Why we hate making financial decisions – and what to do about it

The Conversation:

The advice to use your head, not your heart, might not be helpful after all.

We all make tough decisions, but choices relating to money send many of us running in the other direction. Unfortunately, ample evidence indicates that aversion toward financial decisions leads many of us to put off things like funding a 401(k), saving at a sufficient rate, or just doing a better job managing our credit card debt. All of these things can hurt our long-term financial health.

Economists and behavioral scientists have proposed several explanations for this phenomenon. For example, financial products are often quite complicated, and we may feel we lack the necessary expertise. We may be overwhelmed by too many choices – such as when picking mutual funds to put in our 401(k) portfolio.

But as valid as these reasons may be, my co-author Jane Jeongin Park and I felt that there was more to the story.

What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities

Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Anna Brown, Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn and Ruth Igielnik:

Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. The country is growing in numbers, it’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the population is aging. But according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center, these trends are playing out differently across community types.

Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.

How Bill Abt helped Kenosha’s Carthage College beat Harvard and others (in investing)

Bill Glauber:

On the verge of retirement, Bill Abt is now a big man on a small campus.

For years, this former beer company executive quietly guided Carthage College’s endowment. He didn’t run with the large-college crowd and pour cash into hedge funds or hard assets.

He stuck to the simplicity of using mostly low-cost index funds.

And somebody finally took notice.

In early May, the 71-year-old Abt and his strategy were featured by Bloomberg Businessweek. The article noted that Carthage’s returns “beat Harvard’s $37 billion endowment and most others.”

In 10 years through June 30, 2017, Carthage reported a 6.2% average annual return. During the same period, the article said, Harvard had a 4.4% average annual return, with results weighed down by losses in timber and farmland.

Carthage’s performance was in the top 10% nationwide, according to National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Since the article appeared, Abt has been overwhelmed.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “Half the people on campus here have emailed me, which is great. I’ve gotten calls from TV stations, wealth managers. I had a wealth manager ask me if I wanted to go into partnership with him.”

MPS board passes budget that restores $11.6 million to classrooms, cuts central office

Diana Dombrowski:

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board passed the 2018-’19 budget at a special meeting Tuesday night, slashing millions of dollars from the central office and returning $11.6 million to classrooms.

Interim Superintendent Keith Posley made changes to former superintendent Darienne Driver’s proposed budget just three days after assuming the office last week.

The vote was unanimous. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, which protested Driver’s 5% per pupil reduction in school budgets, cheered the board’s move.

“I feel this is a golden opportunity for the young people in the city of Milwaukee to receive a support that’s needed in the classrooms,” Posley said in an interview.

The $1.17 billion budget makes cuts to areas including operations, finance and human resources departments. The cuts to the central office will eliminate more than 32 full-time positions, some of which could be reassigned as school-based jobs.

Many studies’ results cannot be reproduced, scholars warn

Mark McGreal:

Don’t believe the latest study you read in the headlines, chances are, it could be wrong, according to a new report by the National Association of Scholars that delves into what it calls the “use and abuse of statistics in the sciences.”

The report broke down the issue of irreproducibility, or the problem that a lot of scientific research cannot be reproduced. The report took aim at unverifiable climate science, but also critiqued medical studies, behavioral research and other fields.

The 72-page report took the matter a step further in calling the issue a politicization of science.

“Not all irreproducible research is progressive advocacy; not all progressive advocacy is irreproducible; but the intersection between the two is very large. The intersection between the two is a map of much that is wrong with modern science,” the report states.

Co-authored by David Randall and Christopher Wesler, “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform” focused on the irreproducibility of recent scientific studies.

Google Employees Resign in Protest Against Pentagon Contract

Kate Conger:

It’s been nearly three months since many Google employees—and the public—learned about the company’s decision to provide artificial intelligence to a controversial military pilot program known as Project Maven, which aims to speed up analysis of drone footage by automatically classifying images of objects and people. Now, about a dozen Google employees are resigning in protest over the company’s continued involvement in Maven.

The resigning employees’ frustrations range from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google’s political decisions—and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions. Many of them have written accounts of their decisions to leave the company, and their stories have been gathered and shared in an internal document, the contents of which multiple sources have described to Gizmodo.

The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers’ objections than they once did. In the case of Maven, Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones. But some employees believe humans, not algorithms, should be responsible for this sensitive and potentially lethal work—and that Google shouldn’t be involved in military work at all.

Emanuel apologizes for sexual violence to students at Chicago Public Schools

Fran Spielman and Lauren FitzPatrick :

“All adults offer apology. I offer my apology. But the question is, what are we gonna do now besides words? What are the deeds to fix this up?” Emanuel said.

“I take responsibility. … I’m accountable for me,” he said. But Emanuel was quick to note that the sexual violence uncovered in Tribune reporting “goes back 10 years” and probably “way back” further than that.

“That doesn’t excuse what happened here. … All of us –– from principal to teacher to colleagues to the CEO, the bureaucracy, the mayor — we’re all responsible. We’re also then therefore … responsible for fixing it. From hiring to investigating to prosecuting and making sure that nobody ever is hired again anywhere — not just in CPS. All of that has to be tightened up,” he said.

His words were not enough to satisfy mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot convened a news conference outside Walter Payton College Prep, a top-rated selective high school often praised by Emanuel as among the state’s best, and home to one of the alleged victims.

There, she argued that parents should have been notified five months ago, when the Tribune filed its first Freedom of Information requests, setting off “alarm bells” at City Hall.

The Silence of the Bugs

Curt Stager:

Fifty-six years after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” warned of bird die-offs from pesticides, a new biocrisis may be emerging. A study published last fall documented a 76 percent decline in the total seasonal biomass of flying insects netted at 63 locations in Germany over the last three decades. Losses in midsummer, when these insects are most numerous, exceeded 80 percent.

This alarming discovery, made by mostly amateur naturalists who make up the volunteer-run Entomological Society Krefeld, raised an obvious question: Was this happening elsewhere? Unfortunately, that question is hard to answer because of another problem: a global decline of field naturalists who study these phenomena.

West Sacramento Launching Controversial Program Watching Public’s Social Media Posts


West Sacramento is the first city to launch a controversial new program that watches what people post about it online.

The pilot project gives city leaders a look at what’s trending in the city, whether it’s good or bad. It’s also creating privacy concerns around how the data is being used.

When a wave of mailbox thefts hit the city last year, people complained about it on social media, and West Sacramento was watching. City leaders were alerted to the community concerns by a new system.

“We saw the thing that most people were talking about were mailbox thefts,” said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. “That’s something that we might not have noticed just by waiting for people to come to city hall or filing a complaint.”

The Weird Science Behind Chain Restaurant Menus

India Mandlekern:

Every pizza display case tells a story. The strategist knew that very well. From the signage to the slicers to the arrangement of the Parmesan and red pepper flake shakers, no visual cue could be left to chance, especially for this client: a 20-unit New York style pizza chain headquartered in San Diego. The CEO was very proud of the organic nature of his restaurants’ interiors, and the lack of “chaininess” to them.

Six different pizzas now rested on burnished metal stands, intermittently punctuated with an assortment of calzones, stromboli, salads, and beverages. It had taken three weeks of recipe testing to bake pizzas this good. For every perfect, client-ready pizza, there were at least six that missed the mark­­—crusts that weren’t crispy, mozzarella that didn’t stretch, pepperoni that curled when cast in the oven, pockmarking the pie with tiny buckets of grease. (I was a beneficiary of the process. An arsenal of failed recipe prototypes was accumulating in my freezer.)

The strategist carefully removed a stack of miniature chalkboards from her desk. On each one, she inscribed the name of a different pie: The Triboro (meat lover’s). The Whitestone (white pie). The Bronx (everything but the kitchen sink). New York’s exalted status in the pizza universe was essential to this client’s identity, so much that the client had even implemented a reverse osmosis system in the dough-making process to replicate the pH balance of New York water.

When the set up was complete, the strategist called over the head of the agency to evaluate her work.

Despite the far-reaching consequences of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, much about the man remains a mystery, buried deep beneath layers of Mainz history.

Madhvi Ramani:

he German city of Mainz lies on the banks of the River Rhine. It is most notable for its wine, its cathedral and for being the home of Johannes Gutenberg, who introduced the printing press to Europe. Although these things may seem unconnected at first, here they overlap, merging and influencing one another.

The three elements converge on market days, when local producers and winemakers sell their goods in the main square surrounding the sprawling St Martin’s Cathedral. Diagonally opposite is the Gutenberg Museum, named after the city’s most famous inhabitant, who was born in Mainz around 1399 and died here 550 years ago in 1468.

The printing press marks the turning point from medieval times to modernity in the Western world

It was Gutenberg who invented Europe’s first movable metal type printing press, which started the printing revolution and marks the turning point from medieval times to modernity in the Western world. Although the Chinese were using woodblock printing many centuries earlier, with a complete printed book, made in 868, found in a cave in north-west China, movable type printing never became very popular in the East due to the importance of calligraphy, the complexity of hand-written Chinese and the large number of characters. Gutenberg’s press, however, was well suited to the European writing system, and its development was heavily influenced by the area from which it came.

Tracking Firm LocationSmart Leaked Location Data for Customers of All Major U.S. Mobile Carriers Without Consent in Real Time Via Its Web Site

Bria Krebs:

But according to Xiao, a PhD candidate at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, this same service failed to perform basic checks to prevent anonymous and unauthorized queries. Translation: Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about how Web sites work could abuse the LocationSmart demo site to figure out how to conduct mobile number location lookups at will, all without ever having to supply a password or other credentials.

“I stumbled upon this almost by accident, and it wasn’t terribly hard to do,” Xiao said. “This is something anyone could discover with minimal effort. And the gist of it is I can track most peoples’ cell phone without their consent.”

Xiao said his tests showed he could reliably query LocationSmart’s service to ping the cell phone tower closest to a subscriber’s mobile device. Xiao said he checked the mobile number of a friend several times over a few minutes while that friend was moving. By pinging the friend’s mobile network multiple times over several minutes, he was then able to plug the coordinates into Google Maps and track the friend’s directional movement.

Behind the Consulting Firm Raking In Millions From D.C. Charter Schools

Darrow Montgomery:

That’s a D.C. charter school administrator’s assessment of TenSquare, one of the city’s most connected, lucrative, and controversial charter consulting companies. And true to his word, he was talking anonymously. Not many people feel comfortable discussing TenSquare publicly.

Even in education circles, most people have never heard of TenSquare, a national for-profit consulting firm that currently operates in seven states and the District. It markets itself as a universal fixer for troubled charters—a one-stop shop for facility financing, staff recruitment, back-end operations, teacher training, and academic turnarounds. The company has kept a remarkably low profile since its founding in 2011, in one case even contracting to work with a charter unbeknownst to the school’s own principal.

TenSquare has powerful allies in D.C., most notable among them the Public Charter School Board, or PCSB, which governs the city’s charters. “I would characterize their results as remarkably strong,” says Scott Pearson, executive director of the PCSB. “In every case where TenSquare has done a full turnaround with a D.C. charter school, their results have improved significantly.”

But a five-month City Paper investigation has raised a host of questions about TenSquare’s work. Available data do not show consistent improvements across the D.C. schools that hired TenSquare, and several schools got worse. Its business dealings reveal a criss-crossing web of repeat players, potential conflicts of interest, and in one instance the recurring appearance of an alleged far-right activist. Yet it’s not a coincidence that TenSquare has landed some of the most remunerative charter contracts in the city: While not every school leader disparages TenSquare, a number have said they felt real pressure from the PCSB to hire the company.

Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice May Be World’s Largest

National Graphic:

Evidence for the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history—has been discovered on Peru’s northern coast, archaeologists tell National Geographic.

More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire.

Scientific investigations by the international, interdisciplinary team, led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are ongoing. The work is supported by grants from the National Geographic Society.

Mathematical illustrations

Biol Casselman:

This manual has been available on this site since about 1996, with improvements taking place frequently. The current version has been published as a book of about 350 pages by Cambridge University Press. By agreement with the Press, however, it will remain posted on this web site. Many improvements in the current version over previous ones are due to the (anonymous) referees of the Press, whom I wish to thank heartily. I also wish to thank Lauren Cowles, of the New York office of the Press, for much help with preparing the original version for publication. The paper edition appears also in Duotone red and black. For information on obtaining the paper edition, take a look at the Cambridge Press catalogue.

From January 1, 2004 on, no changes except simple error corrections will be made to the main body of the text here — at least for a while. Corrections to both paper and web editions will be found below.

I am grateful to all those who have pointed out errors or lacunae in older versions of this manual, and I hope readers will continue to send me mail about what they find – both good and bad – at cass@math.ubc.ca.

U.S. Births Dip To 30-Year Low; Fertility Rate Sinks Further Below Replacement Level

Bill Chappell:

The birthrate fell for nearly every group of women of reproductive age in the U.S. in 2017, reflecting a sharp drop that saw the fewest newborns since 1987, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017 — “down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years,” the CDC said.

The general fertility rate sank to a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 — a 3 percent drop from 2016, the CDC said in its tally of provisional data for the year.

The results put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate – the standard for a generation being able to replicate its numbers.

Why we should bulldoze the business school

Martin Parker:

Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Scott Walker

Patrick Marley:

The Democrats running for governor are pledging to end GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s union restrictions, while Walker is promising to veto any changes to Act 10 if he wins re-election and Democrats take control of the Legislature.

Act 10 — adopted amid massive protests shortly after Walker took office in 2011 — brought the governor national attention and helped fuel his brief presidential run.

The measure all but ended collective bargaining for most public workers and required them to pay at least 12% of their insurance premiums and half the contributions to their pensions. The changes saved state and local taxpayers — and cost public workers — billions of dollars.

Democrats view the law as a move by Walker to hobble organizations that have long backed Democrats in elections.

The nine Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the Aug. 14 primary said they would seek to reverse Act 10, while Walker touted the savings it has brought to taxpayers.

“The far-left Democrats who want to undo it will open the door to massive property tax increases or reductions in school staffing — or both,” Walker spokesman Austin Altenburg said in a statement. “Scott Walker will not let that happen and will continue to support reforms that put more resources in the classroom to improve the education of our students.”

Walker would veto any attempt to change Act 10, Altenburg said.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Who Will Win the New Great Game?

Jochen Bittner:

To claim we are living through a new Cold War is both an understatement and a category mistake. The 20th-century face-off between the Communist East and the Capitalist West was, ideology aside, about two superpowers trying to contain each other. The global conflict of today is far less static.

What we are witnessing instead is a new Great Game, a collision of great powers that are trying to roll back one another’s spheres of influence. Unlike the Great Game of the 19th century between the British and the Russian Empire that culminated in the fight for dominance over Afghanistan, today’s Great Game is global, more complex and much more dangerous.

Call it the Game of Threes. It involves three prime players, Russia, China and the West, which are competing in three ways: geographically, intellectually and economically. And there are three places where the different claims to power clash: Syria, Ukraine and the Pacific. Many of the defining conflicts of our time can be defined through some combination of those three sets.

To differing degrees, governments and citizens from Cairo to Copenhagen have grown skeptical about whether liberal democracy and postwar internationalism have been, or will be, the right choice for them. To all those doubters, China and Russia stand ready as alternative models and protective powers, offering new arrangements for bilateral and multilateral alignments. You don’t want to follow international law, European integration or anti-corruption schemes? Follow us!

University requires viewpoint diversity group’s events to pass ‘health and safety’ review

Grace Curtis:

A Canadian university that investigated a graduate student for showing a debate in class is now imposing “health and safety” requirements on her student club, requiring it to move its next event to a different university.

“As far as I know, no other clubs are subject to this review,” Lindsay Shepherd told The College Fix in an email, describing the “increasingly complicated” measures that Wilfrid Laurier University is taking to regulate the Laurier Society for Open Inquiry.

Shepherd serves as president of the club, which was forced to move its April 30 event featuring the “Catholic nationalist” Faith Goldy and a professor skeptical of immigration to the University of Waterloo.

It has to charge attendees for the relocated event because the club is not getting the venue and security for free, as it would at WLU.

Shepherd said she does not have much information about why the club is facing new requirements, as “the administration is not being transparent and seems to avoid putting much in writing.”

The myopia boom Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.

Elie Dolgin:

Other parts of the world have also seen a dramatic increase in the condition, which now affects around half of young adults in the United States and Europe — double the prevalence of half a century ago. By some estimates, one-third of the world’s population — 2.5 billion people — could be affected by short-sightedness by the end of this decade. “We are going down the path of having a myopia epidemic,” says Padmaja Sankaridurg, head of the myopia programme at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia.

The condition is more than an inconvenience. Glasses, contact lenses and surgery can help to correct it, but they do not address the underlying defect: a slightly elongated eyeball, which means that the lens focuses light from far objects slightly in front of the retina, rather than directly on it. In severe cases, the deformation stretches and thins the inner parts of the eye, which increases the risk of retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness. Because the eye grows throughout childhood, myopia generally develops in school-age children and adolescents. About one-fifth of university-aged people in East Asia now have this extreme form of myopia, and half of them are expected to develop irreversible vision loss.

This threat has prompted a rise in research to try to understand the causes of the disorder — and scientists are beginning to find answers. They are challenging old ideas that myopia is the domain of the bookish child and are instead coalescing around a new notion: that spending too long indoors is placing children at risk. “We’re really trying to give this message now that children need to spend more time outside,” says Kathryn Rose, head of orthoptics at the University of Technology, Sydney.

What the History of Math Can Teach Us about the Future of AI

Nathan Myhrvold:

Whenever an impressive new technology comes along, people rush to imagine the havoc it could wreak on society, and they overreact. Today we see this happening with artificial intelligence (AI). I was at South by Southwest last month, where crowds were buzzing about Elon Musk’s latest hyperbolic claim that AI poses a far greater danger to humanity than nuclear weapons. Some economists have similarly sounded alarms that automation will put nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. at risk by 2030. The drumbeat of doomsaying has people spooked: a Gallup/Northeastern study published in March found that about three out of four Americans are convinced that AI will destroy more jobs than it creates.

My reading of the history of technology and my decades of work on its frontiers make me skeptical of such claims. Major shifts in technology—and AI does have the potential to be that—inevitably take longer than people typically imagine to transform our jobs and lives. So societies have time to apply regulations, cultural pressures and market forces that shape how that transformation happens. We’re making those kinds of adjustments today with social media technology, for example.

How ‘China’s MIT’ Tsinghua University drives the country’s tech ambitions

Celia Chen and Sarah Dai:

A group of alumni invested 5 million yuan (US$780,000) in his start-up “without hesitation”, which allowed him to continue to pursue research and development, according to Li Zhu, head of the 3,000-member Tsinghua Alumni TMT Association. “I don’t think he need worry about a shortage of capital with the support of alumni.”

Li, an angel investor, set up the group in 2011 so that Tsinghua alumni in the technology, media and telecommunications industries can get together and network. Such connections have helped establish the university as an influential kingmaker in the country’s technology industry.

“Entrepreneurs have to take advantage of guanxi (relationships in English), and Tsinghua alumni are more likely to help each other [compared with other universities], I think, ” Li said in a recent interview at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “Some funding deals were done directly within the association because it’s a very good place to connect entrepreneurs and investors.”

Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering

Vlad Savov:

Google has built a multibillion-dollar business out of knowing everything about its users. Now, a video produced within Google and obtained by The Verge offers a stunningly ambitious and unsettling look at how some at the company envision using that information in the future.

The video was made in late 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at X (formerly Google X), and shared internally within Google. It imagines a future of total data collection, where Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations to solve global problems like poverty and disease.

Drew Cloud Is a Well-Known Expert on Student Loans. One Problem: He’s Not Real.

Dan Bauman and Chris Quintana:

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

A Layman’s Intro to Western Classical Music

Anas Sabbar:

Around a millennium ago, monks and priests started taking record of the immense catalog of chants they were composing. They came up with a notation system to help others learn the music faster: Sheet music. This system allows for keeping track of more elaborate ideas, that would have been possible relying on the human brain alone. Consequently, these sheets gave way to the growth of a much more extensive and complex music all the way to Classical music.

The Middle Ages

Composers like Perotin and Machaut explored ways of writing multiple vocal lines that went together. Choral music was the art music of the times. Instruments were common, of course, but since they generally weren’t allowed in houses of worship, there is scarcely any notated music including them from the time.

Yale Professor Who Had Controversial Role in the Crisis Now Teaches About It

Alexander Osipovich:

He later told the Journal that this article wouldn’t be “accurate except within your understanding of the crisis. Basically you don’t understand the crisis.”

Many economists consider Mr. Gorton a top expert on financial crises. His fans include former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who praised the professor’s insights in 2010.

Mr. Gorton has likened the 2008 crisis to an old-fashioned bank run. But instead of anxious depositors emptying their bank accounts, Mr. Gorton has said the bank run of a decade ago played out in the so-called repo market.

This is where banks like Lehman Brothers raised short-term cash by selling securities and repurchasing them later at a slightly higher price. When investors questioned the value of those securities, the repo market froze up.

Some critics say Mr. Gorton’s work plays down other explanations for the crisis, such as the U.S. housing bubble—or wrongdoing on Wall Street.

Why We Should Spend More on Humanities Research in a High-Tech World

Thomas Burish::

In a world increasingly driven by science and technology, it came as no surprise to read in The Chronicle recently that only a small fraction of the research funding at the nation’s top universities is directed toward the humanities. After all, the vast majority of breakthroughs that benefit society come from the scientific, medical, and engineering disciplines; these also are the areas with the most expensive space, infrastructure, equipment, and program costs. No one argues that the humanities require as much funding as these other disciplines. Even so, I found the numbers disappointing.

According to The Chronicle’s summary of its survey:

“Only two of the top 50 public institutions for research-and-development spending in the humanities in the 2016 fiscal year devoted more than 5 percent of their overall R&D spending to the humanities, while 19 of the top 50 private nonprofit institutions did. Median R&D spending on the humanities among the 388 academic research institutions that reported such spending that year was $224,000.”

This is simply not enough as we look to a future that will be heavily influenced, if not largely determined, by technology, including autonomous systems, big-data analytics, and artificial intelligence. The need to understand the human dimensions and impacts of those advances, as well as the basis for making many of the ethical decisions that should guide their use, has never been greater. We are beginning to face basic questions about what it means to be human and may soon face questions of whether some of the technologies of the future will have human rights.

Sweden ends contract with science publisher Elsevier, moving for open access for scientific articles

Michelle Howsworth 3h :

Elsevier, the publisher of top magazines Cell, The Lancet and many others, enjoys billions of dollars in yearly revenue at a high profit margin (37%).

Sweden, like many other European countries, is aiming for full scientific “open access” (free article reading) by 2026. In 2017, Swedish universities paid Elsevier €1.3M ($1.5M) for article publications and €12M ($14.1M) for access to articles.

Now Sweden is demanding that Elsevier make Swedish research content fully available to the public and make its 1,900 journals fully available to Swedish researchers, all at a reasonable price to Swedish universities.

Chinese mass-indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution

Gerry Shih:

Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese _ even foreign citizens _ in mass internment camps.

“The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticize yourself, denounce your thinking — your own ethnic group,” said Bekali, who broke down in tears as he described the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can’t sleep. The thoughts are with me all the time.”

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

Chinese officials have largely avoided comment on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.

The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticize the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.

Scientists plan huge European AI hub to compete with US

Ian Sample:

Leading scientists have drawn up plans for a vast multinational European institute devoted to world-class artificial intelligence (AI) research in a desperate bid to nurture and retain top talent in Europe.

The new institute would be set up for similar reasons as Cern, the particle physics lab near Geneva, which was created after the second world war to rebuild European physics and reverse the brain drain of the brightest and best scientists to the US.

Named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems, or Ellis, the proposed AI institute would have major centres in a handful of countries, the UK included, with each employing hundreds of computer engineers, mathematicians and other scientists with the express aim of keeping Europe at the forefront of AI research.

In an open letter that urges governments to act, the scientists describe how Europe has not kept up with the US and China, where the vast majority of leading AI firms and universities are based. The letter adds that while a few “research hotspots” still exist in Europe, “virtually all of the top people in those places are continuously being pursued for recruitment by US companies.”

Why lolling about is a worthwhile pursuit

Charlotte Salle:

Patricia Hampl’s new book, The Art of the Wasted Day, is so delightfully nebulous—dangling somewhere between travelogue, literary criticism, memoir, and love letter, with a couple of philosophical deadlifts thrown in—that it’s worth summarizing her argument right from the get-go: reveries and daydreams are not throwaway instances that we should shrug off or snap out of. Times when we are lost in thought, far away from quotidian woes, are moments to seek out and cultivate. The central concern of her book is to show us how to do just that—how to live a life of the mind in a humdrum world.

We begin with Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, known as the Ladies of Llangollen, who in 1778 abandoned their duties, routines, and familes in Ireland for a long life of what they called “delicious seclusion” in the Welsh countryside. For the next 50 years, they lived in solitude, savoring each other’s quiet company. Well, almost.

Having become “famous for wishing to be left alone,” as Hampl puts it, they were soon visited by the whole literary kingdom. Wordsworth, Southey, Shelley, and Byron all stopped by, as did Sir Walter Scott and Caroline Lamb. All were enchanted by the two “chatelaines of serenity” who had voluntarily rusticated themselves, eschewing the pleasures and vices of urban society. Instead, the Ladies organized their days around self-improvement activities, clocking everything by what they termed “our System”: hours for language studies, transcription, sketching, long walks, and letter writing. Reading was the centerpiece of each day. A full life, but “so still,” as Eleanor records in her journal. “So silent.”

How to Keep Google From Owning Your Online Life

David Pierce:

About 10 minutes after I decided to try temporarily removing Google from my life—an experiment I hoped would illuminate how much Alphabet’s giant dominates online existence—I messed it all up.

I spotted a video of Donald Glover, co-star of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” giving a Millennium Falcon tour. Even on my most careful guard, I still clicked the red play button. A few seconds in, I realized I was watching YouTube—Google’s YouTube.

Google is so woven into the fabric of the internet it’s all but impossible to avoid. It’s where billions of users find, create and store important information, where they work and distract themselves from working. You can quit Facebook or take a Twitter break and barely notice, save for an increased sense of boredom in the Starbucks line. Google, you’d miss.

But even more than other companies offering free services, Google collects astounding amounts of data about you and uses it to sell ads. I’m happy with Google, because to date there haven’t been reports of catastrophic breaches or data-sharing scandals on the level of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica nightmare. If Google springs a leak, it could be disastrous.

That’s why I set out to leave Google’s planet of intertwined products and services. And when I did, I was surprised to find how many strong alternatives had survived its gravitational pull.

Cripes, a bumbershoot!

Lionel Shriver:

Paperchase caused a kerfuffle in March by marketing British greeting cards printed, “World’s Greatest Mom”. It was bad enough that Mothering Sunday was morphing ominously into the more commercial “Mother’s Day” from across the pond. Now those wretched Americans were attacking the very institution of motherhood itself. “Mom” indeed! The Telegraph’s leader despaired, “Hollywood is corrupting the language”. Surely the American “slow occupation of British culture” was bound to reach its peak when “football games are rebranded as ‘soccer’”. The leader called drolly for a tariff on American English as a response to President Trump’s tariff on steel.

Yet the online comments section was full of sniffy Birmingham natives who call their mothers “Mom”, not “Mum”. A letter to the Editor objected that the Telegraph’s leader writers “betrayed their youthful age”; in the letter writer’s childhood, football was routinely called “soccer”, a British term that derives from “association football”. On the sidelines, the linguist Lynne Murphy must have been chortling. These excitable exchanges are the meat and potatoes – or mince and mash – of her work.

A bar too high? Pass rate plummets to record low for California lawyer exam

Alexei Kos3ff:

Only a quarter of applicants passed the California bar exam in its most recent sitting, the State Bar of California announced this week, a record low for the test that lawyers must successfully complete to practice in the state.

The pass rate for the February exam sank to just 27.3 percent, about 7 percentage points lower than last year and the first time since 1986 that it has fallen below 30 percent. The previous low, according to a summary of results since 1951, came in the spring of 1983, when 27.7 percent of applicants passed.

In a statement Friday, executive director Leah T. Wilson said the State Bar recently launched an intervention program to “improve performance on the bar exam” and “better understand the downward trend of the bar exam pass rates.” It is also preparing to complete a study about the needs of entry-level lawyers, in order to evaluate the exam standards.

“Over the long term, we need to be sure that we are testing for the skills and content that new attorneys need, and that we are doing so in the right format,” Wilson said.

California sets a higher cutoff score for its bar exam than any state except Delaware, and it frequently has the lowest pass rate in the country. Critics have long contended that it is unnecessarily restrictive, keeping otherwise qualified individuals out of the legal profession, particularly women and minorities.

Ed Department investigating anti-male discrimination at Yale

Toni Airaksinen:

The U.S. Department of Education has launched a Title IX investigation into Yale University amid allegations that the institution offers educational programs and scholarship opportunities that exclude men.

According to a letter dated April 26, the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating seven Yale initiatives, including the Yale Women Faculty Forum, the Working Women’s Network, the Yale University Women’s Organization, and the Yale Women’s Campaign School.

“Yale University violates Title IX by funding/sustaining programs which practice discrimination in their admission/election practices.”

These initiatives allegedly provide, to varying degrees, scholarships, professional development, academic opportunities, and summer programs exclusively to female students and professors, the complaint alleges.

The investigation was launched after Kursat Christoff Pekgoz, a lecturer at the University of Southern California, alleged in a February 18 complaint that the Yale initiatives provide unfair advantages to women.

“Yale University violates Title IX by funding/sustaining programs which practice discrimination in their admission/election practices,” Pekgoz wrote in a complaint to the OCR, a copy of which was obtained by Campus Reform.

His complaint also pointed out that male students are increasingly a minority on college campuses, and that, from an ethical perspective, they deserve equal access to academic opportunities.

“Men are a minority at Yale University (48%) and nationwide enrollment rates for men are even lower (42.8%),” his letter asserted, adding that “men are even less likely to graduate from college after initial enrollment.”

“Therefore, affirmative action for women in colleges is irrational: indeed, it would only stand to reason to implement affirmative action for male students,” he argued, though he noted that he only hopes these opportunities will become gender-neutral instead.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: ‘My Clients Are Fleeing NJ Like It’s on Fire’

James Freeman:

That headline arrives via email from a money manager in northern New Jersey. The Garden State already has the third largest overall tax burden and the country’s highest property tax collections per capita. Now that federal reform has limited the deduction for state and local taxes, the price of government is surging again among high-income earners in New Jersey and other blue states. Taxpayers are searching for the exits.

The Invasion of the German Board Games

Jonathan Kay:

In a development that would have been hard to imagine a generation ago, when video games were poised to take over living rooms, board games are thriving. Overall, the latest available data shows that U.S. sales grew by 28 percent between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Revenues are expected to rise at a similar rate into the early 2020s—largely, says one analyst, because the target audience “has changed from children to adults,” particularly younger ones.

Much of this success is traceable to the rise of games that, well, get those adults acting somewhat more like children. Clever, low-overhead card games such as Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, and Exploding Kittens (“A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions”) have sold exceptionally well. Games like these have proliferated on Kickstarter, where anyone with a great idea and a contact at an industrial printing company can circumvent the usual toy-and-retail gatekeepers who green-light new concepts. (The largest project category on Kickstarter is “Games,” and board games make up about three-quarters of those projects.)

The Scientific Case for Two Spaces After a Period

James Hamblin:

This is a time of much division. Families and communities are splintered by polarizing narratives. Outrage surrounds geopolitical discourse—so much so that anxiety often becomes a sort of white noise, making it increasingly difficult to trigger intense, acute anger. The effect can be desensitizing, like driving 60 miles per hour and losing hold of the reality that a minor error could result in instant death.

One thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate people, though, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of an English sentence.

The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”

The Future of Getting Old: Rethinking Old Age

Future of Getting Old:

What defines an “old” person? As it turns out, the answer varies depending on your age. If you’re under 30, studies show you’re likely to say old age begins at 60. If you’re in your 40s and 50s, you might say 70. If you are 60 or 70, your definition of “old” might be 74 or above. Turns out we tend to feel younger the older we get-many people in their 80s report feeling 70.

Lifestyle markers of old age change as we age too. While most 18-29 year olds say forgetting names is a sign of old age, less than 50 percent of those older than 29 consider it a sign of aging. Having grandchildren is also something that younger people see as an “old” characteristic, but older individuals may not. The number of years we’ve lived, it seems, isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator for how we’ve aged.

Today, our perception of age is changing more than ever. Thanks to advancements in science, medicine and technology, we may be living longer – well into our 70s, 80s and even 90s – and accordingly we will need to continue to redefine what it means to be “old.” These advances also present an opportunity to start thinking about a not-too-distant future where aging may not mean losing vitality and functionality physically, mentally and emotionally but maintaining or even gaining it as members of a new generation making meaningful contributions to society.

Baby Bust: Fertility is Declining the Most Among Minority Women

Lyman Stone:

The United States just hit a 40-year low in its fertility rate, according to numbers just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2017 provisional estimate of fertility for the entire U.S. indicates about 3.85 million births in 2017 and a total fertility rate of about 1.76 births per women. These are low numbers: births were as high as 4.31 million in 2007, and the total fertility rate was 2.08 kids back then. The United States has experienced a remarkable slump in fertility over the last several years, as I’ve explained elsewhere.

Mapping the whole internet with Hilbert curves

Ben Jojo:

The internet is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think the /22 you got as a LIR was big, but that’s just peanuts to the internet.

Well, actually, it wasn’t in the long run, that’s why we need IPv6. But that is a different story.

The point is, IPv4 (the most common deployed version of the IP protocol) sets its address limits at 2³² addresses. This means you have roughly 4.2 billion IP addresses to work with, except you don’t really, because large sections are not usable:

How the Enlightenment Ends

Henry Kissinger:

As I listened to the speaker celebrate this technical progress, my experience as a historian and occasional practicing statesman gave me pause. What would be the impact on history of self-learning machines—machines that acquired knowledge by processes particular to themselves, and applied that knowledge to ends for which there may be no category of human understanding? Would these machines learn to communicate with one another? How would choices be made among emerging options? Was it possible that human history might go the way of the Incas, faced with a Spanish culture incomprehensible and even awe-inspiring to them? Were we at the edge of a new phase of human history?

Aware of my lack of technical competence in this field, I organized a number of informal dialogues on the subject, with the advice and cooperation of acquaintances in technology and the humanities. These discussions have caused my concerns to grow.

Heretofore, the technological advance that most altered the course of modern history was the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which allowed the search for empirical knowledge to supplant liturgical doctrine, and the Age of Reason to gradually supersede the Age of Religion. Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness. Information was stored and systematized in expanding libraries. The Age of Reason originated the thoughts and actions that shaped the contemporary world order.

The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation


As 1968 began, Paul Ehrlich was an entomologist at Stanford University, known to his peers for his groundbreaking studies of the co-evolution of flowering plants and butterflies but almost unknown to the average person. That was about to change. In May, Ehrlich released a quickly written, cheaply bound paperback, The Population Bomb. Initially it was ignored. But over time Ehrlich’s tract would sell millions of copies and turn its author into a celebrity. It would become one of the most influential books of the 20th century—and one of the most heatedly attacked.

The first sentence set the tone: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” And humanity had lost. In the 1970s, the book promised, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” No matter what people do, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

Published at a time of tremendous conflict and social upheaval, Ehrlich’s book argued that many of the day’s most alarming events had a single, underlying cause: Too many people, packed into too-tight spaces, taking too much from the earth. Unless humanity cut down its numbers—soon—all of us would face “mass starvation” on “a dying planet.”

Ehrlich, now 85, told me recently that the book’s main contribution was to make population control “acceptable” as “a topic to debate.” But the book did far more than that. It gave a huge jolt to the nascent environmental movement and fueled an anti-population-growth crusade that led to human rights abuses around the world.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/#Oq5qLoqO05ACvDbj.99
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“Among high school graduates in New Jersey who seek to enlist, more than one in four cannot score highly enough on the military’s exam for math, literacy, and problem solving to join.” #HonestyGap

Steve Hashem and Douglas Satterfield:

To address these challenges, we must start early. Children’s earliest years are a critical time during which the most rapid brain development happens. This foundation informs their cognition, health, and behavior throughout life.

Research shows that high-quality early education programs deliver real, measurable results in improving outcomes for kids. Such programs can prepare children to start school with critical early math and reading skills, improve student performance, boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime, and even reduce obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age.

For example, a long-term study of the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan found that children who participated in the program were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than children left out of the program. A similar study of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers showed that children who did not participate in the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

A growing body of research also shows that state early education programs, if they are of high enough quality, can deliver solid results.

A new, national study from the Upjohn Institute analyzes thousands of public school district pre-K programs and finds that in states with high-quality programs, there are benefits persisting to at least fourth grade, with significant boosts to math scores.

Here in New Jersey, our state-funded preschool program has followed children through the fourth and fifth grades and found that, compared with a control group, the children served were three-fourths of a year ahead in math and two-thirds of a year ahead in literacy. They were also 31 percent less likely to be placed in special education and were held back 40 percent less often.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In North Carolina, Teacher Protest Exposes Rural-Urban Divide

Valerie Bauerlein:

North Carolina is a right-to-work state, and teachers typically must request permission to take a personal day off for this type of action, and be willing to cover the cost of hiring a substitute. The state’s big school boards canceled classes after more teachers requested personal time off than there were substitutes available.

Keith Poston, executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, which isn’t affiliated with the march but advocates increased state spending, said he sees the rally as teachers reacting to a decade of declining overall spending, from fewer school nurses and teaching assistants to less money for supplies and professional development.

“They have a front-row seat for the disinvestment in public education,” Mr. Poston said. “Our elected officials, whatever party they’re in, should listen to what they’re saying.”

The one-day rally is expected to tie up traffic in downtown Raleigh for most of the day, as teachers and other protesters travel from the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters to the General Assembly on its opening legislative day.

Terry Stoops, a former public-school teacher who researches education for Raleigh’s libertarian-leaning John Locke Foundation, said the North Carolina rally is different from those in other states because it is unlikely to change public policy.

“People will harden their positions,” Mr. Stoops said. “The real motive here is to replace the Republican majority in the General Assembly.”

State Strips CPS Of Control Of Special Education

Sarah Karp:

Chicago Public Schools — the nation’s third largest school system — must turn over control of nearly every aspect of its special education program to the state, the Illinois State Board of Education said Wednesday. The board voted to appoint a monitor who will have final say on all policies and budget plans related to special education.

It’s a major blow to CPS’ autonomy and a rare and aggressive move by the state. CPS spends $900 million, or more than 16 percent of its total budget, on special education annually to serve more than 52,000 children with a broad range of special needs, including learning issues and behavioral and physical disabilities.

The board voted to appoint the monitor for at least three years and 40 other “corrective actions” for CPS after accepting the findings of a state investigation that found CPS had violated federal special education laws when it made sweeping changes to its program for disabled students two years ago.

The investigation found “systemic problems” with special education in CPS that “delayed and denied” services to children. That inquiry was prompted by complaints from advocates and a WBEZ report that mirrored the state’s findings.

Scott Walker vs. Tony Evers: The governor and a Democratic challenger go before the Supreme Court

Patrick Marley:

Attorneys for Evers contended Schimel and his aides were violating ethics rules for lawyers because they were not pursuing the case in the way Evers wanted, were not conferring with him and did not honor his decision to fire them.

Past court rulings have determined the schools superintendent has broad authority and that includes the ability to direct litigation strategy, Evers attorney Ben Jones contended.

But Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued decisions about litigation belong to the attorney general, not Evers.

“With respect, independent litigation is not the supervision of education,” he said.

Both sides heard comments from the justices they liked.

“There’s nothing specific in Article 10 (of the state constitution) that says you have the power to litigate,” conservative Justice Daniel Kelly told Evers’ attorney.

But Justice Annette Ziegler, also a conservative, noted a recent high court ruling concluded Evers has vast powers. Ziegler dissented in that case, but acknowledged what her colleagues had ruled.

“Coyne set forth fairly strongly that Mr. Evers … is a constitutional officer and certain things cannot be taken away from him by the Legislature or elsewhere because it’s given to him by the constitution,” Zeigler said

She was referring to Coyne v. Walker, the 2016 state Supreme Court decision that handed a victory to Evers’ allies after a yearslong legal fight. That legal battle is being revived with the latest lawsuit.

Much more on Tony Evers, here.

Gödel and the unreality of time

Edward Feser:

In 1949, in a festschrift devoted to Einstein, Kurt Gödel published a very short but profound paper titled “A Remark About the Relationship Between Relativity Theory and Idealistic Philosophy.” It has since become well-known as a defense of the possibility in principle of time travel in a relativistic universe. But in fact that is not exactly what Gödel was trying to show. He was trying to show instead that time is illusory. He was using Einstein to revive the timeless conception of reality defended historically by thinkers like Parmenides and McTaggart.

Gödel had discovered solutions for the field equations of the general theory of relativity (GTR) that allow for the possibility of closed causal chains in a rotating universe, where the “backward” part of such a chain can be interpreted as an object’s revisiting its earlier self. As Einstein acknowledged in his response to Gödel in the festschrift, in such a causal chain – in which an apparently earlier event E leads to an apparently later event L, but where L in turn leads back to E – you may with equal justice regard L as the earlier event and E the later. The relations “earlier than” and “later than” cease to be objective features of the situation. Now, as even the B-theory of time acknowledges, the objective reality of the relations “earlier than” and “later than” is essential to the reality of time. Hence Gödel concluded that in a universe of the sort he describes, time is illusory.

Wisconsin’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates are out of step on school choice

Christian Schneider:

The last line of the Sentinel article added one final bullet point, almost as an afterthought. The day before, Thompson had signed a “parental choice” program which would soon allow 930 Milwaukee students to attend a private, non-sectarian school for free.

In the ensuing 28 years, Milwaukee’s school choice program has been fiercely debated both statewide and nationally. In 1995, the voucher program was extended to private, religious schools; during Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, vouchers have been expanded statewide, drawing harsh criticism from Democrats sympathetic to teachers’ unions.

In a story by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Molly Beck on Sunday, seven of the top nine Democratic candidates said they would eliminate all four private school voucher programs in Wisconsin, with most vowing to phase the program out over a period of time.

Clearly, the days of bipartisan support for choice are a remnant of history. The program that passed in 1990 was part of a bill introduced by Democrats (choice was most notably championed by Milwaukee Assemblywoman Annette “Polly” Williams) and passed each Democrat-controlled house of the Legislature overwhelmingly (26-7 in the Senate, 86-8 in the Assembly.)

At the time, Williams thought the program would help low-income blacks break free from the paternalistic liberals who wanted to run their lives. “At some point, we want to make our own decisions, whether our friends like it or not,” said Williams, who the Wisconsin chair for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

But now, promising to end school choice in Wisconsin has become to state Democrats what Donald’s Trump’s Mexican border wall became to Republicans — an impossible task that nonetheless allows a candidate to signal false bravado in order to pacify the party’s base.

Looking for Bigotry? Try Public Schooling History

Neal McCluskey:

Polling reveals that parents, especially African Americans, want school choice. Studies show choice students pulling even with public school kids even in laggard programs, and often surpassing them. And states keep expanding choice initiatives as families flock to them.

Perhaps because of all this good news, opponents of expanding the options available to parents and their children have launched a new strategy, one employing grossly cherry-picked history to imply that school choice is fueled by bigotry. It is both hugely inaccurate history, and hugely ironic, because if any education system has been shot-through with bigotry, it is public schooling.

The new assault started with “The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers,” a report from the leftist Center for American Progress, focused on southern districts that, after Brown v. Board of Education,implemented school choice plans to dodge integration. Soon after the report’s release, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten declared in a speech to her union’s annual convention that choice and proposed federal education budget cuts were the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” And just this week, TheNew York Times ran a piece by journalist Katherine Stewart stating that choice supporters’ objections to “government schools” have their lineage in racism and anti-Catholicism.

The most glaring omission in these choice-smearing histories is that Jim Crow laws segregated African Americans in public schools for decades
These are not totally without historical bases. Some segregationists, for instance, did try to employ choice to escape integration. But just because some people had ugly motives does not mean most supporters of school choice do. And these hyper-politicized versions of history have ignored that the far bigger, much more devastating story of bigotry has been in the public schools that were supposed to serve everyone.

The most glaring omission in these choice-smearing histories is that Jim Crow laws segregated African Americans in public schools for decades. Meanwhile, private schools sometimes integrated in open defiance of the law. And segregation did not occur only with African Americans or in the South. It was practiced in Boston through the mid-1850s, and Asians and Mexican Americans were segregated in other parts of the country.

Who should hold the keys to our data?

Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson:

In March 2007, Nick Pearce was running the thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research. That month, one of his young interns, Amelia Zollner, was killed by a lorry while cycling in London. Amelia was a bright, energetic Cambridge graduate, who worked at University College London. She was waiting at traffic lights when a lorry crushed her against a fence and dragged her under its wheels.

Two years later, in March 2009, Pearce was head of prime minister Gordon Brown’s Number 10 policy unit. He had not forgotten Amelia and wondered to a colleague if the publication of raw data on bicycle accidents would help. Perhaps someone might then build a website that would help cyclists stay safe?

The first dataset was put up on 10 March. Events then moved quickly. The file was promptly translated by helpful web users who came across it online, making it compatible with mapping applications.

A day later, a developer emailed to say that he had “mashed up” the data on Google Maps. (Mashing means the mixing together of two or more sets of data.) The resulting website allowed anyone to look up a journey and instantly see any accident spots along the way.

Within 48 hours, the data had been turned from a pile of figures into a resource that could save lives and that could help people to pressure government to deal with black spots.

Now, imagine if the government had produced a bicycle accident website in the conventional way. Progress would have been glacial. The government would have drawn up requirements, put it out to tender and eventually gone for the lowest bidder. Instead, within two days, raw data had been transformed into a powerful public service.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, even bureaucrats spend an awful lot of time these days lecturing each other about data. There is big data, personal data, open data, aggregate data and anonymised data. Each variety has issues: where does it originate? Who owns it? What it is worth?

Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Gail Heriot in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Report on Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation

Gail Heriot:

In January of 2018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report entitled Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. This Statement was part of that report. It critiques the report on the ground that, contrary to the what the report attempts to establish, the evidence shows that, while pockets of underfunding exist, on average, school districts that serve large numbers of minority or low-income students get somewhat more money than average. That shouldn’t end the matter though. As Commissioner Heriot’s dissent states, the biggest problem is that schools serving low-income students arguable need more money. She asks, “Is there some reason the Commission can’t be more clear and upfront about that?”

Keywords: education finance, school finance, civil rights

How a “location API” allows cops to figure out where we all are in real-time

Cyrus Farivar:

The digital privacy world was rocked late Thursday evening when The New York Times reported on Securus, a prison telecom company that has a service enabling law enforcement officers to locate most American cell phones within seconds. The company does this via a basic Web interface leveraging a location API—creating a way to effectively access a massive real-time database of cell-site records.
Securus’ location ability relies on other data brokers and location aggregators that obtain that information directly from mobile providers, usually for the purposes of providing some commercial service like an opt-in product discount triggered by being near a certain location. (“You’re near a Carl’s Jr.! Stop in now for a free order of fries with purchase!”)

DNA of every baby born in California is stored. Who has access to it?


State law requires that parents are informed of their right to request the child’s sample be destroyed, but the state does not confirm parents actually get that information before storing or selling their child’s DNA.

KPIX has learned that most parents are not getting the required notification. We’ve also discovered the DNA may be used for more than just research.

In light of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and the use of unidentified DNA to catch the Golden State Killer suspect, there are new concerns about law enforcement access, and what private researchers could do with access to the DNA from every child born in the state.

Jails are replacing visits with video calls—inmates and families hate it

Timothy Lee:

When Rebecca Parr visited her nephew Justin Harker recently at the Knox County Jail in Tennessee, she didn’t get the opportunity to see him face to face—or even through glass. Instead, she was ushered into a cramped, crowded room for a “video visitation.” She talked to him on a telephone handset while watching a grainy video feed of his face.

“I have experienced prison visitation a lot in my life,” she told Ars—her father spent some time in prison when she was a child. “This was the most dehumanizing and impersonal that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve visited through glass before and that broke my heart when that happened. This was even worse.”

On the kiosks Parr and Harker used, the video camera was several inches above the screen. As a result, “when you look at the person on the screen, you cannot look them in the eye,” Parr said. “There’s no eye contact whatsoever.”

In recent years, more and more jails have introduced video-calling services. Theoretically, these products could make it easier for inmates to maintain their relationships with family and friends outside. But many jails have moved in the opposite direction, using the advent of these “video visitation” services as an excuse to restrict or eliminate traditional in-person visits.

The Paradise Papers leak exposes how university foundations across the country hide money in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda

Matt Neuman:

More than 100 other universities and university-associated foundations appear in the Paradise Papers leak, showing that offshore investing is far from an isolated incident at UM. While the offshore investing by the UM Foundation appears to be completely legal, the practices of offshore investing have been criticized by the public and scrutinized by the federal government.

The law firm at the center of the Paradise Papers leak, Bermuda-based Appleby, has been repeatedly criticised by inspectors for “failures in the way it applies regulations designed to thwart money laundering and terrorist financing,” according to reporting by the Guardian, which collaborated on the leak investigation.

Jane Gravelle, a senior specialist in economic policy for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, said the only reason anyone would invest through offshore companies is to hide their money from tax collectors or public scrutiny.

“It’s just a way to avoid taxes,” Gravelle said. “There’s nothing in the Cayman Islands, for example, except a bunch of tourists and a couple of buildings with filing cabinets. Some of these offshore companies are nothing more than a file folder.”

The Internal Revenue Service cracked down in 2009 on investors in offshore hedge funds and private equity firms in an attempt to uncover undisclosed investments that dodged taxes.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal during the 2009 IRS crackdown, hedge-fund investments in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda represent more than two-thirds of the roughly $1.3 trillion hedge-fund industry, with around $250 billion of that coming from tax-exempt foundations, endowments and pension funds.

Related: Ivy League Taxpayer Subsidies: 2010-2015:

1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

2. The Ivy League was the recipient of $25.73 billion worth of federal payments during this period: contracts ($1.37 billion), grants ($23.9 billion) and direct payments – student assistance ($460 million).

3. In monetary terms, the ‘government contracting’ business of the Ivy League ($25.27 billion – federal contracts and grants) exceeded their educational mission ($22 billion in student tuition) FY2010-FY2015.

4. The eight colleges of the Ivy League received more money ($4.31 billion) – on average – annually from the federal government than sixteen states: see report.

Academia and Politics

Alice Lloyd:

“A lot of [the core curriculum] touches on questions essential to how people organize in society,” said one recent graduate, now working in the Trump administration. As a Hillsdale student reading Aristotle’s Politics, “It’s natural that you’d be thinking about how good government works”—and that you might wind up working in government yourself.

The Hillsdale-D.C. pipeline runs both ways. Last month, Michael Anton announced his new professional and political home would be the Kirby Center. In September 2016, under the pen name “Publius Decius Mus,” Anton authored a much-discussed essay for The Claremont Review of Books in support of Trump: “The Flight 93 Election.” After serving in the administration, he leaped for the emergency exit upon John Bolton’s appointment, but he’d also been seriously eyeing a spot at the Kirby Center for several months, said Spalding in a recent interview.

In three conjoined townhouses across Massachusetts Avenue from The Heritage Foundation, Kirby hosts caucus retreats and regular dinners with members of Congress and staff to discuss finer points of constitutional governance. It’s also home to several schlocky paintings of Churchill and the founding fathers, a glass-encased first edition of the Federalist Papers donated by conservative radio host Mark Levin, and two dozen or so interns each semester—most, but not all, of whom work on Capitol Hill or in conservative media—and a studio where The Federalist founder Ben Domenech records his daily podcast.

Kirby is not a think-tank and not yet a graduate school, though Spalding confirmed plans to start a Kirby-based master‘s program in government. It’s not a locus for lobbying efforts, either. “I brief chiefs of staff a lot,” Spalding says, but not as a lobbyist: “You don’t have Hillsdale in because they have something to say about the tax bill,” he clarified. “But because they’re smart and they’re thinking broadly about constitutional questions and American political thought in ways that might help us grapple with our work.”

He deflected a question about Trump, and when I asked whether Ryan would retire to Hillsdale, he told me that he was more focused on forming future leaders than appealing to current ones: “What I’m actually most interested in are the people that will become those people. What I’m interested in is who’s going to be the Paul Ryan of the future.”

At this rate, it’ll be someone who’s gone to Hillsdale, I said. “Or, they will have been shaped by us in some way,” he added, by an online course they took, a classical charter school they attended, or the words of a presidential speech they heard that was penned by a Hillsdale graduate. “That’s how we help save the country.”

Related: Ivy League Federal Taxpayer Subsidies: 2010-2015:

1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

2. The Ivy League was the recipient of $25.73 billion worth of federal payments during this period: contracts ($1.37 billion), grants ($23.9 billion) and direct payments – student assistance ($460 million).

3. In monetary terms, the ‘government contracting’ business of the Ivy League ($25.27 billion – federal contracts and grants) exceeded their educational mission ($22 billion in student tuition) FY2010-FY2015.

4. The eight colleges of the Ivy League received more money ($4.31 billion) – on average – annually from the federal government than sixteen states: see report.

Arizona Teachers Gain 20% Pay Raise, Expected to Return to Work

Tawnell Hobbs:

Arizona teachers are expected to return to school Friday, ending a six-day strike that shut down schools, after Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that meets some of their demands.

Teachers wanted a 20% pay increase for themselves and support staff, such as librarians and counselors, among other requests. The plan approved Thursday grants the 20% raise to teachers by 2020, but some teacher association leaders are upset that it doesn’t include the support employees.

The bill also boosts education funding by $371 million over five years to restore money cut during the recession—far short of the $1 billion requested by the teachers.

“Even though the economy has recovered, they’re refusing to give us the restoration of our yearly funding,” said Ralph Quintana, president of the Arizona American Federation of Teachers. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not going to fix the problem.”

Despite some unhappiness with the deal, Mr. Quintana said he expects that teachers will return to school Friday.

Mr. Ducey, a Republican, lauded the budget in an online video Thursday.

“The evidence base is too limited to effectively inform policymakers on the implementation of life skill development in school curricula.”

Stefanie Schurer

Life skills, sometimes referred to as noncognitive skills or personality traits (e.g. conscientiousness or locus of control—the belief to influence events and their outcomes), affect labor market productivity. Policy makers and academics are thus exploring whether such skills should be taught at the high school or college level. A small portfolio of recent studies shows encouraging evidence that education could strengthen life skills in adolescence. However, as no uniform approach exists on which life skills are most important and how to best measure them, many important questions must be answered before life skill development can become an integral part of school curricula.

Carnegie Mellon Launches Undergraduate Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Byron Spice:

Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence beginning this fall, providing students with in-depth knowledge of how to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.

SCS has created the new AI degree, the first offered by a U.S. university, in response to extraordinary technical breakthroughs in AI and the growing demand by students and employers for training that prepares people for careers in AI.

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”

This spring, U.S. News and World Report ranked SCS as the No. 1 graduate school for artificial intelligence.

The bachelor’s degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. The bachelor’s degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs — such as vision, language and huge databases — are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities, he added. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional course work in AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation.

Why falling demand for college hasn’t brought down sticker prices

Hechinger Report:

Many institutions boasted, in the admission season just ended, that they had received record numbers of applications. What most very carefully didn’t say was that record numbers of applicants are lining up to be accepted.

That’s because the number of students is actually down by 2.6 million since the last peak in 2011.

Economics 101 suggests that declining demand results in lower prices.

In one sense, that’s happened. A study released last month by the National Association for College and University Business Officers shows that colleges and universities now give away a record half of their tuition in the form of discounts and financial aid for freshmen.

But advertised prices continue to outpace inflation. And colleges have been careful to avoid talking about their enrollment woes, meaning only the savviest consumers know they can negotiate to lower their bills.

Meanwhile, they have struggled to reduce their costs, something higher-education institutions generally never had to do when they enjoyed a seemingly unending supply of customers.

Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries:

Thousands of jails and prisons across the United States use a company called Securus Technologies to provide and monitor calls to inmates. But the former sheriff of Mississippi County, Mo., used a lesser-known Securus service to track people’s cellphones, including those of other officers, without court orders, according to charges filed against him in state and federal court.

The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show.

Between 2014 and 2017, the sheriff, Cory Hutcheson, used the service at least 11 times, prosecutors said. His alleged targets included a judge and members of the State Highway Patrol. Mr. Hutcheson, who was dismissed last year in an unrelated matter, has pleaded not guilty in the surveillance cases.

As location tracking has become more accurate, and as more people carry their phones at every waking moment, the ability of law enforcement officers and companies like Securus to get that data has become an ever greater privacy concern.

Minnesota spends an average of $12,666 per student, about 42% less than Madison

Greta Kaul:

Nearly half of U.S. states have not seen education spending recover to pre-recession levels, but Minnesota’s has recovered at a faster clip than districts average nationally. Before the recession, in 2008, Minnesota districts spent $11,864 per student. In 2015, the most recent data available, they spent $12,666. Note: Data shown in 2018 dollars, adjusted using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator.

While Minnesota districts’ spending has come back after it lost ground during the recession, many states’, including Oklahoma and Arizona, have not.

In Oklahoma, inflation-adjusted per-pupil student spending declined by 5 percent between 2008 and 2015. Oklahoma spent $8,567 in per student in 2015, earning it a ranking of 48th among U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Declining oil revenue and income tax cuts both figure into declining education spending here, according to Governing. In Oklahoma, one in five districts has cut classes to four days a week, and educators’ minimum base salaries haven’t increased in almost a decade. The state is offering emergency credentials to a record number of teachers to fill classrooms.

Arizona schools have long had less per-pupil resources than other states, ranking near the bottom in the early 2000s. In 2015, the Grand Canyon State ranked 49th among the U.S. states and the District of Columbia in education spending, at $7,938 per student. Total spending per student was down 11 percent between 2008 and 2015.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

We need to change how maths is taught in schools

Bobby Seagull:

Being good at maths does not necessarily make you good at managing money. You might be able to use Pythagoras’ theorem, but can you compare the merits of a fixed-rate mortgage with a floating one? And while you can handle quadratic inequalities, how confident would you feel working out credit card interest?

Finishing GCSE maths exams aged 16, most of us never again encounter trigonometry and the Sohcahtoa mnemonic, the joy of simultaneous equations or how to work out the volume of a sphere (4/3πr³). So we might ask, “What was the point of school maths?”

As a maths teacher, I love my subject. I find beauty in the way that patterns in the world can be explained by maths — whether it is the insect cicadas emerging in prime number cycles to evade predators or how fractal patterns permeate snowflakes. However, you can achieve the top grade in GCSE Maths (A* in old money, but now a shiny new grade 9) and still not be practically proficient with numbers in the real world, especially when it comes to money.

This is why I am supporting the first National Numeracy Day next Wednesday (I am an ambassador for the charity behind it, which focuses on improving numeracy for adults). Their headline statistic is that just under half of UK working-age adults have the numeracy skills numeracy skills of a primary schoolchild.

This is bad for the individuals concerned and for the companies they work for. The charity has developed “the essentials of numeracy” to test the skills and attitudes needed to use numbers and data to make good decisions at work and home.

Related: Math Forum.

Why Winners Keep Winning On Cumulative Advantage and How to Think About Luck

Nick Maggiulli:

In the late 1970s the view in the publishing world was that an author should never produce more than one book a year. The thinking was that publishing more than one book a year would dilute the brand name of the author. However, this was a bit of a problem for Stephen King, who was writing books at a rate of two per year. Instead of slowing down, King decided to publish his additional works under the pen name of Richard Bachman.

Over the next few years, every book King published sold millions, while Richard Bachman remained relatively unknown. King was a legend. Bachman a nobody. However, this all changed when a book store clerk in Washington, D.C. named Steve Brown noticed the similarity of writing styles between King and Bachman. After being confronted with the evidence, King confessed and agreed to an interview with Brown a few weeks later. The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World tells the story of what happened next:

Wisconsin Reading Corp tutors combat literacy crisis one child at a time

Alan Borsuk:

As someone recently put it to me, improving Wisconsin’s overall results in reading will not come from pushing one button. It will require pushing maybe 10 buttons. A lot needs to be done.

Some of the buttons that should be pushed connect to what goes on in school. Some connect to things beyond school, including what happens at home and what happens in a child’s earliest years. Some may not be so hard to push; others are enormous challenges.

I hope — I even expect — that the Wisconsin Reading Corps will be a button that brings good results.

I have no regrets about being revved up recently in this space about Wisconsin’s disgraceful record on teaching children to read.

To review, Wisconsin kids of every race and economic category underperform students of the corresponding category nationwide when it comes to reading proficiency, according to new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The gap between white and black kids in Wisconsin is among the largest in the countr

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Foundations of Reading teacher content knowledge examination.

UW Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg

Amazon’s Alexa will reward children for saying please and thank you

Nick B.:

Alexa, the virtual assistant created by Amazon, has been modified so that it can offer positive feedback to children who speak politely.

The new function, ‘Magic Word’, addresses some parents’ concerns that use of the technology was teaching their offspring to sound officious or even rude.

The feature has been developed to promote more interaction between Alexa and children and to reinforce good manners. When a child questions the Alexa device and says “please”, it will respond: “Thanks for asking so nicely.” When they say “thank you”, the device will reply “you’re welcome” or “no worries”.

In January, research agency Childwise published a report that implied that use of voice-recognition gadgets was teaching children to become more demanding, with 42% of children aged between nine and 16 in the UK using such devices at home.

“As there is a surge in children’s use of gadgets that respond to verbal commands we may see them learning ways of communicating that then slip into their interactions with humans,” said Simon Leggett, research director at Childwise.

“Will children become accustomed to saying and doing whatever they want to a digital assistant ‘do this, do that’ – talking as aggressively or rudely as they like without any consequences?

What is it, Really?

Rusty Guinn:

You may have seen that Steven Pinker, cognitive pyschologist scientist at Harvard, published a new book called Enlightenment Now. Now, the reality is that the book doesn’t really undertake much discussion of the specifics of schools of enlightenment thought per se, but rather tells the story of human progress over the last 200 years. It makes the argument that these improvements are vastly underestimated and underappreciated. It also connects those achievements to specific influences of science and reason, sometimes very compellingly and sometimes somewhat less so. It is an encouraging and energizing read, even where its contentions are less well supported. I, for one, think there’s rather a lot in the 20th century alone that a purely scientific approach to curing society’s ills has to answer for. But much of the criticism has little to say about that, instead grousing that the science and reason the book discusses aren’t really about THE Enlightenment, but about principles of the Scottish Enlightenment specifically, and even then only about a subset of principles that Pinker particularly likes. After all, Marx was just a natural extension of the French Enlightenment!

Are you detecting a pattern here?

There are a lot of different kinds of talk about Enlightenment Principles right now. Ben and I write about them a lot. Ben wrote about them back in 2016 in Magical Thinking, and later in Virtue Signaling, or…why Clinton is in Trouble. I wrote about them in short last year in Gandalf, GZA and Granovetter. The remarkable new web publication Quillette provides a platform for writers who are thinking about them. The Heterodox Academy is building a strong core of support for them in universities. Pinker is talking about them. Chomsky has been speaking about them for decades. Hitchens, too, before he passed. In his own way, Taleb is talking about them (although he’d dislike the company I’ve chosen for him thus far). Peterson won’t shut up about them. Many of these same people — and some others — are simultaneously issuing criticisms of what is purported to be a diametrically opposed philosophy. In the early 2000s, the scandalous moniker applied was “Cultural Marxism.” Today this opposition is usually generalized into references to “Neo-Marxism” and “Postmodernism.”

But here’s the biggest shocker. Get out the fainting couch: they’re not all saying the exact same thing.

These are thinkers focused on many different areas, and so there are all sorts of topics where they disagree, sometimes vehemently. All would say that they believe in logic, truth and rationality, I think, but would define those things very differently. Most of the folks in the list above, for example, believe in a rationalism that inherently excludes faith. They are among the most prominent atheists of our time. They typically adhere to empiricism and the scientific method as the primary — even sole — method for transforming observations about the world into predictions. For two of them, Taleb and Peterson, rational thought means also incorporating evolved heuristics, intuition, instinct and long-surviving human traditions. This is not fringe stuff, but the logical conclusion of any serious consideration of Hayek and spontaneous order. It also means particular sensitivity to scientific techniques that end up equating absence of evidence with evidence of absence. All this means when you see many of the above names together, it’s…not always friendly. Like, stuff you can’t really walk back. Even among the two primary authors of this blog there are differences in how we see these things. I haven’t talked to Ben about it, but if I gave him the list of the above, I’d guess he’d hitch his wagon to Hitchens. Me? I’m probably closer to Taleb or Peterson.

Teaching Programming Languages by Experimental and Adversarial Thinking

Justin Pombrio, Shriram Krishnamurthi, Kathi Fisler:

We present a new approach to teaching programming language courses. Its essence is to view programming language learning as a natural science activity, where students probe languages experimentally to understand both the normal and extreme behaviors of their features. This has natural parallels to the ‘‘security mindset’’ of computer security, with languages taking the place of servers and other systems. The approach is modular (with minimal dependencies), incremental (it can be introduced slowly into existing classes), interoperable (it does not need to push out other, existing methods), and complementary (since it introduces a new mode of thinking).

People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect.

Elif Batuman:

Two years ago, Kazushige Nishida, a Tokyo salaryman in his sixties, started renting a part-time wife and daughter. His real wife had recently died. Six months before that, their daughter, who was twenty-two, had left home after an argument and never returned.

“I thought I was a strong person,” Nishida told me, when we met one night in February, at a restaurant near a train station in the suburbs. “But when you end up alone you feel very lonely.” Tall and slightly stooped, Nishida was wearing a suit and a gray tie. He had a deep voice and a gentle, self-deprecating demeanor.

Of course, he said, he still went to work every day, in the sales division of a manufacturing company, and he had friends with whom he could go out for drinks or play golf. But at night he was completely alone. He thought he would feel better over time. Instead, he felt worse. He tried going to hostess clubs. Talking to the ladies was fun, but at the end of the night you were alone again, feeling stupid for having spent so much money.

Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance

Sam Levin:

Rakem Balogun thought he was dreaming when armed agents in tactical gear stormed his apartment. Startled awake by a large crash and officers screaming commands, he soon realized his nightmare was real, and he and his 15-year-old son were forced outside of their Dallas home, wearing only underwear.

Handcuffed and shaking in the cold wind, Balogun thought a misunderstanding must have led the FBI to his door on 12 December 2017. The father of three said he was shocked to later learn that agents investigating “domestic terrorism” had been monitoring him for years and were arresting him that day in part because of his Facebook posts criticizing police.

“It’s tyranny at its finest,” said Balogun, 34. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

Microbes are savvy investors when contributing to the common good

University of Bath:

Scientists investigating the fundamental question in biology as to why individuals have evolved to cooperate rather than simply exploiting the contributions of their rivals, have found that microbes vary their contribution to maximise the return of investment.

A collaboration between the Milner Centre for Evolution and University College London has revealed that microbes act like shrewd economists when cooperating. When they find themselves in groups with mostly relatives they contribute heavily to cooperation, which benefits the group. In contrast, when they are in a group outnumbered by unrelated individuals, they exploit the contributions of the others.

The team studied the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum or slime mould. Slime moulds live in the soil as single-celled organisms, but come together to form a slug-like creature when they run out of food. The newly formed slug will eventually form a fruiting body composed of a stem and spores. This process requires cooperation between the individual amoebae to form a successful fruiting body.

Why So Many Gifted Yet Struggling Students Are Hidden In Plain Sight

Anya Kamenetz:

Scott Barry Kaufman was placed in special education classes as a kid. He struggled with auditory information processing and with anxiety.

But with the support of his mother, and some teachers who saw his creativity and intellectual curiosity, Kaufman ended up with degrees from Yale and Cambridge.

Now he’s a psychologist who cares passionately about a holistic approach to education, one that recognizes the capacity within each child. He recently edited a volume of experts writing about how to reach students like himself: Twice Exceptional: Supporting And Educating Bright And Creative Students With Learning Difficulties.

I spoke with him about ways schools and teachers can help these twice exceptional, or “2E,” students thrive. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

2006: “They’re all rich white kids, and they’ll do just fine – NOT!”

2018: But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Even Privacy Advocates Are Tracking You Online

Joshua Brustein:

The primary purpose of Californians for Consumer Privacy, an advocacy group formed by San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, is to push for a ballot initiative adding restrictions on companies that profit from the collection of personal data. Last week, it gave state officials a petition with over 600,000 signatures, which should be enough to get it in front of voters in November.

Its website, CAPrivacy.org, is pretty much what you’d expect. There are creepy fictional videos portraying people’s birth date, physical location, and potentially embarrassing info about their online purchases (hair loss prevention shampoo) and the apps they use (online poker). Below the videos, there’s a motivating message: “It’s your personal information. Take back control!”

There is one surprising aspect, though. Each time someone visits, software gleans what information it can about her, then sends that information to Facebook, including her IP address, what web pages she was on before and after visiting, and so on. At this point, both the visitor and the website have basically lost control of what happens with that information.

There’s nothing particularly unusual going on here. At least 79 percent of websites globally have one or more trackers that collect data on their users’ online behavior, according to a 2017 study by Ghostery, a company that makes ad blockers and privacy software. Over 21 percent have more than 10 trackers. Google trackers run 60 percent of the time any web page loads; Facebook’s run 27 percent of the time. Both companies have trackers running on CAPrivacy.org, because the group put them there. It may be hard to find a clearer testament to how entrenched such tracking has become as the default setting of the entire internet.

Teacher Appreciation

Dale Coulter:

This week is the time to show appreciation for the teachers in our lives. The official Teacher Appreciation Day is May 8, but the entire week may be set aside. Given the challenges we face in education at all levels, it is important to acknowledge those persons central to the process. Despite administrative bloat and the rise of the online university with its master course models and other mechanisms for automating learning, the teacher remains pivotal.

Classical and medieval education centered on the tutorial. This mentoring model worked with small cohorts of students who were guided through multiple disciplines over the course of years, sometimes by the same person. At the Abbey of St. Victor in the twelfth century, students went through the seven liberal arts under the steady hand of a single master, most likely Hugh of St. Victor until his death in 1144.

The teacher was to embody virtue as well as communicate it, and students traveled thousands of miles to study with the best. Bernard of Clairvaux sent a letter to Hugh of St. Victor recommending a promising Italian named Peter as a student. After studying with Hugh and probably also Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard went on to become bishop of Paris and write the standard textbook for theology.

With the rise of mass education, the tutorial model has been replaced by models that accommodate higher numbers of students. The classroom lecture became the standard way to automate the educational process for most of the twentieth century. This was especially the case in colleges after the explosion of enrollments in the wake of the G.I. Bill. In the classroom, the teacher became the expert whose task was to distill a body of knowledge through interaction with primary sources or by communicating the contents of the curriculum and its texts. The teacher as mentor was woven into the teacher as expert.

After the emergence of developmental psychology in the 1960s, public schools entered the age of self-actualization, with the teacher forming part of a team that included the school counselor. Under this model, the teacher became a social worker who facilitated holistic growth. The mentor model did not go away entirely; rather, it remained in the form of “individualized learning plans” in the context of larger class settings. Class sizes rose steadily, with some teachers facing more than thirty students in a high school class while at the same time being required to individualize assignments so as to accommodate diverse learning styles.

Anyone who has worked in education for any length of time knows that the models keep changing. And yet, the more they change, the more they stay the same. The educational process may have one of two goals: to produce citizens, or to produce workers. America has never decided which goal is the more important. Do we want to turn out citizens who understand the history of the nation and can function as a morally responsible electorate? Or do we want to turn out workers who can enter the workforce immediately and contribute to economic development? The answer is always “yes” to both. In practice, we swing between one pole and the other. Currently, we are swinging away from the citizen pole, which is grounded in the humanities, and toward the worker pole, which is invested in STEM and vocational education.

Graduates of Elite Universities Dominate the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Study Finds

Said Jilani:

Authors Jonathan Wai, a research fellow at Geisinger Health System at the Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, and Kaja Perina, the editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, collected a sample of 1,979 employees working at two of America’s most prominent and influential newspapers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, during 2016.

They set out with a simple question: How many of those employees attended elite schools for college (if they attended college)? The researchers sought to address the question of whether journalism, at the highest level, “is a profession only of the culturally elite,” or it is also “a profession of the cognitively elite.” They did not have access to individual employees’ SAT scores or academic performance, so, pulling information from staffers’ LinkedIn profiles, they looked at schools as a proxy for cognitive ability — with the assumption that highly selective schools mostly admit people with very high academic achievement.

There are, of course, problems with using SAT scores to define a “cognitive elite.” Factors such as race and class have been shown to affect performance on standardized tests, as well as admissions to elite schools.

Perina acknowledged that their study is not all-encompassing. “There are cognitively elite students at many schools; they just cluster in numbers in the ones we identified obviously,” she told The Intercept. “The fact is the combination of social networks plus high ability tends to get these people out of the Ivy Leagues and into these top papers with much more frequency.”

A $24 million New York City program was supposed to prepare more black and Latino men for college. But a new study found it

Alex Zimmerman:

With just 10 percent of male students of color graduating “college ready” at the time, city officials hoped to boost that number by giving extra money and support to schools that already made strides getting those students to graduation. With extra resources, the theory went, those same schools might be able to nudge young men of color into college while the city studied and replicated their approaches.

But after four years and $24 million, the program has not lived up to its promise, according to a report released Wednesday by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Schools in the program turned out to be no better at preparing young men of color for college or helping them enroll than a group of similar schools that didn’t receive extra support.

“The aspirations were very high,” said Adriana Villavicencio, the lead author of the study, which, like the initiative itself, was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. “[The initiative] was not able to move the needle on a number of student outcomes — in particular college readiness and coll

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – NOT!

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

On Britain’s intellectual decline

Stumbling & Bumbling:

The commemorations of Marx’s 200th birthday have done at least one thing: they’ve reminded me of Britain’s abject intellectual decline.

Listen, for example, to this debate about Marx (34 min in); Paul Mason’s interlocutor couldn’t tell the difference between Marx and a bucket of fish.

Contrast this with a few decades ago. Then, if you wanted a critical assessment of Marx, you might reasonably have asked Leszek Kolakowski, Samuel Hollander or Isaiah Berlin – men who, agree with them or not, knew what they were talking about. Today, his most high-profile critics are ignorant gobshites.

This, however, is but one example of the intellectual decline of public life. For me, the BBC’s recent series, Civilisations, contrasted horribly with Clark’s version. Most programmes seemed to be random observations with no narrative flow – and directors who lacked the courage to have the camera linger on the art as Clark’s did.

In the same vein, compare Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man to, say, Brian Cox.

Ditching the satnav: the lost secrets of natural navigation

Stuart Heritage:

Tristan Gooley has got me lost in the middle of London – which, I’ll admit, isn’t a terribly huge achievement. I’m routinely lost in the middle of London. My journeys tend to consist of a hard stare at a map app, 50 paces in the wrong direction and then a kind of abject sustained fumble until I arrive at wherever I’m supposed to be 10 minutes after I’m supposed to be there. And that’s me with Google Maps. Without Google Maps, I’m 80% sure I would have given up and moved into a ditch some years ago.

However, this time is different. Gooley, often known as the Natural Navigator, has got me lost on purpose. He’s covered my eyes and led me by the arm through the backstreets of central London, taking time to spin me around every now and again for maximum disorientation. And now, right in the middle of nowhere, he’s asked me to take him to one specific Oxford Street branch of Wasabi.

“Remember what I said,” he tells me. I look up. The sun is directly in front of me, throwing all manner of shadows in my direction. It’s lunchtime, so that means I must be facing south. The clouds, too, are lazily drifting from west to east, just as they were last time my eyes were open. I tentatively make my way towards the sun and, miraculously, I find myself on Oxford Street. Then I follow the clouds eastwards and, bingo, I’ve got to where I need to be.

Warren Buffett Says All But 3 American Newspapers Are Doomed (Video)

Jon Levine:

During a Q&A session at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, company chief Warren Buffett said he only saw longterm success for three American newspapers.

“No one except the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and now probably the Washington Post has come up with a digital product that really in any significant way will replace the revenue that is being lost as print newspapers lose both circulation and advertising,” said Buffett as he fielded questions alongside longtime colleague Charlie Munger. “‘It is very difficult to see — with a lack of success in terms of important dollars rising from digital — it’s difficult to see how the print product survives over time.”

The legendary investor was quick to minimalize the financial impacts to his company, but said the bigger loss was for the United States.

Federal prisons abruptly cancel policy that made it harder, costlier for inmates to get books

Ann Marimow:

Federal prison officials abruptly reversed a controversial policy Thursday that had made it harder and more expensive for thousands of inmates to receive books by banning direct delivery through the mail from publishers, bookstores and book clubs.

The restrictions were already in place in facilities in Virginia and California and were set to start this month at a prison in Florida.

Under the rules, inmates in at least four facilities were required to order books only through a prison-approved vendor and, at three of the prisons, to pay an extra 30 percent markup.

The reversal came after two days’ of inquiries from The Washington Post asking about the vendor, the markup and the rationale for the restriction.

Math from Three to Seven

Math from Three to Seven:

A question of culture

When I was a grad student at UC Berkeley (in the late 1980s), it was under- stood, among my American classmates, that the Eastern Europeans were simply better. They weren’t genetically superior; indeed, many of my Amer- ican classmates, myself included, were themselves descended from Eastern European immigrants. And we knew that we weren’t stupid. Many of us had excelled at mathematical olympiads, even at the international level. But at Berkeley, the Eastern Europeans — students and faculty alike — were known for their intensity.

American-dominated seminars might last for one polite hour; in contrast, a Russian or Rumanian seminar would go on for an entire argumentative evening. Some of us joked that the Russians really came from the planet Krypton, attaining super powers when they came to live among us.

All joking aside, we fledgling mathematicians understood that the single most important thing was not raw intelligence or knowledge (Americans tend to lag behind in the latter compared to all international students). What mattered was passion. The way to become successful in mathematics, like almost every endeavor, is to care about it, to love it, to obsess over it. And in this, Eastern Europeans had a clear superiority, a cultural advantage. They had been trained, from an early age, to love mathematics more intensely.

For many years, dating from at least the Sputnik era, America has suf- fered from an educational inferiority complex. We try to catch up, hunting for the secret ingredients that other nations use. Should we adopt the Sin- gapore curriculum? Put our kids in after-school Kumon programs? Teach them meditation? Yoga?

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; examining the practices of oth- ers’ is bound to be enriching. But it’s not the ingredients that really matter.

There is no single magical special sauce. What you need is a culture of in- tellectual inquiry, and one that fits.

Related: Math Forum.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

How high school sports made me a better person

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Going through high school can feel like walking around with a severe sunburn where every touch can be a painful reminder of our vulnerability. Some students deal with it by joining social cliques or bands, or by becoming bullies or loners. Some deal by joining sports teams. That’s what I did and it changed not only my high school experience for the better, but also my future as an adult.

For most high school athletes, the sport we play isn’t just about winning the game, it’s also about defining our individuality among the hundreds of other students in our school. Sure, we want to be heroes on the court or field by winning games, but we also want to win the admiration of classmates and teachers. At the same time, sports allow us to build an insular world of teammates that have our backs off the court during those exposed teenage years in which no amount of padding, blocking or setting screens can protect the fragile heart from all the insecurities we face.

West High senior Charles Hua named presidential scholar

Amber Walker:

Nearly 7,500 students have earned the presidential scholar title since 1964. The other Wisconsin honorees this year are Xavier Lightfoot from Pius XI Catholic High School, Nabeel J. Quryshi from the University School of Milwaukee, Julian Rhee from Brookfield East High School and Sophia F. Sun from Brookfield Central High School.

The most recent presidential scholar from Dane County was Gabriel A. Saiz, also from West High School, who received the honor in 2016. In 2013, Hua’s sister Amy was also named a presidential scholar.

One City CEO Selected to Participate in Distinguished Fellowship Program

One City Schools, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

On Monday May 7, the Pahara and Aspen Institutes announced a new class of leaders that were selected to participate in the distinguished Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship. One City’s Founder and CEO, Kaleem Caire, will join 23 other leaders in this highly prized two-year fellowship program.

The Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship is a two-year, cohort-based program that identifies exceptional leaders in the educational excellence and equity movement, facilitates their dynamic growth, and strengthens their collective efforts to dramatically improve public schools, especially those serving low-income children and communities.

The Fellowship is a partnership between the Pahara and Aspen Institutes. The Aspen Institute has created a leadership development model through its renowned Henry Crown Fellowship program, which focuses on inspiring Fellows to make a lasting difference in their spheres of influence through the application of effective and enlightened leadership. Pahara-Aspen Fellows become part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which currently includes more than 2,500 Fellows from over 50 countries who are collectively making tremendous positive change in the world. Click here to review the full press release and learn more about the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship.

Donna Hurd and Joseph Krupp to Lead One City’s Board of Directors

At its annual retreat on May 5, 2018, One City’s Board of Directors elected Madison business and civic leaders Donna Hurd and Joe Krupp to lead the Board. Donna will serve a two-year term as One City’s Board Chair and Joseph Krupp will serve a two-year term as Vice Chair. Torrey Jaeckle of Jaeckle Distributors, was also elected to continue as Board Treasurer.

Donna has served as the Director of Administration for Perkins Coie LLP since September 2013, where she manages the Madison Office, supervises all non-attorney staff, maintains positive contact with internal and external clients and is responsible for the fiscal management of the office. Prior to Perkins Coie, Donna was the Executive Director for Boardman & Clark law firm of Madison. She currently serves as President of the Rotary Club of Madison, President of Board of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools and is a member of the Literacy Network’s Board of Directors. Her term as Rotary President expires this summer. When she’s not volunteering her services to the community, Donna enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.

Joe is currently the owner of Prime Urban Properties, a local real estate development and management company involved in both commercial and multi-family projects. He founded Krupp General Contractors in 1976 and served as the CEO for 35 years until retirement in 2006. In addition, Joe is a founding partner in the local restaurant group Food Fight Inc. and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He is also a proud University of Wisconsin-Madison alum who has been active in industry organizations and has served on numerous community boards of directors. He and his wife Diana Grove were early supporters of One City’s first capital campaign and he served as the campaign’s co-chair.

Torrey is vice president and co-owner of Jaeckle Distributors, a business started by his grandfather in 1958. Jaeckle Distributors is based in Madison and employees 115 people (50 in Dane County), with branches in Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis. They distribute floor coverings and countertop surfacing materials throughout the Midwest to floor covering retailers, contractors, and countertop fabricators.

Torrey is a native Madisonian. He attended Edgewood High School and later the University of Wisconsin Madison where he received his BBA in Finance and Marketing in 1995. After college, he joined his family’s business. He and his brother now run the business full time and are the third generation of Jaeckles to lead the company. For six years, Torrey served on the board of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors, holding the position of president in 2016. On a personal level, Mr. Jaeckle first and foremost enjoys spending time with his wife Stephanie and their two daughters. He also enjoys the outdoors, reading, writing, his hometown and state sports teams, and playing poker.

Click here for more information on One City’s Board of Directors.

Notes and links:

One City Schools

Kaleem Caire

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

“But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.”

Hilde Kahn, via Will Fitzhugh:

One of few bright spots in the just-released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results was an increase in the number of students reaching “advanced” level in both math and reading at the 4th- and 8th-grades.

But the results masked large racial and economic disparities. While 30 percent of Asian students and 13 percent of white students scored advanced on the 8th-grade math test, for example, just 2 percent of blacks, 4 percent of Hispanics, and 3 percent of low-income students reached that level.

The highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in suburban Washington, D.C., known as TJ, offers a window into a significant source of the disparity, and suggests a solution to the problem.

A recent survey of TJ parents revealed that Asian-American students, who make up a disproportionate percentage of students admitted to elite public STEM schools like TJ, are spending their afternoons, weekends, and breaks learning math.

Most of them enroll in advanced math classes as early as possible in their school careers, even though by their parents’ admission fewer than one third of them are highly gifted in math. But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.

Instead, they make sure that at every step of the way their children have access to high-quality extra-curricular math that prepares them for, clarifies, complements, and extends the instruction they’re obtaining in their accelerated public school programs.

If we’re really serious about increasing the number of low-income students and students from underrepresented groups who are learning math at the level required to contribute to our increasingly computational world, we should take a page from the playbook of those who are already successful: We should provide high-quality math enrichment for many more kids, as early in their educational lives as possible.

In focusing in recent years on raising the bottom of the learning curve, the nation has neglected those at the top, essentially ignoring the growing “excellence gap” between groups of high-performing students. But this is not the only reason that the gap has been growing.

Even when policymakers and administrators have made closing the excellence gap a priority, they have had little success because they have focused almost exclusively on expanding access to public school advanced programs. Unfortunately, increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in advanced programs has not automatically led to increased achievement. That’s because, as the families of the most successful students recognize, even the most advanced programs at the best public schools are insufficient to prepare students to achieve at the highest levels.

In focusing in recent years on raising the bottom of the learning curve, the nation has neglected those at the top, essentially ignoring the growing “excellence gap” between groups of high-performing students. But this is not the only reason that the gap has been growing.

Even when policymakers and administrators have made closing the excellence gap a priority, they have had little success because they have focused almost exclusively on expanding access to public school advanced programs. Unfortunately, increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in advanced programs has not automatically led to increased achievement. That’s because, as the families of the most successful students recognize, even the most advanced programs at the best public schools are insufficient to prepare students to achieve at the highest levels.

Nor are the families of successful students the only ones who know the secret to STEM success. Education experts have long been aware that extra-curricular math is essential for high-level math achievement.

Almost 20 years ago, a College Board task force found that “some of the most academically successful groups in our society have created a network of supplementary opportunities for their children that may best be described as a parallel educational system.” The panel recommended that “a much more extensive set of supplementary education institutions and programs…for minority students should be deliberately designed to provide the breadth of supplementary opportunities available to many youngsters from more educationally advantaged and successful groups.”

The reason we haven’t implemented the suggested programs is because providing students from underrepresented groups with years of quality math enrichment takes time, money, faith in the ability of students to prevail against all odds, and a willingness to acknowledge the limits of our educational system—all of which are in short supply. It is far more politically expedient to heed repeated calls for quick-fix measures such as admission quotas for exam schools like TJ that alter the numbers while doing nothing to provide students with needed skills.

In addition to the above challenges, misguided beliefs about the causes of the excellence gap hinder our ability to reverse it.

Myth 1: The excellence gap is primarily a result of socioeconomic disparities.

At New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School, the school with the City’s most competitive admissions process, 68 percent of students admitted to the Class of 2022 were Asian; and at TJ, 65 percent of students admitted to this fall’s class were Asian. In both cases, most of these Asian students were the children of immigrants.

But the similarities end there. At TJ, 61 percent of families with two Asian immigrant parents have incomes over $200,000 per year and 76 percent have advanced degrees. In fact, only seven of the 485 students admitted to this fall’s class were eligible for free or reduced lunch. At Stuyvesant, however, Asian students make up the overwhelming majority of the 45 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Yet, despite financial and other constraints, Stuyvesant’s low-income Asian students obtain high-quality math enrichment, and it is perhaps even more critical to their success than it is to the success of TJ’s upper-middle-class Asian students.

Myth 2: The excellence gap is primarily a result of cultural, or even innate, differences.

Asian immigrant parents have high expectations for their children’s academic performance and believe hard work matters more than natural ability. They prioritize education, sacrificing time, money, and other goals in order to give their children the best chance at a better future. And they bring a competitive approach to education from their home countries.

These factors undoubtedly contribute to their children’s academic success. But cultural norms do not automatically lead to learning. Whatever the bright children of Asian immigrant parents are doing to master challenging math topics at younger and younger ages, other bright children can do as well.

Every diverse urban and suburban school district in this country would benefit from an intensive STEM enrichment program that targets capable students from underrepresented groups and begins as early as possible. Such programs should also embrace features of successful extra-curricular academies that serve low-income Asian students, including outreach to parents and an emphasis on fostering an environment where it’s not only OK to be good at math but where students are admired for their genuine interest, aptitude, and perseverance. Sadly, very few such programs exist, and most of them are underfunded.

One is Boston’s well-financed Steppingstone Academy, which provides summer, after-school, and weekend enrichment to low-income students, beginning in 5th- or 6th-grade. It has been phenomenally successful in increasing opportunities for students, 90 percent of whom gain admission to their schools of choice, including competitive public magnet schools.

Another promising program is New York City’s BEAM (Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics) program, which identifies 6th grade students from low-income neighborhoods and provides intensive math instruction, relying heavily on curriculum from Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). Thanks to a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation grant, BEAM recently expanded to Los Angeles.

In a pilot program intended to test the benefits of reaching students at younger ages, an AoPS academy recently partnered with the foundation that supports the STEM magnet at Montgomery Blair High School (Blair Magnet) located across the river from TJ in Montgomery County, Maryland. The program, the Magnet Pipeline Project, aims to provide three years of after-school or weekend math enrichment to select students, beginning in 3rd grade, with the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students admitted to the middle-school program that feeds into the Blair Magnet. The foundation has raised about $20,000 toward the cost of the program, largely from Blair Magnet alumni.

For its part, TJ provides summer STEM courses, mentorships, and test-prep for underrepresented 7th- and 8th-graders through a program launched with Cooke Foundation funding. And a company run by a TJ alum provides free test-prep for 8th-graders applying to the school. But these programs have had limited effect because they aren’t reaching students early enough with the kind of math enrichment that makes a real difference.

We’re going to need a lot more leadership and significantly more funding to ensure that programs like these succeed, and to spread the most successful ones to other school districts. We’ll need the support of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who know very well what it takes to achieve at the highest levels and who constantly complain of the lack of diversity in their applicant pool.

We’ll also need buy-in from other STEM industry leaders who consider themselves stewards of their communities and likewise suffer from a lack of available talent. Closing the excellence gap should be the highest philanthropic priority of all who value what is most precious about this country, the unlimited opportunities it provides to those willing to put in the hard work.

Thirty-five years ago, A Nation at Risk linked the end of America’s industrial dominance to a scarcity of workers with sufficient technological training and blamed both on our educational system, which it recognized as the institution responsible for ensuring that all children fulfill their potential. The report’s warning is no less compelling today.

It is both a moral and political imperative that every student be able to reach his or her potential. In an era when Americans compete for jobs against, as well as work alongside, the graduates of educational systems from around the world, it is no longer enough that our strongest students graduate from college; they must enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in a global economy.

Now that technology is available to do much of the easy work, our best graduates must be prepared for the complex work of building, training, and working with existing technologies, inventing new ones, and mastering any number of unknown and unpredictable challenges. Eliminating excellence gaps is therefore nothing less than “an issue of equity and social justice, community development, economic advancement, and national security.”

Instead of viewing the excellence gap as a symbol of systemic failure, we should follow the lead of parents of the most successful students and aim to provide students from underrepresented groups with the most powerful extra-curricular interventions money can buy—even as we redouble our efforts to ensure that schools provide advanced course work for talented students of every background.

Hilde Kahn is the parent of three Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology graduates and served for nine years on the board of the school’s private foundation.


“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!.

English 10

TAG Complaint

Small Learning Communities

Round and round and round and round we go.

One college finally designed a liberal arts education fit for the future of work

Jenny Anderson:

But Spencer also has firsthand experience with the importance of purposeful work. She pursued ambition, not purpose, when she became an assistant United States attorney in Boston, prosecuting drug rings, arson, and embezzlement. But it didn’t quite fit: she didn’t see the world in black and white, as a prosecutor must, and she wanted to fix problems with a team by looking forward, not try cases looking back. “Being a trial lawyer — and particularly a criminal prosecutor — was the wrong fit for me at a very fundamental level,” she said.

She then spent 15 years at Harvard working with four different presidents, thinking a lot about what, exactly, a liberal arts education is, and should be. She enjoyed staying in the background, until Bates called. If Harvard was an ocean liner, Bates is a Laser sailboat, small and nimble, with a rich history of bucking trends. And now she’s in charge.

New tell-all budget document details how much the Denver school district spends on libraries, lawyers, and more (Madison spends nearly double)

Melanie Asmar:

The document, called the Budget Transparency Guidebook, details how the state’s largest school district spends the $10,806 it budgets for each of its 92,600 students. Most of that money – $6,854 per student – goes directly to schools to spend as they see fit.

The rest – $3,952 per student – is spent on services that benefit schools but are budgeted centrally. The document provides a description of each service and what it costs.

It’s a bold move, but perhaps not a surprising one from a district unafraid to experiment with new and controversial ideas, such as giving all district-run schools the flexibility to choose their own curriculum, or encouraging all students to request to attend any school in the district.

The goal, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said, is to be more upfront with taxpayers about how Denver Public Schools spends its money. The district has asked Denver voters three times in the past decade to approve tax increases to benefit schools. Their willingness to do so is one of the reasons Denver can afford to spend about $10,000 per student although the state sends less than that. Colorado ranks nearer to the bottom than the top in the country for education spending.

The citizens budget is now long forgotten.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Stoneman Douglas Shooter Was Assigned To Controversial Broward Discipline Program, Officials Now Say

Jessica Bakeman:

Broward school district officials admitted Sunday that the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman was assigned to a controversial disciplinary program, after the superintendent repeatedly claimed Nikolas Cruz had “no connection” to the alternative punishment designed to limit on-campus arrests.

Two sources with knowledge of Cruz’s discipline records told WLRN he was referred to the so-called PROMISE Program for a three-day stint after committing vandalism at Westglades Middle School in 2013.

When asked for a response, a spokeswoman for Superintendent Robert Runcie stated on Friday that district administrators were aggressively analyzing Cruz’s records. Then Tracy Clark said on Sunday afternoon the district had “confirmed” Cruz’s referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.

However, it’s unclear if Cruz ever attended the program.

Clark said he appeared at Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale — an alternative school facility where PROMISE is housed — for an intake interview the day after the vandalism incident.

But, she said, “It does not appear that Cruz completed the recommended three-day assignment/placement.” She said she did not want to “speculate” as to why.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office has also said Cruz didn’t attend PROMISE.

Facebook is using Instagram photos to train its image recognition AI

Lars Rehm:

At its F8 developers conference Facebook not only revealed a number of new Instagram features, the company also talked about how it is using the billions of images on Instagram to train the world’s most accurate image recognition systems.

Training deep learning models for image and object recognition is typically a very labor-intensive task, as each training image has to be looked at and labeled by human workers. This is a serious limitation to the size of training image databases; however, Facebook has found a way to reduce human supervision in the training process by using images that are already labeled… with Instagram hashtags.

‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale

Ste-hen Chen:

Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors.

But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company.

The company said it could increase the overall efficiency of the workers by manipulating the frequency and length of break times to reduce mental stress.
Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric is just one example of the large-scale application of brain surveillance devices to monitor people’s emotions and other mental activities in the workplace, according to scientists and companies involved in the government-backed projects.
Concealed in regular safety helmets or uniform hats, these lightweight, wireless sensors constantly monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage.