Can Government Officials Have You Arrested for Speaking to Them?

Garrett Epps:

If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow?

Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one dug up after the fact—does that make her arrest constitutional?

Deyshia Hargrave, meet Fane Lozman. You need to follow his case.

Hargrave is a language arts teacher in Kaplan, Louisana. She was arrested Monday after she questioned school-district policy during public comment at a school board meeting.

She asked why the superintendent of schools was receiving a five-figure raise when local teachers had not had a permanent pay increase in a decade. As she was speaking, the school-board president slammed his gavel, and a police officer told her to leave. She left, but once she went into the hall, the officer took her to the ground, handcuffed her, and arrested her for “remaining after having been forbidden” and “resisting an officer.”

India’s massive citizen database was reportedly breached

Mallory Locklear:

India’s government Aadhaar database, which holds personal information of over one billion Indian citizens, was allegedly breached, BuzzFeed News reports. Along with demographic info, the database also contains biometric data like fingerprints and iris scans. Indian publication The Tribune reported earlier today that it was able to access any registered citizen’s demographics after it was granted admin access by an anonymous individual. In just 20 minutes, a reporter was given an administrator ID and a password after contacting the individual through WhatsApp and transferring what amounted to less than $8. Afterwards, the reporter was able to plug in anyone’s Aadhaar number and get their name, address, postal code, photo, phone number and email. For an additional $5, the reporter was also able to get software that allowed them to print an Aadhaar card with anyone’s number.

It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

Zeynep Tufekci :

For most of modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head.

This actually happened once in Turkey. It was the spring of 1960, and a group of military officers had just seized control of the government and the national media, imposing an information blackout to suppress the coordination of any threats to their coup. But inconveniently for the conspirators, a highly anticipated soccer game between Turkey and Scotland was scheduled to take place in the capital two weeks after their takeover. Matches like this were broadcast live on national radio, with an announcer calling the game, play by play. People all across Turkey would huddle around their sets, cheering on the national team.

Canceling the match was too risky for the junta; doing so might incite a protest. But what if the announcer said something political on live radio? A single remark could tip the country into chaos. So the officers came up with the obvious solution: They kept several guns trained on the announcer for the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes of the live broadcast.

Government Dependency Breeds Stupidity


Many of my readers may be aware of the fact that, though I live in Florida, I’m pretty well-traveled. My father was in the military, and as a military brat I’ve lived in many different parts of the country, and been to almost all the lower 48 states at some point or another. We spent a couple years in Oregon when I was a teenager, and even back then the law prohibiting citizens from pumping their own gas was in effect. It was one of the stranger features of Oregon.

Now the partial repeal of this law, which only applies to rural areas, has some Oregon residents in a panic. Why, people may just have to get out and pump their own gas! The terror! The horror! I have to wonder if Democrats will get up on podium and tell us that people will die! This is another feature of that parallel (or is it orthagonal?) universe libs live in. Poe’s law may apply to the comments below, but it’s very hard to tell these days.

The Revolt Of The Masses

Morris P. Fiorina:

No election in recent decades has seen so much attention paid to the “working class.” Accelerating with the splintering of the Democratic Party in the mid-to-late 1960s, the importance of social class as an electoral cleavage slipped behind cleavages based on race and ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. But for many commentators, the 2016 election witnessed a revolt of the masses. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni writes, “The arc of this election has been one of disillusionment, bending toward disarray. Trump’s initial window of opportunity was so many Americans’ belief that Washington, Wall Street and the media had been irredeemably corrupted by self-interested elites.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan writes about those whom she calls the “protected”: “The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully. . . . [The protected] are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers.”

Anti-elitism has a long history in the United States, of course, more so than in some European countries like Britain where the “upper” classes historically had been accorded “deference.” In the late nineteenth-century populist era, anti-elitism focused on economic elites—the trusts, the moneyed interests, those who, in presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s words, “would crucify mankind on a cross of gold.” And it was only a short move from there to an attack on the politicians who were controlled by the economic elites.

Popping the Higher Education Bubble

Richard Vedder:

Nearly a decade ago, my then colleague Andrew Gillen suggested that one could say that higher education was in a bit of a “bubble”: over-exuberant “investors” in human capital, better known as students, were potentially misallocating their resources, becoming increasingly underemployed after graduation, leading to adverse financial consequences. In the private sector, bubbles, like those in the housing or stock markets, usually lead to “crashes” and sharp falls in prices along with diminished volumes of activity. In higher education, massive government subsidies mute the decline in volume (enrollment) and prevent big price (tuition fee) crashes, but some sort of correction is nonetheless observable.

Lots of signs show the bursting of the bubble is underway. Enrollments are down, lower today than six years ago –a first decline of that duration in modern peacetime American history (including the Great Depression). Tuition increases are moderating and a few colleges are even starting to cut published tuition fees (sticker prices). Even some prestigious schools such as Oberlin College are having financial problems because their freshman class is smaller than anticipated. Student loan delinquency is high and rising, remarkable since the economy has been having the best performance in years, with real output growing at over a three percent annual rate and the unemployment rate at a very low 4.1 percent.

Chinese App: “We’ll Make the World a More Beautiful Place”

Lars Silberbauer:

Meitu was number 17 on Time Magazine’s list of ”Best apps in 2017”. Since then, they have grown their user base not just in China, but also in the US. Most recently, they did the largest IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange in the last 15 years, when they went public about a year ago.
 So what is Meitu and what unique value do they bring?
 I met with Peter Xu who’s Head of Branding at Meitu and his wording of the answer was:
 ”There’s an old Chinese saying that “Everyone has the heart of pursuing beautiful things & self-images!” The core essence of the Meitu company & its total portfolio has been consistently centered on “Beauty”.
 With its software/hardware, online/offline services, utility/social apps, Meitu aims to help various users become more beautiful from the digital to the real world, by leveraging beauty related technology (Visual A.I & A.R etc.) and cross-over partnership with beauty know-how.

Impatience: The Pitfall Of Every Ambitious Person

Darius Foroux:

And waiting is one of the hardest things in life. But if you take a close look around you, you see many examples of people who waited for the right opportunity.

Take all the investors who bought stocks and real estate during the financial crisis that started in 2008. That recession lasted several years. Recently, I spoke to someone who invested a big chunk of his assets in the stock market between 2009 and 2011.

He saved most of his money in the years that led to the crisis. Not because he predicted the global financial crisis that was sparked by subprime mortgages, but because he simply didn’t know what to do. So he spent his time learning about investing.

He also didn’t follow the market. Instead, he saved his money — and wasn’t tempted to invest it just because “the economy is great.”

refocusing science education

Steve Crandall:

By 1960 a program was developed that emphasized understanding rather than memorization and created films, inexpensive laboratory kit, experiments and teaching material to provide hands-on experience and thinking. Topics were organized to underscore overarching conservation principals. Almost overnight high school physics teaching had been revolutionized. Spurred by the success of the PSSC similar programs were created and successfully implemented for chemistry and biology. Mathematicians had their own approach, They’d focus on the beauty of math and get away from the mindless arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry and algebra that had been taught since the late 19th century. While the science programs succeeded, the new math failed – it made too much of a leap. Parents and teachers alike fought and quickly killed it.

Science teaching, if the metric is the supply of Ph.Ds. in science, is too successful. There simply aren’t enough research jobs to match supply and the number of posts in the US is shrinking. One might argue that a Ph.D. in physics is useful in other areas – I’ve been told physicists think differently and the same is probably true for all of the physical sciences – but if anything the pipeline is working .

Meet Julia Nepper, who earned a UW-Madison Ph.D. at 23

Pat Schneider:

A home-schooled child who started community college at age 11, Nepper said she hopes people will take the example from science of being willing to fail and move on to the next strategy and apply it to other areas of their lives.

Nepper’s phenomenal academic progress was captured along the way by reporters in Wilmington, North Carolina, but news of the latest milestone quickly spread much more widely on the internet. “I’ve had hundreds of people following me on Twitter and Instagram,” she said.

At UW-Madison, her age kept her out the “microbrewery scene” the first two years she was on campus, but otherwise had little impact, Nepper said.

McCarthy Math

Harry Prevor :

In early 1959, John McCarthy wrote a little paper that defined one of the first ever programming languages, LISP. In just nine simple functions (QUOTE, ATOM, EQ, CAR, CDR, CONS, COND, LAMBDA, LABEL), he created the basis from which all LISP-like languages are still founded upon today, including Scheme, Common Lisp, Emacs Lisp, Clojure, and (debatably) even JavaScript. The language was so succinct that modern-day programmer orlp was able to fully implement an interpreter for it in Python in just 770 bytes.

Teenagers are better behaved and less hedonistic nowadays

The Economist:

AT THE gates of Santa Monica College, in Los Angeles, a young man with a skateboard is hanging out near a group of people who are smoking marijuana in view of the campus police. His head is clouded, too—but with worry, not weed. He frets about his student loans and the difficulty of finding a job, even fearing that he might end up homeless. “Not to sound intense,” he adds, but robots are taking work from humans. He neither smokes nor drinks much. The stigma against such things is stronger than it was for his parents’ generation, he explains.

Young people are indeed behaving and thinking differently from previous cohorts at the same age. These shifts can be seen in almost every rich country, from America to the Netherlands to South Korea. Some have been under way for many years, but they have accelerated in the past few. Not all of them are benign.

Civics: Where in the World Is the U.S. Military? Everywhere

Catherine Besteman and Stephanie Savell :

As we enter the 17th year of the United States’ “war on terror,” it is both appropriate, and necessary, to take stock of where our troops are located and for what purpose. The deaths of U.S. soldiers this fall in Niger were a stark reminder that much of the American public, and even many of our country’s lawmakers, aren’t exactly sure what the war on terror looks like, much less where many of our other military operations are located. According to a new map published this week by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the U.S. is waging this war on terror in 76 countries – or more simply put, 40 percent of the countries on this planet.

‘The desire to have a child never goes away’: how the involuntarily childless are forming a new movement

Stephanie Marsh:

Jody Day is giving a TEDx talk to a room full of people against a backdrop of signposts she has chosen for the occasion: “Crazy cat woman”, “Witch”, “Hag”, “Spinster”, “Career woman”. “What comes to mind when you see those words?” she asks the audience. They shift uneasily. Gently, she answers her own question: “All of them are terms used for childless women … I’m a childless woman. And I’m here to tell you about my tribe – those one in five women without children hidden in plain sight all around you.”

Day is involuntarily childless. She remembers the moment she realised she was definitely never going to be a mother. It was February 2009 and, at 44-and-a-half, she had left a bad long-term relationship and moved into a grotty London flat. “I was standing by the window, watching the rain make dusty tracks down the glass, when the traffic in the street below seemed to go silent, as if I’d put it on ‘mute’. In that moment, I became acutely aware of myself, almost as if I were an observer of the scene from outside my body. And then it came to me: it’s over. I’m never going to have a baby.”

We now know that 20% of British women born, like Day, in the 1960s, turned 45 without having a child. The number is double that of their mother’s generation – we’ll have to wait for the next census in 2021 to find out whether the numbers rose or fell for women born in the 70s and 80s (and whether or not government statisticians revise the fertility cutoff point – the age at which it is assumed women will stop having children – to extend beyond 45). And yet, on that February afternoon eight years ago, Day could find nothing on the internet or in books about her painful, irreversible situation. When she typed “childless woman” into any search engine, she was directed to sites run by women who had elected to be “child-free” – “some of them saying really hateful things about how awful kids were”. She knew no one like her, and felt alone and frightened. There followed “four years of hell”: “My personality completely changed. There were loads of things I couldn’t deal with. I withdrew from all my relationships. I saw doctors, therapists – nobody knew what the matter with me was.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pensions will be ‘on the chopping block’ in next recession, Jerry Brown says

Adam Ashton:

Gov. Jerry Brown this week predicted that his 2012 pension law will survive union challenges in court and blow a hole in the so-called “California rule” that has restricted changes to public employee retirement plans for half a century.

“When the next recession comes around, the governor will have the option of considering pension cutbacks for the first time in a long time,” Brown said at a news conference this week where he unveiled his 2018-19 budget plan.

Brown has been working to strike out the California rule, a precedent dating back to the 1950s that holds public agencies cannot reduce pension promises without offering workers new incentives to offset the loss of retirement income.

His office in November replaced the attorney general’s office in defending his pension law against a challenge filed by the state firefighter union. The union argues that the pension law denied benefits to employees who were promised them, including the ability to purchase “air time” that they could use to enhance their pensions upon retirement.

Google Is Not What It Seems

Julian Assange:

Schmidt was a good foil. A late-fiftysomething, squint-eyed behind owlish spectacles, managerially dressed—Schmidt’s dour appearance concealed a machinelike analyticity. His questions often skipped to the heart of the matter, betraying a powerful nonverbal structural intelligence. It was the same intellect that had abstracted software-engineering principles to scale Google into a megacorp, ensuring that the corporate infrastructure always met the rate of growth. This was a person who understood how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people. My world was new to him, but it was also a world of unfolding human processes, scale, and information flows.
For a man of systematic intelligence, Schmidt’s politics—such as I could hear from our discussion—were surprisingly conventional, even banal. He grasped structural relationships quickly, but struggled to verbalize many of them, often shoehorning geopolitical subtleties into Silicon Valley marketese or the ossified State Department microlanguage of his companions.9 He was at his best when he was speaking (perhaps without realizing it) as an engineer, breaking down complexities into their orthogonal components.

I found Cohen a good listener, but a less interesting thinker, possessed of that relentless conviviality that routinely afflicts career generalists and Rhodes scholars. As you would expect from his foreign-policy background, Cohen had a knowledge of international flash points and conflicts and moved rapidly between them, detailing different scenarios to test my assertions. But it sometimes felt as if he was riffing on orthodoxies in a way that was designed to impress his former colleagues in official Washington. Malcomson, older, was more pensive, his input thoughtful and generous. Shields was quiet for much of the conversation, taking notes, humoring the bigger egos around the table while she got on with the real work.

As the interviewee I was expected to do most of the talking. I sought to guide them into my worldview. To their credit, I consider the interview perhaps the best I have given. I was out of my comfort zone and I liked it. We ate and then took a walk in the grounds, all the while on the record. I asked Eric Schmidt to leak US government information requests to WikiLeaks, and he refused, suddenly nervous, citing the illegality of disclosing Patriot Act requests. And then as the evening came on it was done and they were gone, back to the unreal, remote halls of information empire, and I was left to get back to my work. That was the end of it, or so I thought.

Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories

Sam Anderson:

A pencil is a little wonder-wand: a stick of wood that traces the tiniest motions of your hand as it moves across a surface. I am using one now, making weird little loops and slashes to write these words. As a tool, it is admirably sensitive. The lines it makes can be fat or thin, screams or whispers, blocks of concrete or blades of grass, all depending on changes of pressure so subtle that we would hardly notice them in any other context. (The difference in force between a bold line and nothing at all would hardly tip a domino.) And while a pencil is sophisticated enough to track every gradation of the human hand, it is also simple enough for a toddler to use.

Such radical simplicity is surprisingly complicated to produce. Since 1889, the General Pencil Company has been converting huge quantities of raw materials (wax, paint, cedar planks, graphite) into products you can find, neatly boxed and labeled, in art and office-supply stores across the nation: watercolor pencils, editing pencils, sticks of charcoal, pastel chalks. Even as other factories have chased higher profit margins overseas, General Pencil has stayed put, cranking out thousands upon thousands of writing instruments in the middle of Jersey City.

Higher Education & Veracity

Christian Smith:

have had nearly enough bullshit. The manure has piled up so deep in the hallways, classrooms, and administration buildings of American higher education that I am not sure how much longer I can wade through it and retain my sanity and integrity.

Even worse, the accumulated effects of all the academic BS are contributing to this country’s disastrous political condition and, ultimately, putting at risk the very viability and character of decent civilization. What do I mean by BS?

BS is the university’s loss of capacity to grapple with life’s Big Questions, because of our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.

Former dean says Mizzou fired her for questioning racial quotas

Sandor Farkar:

A former dean is suing the University of Missouri School of Medicine for wrongful termination, alleging that she was fired because of her race and skepticism of certain diversity initiatives.

Dr. Rachel Brown, former associate dean of recruitment, admission, and student life at MU’s medical school, filed a lawsuit against her former employer on December 18 in which she claims that race was a “contributing factor” in her termination.

Tech’s New Hotbeds: Cities With Fastest Growth In STEM Jobs Are Far From Silicon Valley

Joel Kotkin:

The third tech turning, now in its infancy, promises greater dispersion to other markets, some with strong tech backgrounds, some with far less. In the last two years, according to numbers for the country’s 53 largest metros compiled by Praxis Strategy Group’s Mark Schill based on federal data and EMSI’s fourth-quarter 2017 data set, the STEM growth leader has been Orlando, at 8%, three times the national average. Next are San Francisco and Charlotte (each at 7%); Grand Rapids, Michigan (6%); and then Salt Lake City, Tampa, Seattle, Raleigh, Miami and Las Vegas (5%).

K-12,Tax & Spending Climate: Why the U.S. Spends So Much More Than Other Nations on Health Care

Austin Frakt and Aaron E. Carroll:

Over all, the researchers found that American personal health spending grew by about $930 billion between 1996 and 2013, from $1.2 trillion to $2.1 trillion (amounts adjusted for inflation). This was a huge increase, far outpacing overall economic growth. The health sector grew at a 4 percent annual rate, while the overall economy grew at a 2.4 percent rate.

You’d expect some growth in health care spending over this span from the increase in population size and the aging of the population. But that explains less than half of the spending growth. After accounting for those kinds of demographic factors, which we can do very little about, health spending still grew by about $574 billion from 1996 to 2013.

Did the increasing sickness in the American population explain much of the rest of the growth in spending? Nope. Measured by how much we spend, we’ve actually gotten a bit healthier. Change in health status was associated with a decrease in health spending — 2.4 percent — not an increase. A great deal of this decrease can be attributed to factors related to cardiovascular diseases, which were associated with about a 20 percent reduction in spending.

This could be a result of greater use of statins for cholesterol or reduced smoking rates, though the study didn’t point to specific causes. On the other hand, increases in diabetes and low back and neck pain were associated with spending growth, but not enough to offset the decrease from cardiovascular and other diseases.

Review of Madison Police Department includes recommendations on school-based officers

Abigail Becker:

On Tuesday, the Madison School Board and the City Council both voted to sign a contract approving the continued use of educational resource officers in the city’s four high schools.

The authorization approves a three-year contract for EROs, with a provision to opt-out after two years. Tuesday’s decision follows last week’s stalemate between the Board of Estimates and the Madison School Board over the length of the opt-out clause. The Madison School Board initially voted to approve an option to opt-out of the contract after 18 months, with the city preferring the two-year option.

School Board Treasurer TJ Mertz viewed the decision as a necessary compromise between the city and the School Board.

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Local groups speak out against Teacher Protection Act

Amber Walker:

Several groups assembled at the state Capitol on Thursday to speak out against a bill that would require police departments to inform school administrators if a student is taken into custody for a felony or violent misdemeanor.

The bill would also give teachers the right to appeal directly to the school board if school administrators refuse to suspend a student, and terminate their teaching contracts without penalty if they are physically assaulted on the job.

Students, parents and representatives from the Madison School Board, Wisconsin Family Ties, Disability Rights Wisconsin and Kids Forward organized a press conference before the public hearing on Assembly Bill 693.

Related: Gangs and School Violence forum.

When Will Campus Mega-Donors Address the Student Loan Debt Crisis?

Mike Scutar:

In a recent post looking at Kenneth Ricci’s $100 million gift to the University of Notre Dame, I argued that gifts like Ricci’s reward schools that have failed to control tuition costs, and that while more financial aid is nice, it doesn’t help students who are expected to pay full freight—roughly $300,000 at Notre Dame—or something close to it.

Then I read Matt Taibbi’s recent piece in Rolling Stone, titled “The Great College Loan Swindle.” In an article chock full of alarming facts and anecdotes, this nugget regarding the University of Wisconsin (UW) stood out:

UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university’s finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.

For Chinese Women, Getting Pregnant Can Be a Fireable Offense

Ni Dandan:

When Li Mengyuan walked out of the labor arbitration office on a Monday in October, the 32-year-old didn’t feel like a winner — even though the dispute with her former employer over maternity benefits had been decided in her favor.

Now with a 1-year-old in tow, Li belongs to a group that Chinese companies are increasingly reluctant to employ: new moms. “I have to look for another job, and potential employers might be concerned about my new mother status, and whether I’m considering a second child,” Li told Sixth Tone.

In the past two decades, China has strengthened its employment protections for new mothers, prohibiting companies from terminating contracts or reducing salaries of employees who take time off to get married or have children. Employers are also required to provide a maternity allowance that varies based on salary, as well as 98 days of maternity leave — in accordance with International Labor Organization (ILO) standards — though most local governments stipulate 128 days of leave.

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.”

Steal taxes, risk pension: Eau Claire County supervisors seek law change

Andrew Dowd:

A pair of Eau Claire County supervisors want Wisconsin law changed so local governments can draw from state-run retirement accounts of public employees who are convicted of stealing taxpayer money.

Supervisors Mark Beckfield and Steve Chilson are drafting a resolution that will ask state legislators for the ability to put a lien on specific pensions run through the Wisconsin Retirement System in situations where public employees have been found guilty of embezzling.

Educators, disability-rights advocates say Teacher Protection Act will widen school-to-prison pipeline

Annysa Johnson:

The bill’s author, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), defended the measure, saying he was open to amendments but that something has to be done about the rise in assaults and threats against teachers. He blamed what he described as the “social justice agenda” in some schools, saying it does not hold students accountable for their negative behavior.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that negative behavior without consequences promotes more negative behavior,” Thiesfeldt said. “What truly grows the school to prison pipeline is the current trend toward minimizing serious negative behavior and the coddling of children with no serious consequences,”

Thiesfeldt’s wide-ranging bill would, among other things:

Related: Gangs and school violence Forum.

Jerry Brown proposes new online-only public college to help working adults succeed

Nanette Asimov:

California should create a public college entirely online to help millions of working adults gain the skills they need to work in the new economy and raise their pay, Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday as part of the $132 billion state budget he proposed for 2018-19.

Brown, who has long urged the California State University and University of California to rely more on online courses to reduce costs and raise graduation rates — and has often been frustrated in the process — has now turned to a method he believes will be more successful: a community college dedicated to helping adults without a college degree improve their job prospects that would even enable students to take classes t

Civics: Classical Liberalism Strikes Out

Rod Dreher:

There’s another paradox in your analysis: that the more liberalism liberates us as individuals, the more dependent it makes us on the state. What do you mean?

The political philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenel once wrote that “state of nature” scenarios were obviously the imaginings of “childless men who had forgotten their own childhood.” He meant that the imaginary version of our true “nature” as radically individuated selves is in fact no-where to be found as our “natural” condition. We are first and foremost by nature relational creatures. And yet, we see a different reality now coming into being, not as the result of our “natural” condition, but through the efforts of a massive architecture that has been erected to make possible human lives increasingly lived in disconnection from permanent relations and absent constitutive cultural forms of membership and belonging.

The state becomes the main creator and supporter of this condition. A range of policies – economic, social and political – have as their aim the realization of this creature once only imagined in the state of nature, but now increasingly the default human of modern political and social world. The best representation of this phenomenon is probably found in the Obama campaign ad, “The Life of Julia,” which portrays the lifespan of a woman, from childhood to old age, whose complete independence was the result of a slew of government programs. She has no apparent relationships with other human beings (she seems to have a child for a brief span, but that nameless little person is taken away on a yellow school bus and never reappears), and the point of the ad is that her complete freedom is the result of the total lack of reliance upon any other particular human being.

The result of this liberation from particular people, as Tocqueville predicted, would be a growing reliance upon the state. This reliance, in fact, at first seems less oppressive than the bonds of more traditional societies, because we are freed from particular obligations. People expect not to take care of their elderly parents, and so we support health care that includes long-term elderly care that allows us the liberty not to assume the duty that had been the expectation of children in every civilization before ours. And the more the various constitutive institutions are weakened, the more the state becomes the only remedy for our various needs.

Thus, the irony: individualism and statism are not opposites, but grow together in tandem. In our daily partisan politics, we have tended to pit individualism against statism – Ayn Rand against Karl Marx – with conservatives claiming to be individualists and progressives claiming to support an expansive state. But what we have witnessed is the simultaneous growth of both the state and the rise of individualism, not as opposites, but as necessary partners. The world has never seen a more individualistic society nor a more encompassing state. The state has empowered itself by claiming to empower the individual. The practical effect is to leave the populace disempowered amid our liberty, along with a felt sense of inability to control or influence the state, the economy, and much of our own fates.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In the new year, worry-free California has a lot to worry about

Joel Kotkin:

Propped up by media idolatry, California is moving from denial to delusion. Case in point: A recent AP story claimed that the state “flush with cash from an expanding economy” would consider spending an additional billion dollars on health care for the undocumented, as well as a raft of new subsidies for housing and the working poor.

All this wishful thinking and noble intentions ignores a slowing state economy, and a structural deficit, keyed largely to state worker pensions, that may now be headed towards a trillion dollars. Perhaps the widely celebrated, although poorly distributed “good times” of the past few years, have clouded Sacramento’s judgement.

Jerry Brown, repeatedly lionized in the national press, finally leaves office after next year, he will likely leave his successor both a totally out of control legislature and looming fiscal crisis. Brown’s replacement will also have to deal with a state that, according to the Social Science Research Council, suffers the greatest income inequality in the nation and the third worst economic environment for middle class families. Worse yet — upwards of one-third of the state population subsists near or in poverty.

Civics: Portland’s top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage–so we grabbed theirs.

C hris Lydgate, Nick Budnick:

It’s past midnight. Over the whump of the wipers and the screech of the fan belt, we lurch through the side streets of Southeast Portland in a battered white van, double-checking our toolkit: flashlight, binoculars, duct tape, scissors, watch caps, rawhide gloves, vinyl gloves, latex gloves, trash bags, 30-gallon can, tarpaulins, Sharpie, notebook–notebook?

Well, yes. Technically, this is a journalistic exercise–at least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves. We’re upholding our sacred trust as representatives of the Fourth Estate. Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable.Pushing the reportorial envelope–by liberating the trash of Portland’s top brass.

We didn’t dream up this idea on our own. We got our inspiration from the Portland police.

Back in March, the police swiped the trash of fellow officer Gina Hoesly. They didn’t ask permission. They didn’t ask for a search warrant. They just grabbed it. Their sordid haul, which included a bloody tampon, became the basis for drug charges against her (see “Gross Violation,” below).

Why Saudi Arabia Is Pushing Premarital Genetic Screening

Kristen Brown:

In Saudi Arabia, if you’re planning to tie the knot, there’s a step you must go through that doesn’t happen anywhere else: You have to get a test for genetic disease. Hereditary blood diseases like sickle cell and beta thalassemia are prevalent in this part of the world, where marriage between cousins is common. A new awareness campaign around genetic disorders aims to reduce the spread of these illnesses.

Saudi Arabia made premarital screening and genetic risk assessment mandatory over a decade ago, hoping that if a couple found out they were at high risk of passing on a hereditary disease to their offspring, they would reevaluate their match. Thousands of couples have called off marriages after finding they were “genetically incompatible.” But just knowing their test results, it turns out, has not been enough. Many couples at risk of passing on genetic diseases go ahead and get married, with the expectation that they will have children.

Public education funding inequity

US Commission on Civil Rights:

On behalf of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (“the Commission”), I am pleased to transmit our briefing report, Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. The report is also available in full on the Commission’s website at

The report examines the funding of K-12 education and how the inequitable distribution of these funds negatively impacts the educational opportunities of low-income students and students of color.

The majority of the Commission voted for key findings including that quality education is critical to prepare students to be contributing members of a democratic society and competitive workers in a global economy. The Commission majority also found that vast funding inequities in our state public education systems factor significantly in rendering the education available to millions of American public school students profoundly unequal.
The Commission majority found that many students in the U.S. living in segregated neighborhoods and concentrations of poverty do not have access to high-quality schools simply because of where they live, and that there is potential for housing policy to help provide better educational opportunities for these students. Low-income students and students of color are often relegated to low-quality school facilities that lack equitable access to teachers, instructional materials, technology and technology support, critical facilities, and physical maintenance. These absences can negatively impact a student’s health and ability to be attentive and can exacerbate existing inequities in student outcomes.
As data on school spending become more accurate, some scholars believe there is concrete empirical evidence that funding is critical to positive student outcomes.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Runaway borrowers the new face of China’s personal credit boom

He Huifeng:

China’s online lending boom has sent a steady stream of new clients to Guangzhou lawyer Luo Aiping in recent months: the parents and siblings of young men trapped or ruined by usurious debts.

“These young men, the son or the brother in a family, are actually subprime borrowers with little in the way of savings and no assets,” Luo said. “They’ve recently been encouraged to access a dizzying array of online microcredit platforms to fund their own consumption and have cared little about the exorbitant interest rates.

A Jesuit School Gets Dogmatic

Wall Street Journal:

Marquette is a Jesuit university in Milwaukee. Which is appropriate, because jesuitical is the word that fits its explanation for firing a tenured political science professor who defended a student who was badly treated by an intolerant graduate instructor.

The sacked professor is John McAdams, who in 2014 wrote a blog post criticizing by name Cheryl Abbate, who taught a course on ethics. Ms. Abbate had told a student he could not express his disagreement with same-sex marriage in her ethics class because it was “homophobic” and on that issue there could be no debate.

In his post on the incident, Mr. McAdams made no judgment on same-sex marriage. But he noted that liberals are inclined to deem views they disagree with as offensive and then use that to shut down debate. The story went national.

Marquette officials took action—against Mr. McAdams. He was blamed for the hate mail that Ms. Abbate received after he named her, even though there’s no evidence he was part of any of it. Marquette President Michael Lovell gave him an ultimatum: apologize or be suspended without pay indefinitely. Mr. McAdams refused to apologize and has been effectively fired.

He’s also suing, and last May a Wisconsin trial court backed the university’s dismissal. But Mr. McAdams has appealed and wants to go straight to the state Supreme Court. The Wisconsin Institute for Liberty and Law, which has taken his case, says the firing violates Mr. McAdams’s contract with Marquette, which promises freedom from threats of dismissal over constitutional rights such as free speech.

Outcry After Louisiana Teacher Arrested During School Board Meeting

Merrit Kennedy:

A Louisiana teacher questioned whether the superintendent should receive a raise. Then, she was ushered out of a school board meeting and handcuffed.

The dramatic arrest on Monday — which was caught on video — has drawn outrage in the U.S. and beyond. The Vermilion Parish School Board offices were locked down on Tuesday after receiving threats, board president Anthony Fontana told The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.

Analysis: The ‘One Percent’ Leaders of America’s Top Teachers Unions, All Making More Than $300,000 a Year

Mike Antonucci:

The financial analysts at specialize in examining personal income and net worth. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, they determined that for an individual to reside in the top 1% of pre-tax income, he or she needed to have earned $300,800 in 2016.

I reviewed 2016 salary information in U.S. Department of Labor financial disclosure reports for both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, taking care to include only gross wages and taxable allowances in my computations.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García ($317,826) and Executive Director John Stocks ($355,721) easily cleared the threshold, as did AFT President Randi Weingarten ($472,197), Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson ($359,584), and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker ($325,314).

Gene therapy for inherited blindness sets precedent: $850,000 price tag

Carolyn Johnson:

A landmark gene therapy to treat a rare, inherited form of blindness will cost $850,000 — a price tag so daunting that its maker will offer health insurers partial rebates if the drug doesn’t work and is seeking to pilot an installment payment option.

The drug, called Luxturna, is the realization of a long-sought scientific dream: The one-time treatment corrects a faulty gene to improve vision, allowing patients to see the stars or their parents’ faces. Only 1,000 to 2,000 people in the United States are thought to have deteriorating vision caused by this errant gene, called RPE65, but Luxturna is widely expected to be the first in a wave of cutting-edge treatments that are targeted at fixing the causes of a wide range of genetic diseases — while also raising difficult questions about how to pay for them.

Encoding Literacy in Computer Science

Peg Grafwallner:

The Power of Directions

First, the teacher distributed the programming directions and read them aloud. Next, we asked students to highlight direction words (review, write, create) on the handout so that they would see the number of direction words necessary to complete the programming sequence.

Then students were asked to discuss the function of the directions with their peers by thinking about their thinking—they discussed the thinking strategies that would help support their application of the directions. In other words, we asked them to approach the directions metacognitively. For some students, using mental images to re-create the directions, such as noticing the fonts or the different colors on the handout, might help them remember the words and perhaps the sequence of the words. In addition, highlighting the key verbs might aid students in synthesizing what was important within the directions and help de-emphasize words that were less important.

In addition, I asked students to note words they could not decipher from context and to create a list on a Challenging Vocabulary handout.

We encouraged collaboration as students highlighted verbs and wrote their vocabulary lists. As the teacher and I walked around the room, we noticed conversation focused entirely on the directions; in addition, as students began writing the program, we asked them to keep highlighting the directions they were using. In that way, they could see the importance of the verbs they were utilizing and think about whether they needed to find verbs that were more apparent and understandable versus if theirs were ambiguous.

Civics: James Risen, the New York Times and the Federal Government


“The Bush administration argued that it was too valuable for the counterterrorism programs in the United States,” Risen tells Goodman. “And the editors agreed with that at the time.”

After over a year of “a game of chicken with the Times,” Risen and his co-author, Eric Lichtblau, finally published the story after Lichtblau learned that “the White House had considered getting a court-ordered injunction to prevent the Times from publishing the story.”

“This was electric news, because the last time that had happened at the Times was during the Pentagon Papers case in the 1970s, one of the most important events in the history of the newspaper,” Risen writes in The Intercept. “The debate about whether to run the story was over.”

“I believe the Times, the Washington Post and other national news organizations have sometimes hyped threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The exaggerated reporting on terrorism, in particular, has had a major political impact in the United States and helped close off debate in Washington over whether to significantly roll back some of the most draconian counterterrorism programs, like NSA spying,” Risen concludes in his Intercept piece. “I do believe that the fight inside the Times over the NSA story helped usher in a new era of more aggressive national security reporting at the paper. Since then, the Times has been much more willing to stand up to the government and refuse to go along with White House demands to hold or kill stories.”

From Territorial to Functional Sovereignty: The Case of Amazon

Frank Pasquale:

Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives.

A few weeks ago, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in Germany) invited me to speak at their Conference on Digital Capitalism. As European authorities develop long-term plans to address the rise of powerful platforms, they want to know: What is new, or particularly challenging, in digital capitalism?

China’s big brother: how artificial intelligence is catching criminals and advancing health care

Zigor Aldama:

In one of the company’s open spaces is a large screen that identifies anyone who stares at it, and then plays videos of their recent movements throughout the premises. The effect is perhaps a little “Big Brother”, but this is nothing compared to what else Yitu can do – and is doing.

“Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds,” says chief executive and Yitu co-founder Zhu Long, “which would have been unbelievable just three years ago.”

Yitu’s Dragonfly Eye generic portrait platform already has 1.8 billion photographs to work with: those logged in the national database and you, if you have visited China recently. Yitu will not say whether Hong Kong identity card holders have been logged in the government’s database, for which the company provides navigation software and algor­ithms, but 320 million of the photos have come from China’s borders, including ports and airports, where pictures are taken of everyone who enters and leaves the country.

A proposed Florida Constitutional amendment on Charter Schools

Greg Stanley:

One proposal would allow the state to create a new body to license and govern charter schools. The amendment would allow charter schools to avoid getting approval from their district’s school board by potentially getting that approval and oversight from the state.

The problem is school districts often do not want charter schools and have no interest in overseeing their operations, Donalds said.

“There are school boards that do not want anything to do with authorizing a charter school,” she said. “In some cases, the districts do not want them to succeed because they want those students back in public school and there’s a conflict of interest.”

Opposition and legal challenges don’t deter Washington’s new charter-school leader

Claudia Rowe:

A longtime advocate for public education has taken the reins of the state’s charter-school association, weathering vigorous opposition and bitter legal challenges — all in his first seven months on the job.

After a long career advocating for traditional public education, Patrick D’Amelio recently stepped up to lead the Washington State Charter Schools Association, which aims to spread the word about this locally untested model.

Charters are public schools funded with state dollars but operated here by private nonprofits, and the longest-running in Washington has been open only since 2015.

D’Amelio’s association bills itself as dedicated to “systemically underserved students.” But nationally, charters have a spotty record on that score.

Education Lab caught up with D’Amelio over the holiday break to ask why things would be any different here, and who’s enrolling their children in charters, despite continuing challenges to their legality and the fact that Seattle’s school board vigorously opposes their presence.

Algorithms and child safety

Dan Gurley:

he call to Pittsburgh’s hotline for child abuse and neglect came in at 3:50 p.m. on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving 2016. Sitting in one of 12 cubicles, in a former factory now occupied by the Allegheny County Police Department and the back offices of the department of Children, Youth and Families, the call screener, Timothy Byrne, listened as a preschool teacher described what a 3-year-old child had told him. The little girl had said that a man, a friend of her mother’s, had been in her home when he “hurt their head and was bleeding and shaking on the floor and the bathtub.” The teacher said he had seen on the news that the mother’s boyfriend had overdosed and died in the home.

According to the case records, Byrne searched the department’s computer database for the family, finding allegations dating back to 2008: parental substance abuse, inadequate hygiene, domestic violence, inadequate provision of food and physical care, medical neglect and sexual abuse by an uncle involving one of the girl’s two older siblings. But none of those allegations had been substantiated. And while the current claim, of a man dying of an overdose in the child’s home, was shocking, it fell short of the minimal legal requirement for sending out a caseworker to knock on the family’s door and open an investigation.

Universities must prepare for a technology-enabled future

Subhash Kak:

Automation and artificial intelligence technologies are transforming manufacturing, corporate work and the retail business, providing new opportunities for companies to explore and posing major threats to those that don’t adapt to the times. Equally daunting challenges confront colleges and universities, but they’ve been slower to acknowledge them.

At present, colleges and universities are most worried about competition from schools or training systems using online learning technology. But that is just one aspect of the technological changes already under way. For example, some companies are moving toward requiring workers have specific skills trainings and certifications – as opposed to college degrees.

As a professor who researches artificial intelligence and offers distance learning courses, I can say that online education is a disruptive challenge for which colleges are ill-prepared. Lack of student demand is already closing 800 out of roughly 10,000 engineering colleges in India. And online learning has put as many as half the colleges and universities in the U.S. at risk of shutting down in the next couple decades as remote students get comparable educations over the internet – without living on campus or taking classes in person. Unless universities move quickly to transform themselves into educational institutions for a technology-assisted future, they risk becoming obsolete.

What happened when I tried to teach Harvard undergrads about inequality and poverty

Nikita Taniparti:

I checked the syllabus for the next topic in the undergraduate economics class I teach at Harvard, and I lit up. I was going to cover inequality and poverty in the US and across the world.

After a few dry lectures on market demand and supply and drawing graphs to understand taxes and subsidies, I sensed my students were ready for a change of scene. Finally, a practical topic we could discuss in class. I could even ask for examples and anecdotes.

The whole semester, the class had seemed to demand more rigor (contrary to stories about the Harvard “bubble”). One student asked for the multi-variable derivation of how to make an optimal decision, just “for fun.” Another came to every office hours to review practice questions that most students didn’t even know where to find. Yet another not only read the assigned reading for class every day, but also the textbook of a higher-level economics course.

CDC: Too many babies die needlessly due to risky parental decisions

Dennis Thompson::

Many parents still regularly risk their babies’ lives as they put them to bed, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Analyzing data from the states, the CDC found that parents continue to practice unsafe habits that have been associated with sleep-related infant deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. For instance:

United States spent $652,000,000,000 on K-12 Taxpayer Supported Schools In 2014-2015 (Madison spends about $20,000 per student)

Mike Antonucci The National Center for Education Statistics released its first look at the comprehensive public education revenue and expenditures figures for the 2014-15 school year.

Despite the usual complaints, our public schools seem to have put the aftermath of the recession behind them and have resumed spending at their traditional clip. Total expenditures grew by more than 3 percent nationwide to reach $652 billion. Student enrollment grew by 0.5 percent.

Employee wages and benefits accounted for 79.8 percent of all current spending in 2015, but we are now seeing quite a change in the rate of increase between those two categories.

Wages went up 3 percent, commensurate with overall spending, which is what you would expect. But spending on employee benefits rose 5.9 percent to total almost $131 billion.

The public is woefully uninformed about education spending and salaries, but at least the topic is constantly discussed. The level of benefit spending is the purview of a few brave souls whose warnings go unheeded.

Madison has long spent more than most, despite long term, disastrous reading results.

Another college that harassed student for passing out Constitutions changes policies after warning

Greg Piper:

combination served as catnip for Skyline College administrators who told Eric Corgas, president of its Young Americans for Liberty chapter, that not only did he have to remove a “small folding table” while he distributed America’s founding document Oct. 25, but he had to turn in a permit application before he did anything.

Following a warning letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education earlier this month, the member of the San Mateo County Community College District has junked its policies against permission-free “expressive activity.”

According to the letter, Student Services counselor Alberto Santellan told Corgas and his coterie they would “get in trouble” if they didn’t remove the table. Director of Student Development Amory Cariadus then chastised the group for not giving her sufficient notice that they would be publicly promoting civic education:

The sexual revolution isn’t going away. It never really happened.

Elizabet Breunig:

To understand our difficulties with defining freedom, it’s helpful to consider our intellectual history. In a society that imagines itself to consist of free and equal people, the question of how laws and regulations come to have authority is explained by an imaginary “social contract” that the members of a society are said to consent to, exchanging unchecked liberty for some measure of peace, order and security. This way of thinking about how people get along — largely through informal, metaphorical, but sometimes literal contracts — strongly informs how we imagine ourselves getting along in society. It’s our origin story, and it has immense power to frame the way we think.

But before we can understand what makes for a fair contract between equals, we have to explain what constitutes a free choice. And the contract tradition has some serious problems in that vein. For instance, Thomas Hobbes, an early and influential contract theorist, wrote that “Fear and liberty are consistent; as when a man throweth his goods into the sea for fear the ship should sink, he doth it nevertheless very willingly, and may refuse to do it if he will: it is therefore the action of one who was free.” In other words, calamitous circumstances don’t diminish a person’s ability to choose freely; they just change the available choices. In this mind-set, non-physical coercion may not be decent or seemly, but it doesn’t invalidate the freedom of the choice that follows.

China offers 10-year visas to ‘high end talent’


The multi-entry visas will be valid for between five and 10 years, according to state media.

Technology leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists from in-demand sectors are among those eligible to apply.

China has set out goals for its economic and social development, and sees recruiting experts from abroad as key to achieving that.

When plans for the scheme were first considered, China said at least 50,000 foreigners would benefit.

Proposed Tax & Spending Increases for Wisconsin School Districts Spending Less than $10,000 per student (!)

Molly Beck:

Nygren’s plan would allow school districts with the low-revenue caps to increase the amount they spend from the current $9,100 per student limit to $9,400 per student next school year. The limit would increase by $100 each school year until it reaches $9,800 per student by the 2022-23 school year.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, the proposal would apply to about 120 of the state’s 422 school districts, including Mount Horeb, Baraboo, Milton, Portage, Prairie du Chien, Watertown, Westfield, Sparta and Tomah.

If all of the eligible school boards voted to take full advantage of the increase, property tax levies would increase by at least $22.5 million next school year, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Seven school districts would not be able to take advantage of the proposal because of recent referendum rejections including Chilton, Darlington, Howard-Suamico and Southern Door school districts.

A spokesman for Nygren said he would begin seeking support from other lawmakers this week. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not respond to a request for comment.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, despite tolerating Molly Beck:

Nygren’s plan would allow school districts with the low-revenue caps to increase the amount they spend from the current $9,100 per student limit to $9,400 per student next school year. The limit would increase by $100 each school year until it reaches $9,800 per student by the 2022-23 school year.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, the proposal would apply to about 120 of the state’s 422 school districts, including Mount Horeb, Baraboo, Milton, Portage, Prairie du Chien, Watertown, Westfield, Sparta and Tomah.

If all of the eligible school boards voted to take full advantage of the increase, property tax levies would increase by at least $22.5 million next school year, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Seven school districts would not be able to take advantage of the proposal because of recent referendum rejections including Chilton, Darlington, Howard-Suamico and Southern Door school districts.

A spokesman for Nygren said he would begin seeking support from other lawmakers this week. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not respond to a request for comment.

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

How Germany Wins At Manufacturing — For Now

John Ydstie :

The United States needs to create more manufacturing jobs: That has been a constant refrain of President Trump and was one of the goals of the corporate tax cut recently passed by Congress and signed into law. The loss of manufacturing jobs has been a problem for many countries, especially the U.S. It played a big role in Trump’s election.

Germany, however, continues to maintain manufacturing as a large share of its economy. It makes up nearly a quarter of the German economy, about twice the share that manufacturing has in the U.S. economy.

How do the Germans do it? Are there any lessons for the U.S.?

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

Alvin Chang:

Think about your elementary school.

If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it.

We tend to assume these are neutrally drawn, immutable borders. But if you take a step back and look at the demographics of who lives in each attendance zone, you’re faced with maps like this:

Madison recently expanded their least diverse schools.

The Death of University Art Programs, Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

Richard Bledsoe:

Mark Twain once observed ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same analogy can be applied to the almost right and right principles of “social justice” versus “justice.”

“Social Justice” claims to be about fairness, which is a highly desirable outcome. But the term is a manipulative Newspeak euphemism for envy, revenge and oppression. What social justice actually does is crush people into group identities which have been assigned favored and non-favored status by power hungry establishment elitists. Preemptively claiming group guilt or privilege is an abstraction which does not recognize the actuality that people are individuals, responsible and accountable for their own actions. It’s the opposite of real justice.

Why Teens Aren’t Partying Anymore

Jean Twenge:

Kevin and I sit down at two desks just outside his third period class at a high school in northern San Diego. He is 17 years old and Asian American, with spiky black hair, fashionable glasses, and a wan smile. He is the oldest of three children, with his parents expecting another child in a few months. Until recently, the family lived in an apartment, where the noise from his younger siblings was deafening. Perhaps as a result, he is unusually empathetic for a teenage boy. “Been doing this all day?” he asks as I take a drink of water before beginning our interview.

Kevin is not the most organized student: He initially neglects to have his dad sign the back of the permission slip, and when I talk to the class later, he forgets his question by the time I call on him. But when I ask him what makes his generation different, he doesn’t hesitate: “I feel like we don’t party as much. People stay in more often. My generation lost interest in socializing in person—they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together, and they can just stay at home.”

A new way to do high school? Tulsa Public Schools program to explore options

Samuel, Hardiman:

Tulsa Public Schools plans to begin pilot programs for what a reimagined high school experience would look like, starting with two schools in the 2019-20 school year.

Implementing and scaling the test programs is the goal of what will be the district’s early steps in the process of improving how students prepare for the 21st century economy.

The pilots could include a high degree of personalized, self-paced learning and a fundamental shift in how teachers offer instruction, TPS officials said.

The pilots will be designed through a community-wide process over the next 20 or so months, the officials said. Where they would be or what they would entail isn’t yet clear.

TPS has hired a national consultant, 2Revolutions LLC, to gather community feedback on what reimagined high school should look like, but the district stressed that it will develop its own model.


High School Redesign

English 10

TAG Complaint

Licensing Makes It Harder to Go Where the Jobs Are

Virginia Postrel:

This has driven economic development since the 19th century. It encouraged mass production, national distribution and labor mobility.

That calculus is changing as services, from home repair to hospitality to health care, make up a bigger chunk of personal spending and a higher proportion of jobs. You can still build a successful enterprise that spreads costs over a huge customer base — see Inc. or Alphabet Inc. (Google) — but many of today’s service jobs are done directly for consumers. They’re in-person and inherently local. Physical therapists and personal trainers can’t telecommute. That makes where people live all the more important to their incomes.

Economists worry that Americans are not moving to where their skills are most in demand. Migration rates have been dropping since the 1980s. The states with the highest incomes also used to have the fastest-growing populations, as Americans moved to places with better jobs. That’s no longer the case. Workers seem stuck.

Civics: “Good government is the outcome of private virtue.”

Nils Gilman:

But what happened after the scandal ran its course is in some ways the most interesting part of the whole story.

Profumo himself was genuinely contrite. After resigning from the government, the Baron volunteered to work as a toilet cleaner at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London that aimed to bridge the class divide in Britain by encouraging rich and poor to live together. He continued to work there for the rest of his life, for forty years, though he later moved over to the fundraising department. His wife, likewise, dedicated her life to charity and good works.

In other words, Profumo took responsibility for his misbehavior. He agreed to abase himself from his class privileges in order to make amends for how he had wronged various people, as well as harmed the integrity of British political life.

Can anyone imagine one of today’s elites behaving in such a manner?

K-12 Tax& Spending Climate: Global Debt Hits Record $233 Trillion

Enda Curran:

Global debt rose to a record $233 trillion in the third quarter of 2017, more than $16 trillion higher from end-2016, according to an analysis by the Institute of International Finance. Private non-financial sector debt hit all-time highs in Canada, France, Hong Kong, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey.

At the same time, though, the ratio of debt-to-gross domestic product fell for the fourth consecutive quarter as economic growth accelerated. The ratio is now around 318 percent, 3 percentage points below a high set in the third quarter of 2016, according to the IIF.

“A combination of factors including synchronized above-potential global growth, rising inflation (China, Turkey), and efforts to prevent a destabilizing build-up of debt (China, Canada) have all contributed to the decline,” IIF analysts wrote in a note.

Multivariate Map Collection

Jim Vallandingham :

There are many types of maps that are used to display data. Choropleths and Cartograms provide two great examples. I gave a talk, long long ago, about some of these map varieties.

Most of these more common map types focus on a particular variable that is displayed. But what if you have multiple variables that you would like to present on a map at the same time?

Here is my attempt to collect examples of multivariate maps I’ve found and organize them into a loose categorization. Follow along, or dive into the references, to spur on your own investigations and inspirations!

Before we begin, certainly you’ve heard by now that, even for geo-related data, a map is not always the right answer. With this collection, I am just trying to enumerate the various methods that have been attempted, without too much judgement as to whether it is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ encoding. Ok? Ok!

Why do asteroids explode high in the atmosphere?

Phil Plait:

If you’ve ever watched a bad movie about an asteroid hitting the Earth (and there are so many that if I have to see another one I swear I’m rooting for the asteroid) then you might have noticed that the asteroid itself always slams into the Earth’s surface, and it’s the impact itself that does all the damage.

Actually, you may not have noticed, because it happens so often and is such a trope that you might just take it for granted, like the air you breathe.

Oh, but that air is important. If the asteroid is small-ish, say a few dozen to a few hundred meters across, then air is critical. That becomes obvious if you turn away from the silver screen and instead watch an actual asteroid impact … like the one that happened on February 15, 2013, over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Diversity Course Effectiveness Among Criminal Justice Students

Michele Stacey:

Most universities today require their students to learn about diversity as a part of their degree. Research has examined the effectiveness of diversity courses at changing attitudes toward groups, focusing on sexism or racism, within psychology and women’s studies disciplines. Given the increasing concern over bias in policing, however, this diversity training may be of importance to the study of criminal justice. The current study aims to examine the effectiveness of a diversity course within a criminal justice program at changing perceptions of groups using a survey based on validated measures of attitudes toward women, homosexuality, and symbolic racism. Change in attitudes between the pre-test and post-test are examined. Results suggest that the course is effective at changing attitudes toward homosexuality, but not race or sex. The results also suggest that these perceptions are dependent on group characteristics.

Statistical Computing for Scientists and Engineers

Nicholas Zabaras :

Introduction to Statistical Computing and Probability and Statistics

Introduction to the course, books and references, objectives, organization; Fundamentals of probability and statistics, laws of probability, independency, covariance, correlation; The sum and product rules, marginal and conditional distributions; Random variables, moments, discrete and continuous distributions; The univariate Gaussian distribution.

New Evidence on the Effects of Teachers’ Unions on Student Outcomes, Teacher Labor Markets, and the Allocation of School Resources

American Economic Association:

We find robust evidence that exposure to teacher collective bargaining laws worsens the future labor market outcomes of men: living in a state that has a duty-to-bargain law for all 12 grade-school years reduces male earnings by $1,493 (or 2.75%) per year and decreases hours worked by 0.52 hours per week. Estimates for women do not show consistent evidence of negative effects on these outcomes. The earnings estimates for men indicate that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $149.6 billion in the US annually. Among men, we also find evidence of lower employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation. Exposure to collective bargaining laws leads to reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which male workers sort as well. Effects are largest among black and Hispanic men, although white and Asian men also experience sizable negative impacts of collective bargaining exposure. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining law exposure leads to reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults, and these effects are larger for men.

About 40 percent of New Orleans high school students are held back at least 1 grade

The Hechinger:

If Domonique Crosby has her way, she will graduate from high school this spring at age 20. To her, earning her diploma, even two years late, feels like something of a miracle.

Held back in the fourth grade, Crosby was 16 years old when she entered George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans. As a freshman, she constantly got into fights and spent long hours in a disciplinary classroom. As a sophomore, she worked six hours a night at a burger joint in a shopping mall. She became chronically absent and lethargic when she was in class

“I got home at 9 o’clock and I’d do homework. It was hard to get up in the morning and go to school,” she said. “I wanted to give up. I thought I should get a job. I felt like I was already behind and I was too old to still be in high school.”

Administrators at Carver say students who enter high school overage feel like they’re wearing a scarlet letter, regardless of why they were retained. “There’s so much shame attached to it. Students constantly tell me, ‘I want to be at my right grade,'” said Jerel Bryant, Carver’s principal. “It’s a huge thing.”

How a Decade of the iPhone Changed Global Kidnapping

Danielle Gilbert:

Did you spend any time at the Apple Store this holiday season? It was this week in 2007 that Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s first iPhone, what he called “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device.” A decade later, Apple CEO Tim Cook reflected on the company’s most important product, stating that “today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live.” Indeed, the iPhone changed what we expected our phones to do. It changed the way we eat, sleep, date, and play. It changed political protest, reporting on political protest, and political communication. From its minority share of the global smartphone market, the iPhone revolutionized the entire industry.

It has also handed a huge gift to hostage takers all over the world. Today’s smartphone, with its video camera and internet connection capabilities, is a political kidnapper’s perfect accomplice. It has enabled a subtle but seismic shift in global kidnapping, reshaping the costs of taking a person, with dramatic implications for victim safety, release negotiations, and terrorist recruitment. To understand the monumental change that technology has wrought on hostage-taking strategy, let’s first examine two other advances that changed global kidnapping: commercial airlines and the nightly news.

The University of Michigan’s Costly and Pointless Diversity Plan

Amory Manuel:

Just over a year ago, the University of Michigan launched a new, five-year-long initiative named the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan. In an official statement by President Mark Schlissel, the plan’s primary goal is stated to be the creation of a “vibrant climate of inclusiveness” on campus.

In order to heighten campus diversity, the plan pledged to increase enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds. These targeted demographics include the usual race and gender groups, but also, notably, students with underrepresented “political perspective[s].”

As for equity, the plan pledged to rid campus of discrimination based on the aforementioned identities—although without mentioning “political perspective”—and for inclusion, the plan promised to foster a campus culture that welcomes different perspectives by “support[ing] innovative and inclusive scholarship and teaching.” DEI is designed to achieve “progress” through tangible actions, its administrators held accountable by measurable results.

Rigor mortis On the hetero-patriarchal trappings of “academic rigor” at Purdue

New Criterion:

If you are thinking of building a bridge, be careful if your engineer went to Purdue University. Donna Riley, the head of the engineering department at Purdue, has put the world on notice that “rigor” is a dirty word. In an article for Engineering Education called “Rigor/Us: Building Boundaries and Disciplining Diversity with Standards of Merit,” Professor Riley, who is also the author of Engineering and Social Justice, argues that academic “rigor” is merely a blind for “white male heterosexual privilege.” Yes, really. “The term,” she writes, “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.” There follows a truly surreal meditation on the existential and sexist depredations of slide rules—those hard, straight instruments that have traditionally been deployed by men—and periodic eructations like this:

Missouri Expands Performance Funding for Public Colleges

Paul Frain:

Education this week voted to expand a performance-funding formula for public institutions, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The state had performance funding in place during previous budget cycles, but the formula only applied to new money. The just-approved version would tie 10 percent of state funding to performance measures such as degree completion, job-placement rates and how colleges spend mon

More teachers pursuing national board certification

Pamela Cotant:

The certification came with a 4.5 percent increase in pay and the satisfaction that she is doing more than “delivering some kind of curriculum you’ve been handed,” Folberg said. She said that is especially important because as a teacher of English language learners she is working with families who have to rely on blind faith in the educational system.

“I owe it to my students and families,” she said.

They learned in December she was among 12 staff members in the Verona Area School District who had passed the certification. Up until this year, the district had only eight teachers total who had gone through the process over the years. The 20 teachers still represent only about 4 percent of the district’s teaching staff, according to Jason Olson, human resources director for the district. But they are part of a growing trend for teachers to seek the certification.

National Board certification.

‘The World’s Biggest Terrorist Has a Pikachu Bedspread’

Kerry Howley:

Reality Winner grew up in a carefully kept manufactured home on the edge of a cattle farm 100 miles north of the Mexican border in a majority-Latino town where her mother, Billie, still lives. From the back porch, a carpet of green meets the horizon, and when a neighbor shoots a gun for target practice, a half-dozen local dogs run under the trailer to hide. Billie worked for Child Protective Services, and in Ricardo, Texas, the steady income made her daughters feel well-off; the fact that they had a dishwasher seemed evidence of elevated social standing. Billie, a chatty redhead with the high-pitched voice of a doll, supported the family while her husband, Ronald, she says, “collected degrees.” It was Ronald who named Reality. The deal had been that Billie got to name their first — Brittany — but their second was his to choose. He noticed, on a T-shirt at their Lamaze class, the words I COACHED A REAL WINNER. He wanted a success story and felt that an aspirational name would increase his chances of producing one. Billie did not object; a deal is a deal.

Ronald was intellectually engaged, though never, during his marriage, employed, and Reality’s parents separated in 1999, when she was 8. Two years later, when the Towers fell, Ronald held long, intense conversations about geopolitics with his daughters. He was careful to distinguish for them the religion of Islam from the ideologies that fueled terrorism. “I learned,” says Reality, “that the fastest route to conflict resolution is understanding.” She credits her father with her interest in Arabic, which she began studying seriously, outside school and of her own accord, at 17. It was this interest in languages that eventually drew her into a security state, unimaginable before 9/11, that she chose to betray. Fifteen years after those first conversations with her father, Reality’s interest in Arabic would be turned against her in a Georgia courtroom, taken as evidence that she sympathized with the nation’s most feared enemies.

“We need to see, and capture, record, what the algorithms are showing people”

Jon Christian :

Earlier this week, we wrote about how Google can highlight erroneous or unconfirmed reports in the immediate aftermath of breaking news. But these rapidly-shifting results are quickly lost in time as the search engine’s algorithms self-correct, making it difficult for outsiders — including journalists — to hold the search engine accountable for spreading potentially harmful information.

There is one group working on a concept for a system that would establish a record of search engine results. The idea is similar to the Internet Archive, which downloads periodic copies of websites, but more complicated since search engines display different results depending on the time as well as the location and history of the user. The solution for tracking such a complicated system is described in a prospectus for the Sunlight Society, founded by a group of 20 researchers under the banner of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT), a nonprofit in Vista, California that conducts research in psychology and tech.

What’s so great about the public-ization of education?

Chris Stewart:

The story goes something like this: “corporate education reform” is a conspiracy to “privatize” public education and to turn a public good into a private cash cow for business profiteers.

With education spending topping $600 billion, we would be naive to believe this isn’t an irresistible target for “privatization.” And, this word, “privatization,” is supposed to have a powerfully negative connotation that we should avoid, somewhat like being an “ist” (racist, sexist, chauvinist, etc.).

But, I’m not that married to the negative conceptualization of “privatization.” I don’t favor or disfavor it as a concept. Could be bad. Could be amazing. Could be neither.

How Facebook’s Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda

Lauren Etter, Vernon Silver and Sarah Frier:

Under fire for Facebook Inc.’s role as a platform for political propaganda, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has punched back, saying his mission is above partisanship. “We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas,” Zuckerberg wrote in September after President Donald Trump accused Facebook of bias.

Zuckerberg’s social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn’t said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition—sometimes with the aid of “troll armies” that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.

The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that’s neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power. The unit is led from Washington by Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Since Facebook hired Harbath three years later, her team has traveled the globe helping political clients use the company’s powerful digital tools.

Polls show Americans distrust the media. But talk to them, and it’s a very different story.

Margaret Sullivan:

The July email from Daniel Hastings, a Post reader who lives in Washington, was harsh: “You never have any intention of providing an unbiased or factual representation of the man or his policies,” he wrote. “Ergo, fake news! No one outside your liberal bubble at the Post or the general DC area can take you seriously.”

Hastings was responding to a column I had written about President Trump. I’d argued that Trump was wrong to insist, despite credible evidence to the contrary, that much of the reporting done by national news organizations was just lies. Hastings disagreed — and he had some advice for me: “Take a visit to the heart of the country. Go to a diner or a flea market. Strike up some conversations. Come back and report without malice or deceit.” He seemed sure that most people would back him up.

As the media columnist for The Washington Post, I had long ago become used to hostile mail and phone calls from some readers, mostly those supporting Trump, and to trolling on social media. While I have received a lot of appreciative feedback that practically demands to be printed and displayed on the fridge, I have also heard from someone who suggested that my breasts should be cut off with a butcher knife, and from someone who told me that he had a gun and people like me would soon be eliminated. I’ve often been called the “c-word,” a slut and a bitch. Some writers even signed their names to these venomous notes. One reader, John Hanna, was perfectly civil, but told me by phone that he and his wife — both Washington-area physicians — had voted for Trump (whom he nevertheless called “a buffoon”) because of the candidate’s opposition to the “terribly biased” media, particularly the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Science and linguistics

Benjamin Lee Whorf

Every normal person in the world, past infancy in years, can and does talk. By virtue of that fact, every person — civilized or uncivilized — carries through life certain naive but deeply rooted ideas about talking and its relation to thinking. Because of their firm connection with speech habits that have become unconscious and automatic, these notions tend to be rather intolerant of opposition. They are by no means entirely personal and haphazard; their basis is definitely systematic, so that we are justified in calling them a system of natural logic — a term that seems to me preferable to the term common sense, often used for the same thing.

Tackling Inequality in Gifted-and-Talented Programs

Max Nisen, via a iind reader:

In many places around the U.S., low-income and minority children are significantly underrepresented in gifted-and-talented programs. This seems to be the case whether the process for identifying gifted children relies on teacher referrals for screening, or on evaluations arranged and paid for independently by parents.

So what happens when you give every student a chance?

For starters, according to a new NBER working paper, you get a massive increase in diversity. At least that was the case at public schools in one of the United States’ largest and most diverse urban school districts.

In the early 2000s, the gifted population in the district studied by the researchers was far less diverse than the student body overall. While blacks and Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the student population, only 28 percent of third-graders who had been identified as gifted were black or Hispanic. (The district is not named in the paper, but the demographics, along with other details of the case study, match those of the Broward County Public Schools system in Florida, which the same researchers got grant money to study a few years ago.)

In 2005, the district adopted universal screening instead of using a referral program; all second-grade students took an ability test, and those who scored above a given threshold took an IQ test in order to qualify for a gifted-and-talented program.

Just passing the test didn’t guarantee a spot; there also was input from parents and teachers on whether the student possessed things like motivation, creativity, and adaptation. The threshold on the initial test was lowered slightly for disadvantaged “Plan B” students, who were either eligible for free or discounted lunches based on their family’s income, or were English-language learners.

Related: TAG complaint against the Madison School District and they’re all rich white kids and the will do just fine, NOT!

The Sunlight Society

American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology :

It has come to light in recent years that emerging internet-based technologies have made possible new means of manipulating human opinions, beliefs, and behavior on a massive scale, often without people’s knowledge. Randomized, controlled research conducted in multiple countries by AIBRT researchers has shown, for example, that search rankings favoring one political candidate can rapidly shift the voting preferences of undecided voters toward that candidate by up to 80 percent in some demographic groups. New research shows that opinions can also be shifted by manipulating search suggestions (“autocomplete”), and multiple concerns have been raised in recent months about how social media might have shifted large blocks of votes in the 2016 US presidential election by filtering news feeds, personalizing content, spreading fake news stories and other means.

Let’s get a candid assessment of the state or order — and disorder — in schools

Alan Borsuk:

Sadly, but probably inevitably, the debate over what to do about students behaving badly is polarized by race and politics.

Look at the controversy over suspending and expelling students from school. On a national level, in 2014, the Obama administration told school districts across the nation that the data showed there was racial discrimination — black students were being suspended disproportionately. Change this or face civil rights investigations, the administration said. Suspensions declined across the country.

Some say the Obama move backfired and climate in schools has gotten worse. Some say the Obama position was a step toward wiser policies because suspensions don’t help kids. Building their social and emotional abilities is what is needed.

No surprise: The Trump administration is heading toward reversing the direction Obama took.

Civics: U.S. Customs And Border Protection Sets New Rules For Searching Electronic Devices

Vanessa Romo:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents need to have “reasonable suspicion” to carry out “advanced” searches on electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, that belong to individuals entering or exiting the country, the agency announced Friday.

The updated rules allow agents to continue to inspect information that’s stored on a device, not in the cloud. But from now on, they can’t copy that information or connect to an external device to analyze the contents, unless they have reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior.

An interview with Chicago Public Schools’ newly appointed CEO

Lauren Fitzpatrick:

The new homegrown CEO of the Chicago Public Schools said Thursday that the sprawling school system she just inherited needs an independent inspector general, calling the one whose probes ousted two of her predecessors “an honest person.”

Janice Jackson — a former teacher and principal with children enrolled in the country’s third-largest district that educated her — ascended to CEO after last month’s resignation of Forrest Claypool, who replaced the currently imprisoned Barbara Byrd-Bennett. She is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fifth appointed CEO since he took office in 2011, and the eighth schools leader CPS high schoolers have known since starting kindergarten. Her role as acting CEO is expected to become permanent pending school board approval later this month.

As she works to rebuild trust and instill stability in the troubled school system, Jackson said she met “early on” with Nicholas Schuler, the independent watchdog who caught Claypool lying repeatedly during an ethics probe sparked by the Chicago Sun-Times. He also is credited with handling the day-to-day investigation of Byrd-Bennett.

As Flow of Foreign Students Wanes, U.S. Universities Feel the Sting

Stephanie Saul:

At Wright State University in Ohio, the French horn and tuba professors are out. So is the accomplished swimming team.

At Kansas State, Italian classes are going the way of the Roman Empire.

And at the University of Central Missouri, The Muleskinner, the biweekly campus newspaper, is publishing online-only this year, saving $35,000 in printing costs.

Just as many universities believed that the financial wreckage left by the 2008 recession was behind them, campuses across the country have been forced to make new rounds of cuts, this time brought on, in large part, by a loss of international students.

Show your work: The new terms for trust in journalism

Jay Rosen:

It’s been eight years since the internet philosopher David Weinberger wrote, “Transparency is the new objectivity.” It’s been 16 years since Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel said, in their great book The Elements of Journalism, “The willingness of the journalist to be transparent about what he or she has done is at the heart of establishing that the journalist is concerned with the truth.”

So transparency is not a new idea in journalism. But we’re finally starting to see what it means to build a value proposition around it. For my final post in what has been a devastating — but also inspiring — year for the public service press, I will try to summarize what is involved when transparency becomes the primary means of trust production.

It means you show your work. And at least eleven other things:

Chinese blacklist an early glimpse of sweeping new social-credit control

Nathan VanderKlippe :

Liu Hu spent two decades pushing hard at the bounds of censorship in China. An accomplished journalist, he used a blog to accuse high-level officials of corruption and wrongdoing and to publish details of misconduct by authorities.

In late 2013, he was arrested and accused of “fabricating and spreading rumours.” Late in 2016, a court found him guilty of defamation and ordered him to apologize on his social-media account, which at the time had 740,000 followers. If he was unwilling to do that, the court said, he could pay $115 to publish the verdict on an authorized website. Mr. Liu paid the money.

Then, he said, the judge raised the fee to $2,900.

But in the midst of Mr. Liu’s attempt to seek legal redress early in 2017, he discovered that his life had abruptly changed: Without any notice, he had been caught up in the early reaches of a social-credit system that China is developing as a pervasive new tool for social control – one expected to one day tighten the state’s grip on its citizens. Critics have called it an Orwellian creation – a new kind of “thought police.”

After New Orleans students expelled in ‘fake weed’ case, advocacy groups take legal action

Chad Calder:

Two advocacy groups have taken legal action in Orleans Parish Civil District Court against the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts over the expulsions of two students seen on campus surveillance video smoking what appeared to be — but what they say was not — marijuana.

The Louisiana Justice Institute has asked for an injunction against the school on behalf of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, alleging a state open meetings law violation, breach of contract and a violation of the students’ right to due process.

“My clients got pranked on Halloween,” Tracie Washington of the Louisiana Justice Institute said. “Everyone knows it was a practical joke, but they (NOCCA) will not back down.”

Donors and Founders on Charter School Boards and Their Impact on Financial and Academic Outcomes

Charisse A. Gulosino
Elif Şişli-Ciamarra

This study provides the first systematic analysis of the composition of charter school governing boards. We assemble a dataset of charter school boards in Massachusetts between 2001 and 2013 and investigate the consequences of donor and founder representation on governing boards. We find that the presence of donors on the charter school boards is positively related to financial performance and attribute this result to the donors’ strong monitoring incentives due to their financial stakes in the school. We also show that financial outcomes are not generated at the expense of academic outcomes, as the presence of donors on the boards is also associated with higher student achievement. Founder representation on charter school boards, on the other hand, is associated with lower financial performance but higher academic achievement.

Pomona, the Courts, & Basic Fairness

KC Johnson:

As more and more schools (currently 72 since the Dear Colleague letter, and counting) have found themselves on the losing end of due process decisions, a handful of institutions have resisted in a troubling manner. Rather than acknowledge that court decisions showed the need to reform their unfair procedures, schools instead have maneuvered to neuter an accused student’s efforts to go to court.

The trend started a few months ago at Penn State. After a temporary restraining order blocked the university from suspending a student, the university abruptly announced (without informing the court) that it was withdrawing the student’s guilty finding—but would re-try him, subject to eliminating some (but not all) of the procedural defects in the investigation identified by the court. The accused student’s lawyer filed a contempt motion; the day before the hearing on the motion, Penn State withdrew plans for a new disciplinary hearing for the student.

Then came Texas, where the university president overturned a not guilty finding after the accuser—whose father was a major donor to the school—had filed an appeal. The accused student sued; the judge in the case scheduled a hearing, at which the president was scheduled to testify. Less than a week before the hearing, Texas announced that the president had cancelled his guilty finding, and would submit the accuser’s appeal to another, unnamed Texas administrator. But the court called the university’s bluff, and refused to cancel the hearing. That morning, just before the president was to take the stand, the two sides settled, and the university permanently withdrew the guilty finding.

Commentary on Madison Property Tax Growth

Dean Mosiman:

In Madison, for example, the total tax bill for a $200,000 home in the Madison School District assessed at 100 percent of its fair market value was $4,632, fourth highest in the county. The highest was $4,988 for a Madison home in the Verona School District, followed by $4,850 for a Madison home in the Monona Grove School District and $4,685 for a Fitchburg home in the Verona School District.

The lowest for a home of the same profile was $2,649 in the town of Bristol in the Columbus School District.

Tax bills began arriving in mailboxes in mid-December. The deadline for owners to pay at least the first installment of their property taxes is Jan. 31.

The initial deadline is the same in Madison, but the city has switched from two to four installments, with the second installment due March 31, the third May 31 and the final on July 31, the latter date the same as other municipalities in the county.

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

Seeking the Lost Art of Growing Old with Intention

Bill Donahue:

the U.S. and landed in western Maine. They planned to grow pota­toes. Instead they were taken in for a summer by a kind family, the Adamses, whose ramshackle farm was a mess, a melange of dogs and cows and chickens and broken tractor equipment. To Bernd, the place was paradise, as he writes in his 2007 memoir, The Snoring Bird, recalling the adventures he shared with the two eldest Adams kids, Jimmy and Billy. The boys built a raft out of barn wood and spent countless hours watching baby catfish and white-bellied dragonflies. The Adamses taught Bernd English. He killed a hummingbird with his slingshot. He ran around barefoot and shirtless.
Bernd Heinrich is now 77 years old and the author of 21 books. The vaunted biologist E. O. Wilson speaks of him as an equal, calling him “one of the most original and productive people I know” and “one of the best natural-history writers we have.” Runners also revere him, for his speed and for his 2002 book, Why We Run. “He was the first person of scientific stature to say that ultramarathoning is a natural pursuit for humans,” says Christopher McDougall, author of the 2009 bestseller Born to Run. “He did the research himself, in 100-plus-mile races.”

But let’s set aside the literary plumage for a moment. In many ways, Bernd remains the same inquisitive kid who found bliss in his first American summer. He still runs, though no farther than about 12 miles at a time. He still watches wildlife, intently, and he still climbs trees. Sometimes he even climbs trees in snowshoes. In old age, he is embracing the joys of youth anew.

And he has returned to the Maine woods, to a 640-acre plot about 15 miles from that old farmhouse where he spent the summer of 1951. He owns a pickup truck and drives without compunction, but he does not have running water, phone service, or a refrigerator. He heats solely with wood and relies on a small solar panel to power his laptop and Wi-Fi router. He sometimes goes two months without ever leaving the property.
Bernd is hardly a hermit. For the past three years, he has shared the homestead with his partner, 57-year-old Lynn Jennings, a nine-time U.S. cross-country champion and the 10,000-meter bronze medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It’s a happy and fruitful arrangement. Over the past five years, Bernd has staged a late-life creative tear that calls to mind Johnny Cash or Georgia O’Keeffe, churning out a steady stream of academic papers, columns for Natural History magazine, and four books, including The Naturalist’s Notebook, a just-published guide cowritten with Nathaniel Wheelwright, as well as 2016’s One Wild Bird at a Time, which renders certain jays and blackbirds on his property as unique individuals, as fully realized as Elaine and Kramer on Seinfeld.