Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem

Eric Bennett:

Can the average humanities professor be blamed if she rises in the morning, checks the headlines, shivers, looks in the mirror, and beholds a countenance of righteous and powerless innocence? Whatever has happened politically to the United States, it’s happened in stark opposition to the values so many philosophers and English professors, historians and art historians, creative writers and interdisciplinary scholars of race, class, and gender hold dear.

We are, after all, the ones to include diverse voices on the syllabus, use inclusive language in the classroom, teach stories of minority triumph, and, in our conference papers, articles, and monographs, lay bare the ideological mechanisms that move the cranks and offices of a neoliberal economy. Since the Reagan era our classrooms have mustered their might against thoughtless bigotry, taught critical thinking, framed the plight and extolled the humanity of the disadvantaged, and denounced all patriotism that curdles into chauvinism.

We’ve published books like Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The Signifying Monkey, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Ethics of Identity — treatises that marshal humane nuance against prejudice, essentialism, propaganda, and demagogic charisma.

We’ve cast out Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Steve Bannon, but also Allan Bloom, Jordan Peterson, Richard J. Herrnstein, and Charles Murray. Our manner has been academic, but our matter has been political, and we have fought hard. So how have we ended up in these ominous political straits?

Civics: NSA collected 500 million U.S. call records in 2017, a sharp rise: official report

Duston Volz:

The sharp increase to 534 million call records from 151 million occurred during the second full year of a new surveillance system established at the spy agency after U.S. lawmakers passed a law in 2015 that sought to limit its ability to collect such records in bulk. The reason for the spike was not immediately clear.

The tally remained far less than an estimated billions of records collected per day under the NSA’s old bulk surveillance system, which was exposed by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

The metadata records collected by the NSA include the numbers and time of a call, but not its content.

Teacher turnover in relation to comparable professions: Evidence from a repeated cross-sectional design

Thomas Goldring:

An important issue in education policy is whether the national rate of teacher turnover in the U.S. is higher than expected. A study by Harris and Adams [Harris, D. N. and Adams, S. J. (2007). Understanding the level and causes of teacher turnover: A comparison with other professions. Economics of Education Review] compares teach- ers to arguably similar vocational professions, including nursing, social work, and accounting. In this paper I build upon Harris and Adams (2007) by conducting a repeated cross-sectional analysis of teacher turnover in relation to other professions. I find that the rate of teacher turnover has remained strikingly stable over time at around 8 percent and exhibits less variation than comparable professions. Teachers and nurses share similar rates of turnover. A decline in the labor force leaver rate among older teachers approaching retirement explains a small decrease in the overall turnover rate between 2001 and 2017.

It’s COBOL All the Way Down

Glenn Fleishman:

Sixty years later, you’d expect COBOL to be the stuff of looping narrative videos at computer-history museums (in fact, there’s part of a floor devoted to mainframes at Seattle’s Living Computers museum, where you can see the old giants in action); maybe you’d hear the name COBOL used in an introductory lecture on computer science to explain how far we’ve come, and chuckle.

Instead, COBOL remains widely and actively used across the financial system, with no good plan for transitioning to modern codebases, nor for keeping a viable coder workforce active. That’s a problem, because while some schools still teach COBOL and many outsourcing firms train employees in it to meet their employers’ needs, it’s not enough. Someone has to maintain an estimated hundreds of billions of lines of COBOL that remain in use, with billions more being written each year for maintenance and new features.

Civics: The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper

BJ Campbell:

If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.” If you don’t believe my presumed probability, cook up your own, based on whatever givens and data pool you’d like, and plug it in. The equations are right up there. Steelman my argument in whatever way you like, and the answer will still probably scare you.

Eyes on the Horizon
In 2010, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria, accounting for 14% of their entire GDP. Eight years later, they have almost half a million dead citizens, and ten million more displaced into Europe. They didn’t see this coming, because if they did, they would have fled sooner. Nobody notices the signs of impending doom unless they’re looking carefully.

Further, the elites of a nation rarely take it on the chin. They can hop on a plane. The poor, disenfranchised, and defenseless experience the preponderance of the suffering, violence, and death. They’re the ones that should be worried.

Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy.

Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon. Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.

Why Silicon Valley can’t fix itself

Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel:

The hub of the new tech humanism is the Center for Humane Technology in San Francisco. Founded earlier this year, the nonprofit has assembled an impressive roster of advisers, including investor Roger McNamee, Lyft president John Zimmer, and Rosenstein. But its most prominent spokesman is executive director Tristan Harris, a former “design ethicist” at Google who has been hailed by the Atlantic magazine as “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”. Harris has spent years trying to persuade the industry of the dangers of tech addiction. In February, Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, launched a related initiative: the Tech and Society Solutions Lab, which aims to “maximise the tech industry’s contributions to a healthy society”.

As suspicion of Silicon Valley grows, the tech humanists are making a bid to become tech’s loyal opposition. They are using their insider credentials to promote a particular diagnosis of where tech went wrong and of how to get it back on track. For this, they have been getting a lot of attention. As the backlash against tech has grown, so too has the appeal of techies repenting for their sins. The Center for Humane Technology has been profiled – and praised by – the New York Times, the Atlantic, Wired and others.

But tech humanism’s influence cannot be measured solely by the positive media coverage it has received. The real reason tech humanism matters is because some of the most powerful people in the industry are starting to speak its idiom. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has warned about social media’s role in encouraging “mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions”, and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey recently claimed he wants to improve the platform’s “conversational health”.

In just 7 months, the US public domain will get its first infusion since 1998

Boing Boing:

In 1998, the US Congress retroactively extended the copyright on US works, placing public domain works back into copyright and forestalling the entry into the public domain of a great mass of works that were soon to become public domain; now, 20 years later with no copyright term extension in sight, the US public domain is about to receive the first of many annual infusions to come, a great mass of works that will be free for all to use.

Included in the 2019 tranche: William Carlos Williams’s The Great American Novel; Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim, and Cecil B DeMille’s 10 Commandments.

Discussing less than 1% of the Milwaukee School District’s $1,170,000,000 budget

Annysa Johnson:

“Eighty-eight cents of every dollar we spend is in the schools, so every reduction we make will impact schools directly,” said Driver, who had brought forward a number of potential cost-saving measures, including changes to employee benefits and busing, that were rejected by board members.

“It’s very difficult to make those choices. But when you are trying to preserve music and art and small class sizes, and trying to make sure programs continue, these are the tough choices that need to be made.”

The teachers union criticized the proposal, saying it disproportionately affects students in the classroom rather than central-office administrators and that it fails to adequately compensate teachers and others who have the greatest impact on the daily lives of students.

“We’re looking at class sizes for 4-year-olds that are nearing 40 children in a classroom … and we’re nearing 50 in high schools,” said Amy Mizialko, vice president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. “We need as many capable staff as we can get inside schools and interfacing with children in classrooms every single day. That’s where we make a difference.”

Spending increases annually. Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student.

Khan Academy And LSAC To Offer Free LSAT Prep, Beginning In June

ABA Journal:

A free online LSAT prep program from Khan Academy and the Law School Admission Council, announced in 2017, will be available to the public starting June 1.

The collaboration between the LSAC and the nonprofit online platform, known for its large library of interactive math courses, includes two practice tests. One assesses skills, and the other determines the taker’s progress toward his or her goal LSAT score. The product also develops practice plans based on the user’s desired score, and offers practice questions with step-by-step explanations. Beta testing, with 7,600 people, starts April 30. A video about the offering can be seen here.

Khan Academy already offers test prep materials for the GMAT, the MCAT and the SAT. For the SAT, 20 hours of practice with the Khan Academy product is associated with an average 115-point score increase from the PSAT to the SAT, says Salman Khan, a former hedge-fund analyst who started Khan Academy in 2008.

On Inequality

Daniel Shaviro:

NYU Law Professor Daniel Shaviro shares his thoughts on how luck relates to inequality, using “Moneyball” and “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis as an example. Learn more about Professor Daniel Shaviro’s views on income inequality:

TCR Academy Pilot

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email:

Many secondary teachers of History either do not have or do not take the opportunity to do serious research on a History topic of their own. The TCR Academy, modeled after the TCR Summer Program for secondary students, offers teachers a two-week workshop where they will receive encouragement, guidance, and mentoring as they work on a 6,000-word (or more) History research paper on a topic which they have chosen to examine.

This Historical research will allow them to refresh their research and writing skills, and to learn more about a Historical topic which they may be teaching to students in the year(s) to come. They will recover the satisfactions that come from deepening their knowledge of History. There is a good chance that they will also be better History teachers as a result of this experience, and they will be much more likely to ask their students to work on a History research paper when they return to their schools.

The TCR Academy in 2019 will be in Chicago, and the cost is $4,500 for the two-week residential program. A few scholarships are available for this Pilot Program, but if teachers can bring professional development funds with them, that will be a big help. For more information, contact Will Fitzhugh, founder, The Concord Review, at

The Concord Review.



Since the 1956 Dartmouth conference, artificial intelligence has alternated between periods of great enthusiasm and disillusionment, impressive progress and frustrating failures. Yet, it has relentlessly pushed back the limits of what was only thought to be achievable by human beings. Along the way, AI research has achieved significant successes: outperforming human beings in complex games (chess, Go), understanding natural language, etc. It has also played a critical role in the history of mathematics and information technology. Consider how many softwares that we now take for granted once represented a major breakthrough in AI: chess game apps, online translation programmes, etc.
Its visionary nature makes AI one of the most fascinating scientific endeavors of our time; and as such its development has always been accompanied by the wildest, most alarming and far-fetched fantasies that have deeply colored the general population’s ideas about AI and the way researchers themselves relate to their own discipline. (Science) fiction, fantasy and mass projections have accompanied the development of artificial intelligence and sometimes influence its long-term objectives: evidence of this can be seen in the wealth of works of fiction on the subject, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Her, Blade Runner and a significant proportion of literary science fiction. Finally, it is probably this relationship between fictional projections and scientific research which constitutes the essence of what is known as AI. Fantasies—often ethnocentric and based on underlying political ideologies—thus play a major role, albeit frequently disregarded, in the direction this discipline is evolving in.

Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty

Mitchell Langbert:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, faculty political affiliations at 39 percent of the colleges in my sample are Republican free—having zero Republicans. The political registration in most of the remaining 61 percent, with a few important exceptions, is slightly more than zero percent but nevertheless absurdly skewed against Republican affiliation and in favor of Democratic affiliation. Thus, 78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.
My sample of 8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News 2017 report consists of 5,197, or 59.8 percent, who are registered either Republican or Democrat. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio (D:R) across the sample is 10.4:1, but because of an anomaly in the definition of what constitutes a liberal arts college in the U.S. News survey, I include two military colleges, West Point and Annapolis.1 If these are excluded, the D:R ratio is a whopping 12.7:1.

Karachi becoming a killing field for newborn girls

Fakhar Durrani :

In February this year, an anonymous caller rang at Edhi Center in Karachi. He informed about a dead body dumped in garbage. As the staffers reached at the venue, they were aghast at the barbarity.

They found a dead body of a new born. It was a four-day girl whose throat was slit with a sharp knife. While girls were buried in pre-Islamic period as unwanted creature, cruel souls in Karachi are a step ahead: they kill and throw them at garbage. This nameless girl is not the only victim of barbarity. From January 2017 to April 2018, Edhi foundation and Chhipa Welfare organisation have found 345 such new born babies dumped in garbage in Karachi only and 99 percent of them were girls.

Rural Kansas is dying. I drove 1,800 miles to find out why

Corie Brown:

Most Americans experience Kansas from inside their cars, eight hours of cruise-controlled tedium on their way to someplace else. Even residents of the state’s eastern power centers glimpse its vast rural spaces at 85 mph, if at all.

But on recent trips back, I wanted to really see my home state—so I avoided I-70, the zippy east/west thoroughfare. The slower pace paid off in moments of heart-stopping beauty. At dawn, outside Courtland, wisps of morning mist floated above the patchwork of farms that gently rolled out all around me. Driving up a slight incline, I had a 360-degree panorama to a distant horizon. And that is when I realized what was missing. As far as I could see, there was an utter lack of people. The only other sign of human life was a farm truck roaring down a string-straight road toward the edge of the earth.

Contributing to a ‘More Perfect Union’: Mathematica Study of Civic Engagement of Students at Democracy Prep Is Encouraging but Only a Beginning

Robert Pondisco:

“The effectiveness of public schools in developing engaged citizens has rarely been examined empirically,” notes a new Mathematica report on the impact on civic participation of Democracy Prep, a network of charter schools that educates more than 5,000 students, mostly in New York City. Perhaps not, but it’s certainly been assumed. We remain sentimentally attached to a gauzy myth of the American common school ideal and its presumed role in citizen-making, even without evidence of its effectiveness.

The number of Democracy Prep alumni who are of voting age is relatively small. Founded in 2006, and with 22 schools in five cities, the network only graduated its first class in 2013. But Mathematica’s study, using the most conservative interpretation of its data, found that “Democracy Prep increases the voter registration rates of its students by about 16 percentage points and increases the voting rates of its students by about 12 percentage points.” As a summary from the American Enterprise Institute notes, “the raw numbers were even stronger, a 24-point increase in both, which suggest Democracy Prep doubled its students’ likelihood to register and vote.”

UK Home Office told thousands of foreign students to leave UK in error

Robert Wright:

The Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 foreign students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result.

A large majority of the students who were accused of cheating have not been allowed to appeal against the Home Office decision, obtain the evidence against them, or meet officials face-to-face so the quality of their English can be assessed.

The harsh treatment of the foreign students, who were in the UK legally, showed the extent to which the “hostile environment” policy, introduced by Theresa May, the prime minister, during her time as home secretary had taken root at the department, according to Patrick Lewis, an immigration barrister.

Von Neumann’s First Computer Program

Donald Knuth:

An analysis of the two earliest sets of instruction codes planned for stored program computers, and the earliest extant program for such a computer, gives insight into the thoughts of John yon Neumann, the man who designed the
instruction sets and wrote the program, and shows how several important aspects of computing have evolved. The paper is based on previously unpubhshed documents from the files of Herman H. Goldstine.

Key words and phrases:
electronic computers, computer history, stored program computers, machine organization and architecture, sorting, latency time, ENIAC,
EDVAC, order code, programming techniqu

How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley

Corey Pein:

Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: “What’s your space?” Not “How’s it going?” Not “Where are you from?” But: “What’s your space?”

This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. “What’s your space?” meant “What does your company do?” This was not quite the same as asking: “What do you do for a living?” because one’s company may well produce no living at all. A “space” had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say “I’m a writer”. You would say “I’m in the content space”, or, if you were more ambitious, “I’m in the media space”. But if you were really ambitious you would know that “media” was out and “platforms” were in, and that the measure – excuse me, the “metric” – that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked “What’s your space?” and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say “I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja”.

In my former life I would have sooner gouged out my own eyeballs than describe myself in such a way, but in post-recession, post-boom, post-work, post-shame San Francisco, we all did what we had to do to survive.

I was beginning to become acquainted with the infinite solipsism of my new milieu. We were grown men who lived like captive gerbils, pressing one lever to make food appear and another for some fleeting entertainment – everything on demand. Airbnb and Foodpanda served the flesh, Netflix and Lifehacker nourished the soul.

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete

James Somers:

The scientific paper—the actual form of it—was one of the enabling inventions of modernity. Before it was developed in the 1600s, results were communicated privately in letters, ephemerally in lectures, or all at once in books. There was no public forum for incremental advances. By making room for reports of single experiments or minor technical advances, journals made the chaos of science accretive. Scientists from that point forward became like the social insects: They made their progress steadily, as a buzzing mass.

The earliest papers were in some ways more readable than papers are today. They were less specialized, more direct, shorter, and far less formal. Calculus had only just been invented. Entire data sets could fit in a table on a single page. What little “computation” contributed to the results was done by hand and could be verified in the same way.

The more sophisticated science becomes, the harder it is to communicate results. Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols. They depend on chains of computer programs that generate data, and clean up data, and plot data, and run statistical models on data. These programs tend to be both so sloppily written and so central to the results that it’s contributed to a replication crisis, or put another way, a failure of the paper to perform its most basic task: to report what you’ve actually discovered, clearly enough that someone else can discover it for themselves.

East High culinary team ‘poised and professional’ during national competition

Samara Kalk Derby:

A team of four East High School students finished 26th out of 46 teams competing in a national culinary competition over the weekend.

The Madison students — twins Gabe Wasserman and Isaac Wasserman, Casey McCabe and Hayden Cohan — represented Wisconsin Saturday morning in the National ProStart Invitational in Providence, Rhode Island. The competition ended Sunday.

“The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is so proud of our culinary team,” said Alex Newman, ProStart coordinator for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. “They were so poised, professional and full of talent and great representatives of our state in front of a national audience.”

How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online

Alec MacGillis:

The real driver of growth at Liberty, it turns out, is not the students who attend classes in Lynchburg but the far greater number of students who are paying for credentials and classes that are delivered remotely, as many as 95,000 in a given year. By 2015, Liberty had quietly become the second-largest provider of online education in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, its student population surpassed only by that of University of Phoenix, as it tapped into the same hunger for self-advancement that Trump had with his own pricey Trump University seminars. Yet there was a crucial distinction: Trump’s university was a for-profit venture. (This month, a judge finalized a $25 million settlement for fraud claims against the defunct operation.) Liberty, in contrast, is classified as a nonprofit, which means it faces less regulatory scrutiny even as it enjoys greater access to various federal handouts.

By 2017, Liberty students were receiving more than $772 million in total aid from the U.S. Department of Education — nearly $100 million of it in the form of Pell grants and the rest in federal student loans. Among universities nationwide, it ranked sixth in federal aid. Liberty students also received Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, some $42 million in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available. Although some of that money went to textbooks and nontuition expenses, a vast majority of Liberty’s total revenue that year, which was just above $1 billion, came from taxpayer-funded sources.

And it was no secret which part of the university was generating most of that revenue, said Chris Gaumer, a Liberty graduate and former professor of English there. “When I was there, at faculty meetings the commentary was that online was funding the school, while they were trying to just break even on the residential side,” he said. “It was understood that on the online side, they were making a killing.” …

Ivy League Summary: Tax Break Subsidies and Government (Taxpayer) Payments:

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.

Charter Schools, Segregation, and Anxiety About Social Cohesion


A new book on charter schools and segregation, whose senior editor, Iris Rotberg, I first worked with in 1970 on the War on Poverty, has reminded me how tribally divided the policy research field has become. The book is worth reading as a step toward a still-needed non-tribal discussion of schooling for democracy.

Choosing Charters: Better Schools or More Segregation? (Rotberg and Glazer, 2018) is a collected volume with chapters by 24 authors and coauthors. Many of the concerns it raises—the narrowness of the population served by charter schools, limitations of “no excuses” schools, challenges of equity in admissions and discipline and special education, financial challenges to districts with big fixed cost structures, performance and equity problems of online charter schools—are well documented, clearly important, and the focus of a great deal of problem-solving and research within the charter community.

There is a lot good in the book. Some of the chapters are original, carefully argued, and nuanced, particularly Jeffrey Henig’s “Charter Schools in a Changing Political Landscape,” and Adam Gamoran and Christine Fernandez’ “Do Charter Schools Strengthen Education in High-Poverty Urban Districts?”

Make School is hiring a Dean to run our college


Make School is redesigning college for the 21st century. Our education combines liberal arts, computer science, software development, and character development with a strong emphasis on fully preparing students for successful careers as software engineers, product managers, or entrepreneurs. Our alumni work at Facebook, Google, Apple, Snap, LinkedIn, Lyft and more.

Our college is accessible to students of all backgrounds, 40% are underrepresented minority students and 50% come from low income families. Students pay tuition as a percentage of earnings once they are employed, directly aligning their incentives with ours. Make School is funded by Learn Capital, Y Combinator, Mitch Kapor, Alexis Ohanian, Tim Draper and others.

Mathematics I use

Fan Cross:

Recently, on an online forum, a question was posed: How much, and what kind, of mathematics does a working programmer actually use? Here is my answer.

First, I and almost all programmers use a lot of boolean logic, from evaluating boolean expressions for conditionals and loop exit criteria, to rearranging the terms of such expressions according to, e.g., De Morgan’s laws. Much of our work borders on the first-order predicate calculus and other predicate logics in the guise of analysis of preconditions, invariants, etc (though it may not always be presented as such).

Next, I do a lot of performance analysis. The kind of data sets we process these days are massive. In 2010, Eric Schmidt made a comment at the Techonomy conference that we (humans) produce as much data in two days as ever existed world-wide in 2003. I want to be able to process large chunks of that and infer things from it, and understanding the space and time complexity of the operations we apply to the data is critical to determining whether the computations are even feasible. Further, unlike in much traditional big-O or theta analysis, the constant factors matter very much at that kind of scale: a factor of 2 will not change the asymptotic time complexity of an algorithm, but if it means the difference between running it over 10,000 or 20,000 processors, now we are talking about real resources. The calculations tend to be much more intricate as a result. Examples: can I take some linear computation and reduce it in strength to a logarithmic computation? Can I reduce memory usage by a factor of three? Etc.

Business must step up and help fix American education

Rana Foroohar:

State funding for education hit a peak in the 1980s, and has been falling ever since, a decline that has of course created a huge class and skills gap. While the cost of a degree has risen for everyone, it has hit families in the lower quartile of the socio-economic spectrum the hardest. They paid 44.6 per cent of their income for a degree in 1990, compared with 84 per cent today. No wonder so many drop out with no diploma but huge amounts of debt — a situation that has become a “headwind” to economic growth, according to the US Federal Reserve.

This, combined with the fact that US education has not been retooled in decades and does not churn out graduates equipped to compete in the digital economy, means that there is a large class of under-employed and under-skilled American workers. According to many chief executives, economists and civil society leaders, this has become the most pressing single problem for business — bigger than China, the North American Free Trade Association or the erratic behaviour of President Donald Trump.


What are the graduation rates for students obtaining a bachelor’s degree?


The 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2009 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2015 at the same institution where they started in 2009. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 23 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 62 percent for females and 56 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (61 vs. 55 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 62 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (24 vs. 22 percent).

School climate commentary

McLean Bennett:

Gun policy has become an increasingly debated topic following a deadly mass shooting this year at a school in South Florida. But a question about the senator’s views on firearms took on particular poignancy in Kiel, where police in March evacuated schools following a report of gunfire heard near the high school’s front entrance. (Nobody was injured in the incident and police later reported finding no evidence of gunfire.)

Johnson touched on a broad range of subjects led by students’ and teachers’ questioning on Tuesday, though issues surrounding school safety and education policy featured prominently early in the roughly 45-minute discussion.

Responding to one person’s question about standardized testing — the questioner pointed out that students in Kiel had recently endured a battery of exams over the previous few days — Johnson said the tests were aimed at holding the “teaching profession and schools accountable.”

Still, he said he’d prefer to reduce the government’s involvement to simply funding schools and ensuring students aren’t “left behind.” Otherwise, he said, he’d rather schools operated in the sorts of open markets that his past businesses worked in.

“Take a look at the rest of our economy,” he said. “Whether it’s cellphones or just about anything else, the free market competitive system, by and large, guarantees the best possible quality, the best level of customer service and the lowest possible price.

“The marketplace is a brutal dictator — evaluator — of how you perform,” he said, before opining that America’s outdated educational system — “we still are operating pretty much on a 19th-century model” — was leaving U.S. students ill-prepared for the modern economy.

The five ways we read online (and what publishers can do to encourage the “good” ones)

Laura Hazard Owen:

From skimming and scanning to (the ultimate) reading, a new paper by Nir Grinberg looks at the ways we read online and introduces a novel measure for predicting how long readers will stick with an article.

Grinberg, a research fellow at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science jointly with the Northeastern’s Lazer Lab, looked at Chartbeat data for seven different publishers’ sites — a dataset of more than 7.7 million pageviews, on both mobile and desktop, of 66,821 news articles from the sites. (To protect the publishers’ privacy, they aren’t named in the paper, but Grinberg looked at a financial news site, a how-to site, a tech news site, a science news site, a site aimed at women, a sports site, and a magazine site.)

Chartbeat, Grinberg said, already offers publishers pretty good tracking. “It’s one of the few companies that track what happens with a user after they click on a news article,” he told me. “Still, the actual measures it provides are kind of raw. It’ll tell you how much time a person has spent on a page, how far down the page they got, even something called ‘engaged time,’ which is the number of page interactions — mouse clicks, cursor movement, etc. But all of these are not particularly tailored to news; they could work on any web page.” Grinberg tailored these raw measures to create new metrics specifically for news articles.

65% of Public School 8th Graders Not Proficient in Reading; 67% Not Proficient in Math

Terence Jeffrey:

Sixty-five percent of the eighth graders in American public schools in 2017 were not proficient in reading and 67 percent were not proficient in mathematics, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The results are far worse for students enrolled in some urban districts.

Among the 27 large urban districts for which the Department of Education published 2017 NAEP test scores, the Detroit public schools had the lowest percentage of students who scored proficient or better in math and the lowest percentage who scored proficient or better in reading.

Only 5 percent of Detroit public-school eighth graders were proficient or better in math. Only 7 percent were proficient or better in reading.

Nobel Laureate Economist Says American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created.

Joseph Stiglitz:

American inequality didn’t just happen. It was created. Market forces played a role, but it was not market forces alone. In a sense, that should be obvious: economic laws are universal, but our growing inequality— especially the amounts seized by the upper 1 percent—is a distinctly American “achievement.” That outsize inequality is not predestined offers reason for hope, but in reality it is likely to get worse. The forces that have been at play in creating these outcomes are self-reinforcing.

America’s current level of inequality is unusual. Compared with other countries and compared with what it was in the past even in the United States, it’s unusually large, and it has been increasing unusually fast. It used to be said that watching for changes in inequality was like watching grass grow: it’s hard to see the changes in any short span of time. But that’s not true now.

Kids Don’t Have Equal Access to Great Teachers. Research Suggests That Hurts Their Learning

Kevin Mahnken:

Goldhaber has published multiple studies and briefs trying to get at the importance of teachers’ performance in the classroom and how that performance ought to be calculated. He says that the development of teacher quality gaps isn’t particularly surprising, since states and school boards tend to view teacher job assignments as fungible — even if it’s actually much harder to teach in a high-poverty district or school than a more affluent one.

“You’d expect that there would be teacher quality gaps because there’s very little differentiation between teacher salaries within a school system,” he told The 74 in an interview. “Teachers don’t have quality measures stamped on their forehead, but you could imagine that the better teachers would have some advantages in that kind of labor market, and would get the choice teacher assignments.”

Related: Wisconsin’s thin teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading.

Beyond the hashtag: Saving student newsrooms

Frank LoMonte:

You haven’t read about it because the occasional — and they are occasional — overzealous acts of social-justice activists who cross the line from walking out on a commencement speaker (perfectly legal) to throwing rocks at the speaker’s car (not at all legal) feed the popular narrative that drives clicks to news sites and donors to free-expression organizations.

But the piece of First Amendment turf over which these battles are being fought is a small and peripheral one: Whether “hate speech” is constitutionally protected (undeniably yes) or should continue to be constitutionally protected (open to reasonable debate) against government regulation on a college campus.

Burning Widows and Other Things That Even “Multicultural” Americans Shouldn’t Tolerate

Gail Heriot:

Charles Napier, a 19th century official of the British Empire in India, well understood the limits of cross-cultural tolerance. When told by Hindu leaders that it would be inappropriate for him to interfere with the “national custom” of burning widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre, he responded:

Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

Napier, by the way, was no Anglo-chauvinist. To the contrary, he was considered an Indophile. But he knew where to draw the line.

Here in the United States, we have a longstanding custom concerning female genital mutilation: We abhor it. Indeed, it is a federal offense to perform it on minors. But when the Maine Legislature had the opportunity to criminalize such behavior under state law as well, the bill failed on essentially a party-line vote. Some of the arguments against it make me wonder if Maine Democrats haven’t taken cross-cultural tolerance—if that’s what it is—a step too far.

After the Facebook scandal it’s time to base the digital economy on public v private ownership of data

Evgeny Morozov:

The continuing collapse of public trust in Facebook is welcome news to those of us who have been warning about the perils of “data extractivism” for years.

It’s reassuring to have final, definitive proof that beneath Facebook’s highfalutin rhetoric of “building a global community that works for all of us” lies a cynical, aggressive project – of building a global data vacuum cleaner that sucks from all of us. Like others in this industry, Facebook makes money by drilling deep into our data selves – pokes and likes is simply how our data comes to the surface – much like energy firms drill deep into the oil wells: profits first, social and individual consequences later.

Furthermore, the rosy digital future – where cleverly customised ads subsidise the provision of what even Mark Zuckerberg calls “social infrastructure” – is no longer something that many of us will be taking for granted. While the monetary costs of building and operating this “social infrastructure” might be zero – for taxpayers anyway – its social and political costs are, perhaps, even harder to account for than the costs of cheap petroleum in the 1970s.

The Last Slave


Their Eyes Were Watching God is required reading in high schools and colleges and cited as a formative influence by Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. It’s been canonized by Harold Bloom — even credited for inspiring the tableau in Lemonade where Beyoncé and a clutch of other women regally occupy a wooden porch — but Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel was eviscerated by critics when it was published in 1937. The hater-in-chief was no less than Richard Wright, who recoiled as much at the book’s depiction of lush female sexuality and (supposedly) apolitical themes as its use of black dialect, “the minstrel technique that makes the ‘white folks’ laugh.”

Six years earlier, Hurston had tried to publish another book in dialect, this one a work of nonfiction called Barracoon. Before she turned to writing novels, she’d trained as a cultural anthropologist at Barnard under the famed father of the field, Franz Boas. He sent his student back south to interview people of African descent. (Hurston was raised in Eatonville, Florida, which wasn’t the “black backside” of a white town, she once observed, but a place wholly inhabited and run by black people — her father was a three-term mayor.) She proved adept at the task, but, as she noted in her collection of folklore, Mules and Men, the job wasn’t always straightforward: “The best source is where there are the least outside influences and these people, usually underprivileged, are the shyest. They are most reluctant at times to reveal that which the soul lives by. And the Negro, in spite of his open-faced laughter, his seeming acquiescence, is particularly evasive … The Negro offers a feather-bed resistance, that is, we let the probe enter, but it never comes out.”

Barracoon is testament to her patient fieldwork. The book is based on three months of periodic interviews with a man named Cudjo Lewis — or Kossula, his original name — the last survivor of the last slave ship to land on American shores. Plying him with peaches and Virginia hams, watermelon and Bee Brand insect powder, Hurston drew out his story. Kossula had been captured at age 19 in an area now known as the country Benin by warriors from the neighboring Dahomian tribe, then marched to a stockade, or barracoon, on the West African coast. There, he and some 120 others were purchased and herded onto the Clotilda, captained by William Foster and commissioned by three Alabama brothers to make the 1860 voyage.

Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte need more charter schools in poor areas, report says

T Keung Hui and Ann Doss Helms:

Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte are home to many charter schools, but a new national report says those three areas are filled with places where lower-income families don’t have access to these non-traditional public schools.

A new report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute says there are hundreds of “charter school deserts” in the U.S., which it defines as three or more contiguous census tracts that have poverty rates greater than 20 percent but that have no charter schools.

The report, released Thursday, found 14 charter school deserts in North Carolina, including nine in the Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte metro areas. The other five are in rural areas.

“We think there are plenty of cities that are saturated with charters, but when you can zoom in at the census track level, you can see census tracks that are pretty poor and they have no other option than their traditional school,” said Amber Northern, senior vice president for research at the Fordham Institute.

Madison lacks K-12 governance diversity. A majority of the School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school in 2011.

Rethinking High School Math

Joanne Jacobs:

But what will happen to math achievers who do want to take calculus and pursue STEM majors in college? Will they get what they need in untracked classes?

Black students are more likely to wait until 11th or 12th grade to take Algebra 1, according to the U.S. Education Department, he reports in an earlier story. Native Americans have similar patterns.

“Research indicates that forcing students to take Algebra I before they’re ready can be harmful,” writes Sawchuk. “Is it because they’ve correctly assessed students’ ability and put them in the appropriate course?” said Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Or is it because there’s some amount of discrimination going on?”

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

Review of Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education

Scott Aaronson:

If ever a book existed that I’d judge harshly by its cover—and for which nothing inside could possibly make me reverse my harsh judgment—Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education would seem like it. The title is not a gimmick; the book’s argument is exactly what it says on the tin. Caplan—an economist at George Mason University, home of perhaps the most notoriously libertarian economics department on the planet—holds that most of the benefit of education to students (he estimates around 80%, but certainly more than half) is about signalling the students’ preexisting abilities, rather than teaching or improving the students in any way. He includes the entire educational spectrum in his indictment, from elementary school all the way through college and graduate programs. He does have a soft spot for education that can be shown empirically to improve worker productivity, such as technical and vocational training and apprenticeships. In other words, precisely the kind of education that many readers of this blog may have spent their lives trying to avoid.

I’ve spent almost my whole conscious existence in academia, as a student and postdoc and then as a computer science professor. CS is spared the full wrath that Caplan unleashes on majors like English and history: it does, after all, impart some undeniable real-world skills. Alas, I’m not one of the CS professors who teaches anything obviously useful, like how to code or manage a project. When I teach undergrads headed for industry, my only role is to help them understand concepts that they probably won’t need in their day jobs, such as which problems are impossible or intractable for today’s computers; among those, which might be efficiently solved by quantum computers decades in the future; and which parts of our understanding of all this can be mathematically proven.

Granted, my teaching evaluations have been [clears throat] consistently excellent. And the courses I teach aren’t major requirements, so the students come—presumably?—because they actually want to know the stuff. And my former students who went into industry have emailed me, or cornered me, to tell me how much my courses helped them with their careers. OK, but how? Often, it’s something about my class having helped them land their dream job, by impressing the recruiters with their depth of theoretical understanding. As we’ll see, this is an “application” that would make Caplan smile knowingly.

The aging mind: neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training

Denise C. Park, PhD and Gérard N. Bischof:

Is it possible to enhance neural and cognitive function with cognitive training techniques? Can we delay age-related decline in cognitive function with interventions and stave off Alzheimer’s disease? Does an aged brain really have the capacity to change in response to stimulation? In the present paper, we consider the neuroplasticity of the aging brain, that is, the brain’s ability to increase capacity in response to sustained experience. We argue that, although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. We suggest that increase in neural volume in response to cognitive training or experience is a clear indicator of change, but that changes in activation in response to cognitive training may be evidence of strategy change rather than indicative of neural plasticity. We note that the effect of cognitive training is surprisingly durable over time, but that the evidence that training effects transfer to other cognitive domains is relatively limited. We review evidence which suggests that engagement in an environment that requires sustained cognitive effort may facilitate cognitive function.

The YouTube stars being paid to sell cheating

Branwen Jeffreys and Edward Main:

YouTube stars are being paid to sell academic cheating, a BBC investigation has found.

More than 250 channels are promoting EduBirdie, based in Ukraine, which allows students to buy essays, rather than doing the work themselves.

YouTube said it would help creators understand they cannot promote dishonest behaviour.
Sam Gyimah, Universities Minister for England, says YouTube has a moral responsibility to act.
He said he was shocked by the nature and scale of the videos uncovered by the BBC: “It’s clearly wrong because it is enabling and normalising cheating potentially on an industrial scale.”

The BBC Trending investigation uncovered more than 1,400 videos with a total of more than 700 million views containing EduBirdie adverts selling cheating to students and school pupils.
EduBirdie is based in Ukraine, but aims its services at pupils and students across the globe.

Columbia University MFA Students Demand Tuition Refunds

Benjamion Sutton:

Almost all the students in Columbia University’s MFA Visual Arts program have demanded full tuition refunds due to decrepit facilities and absentee instructors. As the Columbia Spectator reported, 51 of the 54 students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and David Madigan, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, on April 5 and asked that their tuition — $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year — be refunded. Though Coatsworth reportedly concurred that the program is a “disgrace,” he told the students that the university could not provide them with refunds.

Columbia’s MFA visual arts program is consistently ranked among the 10 best in the US and the world, both by general interest college ranking sites and by arts publications. Meanwhile, one rubric where it often comes first is the cost of tuition. It has far and away the highest tuition rate of the schools on College Choice’s list of the “25 Best MFA Degrees for 2018,” and its fees page notes: “Historically, tuition and fees have risen each year.” Columbia University’s Lee Bollinger is the highest-paid president of a private university; in 2013, his compensation totaled $4.6 million.

People are exiting “blue” states and the reason isn’t the weather. The Trump tax cuts will accelerate the exodus.

Mich Mish Shedlock:

A Chicago Tribune commentary says Hello, exodus deniers: No, it isn’t Illinois’ weather.

For four years in a row, Illinois has lost population in alarming numbers. In 2017, Illinois lost a net 33,703 residents, the largest numerical population decline of any state. That’s the size of St. Charles or Woodridge or Galesburg. Wiped off the map. In one year.

Asked why they were leaving people overwhelming said taxes or the illinois budget mess.

“We could handle the cold, avoid the crime and pay the tax. But the government turned on us (property, income, sales, parking, red-light/speed cameras, bags, soda). Never-ending. Tired of paying for everyone else’s retirement before mine,” said one respondent.

No, Teachers Are Not Underpaid Salaries lag in some states, but nationally, wages and benefits outpace the private sector.

Andrew G. Biggs and Jason Richwine:

Recent protests across the country have reinforced the perception that public school teachers are dramatically underpaid. They’re not: the average teacher already enjoys market-level wages plus retirement benefits vastly exceeding those of private-sector workers. Across-the-board salary increases, such as those enacted in Arizona, West Virginia, and Kentucky, are the wrong solution to a non-problem.

Most commentary on teacher pay begins and ends with the observation that public school teachers earn lower salaries than the average college graduate. This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.

A pioneer in predictive policing is starting a troubling new project

Ali Winston and Ingrid Burrington:

Jeff Brantingham is as close as it gets to putting a face on the controversial practice of “predictive policing.” Over the past decade, the University of California-Los Angeles anthropology professor adapted his Pentagon-funded research in forecasting battlefield casualties in Iraq to predicting crime for American police departments, patenting his research and founding a for-profit company named PredPol, LLC.

PredPol quickly became one of the market leaders in the nascent field of crime prediction around 2012, but also came under fire from activists and civil libertarians who argued the firm provided a sort of “tech-washing” for racially biased, ineffective policing methods.

Now, Brantingham is using military research funding for another tech and policing collaboration with potentially damaging repercussions: using machine learning, the Los Angeles Police Department’s criminal data, and an outdated gang territory map to automate the classification of “gang-related” crimes.

Novice Teachers’ Knowledge of Reading-related Disabilities and Dyslexia

Erin K. Washburn, Candace A. Mulcahy, Gail Musante and R. Malatesha Joshi:

Current understandings about the nature of persistent reading problems have been influenced by researchers in numerous fields. Researchers have noted that a current and accurate understanding of reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, can be helpful in assessing, teaching and supporting indi- viduals with persistent reading problems. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine novice teachers’ knowledge about characteristics of reading disability and dyslexia and whether or not certification type, certification grade level and/or exposure to reading content predicted teacher knowledge. Participants (n=271) were enrolled in undergradu- ate and graduate teacher preparation programs across the United States, and were asked to identify characteristics of reading disability and dys- lexia. Responses were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Findings revealed that teachers had accurate understandings when asked about reading disability, but misconceptions when asked about dyslexia. Cer- tification type, certification grade level, and exposure to reading content did not predict accurate understandings of reading disability or dyslexia; however, certification grade level did predict misconceptions about dys- lexia.

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

Foundations of Reading; Wisconsin’s one teacher content knowledge requirement.

Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

Jerry Z Muller:

Organisations in thrall to metrics end up motivating those members of staff with greater initiative to move out of the mainstream, where the culture of accountable performance prevails. Teachers move out of public schools to private and charter schools. Engineers move out of large corporations to boutique firms. Enterprising government employees become consultants. There is a healthy element to this, of course. But surely the large-scale organisations of our society are the poorer for driving out staff most likely to innovate and initiate. The more that work becomes a matter of filling in the boxes by which performance is to be measured and rewarded, the more it will repel those who think outside the box.

Economists such as Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University, who specialise in measuring economic productivity, report that in recent years the only increase in total-factor productivity in the US economy has been in the information technology-producing industries. The question that ought to be asked next, then, is to what extent the culture of metrics – with its costs in employee time, morale and initiative, and its promotion of short-termism – has itself contributed to economic stagnation?

News Goes Mobile: How People Use Smartphones to Access Information

Knight Foundation:

Rapid advances in technology have left news organizations scrambling to manage how news is created, consumed and delivered. People have shifted towards accessing news first via desktops and laptops, and now through the ubiquitous smartphone.
 Since 2011, the rate of adult U.S. smartphone ownership has increased notably from 46 to 82 percent, and is nearing a saturation point among some age groups. In just the past two years, individual mobile news consumption has grown rapidly. In fact, 89 percent of the U.S. mobile population (144 million users) now access news and information via mobile devices. As news organizations seek to better manage this digital transformation across platforms, engage with their audience and stay competitive, what should they understand about their audience’s changing behavior on mobile news? And, how are diverse audiences approaching access to mobile news and information differently?
 The findings show that:
 There is a substantial audience for mobile news. Nearly the entire population of adult mobile users consume news on their devices, and more users are spending news time on social platforms.
 While mobile users only spend 5 percent of mobile time on news, on average, the time they do spend includes “hard” news about current events and global news, as opposed to routine weather reports and other forms of “soft” news.
 Mobile users who access news through apps spend more time reading the content, but the overall audience for apps is small, so it’s essential to know who those users are.
 Social media sites and apps are important sources of news for social media users, although television remains their top source. However, social media users also depend on friends, contacts and individuals they follow as trusted news sources as much as or more than they depend on media outlets.
 Mobile news users active on social networks do not just passively engage with news content but take offline action related to the content.

Governor Candidate & Wisconsin Public Instruction chief Tony Evers Governance Commentary (track record?)

Tony Evers:

As state superintendent, I’ve fought Walker’s school privatization schemes. I’ve proudly stood by our educators and fought for more funding for our public schools, while Walker has cut funding. We must never forget that under Walker, over a million Wisconsinites voted to raise their own taxes to adequately fund their schools.

This isn’t political theater for me; it’s a job I take seriously. These are our kids. This is our future. This is about fighting for the constitution, and the trust that Wisconsinites have three times overwhelmingly given me. The people of Wisconsin deserve better than desperate politicians rigging our judicial system for their own political gain.

Mr Evers has not mentioned student achievement on his watch:

2017 Wisconsin 4th grade student reading results… “Wisconsin ranked 34th nationally, compared to 25th in 2015

35% of Wisconsin 4th graders score proficient or advanced, down from 37% in 2015

Reading and Wisconsin DPI “administrative rules“.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

“Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how”.

Wisconsin has only one teacher content knowledge requirement examination (unlike Massachusetts): Foundations of Reading.

Here’s What Reading Can Really Look Like When You’re Dyslexic

Christian Boer Katie Wudel:

30 years ago, when Christian Boer was first learning how to read while growing up in the Netherlands, he made a lot of mistakes. His teacher didn’t attribute his challenges to what would eventually be diagnosed as dyslexia — she just told Boer to try harder, occasionally even calling him lazy and stupid. (One wonders if she’d have said the same thing to more famous dyslexics like Richard Branson or Henry Ford.)

Fortunately, awareness of dyslexia is much higher these days, and most of us have at least a vague sense that, for instance, dyslexics see the letter “b” as “d” or “p.” Yet it’s still common to assume that we can “train” dyslexic children out of their habits or that they’ll eventually outgrow the affliction on their own.

But, Boer warns, that’s not the case at all. “Dyslexia is a lifelong neurological condition,” he says. “You can explain the difference between letters to me today, but it won’t change how I see them tomorrow.”

Wisconsin 4th Grade Reading Results on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Main takeaways from the 2017 NAEP 4th grade reading exam:

Wisconsin’s score was 220, below the national average of 222

Wisconsin score statistically declined from 2015

Wisconsin scores have been statistically flat since 1992

Wisconsin ranked 34th nationally, compared to 25th in 2015

All Wisconsin racial, economic status, and disability status sub-groups perform below the national average for that sub-group

Wisconsin African-American students rank 49th among black students in the country and

Wisconsin white students rank 41st (behind Alabama and Mississippi) among white students

Wisconsin has a gap of 32 points between white and black students, the fifth largest in the country; this gap represents approximately 3 grade levels

Wisconsin ranks 31st in the country for the percentage of students at proficient or advanced

35% of Wisconsin 4th graders score proficient or advanced, down from 37% in 2015

51.7% of Wisconsin 4th graders were proficient or advanced on the 2016-17 Wisconsin Forward exam, raising the question of whether Wisconsin is again starting to move away from the NAEP scale in scoring its own state tests
Milwaukee is 25th of 26 national urban districts, with a 30 point white/black gap

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

What Does America Have to Complain About?

Charles Murray:

I want to reflect on the problem of being an old guy who has convinced himself that the American project is dead. By “the American project,” I mean the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals, families and communities to live their lives as they see fit as long as they accord the same freedom to everyone else, with government safeguarding a peaceful setting for those endeavors but otherwise standing aside.

It’s not dead because of the last few elections. It’s dead because the Constitution no longer serves as a serious limit on government power, and hasn’t for a long time. It’s dead because we now have a vast extra-legal administrative state-within-the-state that de facto creates its own laws — cop, prosecutor, judge and court of appeals rolled into one, the antithesis of democracy. It’s dead because since the 1970s Washington has increasingly become indistinguishable from the way a kleptocracy operates, with access to power and to results contingent on payments for that access and those results. It is dead because of the institutional sclerosis that takes hold as special interests — what James Madison called “factions” in Federalist Paper No. 10 — lock in the goodies that today’s American government is permitted to dispense. That institutional sclerosis is the reason we’re never going to get a simple tax code or a sensible health-care system. There’s no cure for advanced institutional sclerosis, short of losing a total world war. The American project as originally conceived is dead, and it’s never coming back.

‘Hard to Believe’: Film Explores Chinese Regime’s On-Demand Killing of Prisoners for Their Organs

Joan Delaney:

Killing innocent people on demand for their organs on a mass scale is such an abhorrence that many find it hard or even impossible to believe.

“We are reminded of the constant historical lesson of ‘never again’ once we recognize massive atrocities that are hard to fathom,” said Prof. Gary Goldsand, director of the University of Alberta’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, at a National Health Ethics Week event at the University of Ottawa on April 5.

Goldsand was referring to the state-orchestrated forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China, in which compelling evidence has led to multiple international actions, including U.S. and European Parliament resolutions and changes to laws in several countries around citizens travelling to China for transplants.

“It just goes without saying that there should be an absolute transparent line,” Goldsand said, adding that for the doctors and other health professionals in China involved in this practice, “it’s a fundamental breach of the principles that we hold most dear.”

Goldsand was a panellist speaking via video link at a discussion after the public screening of the documentary “Hard to Believe.”

The multiple-award-winning film explores how transplant surgeons in China are basically committing murder while hospitals and the Chinese communist regime profit hugely and the world has largely turned a blind eye.

The Best Ways to Fix College Admissions Are Probably Illegal

Jeffrey Selingo:

Year after year, the admissions process at selective colleges seems to make high-schoolers and their parents only more anxious. The numbers are wild: Harvard admitted just 4.6 percent of its nearly 43,000 applicants for the class that begins this fall. Stanford accepted only 4.29 percent, and Princeton 5.5 percent. Although selective schools—those that accept fewer than half of applicants—enroll only about one-fifth of U.S. undergraduates, they account for more than one-third of applications each year.

Plenty of ideas to fix the system—to make it more bearable for students, parents, and even colleges themselves—have been floated in recent years, including restructuring the whole process to be a somewhat randomized lottery, or implementing a matching system akin to how medical-school graduates are placed in residencies. They are promising, but they have something problematic in common: In all likelihood, they’d be illegal.

Study of influencer spenders finds big names, lots of fake followers

The next great workplace challenge: 100-year careers

Steve Levine:

Scientists expect people to live routinely to 100 in the coming decades, and as long as 150. Which also suggests a much longer working life lasting well into the 70s, 80s, and even 100, according to researchers with Pearson and Oxford University.

Quick take: Thinkers of various types are absorbed in navigating the age of automation and flat wages, but their challenge will be complicated by something few have considered — a much-extended bulge of older workers.