rather than their age. State education department officials say this will provide schools with more useful information about what students have actually learned, while other supporters say it will spare those students from taking tests they have no chance of passing.

Tens of Millions of Americans Would Flunk Any Basic Civics Class

David Masciotra:

If the overwhelming majority of Americans cannot even identify the three branches of their own government, it should strike no one as a surprise that they are unaware of refugee policies in Europe. One of the fake news stories I saw circulate on Facebook in the months leading up to the presidential election described “millions” of refugees arriving in Germany, or sometimes Italy, and essentially “taking over” the country. The post often produced as photographic evidence, doctored images from the early 20th century. Apocalyptic updates on the refugee invasion of European nations served as warning against what would happen in America if Hillary Clinton became president.

The most consequential offenders in the dissemination, and success, of fake news are not the Russians or social-media company executives, but the American education system, and the parents who are content with raising children who know little about their country, much less about the rest of the world.

Only nine states require civics as part of the high school curriculum, and many colleges have reduced or eliminated requirements in history and political science. As unimaginable as it seems, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni published a report last year that only seven of the nation’s top 25 liberal arts colleges require their history majors — this is not a joke — to take a course in US history.

Professor draws rage for telling students to work hard and avoid partying

Elizabeth Howcroft:

Queens’ has refused to condemn an email sent by Professor Eugene Terentjev to first-year students warning them not to have a “good time”, despite criticism from CUSU and Student Minds’ Cambridge.

Terentjev, a Director of Studies at Queens’, and the Queens’ Senior Tutor Dr James Kelly, have both declined Varsity’s requests for comment.

The email, which was sent to first-year Natural Sciences students at Queens’, sparked outrage when it was made public on social media by the student-run Facebook page Memebridge.

Terentjev writes: “There are things that need to be said, and these first few weeks of your Cambridge experience are quite critical in the way your path forms”

The long goodbye to C

Eric Raymond:

I was thinking a couple of days ago about the new wave of systems languages now challenging C for its place at the top of the systems-programming heap – Go and Rust, in particular. I reached a startling realization – I have 35 years of experience in C. I write C code pretty much every week, but I can no longer remember when I last started a new project in C!

If this seems completely un-startling to you, you’re not a systems programmer. Yes, I know there are a lot of you out there beavering away at much higher-level languages. But I spend most of my time down in the guts of things like NTPsec and GPSD and giflib. Mastery of C has been one of the defining skills of my specialty for decades. And now, not only do I not use C for new code, I can’t clearly remember when I stopped doing so. And…looking back, I don’t think it was in this century.

That’s a helluva thing to have sneak up on me when “C expert” is one of the things you’d be most likely to hear if you asked me for my five most central software technical skills. It prompts some thought, it does. What future does C have? Could we already be living in a COBOL-like aftermath of C’s greatest days?

Many older Americans are living a desperate, nomadic life

Richard Eisenberg:

In her powerful new book, “Nomadland,” award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder reveals the dark, depressing and sometimes physically painful life of a tribe of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are — as the subtitle says — “surviving America in the twenty-first century.” Not quite homeless, they are “houseless,” living in secondhand RVs, trailers and vans and driving from one location to another to pick up seasonal low-wage jobs, if they can get them, with little or no benefits.
 The “workamper” jobs range from helping harvest sugar beets to flipping burgers at baseball spring training games to Amazon’s AMZN, -0.33% “CamperForce,” seasonal employees who can walk the equivalent of 15 miles a day during Christmas season pulling items off warehouse shelves and then returning to frigid campgrounds at night. Living on less than $1,000 a month, in certain cases, some have no hot showers. As Bruder writes, these are “people who never imagined being nomads.” Many saw their savings wiped out during the Great Recession or were foreclosure victims and, writes Bruder, “felt they’d spent too long losing a rigged game.” Some were laid off from high-paying professional jobs. Few have chosen this life. Few think they can find a way out of it. They’re downwardly mobile older Americans in mobile homes.

It’s time to stop trusting Google search already

Adie Robertson:

Last weekend, in the hours after a deadly Texas church shooting, Google search promoted false reports about the suspect, suggesting that he was a radical communist affiliated with the antifa movement. The claims popped up in Google’s “Popular on Twitter” module, which made them prominently visible — although not the top results — in a search for the alleged killer’s name. Of course, the was just the latest instance of a long-standing problem: it was the latest of multiple similar missteps. As usual, Google promised to improve its search results, while the offending tweets disappeared. But telling Google to retrain its algorithms, as appropriate as that demand is, doesn’t solve the bigger issue: the search engine’s monopoly on truth.
 Surveys suggest that, at least in theory, very few people unconditionally believe news from social media. But faith in search engines — a field long dominated by Google — appears consistently high. A 2017 Edelman survey found that 64 percent of respondents trusted search engines for news and information, a slight increase from the 61 percent who did in 2012, and notably more than the 57 percent who trusted traditional media. (Another 2012 survey, from Pew Research Center, found that 66 percent of people believed search engines were “fair and unbiased,” almost the same proportion that did in 2005.) Researcher danah boyd has suggested that media literacy training conflated doing independent research with using search engines. Instead of learning to evaluate sources, “[students] heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”

Trump’s H-1B Reform Is to Make Life Hell for Immigrants and Companies

Joshua Brustein:

Donald Trump came into office promising a restrictive new approach to immigration and there has been little question about his intention to follow through — with one seeming exception. Despite its enthusiastic rhetoric about the H-1B program, which provides temporary visas to high-skilled workers, the administration failed to make significant changes in time to impact the program’s annual lottery this April, leaving some who had anticipated action fuming. It has also declined to take up any of the legislative proposals for H-1B overhaul.

But a crackdown has been in the works, albeit more quietly. Starting this summer, employers began noticing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications. Cases that would have sailed through the approval process in earlier years ground to a halt under requests for new paperwork. The number of challenges — officially known as “requests for evidence” or RFEs — are up 44 percent compared to last year, according to statistics from USCIS. The percentage of H-1B applications that have resulted in RFEs this year are at the highest level they’ve been since 2009, and by absolute number are considerably higher than any year for which the agency provided statistics.

The H-1B program is controversial largely because IT firms based in India have used it to hire for rote computer programming jobs. These firms, like Infosys Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., have been working to reduce their reliance on the program, in anticipation of a less receptive political landscape. The overall number of H-1B applications dropped this year for the first time in five years. The skeptical eye the government is taking to applications has extended to all types of employers, according to immigration lawyers. Many are rethinking their own use of H-1B as a result.

Growing unease in Australia over research partnerships between Chinese scientists and Australian universities

onathan Pearlman:

A series of research partnerships and collaborations between Chinese scientists and Australian universities have raised concerns that the universities are unwittingly assisting Beijing to develop and improve its military technology.

Many of the partnerships were reportedly developed by a leading Chinese military researcher, Lieutenant-General Yang Xuejun, who was recently made a member of the party’s 204-member Central Committee at the party’s 19th National Congress in Beijing.

Lieutenant-General Yang has collaborated with scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Technology Sydney, particularly on research into supercomputing – a field that he has labelled as central to developing China’s military technology, such as combat aircraft and tactical nuclear weapons.

Madison high school students share recommendations for improving teacher-student relationships

Amber Walker:

Students also suggested that schools develop a system for students to share feedback about their teachers’ performance. Kayvion James-Ragland, a junior at La Follette High School who is a member of the African-American Youth Council, said that feedback is usually top down, with teachers being able to express how they feel about students, but not the other way around.

“We think it is important to ask us directly because we are in the classroom every day,” he said.

Rich School Endowments Aren’t Taxed. Washington Is Out to Change That

Janet Lorin:

A threat that U.S. private colleges and universities have dreaded for years just got closer to reality: Republicans in Congress want to tax rich endowments. The sweeping 400-page tax bill unveiled on Nov. 2 includes a 1.4 percent levy on private schools’ investment income. It’s one of many ways the bill is trying to raise money to partially pay for slashing corporate rates and other cuts. The tax could apply to private institutions with endowments of more than $250,000 per full-time student, according to a later amendment to the bill. That group includes about 70 colleges and universities.

Regardless of the final shape of the tax—or even whether it passes—it’s clear that Washington has its eyes on the pile of money that colleges have amassed. About 800 endowments together hold more than $500 billion, led by Harvard with $37.1 billion. Thanks to a strong market, many schools are richer than ever, and they don’t pay taxes on their investment earnings. Their funds have become major players in the financial markets, with investments in hedge funds, venture capital, and real estate.

This isn’t the first time Congress has looked at endowments. The focus has sometimes been less on taxing schools than on pushing them to use more of their money to help offset ever-rising tuitions. After a U.S. Senate Committee on Finance hearing in 2007, Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, merely mentioned the idea of requiring a 5 percent annual spending rate for colleges. That whiff of a threat seemed to spur changes. Within months, about three dozen colleges said they would spend more on financial aid. Schools including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Pomona College adopted measures to replace loans with grants, which don’t need to be repaid. Still, the wealth at some schools remains a tempting target for lawmakers. “If we look at major universities, they haven’t done a very good job of explaining why they’ve accumulated this money,” says Henry Hansmann, a Yale Law School professor and economist.

The current proposal would tax large endowments regardless of an institution’s spending rate. It has its roots in a 2014 plan from Dave Camp, the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Camp, a Republican, says he wanted to put endowments on the same footing as foundations. Depending on how much they spend annually on grants, charitable activities, or other qualifying purposes, foundations pay either 1 percent or 2 percent in tax. Under the new bill, both foundations and endowments would pay 1.4 percent. “When you have similar activities, why should they be treated differently under the tax code?” asks Camp, now a senior policy adviser with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s tax practice.

On Unread Books

Umberto Eco :

I recall, though my recollection may be faulty, a magnificent article by Giorgio Manganelli explaining how a sophisticated reader can know whether a book is worth reading even before he opens it. He wasn’t referring to the capacity often required of a professional reader, or a keen and discerning reader, to judge from an opening line, from two pages glanced at random, from the index, or often from the bibliography, whether or not a book is worth reading. This, I say, is simply experience. No, Manganelli was talking about a kind of illumination, a gift that he was evidently and paradoxically claiming to have.

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard, a psychoanalyst and professor of literature, is not about how you might know not to read a book but how you can happily talk about a book you haven’t read, even to your students, even when it’s a book of extraordinary importance. His calculation is scientific. Good libraries hold several millions of books: even if we read a book a day, we would read only 365 a year, around 3,600 in ten years, and between the ages of ten and eighty we’ll have read only 25,200. A trifle. On the other hand, any Italian who’s had a good secondary education knows perfectly well that they can participate in a discussion, let’s say, on Matteo Bandello, Francesco Guicciardini, Matteo Boiardo, on the tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, or on Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian, knowing only the name and something about the critical context, but without ever having read a word.

Sean Parker unloads on Facebook “exploiting” human psychology

Mike Allen:

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider’s look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains.

Be smart: Parker’s I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. He’s worried enough that he’s sounding the alarm.

Parker, 38, now founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, spoke yesterday at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, about accelerating cancer innovation. In the green room, Parker mentioned that he has become “something of a conscientious objector” on social media.

The ‘golden past’ is a crock

Jennifer Rubin:

In a speech receiving the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, had some wise words on the state of politics in the West, and specifically in the United States. He warned that we’ve come to “indulge in magical thinking. So you get the far right dreaming of a golden past that never was and the far left yearning for a utopian future that never will be. And then comes populism, the belief that a strong leader can solve all our problems for us. And that is the first step down the road to tyranny, whether of the right or of the left.” He continued, later observing, “We need people willing to stand up and say, rich and poor alike, we all have collective responsibility for the common good. And we need a culture of responsibility, not one of victimhood, because if you define yourself as a victim, you can never be free.”

There is a lot to unpack there. Sacks certainly has figured out the populists’ routine.

The “golden past” that the Trumpian populists long for today takes many forms. They sanitize, romanticize and elevate the “Lost Cause” of the antebellum South. They dream of a pre-Great Society, even pre-New Deal government. They pine for America’s industrial world domination of the 1950s and 1960s. They seem enamored of a pre-Brown v. Board of Education and pre-Warren Court legal system. This nostalgia allows them to treat everything since then — from globalism to minority activists to gay marriage to justice reform — as a deviation, an intrusion into “real America.”

Katy Perry, Academic Publishers, and Self-censorship in China

China Digital Times:

On Monday, CDT Chinese reposted a letter circulating on Weibo which purportedly shows singer Katy Perry’s pledge to behave harmoniously during a prospective Chinese tour. “Fruit Sister” has performed in China in the past, but occasionally stumbled on moral or political sensitivities there. The letter includes promises to “observe the laws and regulations in China, comply with the management of the regulators,” and not to “add or change any content without authorization,” “do or say anything religious or political,” or “participate in any activities that jeopardize China’s unity and integrity.”

The Fragile Generation Bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed.

Lenore Skenazy & Jonathan Haidt:

One day last year, a citizen on a prairie path in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst came upon a teen boy chopping wood. Not a body. Just some already-fallen branches. Nonetheless, the onlooker called the cops.

Officers interrogated the boy, who said he was trying to build a fort for himself and his friends. A local news site reports the police then “took the tools for safekeeping to be returned to the boy’s parents.”

Elsewhere in America, preschoolers at the Learning Collaborative in Charlotte, North Carolina, were thrilled to receive a set of gently used playground equipment. But the kids soon found out they would not be allowed to use it, because it was resting on grass, not wood chips. “It’s a safety issue,” explained a day care spokeswoman. Playing on grass is against local regulations.

And then there was the query that ran in Parents magazine a few years back: “Your child’s old enough to stay home briefly, and often does. But is it okay to leave her and her playmate home while you dash to the dry cleaner?” Absolutely not, the magazine averred: “Take the kids with you, or save your errand for another time.” After all, “you want to make sure that no one’s feelings get too hurt if there’s a squabble.”

Social Media Has Failed Its Self-Driving Test

Leonid Bershidsky:

The big problem with artificial intelligence right now isn’t that it’s taking over; it’s that it’s being entrusted with serious tasks with real-world consequences before it works properly. It’s the equivalent of letting self-driving cars operate in a city without lane markings.

A viral post published on Medium on Monday by artist James Bridle is the latest case in point. Bridle took a deep dive into a below-the-radar industry: children’s content on YouTube. Anyone who has ever given an iPad to a small kid knows the kind of thing children find on YouTube before they’re able to type: Toy unboxing and nursery rhyme videos, official and pirated cartoons featuring popular characters like Peppa Pig. It’s up to parents, of course, if they are okay with their child getting engrossed in these (we took the iPad away from our four-year-old daughter because we noticed consuming the content made her reluctant to learn to read and irritable when the tablet wasn’t within reach). But the stuff Bridle found was arguably worse than what I’d seen before my wife and I made the decision.

Big Brother isn’t just watching: workplace surveillance can track your every move

Olivia Solon:

Today’s workplace surveillance software is a digital panopticon that began with email and phone monitoring but now includes keeping track of web-browsing patterns, text messages, screenshots, keystrokes, social media posts, private messaging apps like WhatsApp and even face-to-face interactions with co-workers.

“If you are a parent and you have a teenage son or daughter coming home late and not doing their homework you might wonder what they are doing. It’s the same as employees,” said Brad Miller, CEO of Awareness Technologies which sells a package of employee monitoring tools under the brand Interguard.

Crossover’s Sanjeev Patni insists that workers get over the initial self-consciousness after a few days and accept the need for such monitoring as they do CCTV in shopping malls.

When Cyber-Hackers Attack, School Districts Are Paying the Ransom.

Emily Richmond:

From Georgia to California, school districts are facing a growing security threat: hackers. They target everything from employee payroll accounts to student records, and demand ransom in exchange for not taking advantage of sensitive information. Tawnell Hobbs of The Wall Street Journal discovered that school districts are surprisingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. And many are opting to pay the ransom and not reporting the crime to authorities. Is your school district a target? Listen in as she discusses what’s known about who’s doing the hacking and the FBI’s stance towards districts who negotiate with hackers instead of reporting them to authorities. What is the potential long-term harm to students if their personal information is compromised? And how has this trend turned into a big-profit boon for cyber-security experts? Hobbs also offers story suggestions and key questions to ask for local reporters covering school network security.

Does the Ivy League really need help from the government?

Megan McArdle:

It’s a nervous time to be a university. Forget the political activism that has been convulsing campuses over the past year; the Republican tax plan is now taking aim at the money that funds those campuses, particularly elite research universities. It proposes a tax on university endowments, an end to the tax deduction for student loans, and treating employer tuition reimbursement as income. This last would not only threaten a revenue stream for colleges and universities, but also make it much more expensive to run Ph.D. programs, where students normally get a tuition waiver as part of their package.

Universities are understandably concerned. And they’re not the only ones. Levying heavier taxes on education sounds perilously close to spitting on an American flag while denouncing motherhood, baseball and apple pie. So this might be a good time to ask whether we really ought to be subsidizing higher education — particularly elite higher education — as much as we are.

In theory, our nation’s elite educational system is supposed to be an engine of opportunity. And that was a very fine theory — in 1960, when America’s elite colleges transformed themselves into meritocratic institutions.

This remarkable moment in America’s past is underremarked upon; as far as I know, this peaceful and willing transfer of power is entirely without precedent in human history. In 1930, the Ivy League was basically a finishing school, a cocoon for the larval stage of a tweedy apex predator class. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the people running these schools (and the prep schools that fed them) decided to run admissions on a competitive basis of test scores and grades. 1 By 1970, the schools had diversified wildly, and the academics got better and better, while the football teams — formerly some of the most followed athletic programs in the country — declined precipitously.