The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money


Education is important, and the more of it you and everyone else get, the better. More years in school, more college degrees, means a better economy, country, and world for everyone. Right? Wrong, argues Bryan Caplan in a brand new book that challenges almost all the understandable, powerful—but perhaps ultimately damaging—assumptions people make about education. We hope you’ll join us for a lively debate about this assault on education orthodoxy, and the premiere of this new book.

Islamic Education in the United States


Featuring Sabith Khan, Assistant Professor, California Lutheran University; Coauthor, Islamic Education in the United States and the Evolution of Muslim Nonprofit Institutions; and Shariq Siddiqui, Executive Director, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action; Coauthor, Islamic Education in the United States and the Evolution of Muslim Nonprofit Institutions; moderated by Neal McCluskey, Director, Center for Educational Freedom, Cato Institute.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How Money Walks

How Money Walks:

For many years now the IRS has been tracking the migration of Americans and their income across state and county lines. Every year they produce a detailed report on the tax migration of Americans, showing the amount of people and income that moved.

How Money Walks maps this great migration of American income and raises important questions about American tax policy and how it profoundly affects growth and development in our country:

Why did so much wealth walk? Did people vote with their feet?
Did money walk because the opportunity to keep more personal income talked?
How does taxing personal income affect economic growth?
Which states “won” which states “lost” and why?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “all seven board members were endorsed by the teachers union and that teachers helped choose the new superintendent”

Josh Verges:

Board Chairwoman Zuki Ellis took the rare step of responding to the crowd following the public comment period. Reading from a statement, she noted all seven board members were endorsed by the teachers union and that teachers helped choose the new superintendent.

Ellis warned that a strike authorization would hurt positive momentum in the district.

“We have all worked hard to get to this point. Now is not the time to divide and disrupt,” she said.

Teachers, as well as the bargaining units for educational assistants and school and community professionals, will vote Wednesday afternoon whether to authorize a strike with 10 days’ notice.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers says results will be released either late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Our love-hate relationship with PowerPoint


At some point in their career, everyone will find themselves sat in a darkened room, eyes squinting at a large white screen in front of them, blinking, as slide after slide whizzes past.

Microsoft PowerPoint is the world’s most ubiquitous presentation tool. Some figures suggest that this all-conquering presentation software is installed on more than a billion computers worldwide and that there may be up to a staggering 30 million PowerPoint presentations created every day.

Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum:

As the types of skills needed in the labour market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in life-long learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policy-makers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.

Yet while there has been much forecasting on transformations in labour markets, few practical approaches exist to identifying reskilling and job transition opportunities. Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All provides a valuable new tool that will help individual workers, companies, and governments to prioritize their actions and investments. Using big data analytics of online job postings, the methodology in this report demonstrates the power of a data-driven approach to discover reskilling pathways and job transition opportunities. The methodology can be applied to a variety of taxonomies of job requirements and sources of data.

Are Backroom Deals by Teachers Unions Bankrupting California’s Schools?

Chris Bertilli:

Based on historical spending patterns and Gov. Jerry Brown’s most recent budget proposal, California is poised to spend approximately $40 billion next year on teacher salaries and benefits. To put that number in education context, the state will likely spend less than $3 billion on books and supplies for the entire K-12 public school system.

That $40 billion figure is more than 2½ times as large as the entire state higher education budget. It is more than the state spends on the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, transportation, natural resources, environmental protection, and prisons. Combined. It is more than is spent on the combined total of every state health and human services program. If teacher salaries and benefits had their own budget line item, it would be the largest single item in the entire state budget.

Here’s the kicker: How that $40 billion in public dollars is spent is negotiated out of public view.

In over 1,000 school districts across the state, negotiations on spending this money take place behind closed doors. There is no transparency in how these deals are done. No public scrutiny or debate. No opportunity for the community or parents of children in the schools to impact the process. An amount of money equivalent to 30 percent of the entire budget for the state of California is divvied up by a relative handful of people out of sight and without accountability to parents and the communities that are affected.

The union’s ability to secretly self-deal doesn’t stop in the back rooms of local school districts. In 2011, as California was trying to drag itself out of the Great Recession, the state budget deal was being finalized in a room with only four people in it: Brown, the Assembly speaker, the leader of the state Senate, and the union’s chief lobbyist.

Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach?

Daniel T. Willingham :

Virtually everyone would agree that a primary, yet insufficiently met, goal of schooling is to enable students to think critically. In layper- son’s terms, critical thinking consists of see- ing both sides of an issue, being open to new evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning dispas- sionately, demanding that claims be backed by evidence, deducing and inferring conclusions from available facts, solving problems, and so forth. Then too, there are specific types of critical thinking that are characteristic of different subject matter: That’s what we mean when we refer to “thinking like a scientist” or “thinking like a historian.”

This proper and commonsensical goal has very often been translated into calls to teach “critical think- ing skills” and “higher-order thinking skills”—and into generic calls for teaching students to make bet- ter judgments, reason more logically, and so forth. In a recent survey of human resource officials1 and in testi- mony delivered just a few months ago before the Sen- ate Finance Committee,2 business leaders have repeat- edly exhorted schools to do a better job of teaching students to think critically. And they are not alone. Organizations and initiatives involved in education reform, such as the National Center on Education and the Economy, the American Diploma Project, and the Aspen Institute, have pointed out the need for students to think and/or reason critically. The College Board recently revamped the SAT to better assess students’ critical thinking. And ACT, Inc. offers a test of critical thinking for college students.

Despite Liberalizing Marijuana Laws, the War on Drugs Still Targets People of Color

Shaun King:

The huge failure we know as the “war on drugs” is back in full force under the Trump administration, thanks in no small part to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s retrograde tough-on-crime approach to drugs. It’s not hard to understand why someone like Sessions, with a history of racism, would love the war on drugs: In reality, it was always a war on a very particular set of people — and you can probably guess who those people are. And yet despite Sessions’s best efforts, there’s been a lot of progress on legalizing marijuana; opinions are changing and, in a lot of places, so are laws.

At the intersection of these pushes to legalize weed and the so-called war on drugs, there are a bevy of major scandals unfolding, all of which are ravaging communities of color. And here’s the thing about these scandals: They can’t simply be blamed on President Donald Trump and his team. Instead, they’re deeply rooted in a bipartisan type of anti-blackness.

UW students accuse teachers of sexual harassment in more than half of all campus cases

Karen Herzog:

UW-Oshkosh investigated whether an instructor had a consensual relationship with a student against university policy and then harassed her when she tried to break up with him.

At a two-year UW campus, a student accused an instructor of contacting the student on a mobile app called Grindr, which helps gay and bisexual men hook up. The same instructor allegedly touched the student during class.

Open records requests filed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that among all 13 four-year campuses and 13 two-year colleges in the UW System, nearly 100 complaints of employee sexual misconduct — either harassment and/or assault — have been formally investigated since 2014.

Temple online MBA kicked out of No. 1 spot in US News rankings; now ‘unranked’ due to data error

Erin Arvedlund:

Temple University’s president and its business school dean issued apologetic statements Thursday, saying the school’s online M.B.A. program lost its category’s top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s closely watched 2018 rankings due to a data error.

U.S. News on Wednesday revised its rankings of the 2018 Best Online M.B.A. Programs after about two weeks, saying Temple’s Fox Online M.B.A. had been removed as the nation’s No. 1-ranked online program due to “unintentionally misreported data,” dean Moshe Porat said in a statement on the university’s website.

More Nashville public schools rank in bottom 5 percent, according to state data

Jason Gonzales:

The 21 schools represent an increase over previous years in the number of schools in the bottom 5 percent statewide in terms of academics.

While the 2017 Cusp list isn’t a clear indication of the number of Nashville schools that will be on the state’s fall 2018 Priority school list, it does present a stark warning of what could come.

The Priority list is issued every three years. It details the bottom 5 percent of schools in academic performance over several years and has legal implications for districts.

The Tennessee Department of Education Cusp list, obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee, was released to school districts in October to help flag academic issues ahead of the state’s official Priority list.

Metro Nashville Public Schools officials say they are working to address academic deficiencies at its schools since receiving the one-year list.

In 2014, Metro Schools had 14 schools on the Priority school list. One of those schools has since been converted to a pre-kindergarten center. The other was taken over by the Achievement School District.

How to Raise a Prodigy

Adam Gopnik:

We know we’ve come to a crossroads when German childhood is being held up as an idealized model for Americans. It was, after all, Teutonic styles of child rearing that were once viewed with disgust—as in “The Sound of Music,” for a long time the most popular of all American movies, with all those over-regimented Trapp kids rescued by wearing the bedroom drapes and singing scales. But Sara Zaske’s “Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children” (Picador) is perhaps an inevitable follow-up to “Bringing Up Bébé,” that best-selling book about parenting the way the French supposedly do it—basically, as though the kids were little grownups, presumably ready for adultery and erotic appetites. So why not move eastward through Europe, until we get the book on parenting the Moldavian way?

What’s wrong with such books is not that we can’t learn a lot from other people’s “parenting principles” but that, invariably, you get the problems along with the principles. French kids are often sensitive and unspoiled in ways that American kids aren’t; they are also often driven so crazy by the enervating 8:30 A.M.-to-4:30 P.M. school system and by a tradition of remote parenting that they rebel as bitterly as American adolescents do, only putting off the rebellion until they’re forty, when the sex and drugs really start to kick in. And you can wonder whether the German molding system leaves German kids molded quite so thoroughly as Zaske, an American long resident in Berlin, insists.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Treasury says government borrowing will hit 8-year high

AP News:

With the government’s budget deficit rising, the Treasury Department announced Monday that it expects to borrow $441 billion in the current January-March quarter, the largest amount in eight years.

The Treasury said this figure compares to actual borrowing of $282 billion in the October-December quarter. It will be the largest borrowing need since the government borrowed $483 billion in the January-March quarter of 2010, a period when the government was using stimulus spending to try to lift the country out of the Great Recession and provide support to the banking system after the worst financial crisis in seven decades.

The government’s borrowing needs have been rising as federal deficits have increased. The deficit for the 2017 budget year, which ended last September, totaled $665.8 billion.

Private forecasters believe this year’s deficit will climb to around $765 billion, and some are forecasting deficits for next year could once again top $1 trillion. Those projections reflect growing costs for Social Security and Medicare as the baby boom generation retires and the costs of the big tax cut that President Donald Trump pushed through Congress last month, a package estimated to boost deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

Rising tide of concerns at Milwaukee Public Schools are greater than the debate about one charter school

Alan Borsuk:

There were at least 99 reasons not to close Kathryn T. Daniels University Preparatory Academy, Michael Bonds said over and over on Thursday night.

What did the Milwaukee School Board member mean? This: On the school report cards issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction several months ago, 99 schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system scored worse than the Daniels school. And MPS wasn’t threatening to close any of them, or, for that matter, to do much different at any of them.

“If we’re going to close Daniels, we should close the other 99,” Bonds said.

Oh, my. Is this what passes for persuasive argument on the Milwaukee school scene? That we have so many crummy schools that crumminess is acceptable?

How poor are the Daniels results? A small slice of the answer: In last spring’s state tests, 3% of the third through eighth-grade students were rated as proficient and 74% were at the “below basic” level. In math, 7% were proficient and 77% below basic. Overall, many of the goals set by MPS for the Daniels schools were not being met, an administrative team found. There were some signs of improvement over last year, and some indicators going the other way.

Chatham mother sues school district for allegedly trying to convert her son to Islam

Allison Pries:

The video, according to the lawsuit, “seeks to convert viewers to Islam and is filled with the religious teachings of Islam, presented not as beliefs, but as facts.”

The lawsuit cites statements made in the video, including “Allah is the one God;” “The Quran is a perfect guide for humanity;” “Muslims created a tradition of unsurpassable splendor;” and concludes with “May God help us all find the true faith, Islam.”

The text slides are set to a musical version of the poem “Qaseedah Burdah,” which the lawsuit says, describes “Christians and Jews as ‘infidels’ and (praises) Muhammad in gruesome detail for slaughtering them.”

Neuroscientists Have Followed a Thought as It Moves Through The Brain

Mike McRae:

A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response.

The findings confirm the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the “glue of cognition”.

Previous efforts to measure the passing of information from one area to the other have relied on processes such as electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which, whilenon-invasive, offer less than perfect resolution.

The study led by researchers from the University of California, Berkley, recorded the electrical activity of neurons using a precise technique called electrocorticograhy (ECoG).

Commentary on Proposed Changes to Wisconsin Teacher Licensing Requirements

Amber Walker:

“Candidates graduating from new (teacher preparation) programs will be able to teach in all of the areas…(Teachers) that weren’t prepared in that manner retain the same ability to teach only in the narrow area, such as biology,” McCarthy said in an email to the Cap Times. “We will continue to support pathways for a currently licensed educator to demonstrate competence and add on additional subject areas.”

Earlier this month, DPI held a public hearing about the new rules, which is required before the rules become permanent. Several music teachers expressed concerns that consolidating subject areas would compromise teacher expertise and quality.

Brad Schneider, government relations chair for the Wisconsin Music Educators Association, said consolidating music licenses would lead to “condensed and diluted” music instruction. Schneider said the best way to recruit teachers is to address factors that discourage people from entering the classroom, like low pay, high stakes testing and a lack of teacher autonomy.

“The move to a single license area may be shortsighted and will discourage potential music educators,” Schneider said. “It doesn’t address the real problem of people choosing not to teach.”


Much more on Wisconsin’s teacher licensing requirements, here.

Wisconsin has long avoided teacher content knowledge requirements, adopting “MTEL” via the legislature some years ago, in an effort to improve elementary teacher capabilities.

Foundation of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education School Teacher Exam).

Do School Vouchers Work? Look to Milwaukee

Tawnell Hobs:

“The schools that have 20% to 30% voucher kids and 70% to 80% fee-paying kids, they look more like the private schools that we sort of put on a pedestal—that have very ambitious programs,” says Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas who has studied private-school choice programs for about 19 years. “Ones that enroll a very high percent of voucher students tend to be low-resourced.”

The Milwaukee findings offer a potential road map for the Trump administration, which is preparing a national push for school-choice programs to provide an alternative to traditional public schools. President Donald Trump has called for allocating $250 million for scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools, part of a plan to eventually pump $20 billion of federal money into school-choice measures, including vouchers.

Private schools receive less money per student under the Milwaukee voucher program— from $7,323 to $7,969 per student in the last school year—compared with an average of $10,122 for public-school students. The amount, which has increased over the years, was initially set low to help pass the voucher bill in a split legislature.

Public-school officials say they have greater expenses, such as for transportation and for providing services to special-needs students, although they say they haven’t done any comprehensive cost comparisons between public and voucher schools.

Mr. Bender has pushed to expand the funding for the voucher program. Like many proponents, he says the ability of parents to choose is a big benefit in itself, especially for parents seeking a religiously based school.
Mike Ruzicka, president of the 4,000-member Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, a group that supports Milwaukee’s voucher program, says that at the outset supporters were overly optimistic about the program’s potential impact.

“We’ve come to the realization that it’s not going to be a panacea,” he says. He says the voucher program helped some students and has provided families with more options, and has also pushed public schools to do better.Local opponents call the program a failure based on its academic record. Wisconsin state Rep. Christine Sinicki (D., Milwaukee), an opponent who was on the Milwaukee school board during the program’s early years, says
the program’s expansion beyond poor students stretched public-school financing by enabling middle-class students who had been paying for private school to attend them with vouchers.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Will Flanders commentary.

Madison spends nearly $20k per student, far more than voucher schools receive. Despite the above average spending, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Civics: ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US

Russell Brandom:

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.

The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Commentary on Reduced Federal Taxpayer subsidy for State and Local Tax and Spending Policies

Magan Mcardle:

It’s an unhappy time to be a high-income professional in a blue state — or their governor. The new tax law, which caps the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, amounts to a roughly one-third increase in their effective state-and-local tax rate. That will be an ugly hit to the pocketbook.

They will fiercely resist any attempt to raise taxes further, bad news for mayors and governors who are often facing big pension holes that are eventually going to need to be filled with taxpayer money. Worse still, they will probably put pressure on said politicians to lower taxes. And some of them may start shopping for residences in lower-tax locales, taking their valuable, taxable incomes with them if they go.

Small wonder that officials in high-tax states are desperate to find some way to undo what congressional Republicans have wrought. A number of proposals have been floated in the last month, all of them interesting, none of them likely to work very well

The Largest Early World Map is Unveiled For the First Time

Ahmed Kabil:

On July 25, 01585, near the end of a century of unprecedented change, four Japanese boys stopped in Milan on their way back home to Japan. They’d been sent as the first Japanese Embassy to Europe three years earlier by the Jesuit missionary Alesandro Valignano. Their European tour took them through Spain, where they met King Philip II, and to Rome, where they met with the Pope. Now, in Milan, they encountered Urbano Monte, a gentleman scholar from a wealthy Milanese family whose interests had lately turned to geography. Writing about meeting the Japanese boys, Monte “commented on their appearance and manners; the former he found odd but he thought their manners impressive and their eating habits fascinating.”

Oxford University admits more women than men for first time – Ucas

Richard Adams:

The University of Oxford offered more undergraduate places to British women than men last year for the first time in its more than 1,000-year history.

Of the total figure, female sixth-formers also outnumbered their male peers, according to data published from Ucas, the university and college admissions body.

A total of 1,070 18-year-old female UK applicants to Oxford took places on undergraduate course in autumn 2017, compared with 1,025 men of the same age. Women won more offers and places after applying in record numbers.

K-12 Tax & spending climate: Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

Umair Haque:

You might say, having read some of my recent essays, “Umair! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine! It’s not that bad!” I would look at you politely, and then say gently, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re taking collapse nearly seriously enough.”

Why? When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

EFF’s Fight to End Warrantless Device Searches at the Border: A Roundup of Our Advocacy

Sophia Cope and Adam Schwartz:

EFF has been working on multiple fronts to end a widespread violation of digital liberty—warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at the border. Government policies allow border agents to search and confiscate our cell phones, tablets, and laptops at airports and border crossings for no reason, without explanation or any suspicion of wrongdoing. It’s as if our First and Fourth Amendment rights don’t exist at the border. This is wrong, which is why we’re working to challenge and end these unconstitutional practices.

I Copied the Routines of Famous Writers and It Sucked

Nick Greene:

“For me writing is like breathing,” the poet Pablo Neruda told the Paris Review in 1971. “I could not live without breathing and I could not live without writing.” For me, writing is less like breathing and more like flatulence. It comes in bursts and adheres to no schedule, and if I try to force it, bad things come about.

Neruda’s quote has always made me envious to the point of agita. I am cursed with a far different disposition. If my respiratory system worked with the zeal and commitment to which I approach writing, I would have suffocated long ago.

Thankfully, I am not alone. For every Pablo Neruda, there are dozens of farters like me. This is purely anecdotal, but all the writers I know express similar frustrations. Writing is not an autonomic function of the subconscious brain. When the time comes to put words on the page, it is work.

Child support payments create the new American family

Larry Kummer:

Marriage has been an institution in flux for centuries, but the rate of change accelerated after California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the revolutionary Family Law Act of 1969, retroactively abolishing the “traditional” binding contract of marriage and replacing it with no-fault divorce. The feminist revolutions which followed forced further changes in marriage. The result (not predicted by experts): a large fraction of women valued their independence more than their husbands.

A common pattern has emerged for women. Marry, have kids (with a husband helping raise them during those early difficult years), divorce after they’re in school, and collect child support. This gets the children she wants without the bother of having a husband (after some years of marriage). The resulting high divorce rate — over 50% — with roughly 80% initiated by wives, makes marriage a risky proposition for men.

The numbers tell the tale. In 2005/06 less 60% of US adolescents (11, 13, and 15 years old) lived with both birth parents, per the OCED Family Database (source). That was the lowest level among OECD nations. That number is probably lower today. The numbers are worse among the poor and some minorities.

Why Free Speech Matters written

Jacob Mchangama:

rom 1980 – 2003 the number of countries with a free press grew from 51 to 78. This increase was also proportionately significant. In 1980 34% of the world’s then 161 countries had a free press. In 2003 41% of the world’s 193 countries had newspapers free to criticize their own governments and inform their citizens without censorship. Those of us growing up in that period thought we belonged to a generation that could take free speech for granted and see this principle become universally entrenched. But 2004 would mark the beginning of a constant decline in global press freedom lasting until this day.

From the high-water mark in 2003, we’re down to 31% of the world’s countries where journalists don’t have to worry about being imprisoned (262 reporters were behind bars in 2017). Or put differently: Only 13% of the world’s 7.4 billion people enjoy free speech. 45% live in countries where censorship is the norm. Venezuela, Russia, and Turkey are among the worst offenders. But In liberal democracies, free speech has also become a sometimes toxic issue. The President of the United States has consistently called for stricter laws against libel targeted at the “fake news media” which is “the enemy of the people”.

Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die

Eric Levitz:

The GOP understands how important labor unions are to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, historically, has not. If you want a two-sentence explanation for why the Midwest is turning red (and thus, why Donald Trump is president), you could do worse than that.

With its financial contributions and grassroots organizing, the labor movement helped give Democrats full control of the federal government three times in the last four decades. And all three of those times — under Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — Democrats failed to pass labor law reforms that would to bolster the union cause. In hindsight, it’s clear that the Democratic Party didn’t merely betray organized labor with these failures, but also, itself.

Between 1978 and 2017, the union membership rate in the United States fell by more than half — from 26 to 10.7 percent. Some of this decline probably couldn’t have been averted — or, at least, not by changes in labor law alone. The combination of resurgent economies in Europe and Japan, the United States’ decidedly non-protectionist trade policies, and technological advances in shipping was bound to do a number on American unions. Global competition thinned profit margins for U.S. firms; cutting labor costs was one of the easiest ways to fatten ’em back up; and breaking unions (through persuasion, intimidation, or relocation) was one of the easiest ways to cut said costs.

Nevertheless, there was lot that Democrats could have done — through labor law reform — to shelter the union movement from these changes, and help it establish a bigger footprint in the service sector. At present, employers are prohibited from firing workers for organizing or threatening to close businesses if workers unionize — but the penalties for such violations are negligible. Further, while they must recognize unions once they are ratified by workers in an election, employers can delay those elections for months or even years — and, even after recognition, face no obligation to reach a contract with their newly unionized workers.

Democrats could have increased the penalties for violating labor law, enabled unions to circumvent the election process if a majority of workers signed union cards (a.k.a. “card check”), and required employers to enter arbitration with unions if no contract was reached within 120 days of their formation — as Barack Obama promised the labor movement they would, in 2008.

Related: Act 10.

Wisconsin Reformers Move Toward a First: Education Savings Accounts for Gifted Kids

Kevin Mahnken:

As a new legislative session begins in Wisconsin, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is soliciting support for a policy that would be the first of its kind in the United States: education savings accounts for gifted students.

The proposal calls for accounts of up to $1,000 to be provided to families of students statewide who are identified as academically gifted — either by their school or by scoring in the top 5 percent on state standardized tests — and are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Although the state currently offers gifted and talented programming in all public schools, high-achieving students from low-income families are less likely to be recognized for their abilities. Money from the accounts could provide access to tutors, extra textbooks, and enrichment opportunities.

The bill, which was introduced in the state Senate last Friday, has a powerful backer in Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Finance and one of Wisconsin’s most prominent education reformers. She is joined in the Assembly by Rep. Jason Fields, a Milwaukee Democrat who favors school choice.

Illinois Ponders Pension-Fund Moonshot: a $107 Billion Bond Sale

Elizabeth Campbell:

Lawmakers in Illinois are so desperate to shore up the state’s massively underfunded retirement system that they’re willing to entertain an eye-popping wager: Borrowing $107 billion and letting it ride in the financial markets.

The legislature’s personnel and pensions committee plans to meet on Jan. 30 to hear more about a proposal advanced by the State Universities Annuitants Association, according to Representative Robert Martwick. The group wants Illinois to issue the bonds this year to get its retirement system nearly fully funded, assuming that the state can make more on its investments than it will pay in interest.

It would be by far the biggest debt sale in the history of the municipal market, and in one fell swoop would be more than Puerto Rico amassed in the run up to its record-setting bankruptcy.

A practitioner’s guide to reading programming languages papers

Adrian Colyer:

Last week I jokingly said that POPL papers must pass an ‘intellectual intimidation’ threshold in order to be accepted. That’s not true of course, but it is the case that programming languages papers can look especially intimidating to the practitioner (or indeed, the academic working in a different sub-discipline of computer science!). They are full of dense figures with mathematical symbols, and phrases thrown around such as “judgements”, “operational semantics”, and the like. There are many subtle variations in notation out there, but you can get a long way towards following the gist of a paper with an understanding of a few basics. So instead of covering a paper today, I thought I’d write a short practitioner’s guide to decoding programming languages papers. I’m following Pierce’s ‘Types and Programming Languages’ as my authority here.

Newton’s financial misadventures in the South Sea Bubble

Andrew Odlyzko:

Abstract. One of the most popular investment anecdotes relates how Isaac Newton, after cashing in some large early gains, staked his fortune on the suc- cess of the South Sea Company of 1720 and lost heavily in the ensuing crash. However, this tale is based on only a few scraps of hard evidence, some of which are consistently misquoted and misinterpreted. Much of what has been published is embellished with questionable flourishes. A superficially plausible argument has also been made that he did not lose much in that period, and John Maynard Keynes even claimed Newton successully surmounted the South Sea Bubble. This paper presents extensive new evidence that while Newton was a successful investor before this event, the folk tale about his making large gains but then being drawn back into that mania and suffering large losses is almost certainly correct. It probably even understates the extent of his financial miscal- culations. Incidentally to the clarification of this prominent issue, a controversy between Dale et al. and Shea about an aspect of market rationality during that bubble is settled. Some new information is also presented about Thomas Guy, famous for making a fortune out of the Bubble that paid for the establishment of Guy’s Hospital, and other investors. The work reported here suggests new research directions and perspectives on bubbles.

How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices’

Nikole Hannah-Jones :

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that when it comes to school segregation, separate is never truly equal.

“There’s never been a moment in the history of this country where black people who have been isolated from white people have gotten the same resources,” Hannah-Jones says. “They often don’t have the same level of instruction. They often don’t have strong principals. They often don’t have the same technology.”

Still, when it was time for Hannah-Jones’ daughter, Najya, to attend kindergarten, the journalist chose the public school near their home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, even though its students were almost all poor and black or Latino. Hannah-Jones later wrote about that decision in The New York Times Magazine.

Related: Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

The Public Benefit of Private Schooling: Test Scores Rise When There Is More of It

Corey DeAngelis:

The potential benefits of increased access to private school choice programs in the United States remain a hot topic in educational policy. According to economic theory, private schooling should improve student achievement by increasing competitive pressures on educators to provide high-quality educational experiences. In addition, since children have differing interests, abilities, and learning styles, private school choice would allow for an improved match between educators and students.

To see if these market benefits materialize, I examine the effect that increased access to private schooling has on international student test scores in 52 countries around the world. Notably, this study establishes causal relationships by comparing these countries to themselves over time while controlling for any fluctuations in gross domestic product, government expenditures, population, school enrollment, life expectancy, and infant mortality. I find that a 1 percentage point increase in the private share of total primary schooling enrollment would lead to moderate increases in student math, reading, and science achievement within nations.

Paul Vallas brings experience, political liabilities to possible Emanuel challenge

Bill Ruthhart, John Byrne and Patrick M. O’Connell:

Paul Vallas has spent the better part of the last two weeks fueling speculation that he might launch a bid to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February 2019 city election.

The former Chicago Public Schools CEO, 2002 Democratic governor candidate and 2014 lieutenant governor candidate certainly possesses political experience. He’s also built a career as an education expert who has revamped various school districts and retains a detailed knowledge of City Hall finances from a turn as budget director.

Much more on Paul Vallas, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Financial State of the Cities 2016

Truth in Accounting :

On January 24, Truth in Accounting released its second Financial State of the Cities report, a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal health of the nation’s most populous cities based on fiscal year 2016 comprehensive annual financial reports. This year, we have expanded our study to include the 75 most populated cities.

This year, the study found that 64 cities do not have enough money to pay all of their bills, and in total, the cities have racked up $335.4 billion in unfunded municipal debt. The study ranks the cities according to their Taxpayer Burden or Surplus™, which is each taxpayer’s share of city bills after available assets have been tapped. Check out the data for your city at the State Data Lab.

Why it costs so much to be poor in America

Karen Weese:

Sirrea Monroe never expected her electricity to get shut off — she was only $70 behind, and she planned to pay it off after her next paycheck. What happened next shocked her: “I called to get it turned back on, paid the $70 with what was supposed to be my rent money, and then the lady says, ‘Great, thank you for your payment! Now I need $250 for the ‘new customer’ deposit.’” Monroe, a convenience-store manager who has a child with special health needs, was in disbelief. “I’m like, ‘Look, I couldn’t afford $70. Where am I going to get $250?’ Now I’ll be more in the hole than I was before.”

Monroe had been a customer of the electric company for more than a decade, and the power had been off for less than an hour. It did not matter: She had to pay it. It took more than six months to pay off.

It may fail but we now know how to do it

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

Bitcoin is a currency without a government. But, one may ask, didn’t we have gold, silver and other metals, another class of currencies without a government? Not quite. When you trade gold, you trade “loco” Hong Kong and end up receiving a claim on a stock there, which you might need to move to New Jersey. Banks control the custodian game and governments control banks (or, rather, bankers and government officials are, to be polite, tight together). So Bitcoin has a huge advantage over gold in transactions: clearance does not require a specific custodian. No government can control what code you have in your head.

Finally, Bitcoin will go through hick-ups (hiccups). It may fail; but then it will be easily reinvented as we now know how it works. In its present state, it may not be convenient for transactions, not good enough to buy your decaffeinated expresso macchiato at your local virtue-signaling coffee chain. It may be too volatile to be a currency, for now. But it is the first organic currency.

But its mere existence is an insurance policy that will remind governments that the last object establishment could control, namely, the currency, is no longer their monopoly. This gives us, the crowd, an insurance policy against an Orwellian future.

13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math

Chris Papst:

Project Baltimore analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall. We paged through 16,000 lines of data and uncovered this: Of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math.

Digging further, we found another six high schools where one percent tested proficient. Add it up – in half the high schools in Baltimore City, 3804 students took the state test, 14 were proficient in math.

Related: Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Civics: Google for the first time outspent every other company to influence Washington in 2017

Hamza Shaban:

Google for the first time spent more than any other company in 2017 to influence Washington, highlighting both the sprawling reach of the country’s thriving tech industry and the rising concern by regulators and lawmakers of its ascendance.

All told, the search giant broke its own record by allocating more than $18 million to lobby Congress, federal agencies and the White House on issues such as immigration, tax reform, and antitrust. It also spent money to weigh in on an effort by lawmakers and regulators to regulate online advertising, which is at the core of Google’s business, according to disclosures filed to the Senate Office of Public Records.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics said Tuesday no technology firm had ever claimed the top spot since it began tracking lobbying expenditures by individual companies in 1998.

Yes, there are public school educators who know what they’re doing. Take, for example, the folks in Steubenville, Ohio.

Karin Chenoweth:

It is easy for people to think that educators really don’t know what they’re doing. After all, it is possible to read endless stories detailing incompetence, helplessness, and fraud.

But if you just scratch the surface a tiny bit you can find educators who have built enormous expertise about how to help kids learn.

Take, for example, the folks in Steubenville, Ohio.

Steubenville is a small, impoverished city that sits just west of West Virginia along the Ohio River. Once a thriving steel town, it has been devastated by the loss of manufacturing. About half of its population left over the last couple of decades and its rate of poverty is more than twice that of the rest of the country.

Other school districts that have experienced that kind of economic devastation have also experienced downturns in their students’ academic achievement.

Collateral Damage: The Impact of Department of Education Policies on Wisconsin Schools

Will Flanders and Natalie Goodnow (PDF):

In response to allegations of bias in suspension rates in schools along racial lines, the Obama Administration increased federal involvement in discipline policy across the count

Through a ‘Dear Colleague’ memo, federal incentives and legal threats, the Department of Education and Department of Justice worked in concert to push forward a system of positive behavioral support that was designed to reduced suspension rates, particularly among minority students

While these policies may seem reasonable on their face, little research has examined the impact of these policies on the classroom. This study represents the first attempt to do so at the state level. We gathered data on the implementation of the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) system from more than 2,000 schools throughout Wisconsin from 2009-2016.

We combined this with data on the number of suspensions and academic outcomes of most schools in the state over the same time frame. Along with a host of control variables, this represents the most comprehensive attempt to date to isolate the impact of PBIS on classroom climate.

Among our key findings:

1. Suspension rates have fallen in schools with large numbers of African American Students that implement PBIS.

To the extent that the goal of PBIS was to reduce suspensions for this demographic group, the system appears to be successful.

2. Suspension rates have increased in schools with small numbers of African American Students that implement PBIS.

In schools with fewer than 15% African American students, the implementation of PBIS is counterintuitively associated with an increase in the number of suspensions.

3. Mathematics and Reading Proficiency are lower in schools that implement PBIS. The implementation of PBIS is associated with a decline in proficiency of approximately 1% on state exams, controlling for a number of other factors that are known to impact proficiency.

4. Negative proficiency effects of PBIS are stronger in suburban and rural schools. With a significant exception discussed below, proficiency at urban schools does not suffer significantly when PBIS is implemented. However, performance in rural and suburban schools was found to decline.

The Neuroscience of Changing Your Mind

Bret Stetka:

Every day our brains grapple with various last-minute decisions. We adjust our gait to avoid a patch of ice; we exit to hit the rest stop; we switch to our backhand before thwacking a tennis ball.
Scientists have long accepted that our ability to abruptly stop or modify a planned behavior is controlled via a single region within the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an area involved in planning and other higher mental functions. By studying other parts of the brain in both humans and monkeys, however, a team from Johns Hopkins University has now concluded that last-minute decision-making is a lot more complicated than previously known, involving complex neural coordination among multiple brain areas. The revelations may help scientists unravel certain aspects of addictive behaviors and understand why accidents like falls grow increasingly common as we age, according to the Johns Hopkins team.

The U.S. Drops Out of the Top 10 in Innovation Ranking

Michelle Jamrisko and Wei Lu:

Score another one for Seoul while Silicon Valley slides.

The U.S. dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. South Korea and Sweden retained their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings.

The index scores countries using seven criteria, including research and development spending and concentration of high-tech public companies.

AttnGAN: Fine-Grained Text to Image Generation with Attentional Generative Adversarial Networks

Tao Xu, Pengchuan Zhang, Qiuyuan Huang, Han Zhang, Zhe Gan, Xiaolei Huang, Xiaodong He:

In this paper, we propose an Attentional Generative Ad- versarial Network (AttnGAN) that allows attention-driven, multi-stage refinement for fine-grained text-to-image gener- ation. With a novel attentional generative network, the At- tnGAN can synthesize fine-grained details at different sub- regions of the image by paying attentions to the relevant words in the natural language description. In addition, a deep attentional multimodal similarity model is proposed to compute a fine-grained image-text matching loss for train- ing the generator. The proposed AttnGAN significantly out- performs the previous state of the art, boosting the best re- ported inception score by 14.14% on the CUB dataset and 170.25% on the more challenging COCO dataset. A de- tailed analysis is also performed by visualizing the atten- tion layers of the AttnGAN. It for the first time shows that the layered attentional GAN is able to automatically select the condition at the word level for generating different parts of the image.

“As a Teacher, I Was Complicit in Grade Inflation. Our Low Expectations Hurt Students We Were Supposed to Help”

Emily Langhorne:

n November, NPR uncovered a graduation scandal at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., where half the graduates missed more than 90 days of school. Administrators pressured teachers to pass failing students, including those whom teachers had barely seen.

Policy wonks have had a field day with the report, adding graduation scandals to their lists of top 2018 education stories to watch and questioning the value of a high school diploma.
The one group of people who were not surprised by the scandal: teachers.

George W. Bush once claimed that as president, he would challenge the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in our nation’s classrooms by raising the K-12 education standards for of all America’s children. But in the past two decades, the soft bigotry of low expectations hasn’t been challenged; it’s been masked by grade and graduation inflation. And these low expectations are not isolated in our nation’s most impoverished schools.
Four years ago, when I began my teacher training, a tenured teacher gave me some advice: “Just give them a D; it’ll be so much extra work for you to fail anyone.” At the time, I thought it was strange wisdom, but soon I learned that it’s part of the “common sense” of survival in the world of teachers.
I worked in Fairfax County Public Schools, a more affluent, higher-performing district near Washington, where pressure to inflate grades and ensure students pass was ingrained. These district-encouraged, sometimes administrator-enforced grading policies still make me cringe.

Related: When A stands for average.

How an Arizona couple’s innocent bath-time photos of their kids set off a 10-year legal saga

Derek Hawkins:

Lisa and A.J. Demaree’s decade-long legal ordeal started with, by all accounts, an utterly innocent family moment.

In 2008, the couple took their three daughters, then ages 5, 4 and 1½, on a vacation to San Diego. They snapped more than 100 photos during the trip, like parents do, including several of the girls playing together during bath time. When they returned to their home in Peoria, Ariz., they dropped the camera’s memory stick off at a Walmart for developing.

Within a day, a police detective came knocking.

A Walmart employee had flagged the bath-time photos as pornographic, the detective told the parents. One showed the girls wrapped in towels with their arms around each other; another showed their exposed bottoms.

If you’re using an Android phone, Google may be tracking every move you make

David Yanofsky:

Biking? Google probably knows you are. Up a mountain? It probably knows that, too.

The Alphabet subsidiary’s location-hungry tentacles are quietly lurking behind some of the most innovative features of its Android mobile operating system. Once those tentacles latch on, phones using Android begin silently transmitting data back to the servers of Google, including everything from GPS coordinates to nearby wifi networks, barometric pressure, and even a guess at the phone-holder’s current activity. Although the product behind those transmissions is opt-in, for Android users it can be hard to avoid and even harder to understand. Opting in is also required to use several of Android’s marquee features.

Affluent households owe the most student debt

Sandy Baum & Victoria Lee:

Profiles of former students struggling to repay their education debt are compelling. Too many students enroll in college but leave school without completing a credential, making even small amounts of debt burdensome. Some students complete their programs only to discover that because of either the institutions they attended or the fields in which they earned their degrees, they can’t find jobs that reward their education. And when the overall unemployment rate is high, even graduates with a good education can struggle to find a well-paying job.

But these problems do not mean that most student loan borrowers are less well off than those without student debt—many of whom never went to college. In fact, most outstanding student debt is held by people with relatively high incomes.

According to the recently released Survey of Consumer Finances for 2016, households in the top quartile of the income distribution, with incomes above $81,140 in 2016, held about half of all outstanding education debt. The top 10 percent of households, with incomes of $144,720 or higher, held 24 percent of the debt. This debt represents a combination of students borrowing for their own education and parents or grandparents borrowing to help their children or grandchildren pay for college. Some of the loans supported students who are still in school, but other loans were taken out years ago.

‘Never get high on your own supply’ – why social media bosses don’t use social media

Alex Hern:

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t use Facebook like you or me. The 33-year-old chief executive has a team of 12 moderators dedicated to deleting comments and spam from his page, according to Bloomberg. He has a “handful” of employees who help him write his posts and speeches and a number of professional photographers who take perfectly stage-managed pictures of him meeting veterans in Kentucky, small-business owners in Missouri or cheesesteak vendors in Philadelphia.

Facebook’s locked-down nature means mere mortals can’t see the private posts on Zuckerberg’s timeline, but it is hard to imagine him getting into arguments about a racist relative’s post of an anti-immigration meme. And it is not just Zuckerberg. None of the company’s key executives has a “normal” Facebook presence. You can’t add them as friends, they rarely post publicly and they keep private some information that the platform suggests be made public by default, such as the number of friends they have.

Over at Twitter, the story is the same. Of the company’s nine most senior executives, only four tweet more than once a day on average. Ned Segal, its chief financial officer, has been on the site for more than six years and has sent fewer than two tweets a month. Co-founder Jack Dorsey, a relatively prolific tweeter, has sent about 23,000 since the site was launched, but that is a lot less than even halfway engaged users have sent over the same period. Dorsey rarely replies to strangers and avoids discussions or arguments on the site. He doesn’t live-tweet TV shows or sporting fixtures. In fact, he doesn’t really “use” Twitter; he just posts on it occasionally.

What School Choice Means for Democrats in the Age of Trump

Shavar Jeffries:

With President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos driving the public dialogue toward their far-right, for-profit privatization agenda, an alien from another planet could be forgiven for landing here and assuming that “school choice” is the priority of only the Republican Party — or that Democrats are in retreat when it comes to expanding options for improved public education for all students.

That would be a nearsighted and incorrect view. As distinct from for-profit private schools with a flimsy track record of success, it was national progressive leaders from labor and civil rights who laid the foundation for public charter schools. These equity-focused leaders include Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers; the past two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; the late liberal icon Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone; and former Vermont governor and head of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean. Minnesota Democratic state Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge authored the nation’s first charter school law, and big-city mayors like Cory Booker, Antonio Villaraigosa, Adrian Fenty, Mitch Landrieu, and the late Tom Menino succeeded in creating some of the most vibrant and high-performing charter sectors in the country.

Madison has long tolerated a lack of K-12 diversity, despite spending more than most (about $20,000 per student) and long term, disastrous reading results.

School life expectancy, fromprimary to tertiary education, 2013

Our World in Data:

The school life expectancy is the number of years a personof school entrance age can expect to spend in theeducation system. Since school life expectancy is anaverage based on participation in different levels ofeducation, the average may be pulled down by the numberof children who never go to school. Those children who arein school may benefit from many more years of educationthan the average. The data refers to both sexes.

Liberal Arts in the Data Age

KM Olejarz:

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

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

Belgian PhD student decodes DNA and wins a Bitcoin

European Bioinformatics Institute:

University of Antwerp PhD student Sander Wuyts has won the DNA Storage Bitcoin challenge, issued by Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in 2015. The value of the coin has risen rapidly in three years, while the value of scientific progress is inestimable.

The challenge
On 21 January 2015, Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute explained a new method for storing digital information in DNA to a packed audience at a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. At the end of his talk, he issued a challenge:

Goldman distributed test tubes containing samples of DNA encoding 1 Bitcoin to the audience (and subsequently posted samples to people who requested them). The first person to sequence (read) the DNA and decode the files it contained could take possession of the Bitcoin.

Charging racism, Cottage Grove parents want Harper Lee book barred from classroom

Karen Rivedal:

But to Cottage Grove parents Tujama and Jeannine Kameeta, whose son is a freshman at Monona Grove High School, the novel “provides no educational value” and is racist itself due to how themes are presented and because of its use of racial slurs — the Kameetas counted 48 — in character dialogue, they said in a statement.

“By mandating students read this book the school district is subjecting students of color to racial harassment,” the statement said. Tujama Kameeta also clarified in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday that he was OK with the book being available in the high school library but found it inappropriate as curriculum.

“The N-word is used so many times that it numbs the readers to its potency,” he said, also charging that the “novel reduces black people to passive, humble victims and ignores the reality of black agency in resistance.”

There are many newer books available that deal with “the same topics in more contemporary ways,” he noted, including those by minority authors who have “a different and more valid perspective when it comes to racism.”

“This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral

Nick Bilton:

Years ago, long before Mark Zuckerberg became Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder reached out to a friend of mine who had also started a company, albeit a considerably smaller one, in the social-media space, and suggested they get together. As Facebook has grown into a global colossus that connects about a third of the globe, Zuckerberg has subsequently assumed a reputation as an aloof megalomaniac deeply out of touch with the people who use his product. But back then, when he only had 100 million users on his platform, he wasn’t perceived that way. When he reached out to my friend, Zuckerberg was solicitous. He made overtures that suggested a possible acquisition—and once rebuffed, returned with the notion that perhaps Facebook could at least partner with my friend’s company. The chief of the little start-up was excited by the seemingly harmless, even humble, proposition from the growing hegemon. Zuckerberg suggested that the two guys take a walk.
 Taking a walk, it should be noted, was Zuckerberg’s thing. He regularly took [potential recruits and acquisition targets on long walks in the nearby woods to try to convince them to join his company. After the walk with my friend, Zuckerberg appeared to take the relationship to the next level. He initiated a series of conference calls with his underlings in Facebook’s product group. My friend’s small start-up shared their product road map with Facebook’s business-development team. It all seemed very collegial, and really exciting. And then, after some weeks passed, the C.E.O. of the little start-up saw the news break that Facebook had just launched a new product that competed with his own.

The Growth, Scope, and Spatial Distribution of People With Felony Records in the United States, 1948–2010

Sarah K. S. Shannon, Christopher Uggen, Jason Schnittker, Melissa Thompson, Sara Wakefield and Michael Massoglia:

The steep rise in U.S. criminal punishment in recent decades has spurred scholarship on the collateral consequences of imprisonment for individuals, families, and communities. Several excellent studies have estimated the number of people who have been incarcerated and the collateral consequences they face, but far less is known about the size and scope of the total U.S. population with felony convictions beyond prison walls, including those who serve their sentences on probation or in jail. This article develops state-level estimates based on demographic life tables and extends previous national estimates of the number of people with felony convictions to 2010. We estimate that 3 % of the total U.S. adult population and 15 % of the African American adult male population has ever been to prison; people with felony convictions account for 8 % of all adults and 33 % of the African American adult male population. We discuss the far-reaching consequences of the spatial concentration and immense growth of these groups since 1980.

Civics: NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve The agency tells a federal judge that it is investigating and ‘sincerely regrets its failure.’

Josh Gerstein:

T he National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings.

Word of the NSA’s foul-up is emerging just as Congress has extended for six years the legal authority the agency uses for much of its surveillance work conducted through U.S. internet providers and tech firms. President Donald Trump signed that measure into law Friday.

D.C. invalidates science exam scores after discovering errors

Perry Stein:

The science exam given annually to District students was so error-ridden that the superintendent announced Friday that she is throwing out scores for the past two years and canceling this year’s test.

The decision puts the city in violation of federal law, and the superintendent’s office said some federal funding could be in jeopardy.

Under the law, school districts must test students in science once during their elementary school years, once in middle school and once in high school. Tests vary by district, and state and local school leaders determine how exams are administered.

D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang said she had little choice but to cancel the District’s $370,000 contract with WestEd, a national education company that developed the citywide exam known as the DC Science Assessment. The two-hour, computerized test is not used to determine whether students can advance to the next grade.

Discrete math is essential to college-level mathematics and beyond.

David Patrick:

Most middle and high school math curricula follow a well-defined path:

Pre-algebra → Algebra 1 → Geometry → Algebra 2 → Trig / Precalculus → Calculus

Other middle and high schools prefer an “integrated” curriculum, wherein elements of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry are mixed together over a 3-year or 4-year sequence. However, both of these approaches generally lack a great deal of emphasis on discrete math: topics such as combinatorics, probability, number theory, set theory, logic, algorithms, and graph theory. Because discrete math does not figure prominently in most states’ middle or high school “high-stakes” progress exams, and because it also does not figure prominently on college-admissions exams such as the SAT, it is often overlooked.

Declining District Enrollment? Here’s a No-Brainer: Ask Why Families Left — And Listen When They Answer

Beth Hawkins:

Do you want to know what happens when you pull your child out of Minneapolis Public Schools?

Nothing. That’s what happens.

No first-week phone call from the school office or the enrollment center. No social worker wondering if things are okay. Not so much as a multiple-choice survey asking what prompted you to leave.

The bus cards continue to come. And good luck stopping the robo-calls, which are hardwired to survive death and taxes.

No, the vacuum you’re left with is to be filled only by your imagination. Which, if your departure involved any degree of tension between family and school, is likely to be a pretty shamey blamey place. –

Related: Open enrollment leavers.

Court rejects Pierce College’s attempt to dismiss lawsuit against its tiny ‘free speech zone’


Court to college: Despite your restrictive policies, the open areas of your campus are public forums for student speakers.Los Angeles Pierce College, part of the nation’s largest community college district, restricts speech to .003 percent of campus.Student Kevin Shaw sued administrators at Pierce College and the Los Angeles Community College District after he was prevented from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 18, 2018 — In an order issued yesterday, a federal district court denied Los Angeles Community College District and Pierce College administrators’ motion to dismiss student Kevin Shaw’s First Amendment lawsuit. Finding that the open spaces of public colleges like Pierce College are traditional public forums — “regardless of Pierce’s regulations” — the court rejected the school’s argument that its tiny “free speech area” was constitutional.

Campus police escorted two Trump supporters from the premises of the University of Southern California when a mob threatened their safety following a gubernatorial town hall.

Sandor Farkas:

As the pair took their seats, protesters with signs declaring “people over profit” hounded them for their evident political views. When the protesters began chanting the slogan, some audience members quietly booed, while Shaper retorted that “people need profit” and “profit makes people stronger.”

Raising a Social-Media Star

Taylor Lorenz:

When then-14-year-old Jonas Bridges ran down the stairs of his Atlanta home shouting, “Dad, I’ve got 1,000 fans!” his father, Rob Bridges, hardly took notice. A few days later Jonas barreled into the living room again, saying, “Dad, I’ve got 3,000 fans now.” Again, his father brushed him off. Several days later, Jonas told his father, “I have 5,000 fans now and if I get to 10,000 I’ll get paid for it.” Finally, Rob Bridges turned to his wife and said, “Denise, what the hell is he talking about?”

What Jonas Bridges was trying to tell his father was that he was rapidly becoming famous on YouNow, a social video platform where he had begun hosting live-streams from his bedroom under the pseudonym “woahits_jonas.” Before his parents knew what was happening, Jonas had amassed an army of online fans for his vlogs and prank videos. Before they could grasp quite what his newfound fame meant, Jonas had begun raking in serious cash.

When a Day in Court Is a Trap for Immigrants

Steve Coll:

On March 29th, in Pontiac, Michigan, Sergio Perez appeared in a county courtroom to seek sole custody of his son and two daughters, who were between eleven and seventeen years old. The children lived with Sergio’s estranged wife, Rose, and, he told me recently, he was concerned about them. His wife had taken out a yearlong protective order against her boyfriend in 2015, but, as far as Sergio knew, they now lived together. (Rose and the boyfriend could not be reached.) Perez paid the rent on the house where his children and Rose lived, he told me, although he had fallen thousands of dollars behind on child support. (He said that he spent other money on the children directly—for example, for their clothes.) Perez ran a small contracting business near Pontiac, installing carpets. He said that he wanted “to see my daughters do well, with modern lives.” He was “never rich at all,” but he was “working fourteen, sixteen hours a day,” he told me. “I was working three customers a day.”

Rose and the three children are all United States citizens, but Perez was undocumented. He had grown up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and crossed into the United States, without authorization, when he was nineteen. During the next twenty-one years, he and his attorney, Bethany McAllister, told me, he had moved back and forth to Mexico, and he had been deported several times before. But otherwise he had never been arrested or convicted of a crime, and had received only one ticket, for driving on an expired license. Amid the anti-immigrant fever created by the Trump Administration, he feared that pressing the custody case might lead to someone informing on him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in order to have him arrested and deported to Mexico. Perez decided to go to family court anyway. He said that he wanted to show his children that “no matter how hard or difficult it might be, you have to do what you have to do, no matter what.”

Civics: James Clapper’s perjury, and why DC made men don’t get charged for lying to Congress

Jonathan Turley:

Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper is about celebrate one of the most important anniversaries of his life. March 13th will be the fifth anniversary of his commission of open perjury before the Senate Intelligence Committee. More importantly, it also happens to be when the statute of limitations runs out — closing any possibility of prosecution for Clapper. As the clock runs out on the Clapper prosecution, Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have charged that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen committed perjury when she insisted that she could not recall if President Donald Trump called Haiti and African countries a vulgar term. The fact is that perjury is not simply tolerated, it is rewarded, in Washington. In a city of made men and women, nothing says loyalty quite as much as lying under oath.

Even in a city with a notoriously fluid notion of truth, Clapper’s false testimony was a standout. Clapper appeared before the Senate to discuss surveillance programs in the midst of a controversy over warrantless surveillance of the American public. He was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” There was no ambiguity or confusion and Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” That was a lie and Clapper knew it when he said it.

Never accept an MDM policy on your personal phone

Christopher Demicoli:

In this new age of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), employees can bring personally owned devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc…) to their workplace, and to use those devices to access privileged company information and applications. The intent of MDM is to optimize the functionality and security of these devices while minimizing cost and downtime.

MDM stands for Mobile Device Management, and is a way to ensure employees stay productive and do not breach corporate policies. There are various MDM solutions available, but the most common ones right now are:

Edgewood High School plans April expansion; includes major new performing art space

Karen Rivedal:

The project, pegged for an early April start pending final approvals and some additional fundraising, also could be a boon for the community. A 17,500-square-foot theater addition is the project’s biggest piece, expanding opportunities not just for Edgewood students but also potentially for Madison-area youth theater groups that struggle now due to a “huge shortage” of performing spaces, Elliott said.

The high school plans to make the expanded theater available to those groups, similar to how East High School pledged to share its $4.7 million theater renovation with community theater groups in July.

“It’s going to be a very impressive theater,” Elliott said.

Educators speak out on behavior. Why no consequences? And where are the parents?

Alan Borsuk:

Don’t think this is a piece only about schools in Milwaukee, either public or private. I got responses from suburban schools where the same issues are seen, and from across the state. People working in affluent areas said behavior has gotten worse in their schools, as well.

​​​​​​English language arts begins. You pull out the engaging lesson. Some students are excited to learn. One student refuses to listen. She throws her notebook on the ground. Another student decides he does not like how his neighbor is talking to him, so he begins kicking him. Another student mocks another for no apparent reason. A fight breaks out… You keep on trying to put out fires all day long. The emotional trauma is overwhelming. This is only the first hour of a very long week.

Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders

Matthew Hutson:

Intelligence makes for better leaders—from undergraduates to executives to presidents—according to multiple studies. It certainly makes sense that handling a market shift or legislative logjam requires cognitive oomph. But new research on leadership suggests that, at a certain point, having a higher IQ stops helping and starts hurting.

Although previous research has shown that groups with smarter leaders perform better by objective measures, some studies have hinted that followers might subjectively view leaders with stratospheric intellect as less effective. Decades ago Dean Simonton, a psychologist the University of California, Davis, proposed that brilliant leaders’ words may simply go over people’s heads, their solutions could be more complicated to implement and followers might find it harder to relate to them. Now Simonton and two colleagues have finally tested that idea, publishing their results in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded

James Pogue:

The west side of Columbus, Ohio, is a flat expanse of one-story houses, grimy convenience stores, and dark barrooms, and William Lager, in his business wear, cut an unusual figure at the Waffle House on Wilson Road. Every day, almost without fail, he took a seat in a booth, ordered his bottomless coffee, and set to work. Some days he sat for hours, so long that he’d outlast waitress Chandra Filichia’s seven-hour shift and stay on long into the night, making plans and scribbling them down on napkins.

The dreams on the napkins seemed impossibly grandiose: He wanted to create a school unlike anything that existed, a K-12 charter school where the learning and teaching would be done online, and which would give tens of thousands of students an alternative to traditional public schools across the state. It would offer them unheard of flexibility—a teen mom could stay with her child and study, while a kid worried about being bullied could complete lessons at home. And it would be radically cheaper than a traditional classroom, since there would be no buildings to maintain, no teachers’ unions to bargain with. At the time—the late 1990s—it was a revolutionary idea. Lager called it, in the heady days when the internet seemed to promise a solution to every problem, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

But back then—before Lager had his mansion and lake house, before he rose to become a hero of the school choice movement, before Jeb Bush flew in to give ECOT’s commencement speech and Betsy DeVos helped him and his cohort transform Ohio’s educational landscape—Filichia, the Waffle House waitress, could tell Lager seemed broke. Balding, round-faced, and concentrating intently as he scribbled, she even once caught him trying to pass off photocopies of discount coffee coupons. But he didn’t plan on using a Waffle House as his office forever. “One of these days I’m going to have a real big business,” she remembers him telling her, “and you can come work with me, and you won’t ever have to work anywhere else.”

Why does it cost $32,093 just to give birth in America?

Jessica Glenza:

Stella Apo Osae-Twum and her husband did everything by the book. They went to a hospital covered by insurance, saw an obstetrician in their plan, but when her three sons – triplets – were born prematurely, bills started rolling in.

The hospital charged her family $877,000 in total.

“When the bills started coming, to be very honest, I was an emotional wreck,” said Apo Osae-Twum. “And this is in the midst of trying to take care of three babies who were premature.”

America is the most expensive nation in the world to give birth. When things go wrong – from pre-eclampsia to premature birth – costs can quickly spiral into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While the data is limited, experts in medical debt say the costs of childbirth factor into thousands of family bankruptcies in America each year.

It’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on giving birth in America, since costs vary dramatically by state and hospital. But one 2013 study by the the advocacy group Childbirth Connection found that, on average, hospitals charged $32,093 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth and newborn care, and $51,125 for a standard caesarean section and newborn care. Insurance typically covers a large chunk of those costs, but families are still often on the hook for thousands of dollars.

What’s So Dangerous About Jordan Peterson?

Tom Bartlett:

T hey’re waiting in the cold for Jordan Peterson, hands shoved in jacket pockets, serious books like The Gulag Archipelago and Modern Man in Search of a Soul tucked under arms. The crowd outside the University of Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre on a Tuesday evening in November is mostly male and mostly in their 20s. They’ve spent hours watching Peterson on YouTube, where he rails against the enervating evils of postmodernism, dissects the Bible at length, and offers fatherly advice about how to “change the world properly.” They recite his dictums on personal responsibility, like “Clean your room,” “Sort yourself out,” and “Don’t do things that you hate.” They devour the classics he deems must-reads — Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Orwell. When asked to describe him, they reach for superlatives: brilliant, breathtaking, wise. When asked to compare him, they turn to historical figures: Plato, Diogenes, Gandhi. They insist he’s changed their lives.

Soon the man himself will arrive and deliver an often dazzling, sometimes puzzling, rarely dull two-hour lecture on the symbolic and psychological underpinnings of the book of Genesis. Afterward he will field knotty questions from the audience on whether originality is really possible, the tension between honor and happiness, and the evolutionary upside of solitude. These questions seem designed to be difficult, as if the audience were engaged in a giant game of Stump the Guru. It’s during such sessions that Peterson is at his improvisational best, sprinkling in ideas from philosophy, fiction, religion, neuroscience, and a disturbing dream his 5-year-old nephew had one time. It’s a hearty intellectual stew ladled up by an intense 55-year-old psychology professor who gives the impression that he’s on the cusp of unraveling the deep secrets of human behavior — and maybe the mystery of God, too, while he’s at it.

You’d never guess from the reverential atmosphere in the 500-seat theater just how polarizing Peterson has become over the past year. Days before, fliers were tacked up around his neighborhood warning the community about the dangerous scholar in their midst, accusing him of “campaigning against the human rights” of minorities and associating with the alt-right. There have been several calls for his ouster from the University of Toronto — where he’s tenured — including a recent open letter to the dean of the faculty of arts and science signed by hundreds, including many of his fellow professors. Friends refuse to comment on him lest they be associated with his image. Critics hesitate, too, for fear that his supporters will unleash their online wrath. A graduate student at another Canadian university was reprimanded for showing a short video clip of Peterson to a group of undergraduates. One of the professors taking her to task likened Peterson to Hitler.

The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry

Oliver Burkeman:

Human beings are born too soon. Within hours of arriving in the world, a baby antelope can clamber up to a wobbly standing position; a day-old zebra foal can run from hyenas; a sea-turtle, newly hatched in the sand, knows how to find its way to the ocean. Newborn humans, on the other hand, can’t hold up their own heads without someone to help them. They can’t even burp without assistance. Place a baby human on its stomach at one day old – or even three months old, the age at which lion cubs may be starting to learn to hunt – and it’s stranded in position until you decide to turn it over, or a sabre-toothed tiger strolls into the cave to claim it. The reason for this ineptitude is well-known: our huge brains, which make us the cleverest mammals on the planet, wouldn’t fit through the birth canal if they developed more fully in the womb. (Recently, cognitive scientists have speculated that babies may actually be getting more useless as evolution proceeds; if natural selection favours ever bigger brains, you’d expect humans to be born with more and more developing left to do.)

This is why humans have “parenting”: there is a uniquely enormous gap between the human infant and the mature animal. That gap must be bridged, and it’s difficult to resist the conclusion that there must be many specific things adults need to get right in order to bridge it. This, in turn, is why there are parenting advice manuals – hundreds and hundreds of them, serving as an index of the changing ways we have worried about how we might mess up our children.

Law Schools Under the Microscope

Rick Seltzer:

When the American Bar Association posted a letter on its website in November saying Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School was not in compliance with a standard about admissions, the school slapped its accreditor with a lawsuit.

Cooley argued the ABA had acted illegally in publishing the letter, which said the law school was not in compliance with accreditation standard 501(b). That standard says law schools should only admit students who appear capable of completing legal education programs and passing the bar.

The letter to Cooley was one of more than a dozen the ABA posted about different law schools in the last 18 months, almost all citing the issue of admitting students who were not likely to succeed. Some of the other law schools promised to address the ABA’s concerns while still pointing out that their accreditation remained intact. Cooley proved more bellicose, asking a federal judge to force the accreditor to pull the letter in question from its website and withdraw copies sent to the U.S. secretary of education, the Higher Learning Commission and state regulators in Michigan and in Florida, where Cooley also has a campus.
Cooley was clearly harmed, it argued in filings made in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The ABA harmed Cooley’s finances and reputation, the law school said.
Most sharply, though, the law school seemed to fear the reaction of students.

I s it the job of public schools to determine “what” your child is?

ParentsRightsinEd :

You entrust your child to the care of your district teachers and leaders each and every time they step into the halls of the school. Teaching is not an easy profession, but can be extremely rewarding; educators supporting the efforts of parents and guardians by teaching children skills and knowledge that will hopefully help them have a healthy and happy life.

But growing up can be difficult. It can be confusing. Children are impressionable and vulnerable. We all know this and that is why we expect adults to protect them.

Commentary on Ongoing Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending growth; election season

Matthew DeFour:

“I’m glad to see at least last year there was pretty broad-based support,” Walker said.

Immediately after Walker’s speech, Evers came on stage to hand out an award and deadpanned, “How ironic,” before responding: “Any time any governor adopts my budget, it’s a good day.”

In an interview with the State Journal afterward, Evers said he’s happy that Walker added money for K-12 schools — some $649 million in new spending over the biennium — “but the fact is for the last five years he cut $1 billion out (and) not counting inflation we’re not back to where we should be.”

“We’re still running behind,” Evers said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m running (for governor). We haven’t made up that money they took from us in the past.”

Evers, who spoke at the convention on Wednesday, said school board members told him they saw the increased education funding as either not enough, given how many districts are still proposing referendums to exceed state-imposed revenue limits, or they see it as a political ploy.

Locally, Madison spends far more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

How the U.S. Ended Up Enthralled by Unions

Megan Mcardle:

Take a look at the cost schedule for American government services, and you are likely to walk away boggled. Who are all these people working for the government? Why are they getting paid so much? And why does it seem to take so many of them to get anything done?

Look, for example, at the recent construction of the Second Avenue subway line in New York City, recently highlighted by the New York Times as “the most expensive mile of subway track on earth.” The employees singled out in that article do not work for the city, but they might as well; it is a collection of consultants, contractors and union laborers who work largely on government infrastructure projects.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that my father used to be the head of the trade association for the contractors who do this sort of work in New York City; my views were formed by this perspective. The current head of that association is interviewed in the Times article.

I have a slightly different perspective on why everything costs so much, which is that in New York, there is a collision of all the things that conspire to drive up costs. Other places may have eminent domain trouble, or politically influential labor unions, or somewhat challenging geography, or laws that let community groups delay work, or multiple layers of government and government review that pile up costs, or high costs of living that drive wages through the roof, or dysfunctional government bidding processes. … New York has all of these things in something close to their terminal form. It’s actually sort of a miracle that anything ever gets built there, or that it costs less than “all the money in the world, plus 50 cents.”

The Long-run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining1 .

Another link.

University of Alabama Student Expelled for Racist Instagram Rant

Eugene Volokh:

Now no-one can confuse the video with a thoughtful argument. If empty hostility like this vanished from American life (perhaps through some magical transfusion of decency and good judgment), the nation would be a better place.

But there’s a practical reason that the First Amendment forbids expelling university students for saying such things — or for that matter saying that they hate fucking Americans or Israelis, or love Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Che or whoever else. The last several years have made clear what the preceding decades should have shown as well: Attempts to punish people for their views aren’t going to be neatly cabined just to the extreme.

Condemnations of illegal immigration, of the Black Lives Matter movement, of affirmative action, of Israel, and of a wide range of other things are routinely excoriated as racist or anti-Semitic. Some such excoriation may be factually accurate in some instances; but it means that, if supposedly racist speech can be suppressed, then any expression of such views risks being suppressed as well.

Destroying the city to save the robocar

Brian Sherwood-Jones:

Special report Behind the mostly fake “battle” about driverless cars (conventional versus autonomous is the one that captures all the headlines), there are several much more important scraps. One is over the future of the city: will a city be built around machines or people? How much will pedestrians have to sacrifice for the driverless car to succeed?

The battle over the design and control of urban infrastructure pits two distinct ideas against each other. One narrative of “networked urbanism” envisages the city driven by data analytics and networks controlled in part by machines. In this “smart city”, technological solutionism is rampant, with everything connected and automated. This is Googleville: a posthuman urban laboratory.

‘Apartheid’ schools on the rise in N.J., study says

Kelly Heyboer:

The percentage of New Jersey students attending “apartheid schools” — where only between 0 and 1 percent of the pupils are white — has nearly doubled from 4.8 percent to 8.3 percent since 1989, the report concluded.

“This report shows that New Jersey has moved another substantial step toward a segregated future with no racial majority but severe racial stratification and division,” said Gary Orfield, one of the report’s authors and co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

New Jersey ranks as the sixth most segregated state in the nation for black students and the seventh most segregated for Latino students, the report said.

Related: Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Which Colleges Will Have to Pay Taxes on Their Endowment? Your Guess Might Not Be Right

Richard Rubin and Andrea Fuller:

The Juilliard School, New York’s magnet for aspiring artists, is bracing for a 1.4% tax on income from its $1 billion endowment. Three miles away, Columbia University and its $10 billion endowment will remain untouched for now.

A college-endowment tax, enacted in December in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by President Donald Trump, is causing confusion and frustration at schools across the country, which rely on the previously tax free-earnings when setting their budgets.

Small liberal arts colleges will likely be hit disproportionately because many have sizable endowments but limited enrollment. The tax applies only to private schools with at least 500 students and at least $500,000 of investments per student.

The change was driven by congressional Republicans, who say colleges building up large, tax-favored endowments should use more of that money to reduce tuition and support low-income students.

Schools have protested the move, saying they often use endowment earnings to provide financial aid and warning that diverting funds to pay the new tax will only make it harder to do what GOP lawmakers want.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York hopes to eventually resume letting students attend without paying tuition, a century-old tradition it abandoned under financial stress in 2014. The college, which expects to pay the tax, currently covers half-tuition for all undergraduates.

American kids are 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other rich countries

Sarah Kliff:

A child born in the United States has a 70 percent greater chance of dying before adulthood than kids born into other wealthy, democratic countries, a new study has found.

The research, published in the journal Health Affairs on Monday, shows that the United States lags far behind peer countries on child health outcomes. It estimates that, since 1961, America’s poor performance accounts for more than 600,000 excess child deaths — deaths that wouldn’t have happened if these kids were born into other wealthy countries.

“In all the wealthy, democratic countries we studied children are dying less often then they were 50 years ago,” Ashish Thakrar, the study’s lead author, said. “But we found that children are dying more often in the United States than in any similar country.”

Poverty and the States


On an individual state basis, the biggest changes in a state’s poverty rate between the two measures in each direction are: a) California’s official poverty rate of 14.5% ranked it No. 16 but the state moved up to No. 1 at 20.4% (highest state poverty rate in the US) using the SPM ( a difference of +5.9%) and b) Mississippi’s poverty rate ranked it No. 1 at 20.8% using the official measure but No. 5 at 16.9% using the SPM (a difference of -3.9%). Overall, 18 states, including California showed a greater percentage of people in poverty using the SPM, 30 states, including Mississippi, showed a lower percentage of people in poverty and two states showed no change (North Dakota and Utah).

Obviously, the reason for the increase in California’s (and 17 other states) poverty rate using the SPM is because of the state’s high cost-of-living including sky-high housing costs (median home price of $519,100) and because of high taxes and energy costs. And the decrease in Mississippi’s SPM poverty rate (and 29 other states) is because of that state’s low cost-of-living, including low housing costs (median home price of $114,400).

Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

Betsy DeVos:

To a casual observer, a classroom today looks scarcely different than what one looked like when I entered the public policy debate thirty years ago…The vast majority of learning environments have remained the same since the industrial revolution, because they were made in its image. Think of your own experience: sit down; don’t talk; eyes front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Repeat. Students were trained for the assembly line then, and they still are today.

Our societies and economies have moved beyond the industrial era. But the data tell us education hasn’t.

The most recent Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, report, with which you are all familiar, has the U.S. ranked 23rd in reading, 25th in science and 40th in math. And, you know this too: it’s not for a lack of funding. The fact is the United States spends more per pupil than most other developed countries, many of which perform better than us in the same surveys.

Of course there have been many attempts to change the status quo. We’ve seen valiant efforts to improve education from Republicans and Democrats, liberals, conservatives and everyone in between.

The bottom line is simple: federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.

That’s not a point I make lightly or joyfully. Yes, there have been some minor improvements in a few areas. But we’re far from where we need to be. We need to be honest with ourselves. The purpose of today’s conversation is to look at the past with 20/20 hindsight, examine what we have done and where it has – or hasn’t – led us.

How we made the microprocessor

Federico Faggin:

Computers were, at first, a decidedly unintegrated technology. They were composed of vacuum tubes, resistors, capacitors, inductors and mercury delay lines, and as a result were huge, expensive and power hungry. The situation improved with developments in microelectronics based on solid-state germanium transistors and diodes, which began replacing vacuum tubes in radios and phonographs, and eventually led to the first commercial transistor-based computers in 1959. That same year, the development of the planar process at Fairchild Semiconductor allowed tens of silicon transistors to be fabricated at the same time on the surface of a single-crystal silicon wafer (ten years later it would be possible to fabricate thousands of transistors). This invention was quickly followed by the commercialization of the first bipolar digital integrated circuits (ICs) in 1962, and from that point on, progress in semiconductor ICs became exponential, with the maximum number of components integrated in a silicon chip doubling every year, at least initially. But what allowed all the functions of a general-purpose computer to be integrated together was a monolithic central processing unit (CPU) — a microprocessor — and the first commercial microprocessor was born nine years later in 1971 (Fig. 1).

How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms

Ethan Epstein:

Last year, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte made an announcement to great fanfare: The university would soon open a branch of the Confucius Institute, the Chinese government-funded educational institutions that teach Chinese language, culture and history. The Confucius Institute would “help students be better equipped to succeed in an increasingly globalized world,” says Nancy Gutierrez, UNC Charlotte’s dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and “broaden the University’s outreach and support for language instruction and cultural opportunities in the Charlotte community,” according to a press release.

But the Confucius Institutes’ goals are a little less wholesome and edifying than they sound—and this is by the Chinese government’s own account. A 2011 speech by a standing member of the Politburo in Beijing laid out the case: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad,” Li Changchun said. “It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”

If Aziz Ansari Were a College Student, He Could Have Been Expelled for Less

Robby Soave:

Last week, published an anonymous woman’s account of her date with actor/comedian Aziz Ansari, who she says pressured her into uncomfortable and unwanted sex, failing to heed her “verbal and non-verbal cues.”

In response, the internet has produced wave after wave of takes. The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan said the article was “3,000 words of revenge porn” and unfit for publication. Vox’s Anna North characterized Ansari’s behavior as common among all-too-many men, and thus worth discussing. The New York Times’s Bari Weiss wrote that if Ansari was guilty of anything, it was “not being a mind reader,” and fretted that this incident could tarnish the #MeToo movement. Reason’s own Elizabeth Nolan Brown thought both parties—as well as men and women in general—could benefit from more communication about sexual desires.

These are wildly different takes, and there are dozens more perspectives offered in The Washington Post, National Review, Jezebel, on Twitter, and elsewhere. But most of the takes have one thing in common: they explicitly reject the original article’s assertion that Aziz Ansari committed sexual assault. Ansari behaved badly, and there is much to be said about how he ignored his date’s wishes, thought only of himself, and expected sexual gratification at every turn. But he is not a rapist, most people seem to agree.

#EIE17: STRATEGY SESSION VIII – Turning the Tide: Tools to Promote Charter School Growth

Strategy Session VIII: Turning the Tide: Tools to Promote Charter School Growth. Recorded at the 2017 National Summit on Education Reform on Thursday, November 30 in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, only 329 new charter schools opened across the United States in 2016, down from 640 new charters in 2013. Charter schools are still growing, but at a much slower rate than just a few years ago. Why are we seeing fewer new charter schools? What can policymakers do to ensure that new high-quality charter schools are able to open and serve families? Join this session for a conversation with researchers and state lawmakers to learn what is behind this trend and how states can address the need for more quality schools in our communities. Moderator: Neerav Kingsland, Chief Executive Officer, Hastings Fund Panelists: — Richard Corcoran, Speaker, Florida State House of Representatives — Robin Lake, Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education — Michael McShane, Ph.D., Director of National Research, EdChoice — Angela Williams, Senator, Colorado State Senate

What’s The Difference Between Children’s Books In China And The U.S.?


What are the hidden messages in the storybooks we read to our kids?

That’s a question that may occur to parents as their children dive into the new books that arrived over the holidays.

And it’s a question that inspired a team of researchers to set up a study. Specifically, they wondered how the lessons varied from storybooks of one country to another.

For a taste of their findings, take a typical book in China: The Cat That Eats Letters.

Ostensibly it’s about a cat that has an appetite for sloppy letters — “written too large or too small, or if the letter is missing a stroke,” explains one of the researchers, psychologist Cecilia Cheung, a professor at University of California Riverside. “So the only way children can stop their letters from being eaten is to write really carefully and practice every day.”

But the underlying point is clear: “This is really instilling the idea of effort — that children have to learn to consistently practice in order to achieve a certain level,” says Cheung. And that idea, she says, is a core tenet of Chinese culture.

Commentary on Personalized Pathways in the Madison School District

Karen Rivedal:

A new initiative billed as bringing real-world context to high school learning is generating solid interest from eighth-graders in the Madison School District looking to join the program’s second year as freshmen next fall.

Through Thursday, 482 students had applied to be in the second cohort of the Personalized Pathways program, which is finishing its first semester Friday with 423 ninth-graders across all four main high schools.

Of the new applicants, 125 plan to attend East High School, 148 at La Follette, 124 at Memorial and 85 at West. Those numbers could change over the coming months, but interest appears to be similar to last January, when 518 initially applied, or about 24 percent to 34 percent of each school’s projected freshman class at that time.

The news media have an important role to play in democracy, yet most of the public does not believe that they are fulfilling that role.

Knight Foundation:

More than eight in 10 U.S. adults believe the news media are critical or very important to our democracy. They see the most important roles played by the media as making sure Americans have the knowledge they need to be informed about public affairs and holding leaders accountable for their actions.

At the same time, Americans are more likely to say the media perform these roles poorly than to say they are performing them well.
The public divides evenly on the question of who is primarily responsible for ensuring people have an accurate and politically balanced understanding of the news — 48% say the news media and 48% say individuals themselves.

Going further than prior proposals, Abbott unveils a plan to slow Texas property tax growth

Brandon Formby and Patrick Svitek:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday unveiled a plan to “rein in skyrocketing property taxes” in Texas, looking to lay down a marker in a debate that dominated the legislative sessions last year and promises to remain front and center through the 2018 primaries and his re-election campaign.

“Enough is enough,” Abbott said at a news conference flanked by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and several lawmakers. “Texans are fed up with property taxes being raised with impunity. They are tired of endless government spending while honest, hard-working people struggle just to keep up with paying their tax bills. We can no longer sit idly by while homeowners are reduced to tenants of their very own property with taxing authorities playing the role of landlord.”

A key tenet of Abbott’s proposal is to prevent cities, counties and school districts from collecting more than 2.5 percent more in property tax revenue than they did in the previous year without voter approval. That’s a far lower cap than controversial thresholds that twice failed to make it through the Legislature last year. And his plan would require that two-thirds of voters — well beyond a simple majority — approve any increase above that 2.5 percent threshold.

The Effects of Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector

Jonathan Adler:

This paper presents the first analysis of the effect of teacher collective bargaining on long-run labor market and educational attainment outcomes. Our analysis exploits the different timing across states in the passage of duty-to-bargain laws in a difference-in-difference framework to identify how exposure to teacher collective bargaining affects the long-run outcomes of students. Using American Community Survey (ACS) data linked to each respondent’s state of birth, we examine labor market outcomes and educational attainment for 35-49 year olds. Our estimates suggest that teacher collective bargaining worsens the future labor market outcomes of students: living in a state that has a duty-to-bargain law for all 12 grade-school years reduces earnings by $800 (or 2%) per year and decreases hours worked by 0.50 hours per week. The earnings estimate indicates that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $199.6 billion in the US annually. We also find evidence of lower employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation, as well as reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which workers sort. The effects are driven by men and nonwhites, who experience larger relative declines in long-run outcomes. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults. Taken together, our results suggest laws that support collective bargaining for teachers have adverse long-term labor market consequences for students.


Act 10.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Case Against College

Peter Coy:

Last April, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for students from families that earn up to $125,000 per year. It would also make community college tuition-free for everyone. Good idea or bad?

Advocates of lowering the barriers to college say doing so helps both the students and the U.S. economy. Sanders, one of 21 co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate and House, noted that Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden already have tuition-free public colleges and universities. The U.S. must do the same, he said in a statement, “if we are to succeed in a highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world.”

The evidence of the benefits of a higher education seems indisputable: People with a bachelor’s degree earn 73 percent more than those with a high school diploma on average, up from a 50 percent advantage in the late 1970s. It stands to reason that, as computers and robots get more powerful, humans will have to be more educated to master them.

A shrinking number of rural Texas hospitals still deliver babies. Here’s what that means for expecting moms.

Marissa Evans:

Letha Stokes has a “very, very heavy heart” since Medical Arts Hospital ended its labor and delivery services on Dec. 6.

The hospital CEO said it took three years of studying, penny pinching and what-ifs before she and the hospital board of directors decided the Lamesa-based facility in northwest Texas should not deliver babies anymore.

Until recently, Medical Arts Hospital delivered an average of 100 babies per year, the majority of them covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care insurer for the very poor. But the hospital also lost an estimated $500,000 a year due to the program’s low reimbursement rates. That wasn’t sustainable.

Stokes said ending deliveries means Medical Arts’ patients will have to drive 40 to 60 extra miles to hospitals in places like Seminole, Snyder or Lubbock.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Stokes said. “… There is a risk either way, if you deliver babies or if you don’t deliver babies.”

The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses

Zaria Gorvett:

It was the summer of 1860 and Eadweard Muybridge was running low on books. This was somewhat problematic, since he was a bookseller. He handed his San Francisco shop over to his brother and set off on a stagecoach to buy supplies. Little did he know, he was about to change the world forever.

He was some way into his journey, in north-eastern Texas, when the coach ran into trouble. The driver cracked his whip and the horses broke into a run, leading the coach surging down a steep mountain road. Eventually it veered off and into a tree. Muybridge was catapulted into the air and cracked his head on a boulder.