“Yes, to Year Around School” Podcast Transcript (Not in the Madison School District)

Scoot Milfred and Phil Hands:

Usual mumbo-jumbo, we do on this podcast. Why don’t we invite in today some experts to talk about our topic which is around school. Which Madison is finally going to give a try this fall to experts. I know very well we have all hands on deck here. We have Owen hands. Oh and how old are you? Oh, nine years old.

All right and Claire. How old are you? Wow, let’s Round Up will see your six. So what if I were to tell you that instead of having school from September until June? What if we had school year round? What do you think of that idea? Yeah. Yeah, it’s exciting. Yeah, I’m Clare alway knows because um, she has school year round.
She doesn’t see only doesn’t have school on weekends and Thursdays. What if you had a long break you don’t like a long break from school you’d rather be. School, I will never break off my tablet all day. What if instead of a big summer break we had just smaller breaks throughout the year. So you’d get.

More breaks, but you wouldn’t get one Brig big long break like you might get a two-week break in the fall, and maybe I got there you have it and then you wouldn’t get bored in the summer time. You guys get bored this summer at all. No, I well today on Center Stage the Wisconsin State journals political podcast from the sensible Center of Wisconsin politics. We’re going to talk about year-round school. Madison diving into it sort of and the benefits concerns and myths surrounding this sometimes controversial idea.

I’m Scott Milford the editorial page editor for the Wisconsin State Journal and I’m Phil Hands. I’m the editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal and we are half of the State Journal editorial board.
Well, there’s the Bell, uh, even at around school fill the kids get to go out for recess. So we’ll bring back our experts later for now. Let’s talk about Madison and it’s uh dabble into your around school. So it’s the dog days of summer right now. The kids have been out of school for almost six weeks nowadays and my kids my kids did some summer camps and now that summer camps of run their course, uh, we’re going on vacation soon.
Guess but uh, but yeah, I mean the summer vacation it’s a long slog and it’s a time when kids are not necessarily. I mean, they’re looking at their devices and I guess they’re reading some uh information on their devices but it’s there’s not a lot of learning going on. We make our kids read during the summertime, but that’s only because we make them read.

Oh and go to your room and read. Well one thing we’ve been advocating on The State Journal editorial board for a long time is year-round school because yeah kids usually, um, And they they will lose some of the knowledge they’ve gained over the previous school year during that exceptionally long summer vacation.

Yeah, and lo and behold Madison is finally moving towards trying out around school this starting this next month for Madison. Yeah, except it’s not the Madison School District that’s doing it. It’s not no they’ve uh, it’s actually the to charter schools that the state has authorized to start in Madison.

Outside the scope of the school district and it’s going to be under the control of the University of Wisconsin system. So I’m confused here Scott. So I always thought that year. I mean I’ve heard that you’re around school is good for kids. It helps them learn more. It keeps them from falling behind.

But I thought Charter Schools were always evil. Well, that’s according to the uh, Progressive talking points, but I think what they so you’re saying that charter schools are doing something that’s going to help kids learn better. I’m afraid I am. Oh my goodness. You shared my world of you this podcast tale begins, six or seven years ago.

When kaleem caire then the head of the Urban League of Greater Madison proposed a charter school that would cater to. Struggling mostly black and Latino high school students boys with a charter school that would run year round and have lots of other features like longer classes, uh longer school day required extracurricular activities report cards for parents on how well they’re doing and getting involved with their children’s education.

It was called Madison prep, right right and after a long and loud, Uh debate over that the Madison School Board voted it down, uh one important note I would make on that. Is that the only African American member of the school board James Howard did vote for it. So I will say that it’s always frustrating.

I’ll go back to Summer frustrate. That’s because Madison we have some of the worst racial disparities. Uh for for African-Americans and Latinos in our in this in the state, I mean, so if you’re a black kid in the Madison Public Schools your chances of graduating our worst and they are in Milwaukee, which is not great and here was a school that was supposed to focus on this problem specifically and the high-minded Liberals whites on the school board Madison decided that no, this school wasn’t a good idea.

That’s right. And uh what’s happened now, is that the Republicans who control the legislature have. Opened up a new valve. I guess you could call it where people who want to do Charter Schools outside of the school districts control can go to the University of Wisconsin system and they will oversee the charter rather than the local school district.
So alas that’s what column has done. I’ll be kind of upside in an upside-down way. So originally what his proposal was was to start a high school. Uh here in Madison for struggling mostly minority kids. Now what he’s doing is he’s starting a preschool and kindergarten. Yes. It’s a fork and a kindergarten charter school and he’s hoping to build from the bottom up now, which I think is awesome.

Because you know getting the kids early is the best way to achieve success later in life. I mean, sometimes people argue that you know, getting people in high school is even too late to really effect change in a kid. Uh moving forward but you know, you can um give these kids a really good start early in their lives and for preschool and kindergarten.

I think it’s awesome and just to be clear. This is a free public school. It’s not a private school and it’s not a voucher school. So let’s just talk for a minute then about what year-round school means. I mean when people hear that they immediately recoil but I but I hear when I think that is you’re gonna have kids in school.

365 days a year for 27 hours a day and kids will have no time off they will we will stifle all creativity and make them, uh study for mandatory tests on regular basis. Yeah, and you actually get pushback from both the left and the right on this on the left what you tend to get is teacher unions who think wait a minute.
I’m not going to get my. Some are break anymore, which is one of the best benefits of being a teacher and then from the right when we’ve talked to the governor Walker about this editorial board meetings. His response is always sort of a flip. Uh, he says, well, I don’t think having kids butts in the seats.

More days is the answer to our problems. Yeah with a public education and generally neither of those criticisms is accurate for most your own schools because what we’d like to see in the editorial board is we wouldn’t we don’t necessarily want more days of instruction. We would like to seek it. We just think that long break the starts three months beginning of June that goes the end of August is too long.

Let’s shorten that break and add in some other breaks throughout the course of the school year in the case of the charter schools opening. For example, I think closest to what we’re talkin about is the Isthmus Montessori Academy. This is another charter school that charter school that the Madison School Board rejected and now the the organizers of.

School went to the state via the University of Wisconsin system and got approved for the charter and their schedule is going to be they’re going to take two weeks off in the fall two weeks off in the winter. And then they’re only going to have a six-week summer break. So they’re essentially going to cut the uh summer break in half.

There’s enough time for a camp or two. There’s enough time for summer activities like swim team or something like that, but it does but the summer doesn’t go on and on and on on and actually their school year is going to start. His 15th. They’re going to start a little bit earlier now in the case of clean cares new school, which is the one city is the name of it.

He’s going to actually add a lot more days to the school schedule, which is what he was originally wanted to do with the Madison prep. So he’s going to be up over 200 days of classes. So there are going to be more days in class. Yeah for his students that just shows you that this varies to some degree and actually when you.
Cat a lot of the foreign countries who students are testing better than American students on most testing those schools do have more days of classes than we do. Yeah, and they don’t have this gigantic, uh summer break. So I’m not so sure that we want to say we don’t want more days of classes, but I think to answer the governor’s point, you don’t you don’t have to have more days of classes just don’t have the giant break and then B if you do have.

Or days and classes who says the kids have to be sitting their butts in the seats. Absolutely not no, I mean so so my daughter is in is in a preschool right now and she’s been going through school most of the summer and their school during the summer time. They do a lot of field trips to get Outdoors.

They play a lot outside, you know, they’re they’re experiencing nature. They go on nature hikes that garden and they have a community garden that they work in so there’s lots of things you can do in a school environment that aren’t that isn’t, you know, doing rote memorization and with butts.

Cher’s I was just looking at a Brookings report on the summer break and this pretty much follows a lot of the research that you see it’s very well-defined that there is a slip in we call it the summer slide or the summer slip where students test better at the. Of Summer then they do at the end of summer.

Is that surprising surprising and on average student achievement scores decline over the summer vacation by about one month’s worth of school year learning and the decline is sharper in math than it is in Reading. And the loss is larger at the higher grade levels. That’s not so surprising that you don’t forget your uh algebra more than maybe your ABCs and then finally, this is much bigger issue for lower-income kids.

Are you saying this is a social justice issue Sky. I mean it is it is because middle class upper middle class families that have lots of resources. They put their kids in Camp All Summer Long my son. Well we. Afford it all summer. I mean my son. He did a computer camp this year. He did. Yeah a couple of different, uh, you know swim team camps and stuff like that lots of different activities keep them occupied but a lot of kids don’t have those opportunities and they spend the summer watching TV or hanging around the block.

That’s right. I got a high school kid at a cross-country camp this week 500 bucks. Really? I had a I had my younger daughter went to a horse camp and that was about 400. So those things are. Can’t do that. So I mean even my kids I wish they were I wish they were busier and I wish I could put him in more camps and if there was a year-round schedule, I’ll guarantee you they uh, they would be in it the white upper-middle-class school board can say well we don’t want we don’t want we don’t want year-round school, but it’s hurting the kids that are hurting already in our achievement Gap issues.

It’s that’s who is hurting the most. Yeah, and and a lot of the pushback is okay parents like us we don’t. To give up the summer break. We don’t want to give up our vacation. I’ve been working all summer. I know I have a job. I know but I’m just saying in terms of taking a vacation. They think oh, well, I’m not gonna be able to take a vacation with my kids.

I don’t like that. Well, I’ll tell you what, so what if I had two weeks in the fall when nobody else is going on vacation to go on vacation. That sounds awesome to me. I tried to go down to Florida a couple years ago for spring break and the airfare was through the roof because everybody in America had the same week for spring break.

What if I had two other week some other time? It’d be great for us. The other thing you often hear is hey, let’s let kids be kids. Summer vacation is important. They’re not just supposed to sit in front of a book called A. They’re supposed to get out and use their imagination and play and they’re putting on too much weight.

Obesity is a problem. Why are you taking away summer vacation from Phil? Well, I mean, you know, a lot of kids just sitting there iPads the whole time or their devices or whatever. They have during the summertime, you know, you know, I think every every parent has that issue it like it’s some point in summer vacation my kids say.

I’m bored. There’s nothing to do. Yeah, usually about the second week. But the point is you’d still get even if you went to this Montessori charter school, you’re still getting six weeks in the summer still getting six weeks in place. You’re getting some additional instead of a spring break. It’s a fall break and a winter break plus the spring break.

Yeah. So you’re breaking it up a little bit what some other districts have found is that you can save money. So this is the little this is a little bright, uh, Underlying point for taxpayers out there so I don’t have kids in school and work them hard. What’s the matter with you? Well grumpy, mr. Taxpayer. Guess what? You can save some money on this deal because if you what a lot of schools do is they’ll psycho kids through so that when some some kids are on break, uh, the other kids are in the school. Okay. So what you wind up with is the schools are used throughout the year rather than just sitting vacant for three months.

Yeah. Now that might. Work in Madison because what we always hear well, we don’t have air conditioning in most of the school buildings. Well, hey, we got summer school. Yeah without air conditioning. So maybe we can do it. I actually gave I gave a talk in the summer school class. It was hot. Yeah.

It was too fun. Now now let’s give the Madison School District some credit here for the summer school program which appears to be improving. I mean Madison does offer a six-week summer school program and they’ve been trying to incorporate. It’s an effort that we’ve supported here at the newspaper is uh and is they have their morning classes and these tend to be classes that are a little more fun you do you don’t just sit in a seat all the time.

You have more activities and then in the afternoon, there’s recreational activities outside and they try to incorporate reading into the recreational like yeah, so maybe there’s a scavenger hunt where you reading and then through the read up program kids get five free books that they get to pick.

And uh take home and start their library. And so the district has shown some statistics that suggest those kids that are in that program are not sliding over the summer that doesn’t quite sound like butts and shares to me. It’s not know but the problem with summer school in Madison, isn’t that we’re not doing a great job trying to teach kids in the summer and help them catch up.

Yeah. It’s that around half of the kids. Who are. Invited to summer school because the teachers say you really need to catch up their parents don’t send it. So then how you’re going to get to them? Yeah. Now if you certainly the kids fault that their parents aren’t with it together enough to to get them into school.
No now the district says they’re making strides on that and that they are getting more. The parents to put their kids in but that’s been a major problem. Now if you had a year-round school schedule, well, you can’t opt out of six weeks of school if you don’t want to do it. Yeah. So, um that, you know, a year-round schedule would solve that problem.

They be required to go. Yeah, it’s not just whether or not I want to do. I think it sounds good. And I think it’s I think it’s a basic simple. I mean, it’s not I guess it’s not a simple thing. It would take a lot of work and a lot it’s a big lift, but it’s one of those things there’s a few things the school all the science says you should do this for kids.

Well, I don’t know that all the science says that I mean, I think there is some you know, there are some researchers who you know who go out of their way to say this is not a Panacea. Well not exactly and there are programs for example racing had a uh, Your own school for more than a decade and it just stopped doing it.
Okay, and one of the reasons, why was that according to the school board is a lot of the parents that lived around the school. They didn’t want to send their kids there. But the school board was split on that on whether they wanted to continue it or not and depending on which school board members you listen to it.
Either was working or it wasn’t. Yeah, uh and the main argument was hey, let’s we have a more streamlined streamlined District if we were all in the same schedule, however, Toma is starting uh around School lacrosse has been doing it Milwaukee has been doing it. There are lots of examples of it happening and from the research.

I’ve looked at they say those kids tend to do at least as well if not better. Then kids who have longer breaks particularly the lower-income kids, but we should talk about why we don’t have year-round school. The reason we don’t have year-round school is because and if I maybe I’m wrong about this Gap, but I’ve always heard.
The reason we have a big summer vacation is so that kids can help out on the Family Farm or in Wisconsin at the resort. Okay, because we’re a tourist state so so I don’t have a family farm Family Farm. I have a garden. I mean, I don’t help my kids don’t do anything– but you’re right. It was it started as an agrarian society thing where the kids did actually have to work out in the field picking rocks and helping with chores.
They weren’t getting done on their iPads all summer long. No. No, I don’t know that they were necessarily getting smart by feeding the pigs either. But they were working and they were working in character and that was required. Uh, but we’ve moved past that now some people say well, but what about the Wisconsin Dells we need these workers.

Well gee whiz every time I go up to the sconce endell everybody I speak to at the retail store isn’t the Resort’s has an Eastern European accent. Yeah. They’re all spies. What’s more important here of filling some seasonal jobs or educating our children? Especially the kids that are of lower income.
And by the way, they’re hiring high school kids. Yeah, they’re not hiring. Uh, third graders. Yeah. I mean kaleem’s School is gonna be the youngest kids. So I think that argument tends to find another issue. What is it low income parents post do with their kid All Summer Long. Yeah, and we have.

These programs that do pop up. I mean the why does a lot of things there? You know, they are there are places to go. Um that are probably cost less I guess than uh than a formal school education. But what you find is that when these school districts that do the year-round schedules, so you say well wait a minute if there’s going to be a two-week break and the fall what am I going to do with my kids for those two?

That’s when the summer camp pops. Yeah, those things those things pop up where there’s. Is (that) what they find? Yeah. All right. Let’s go back to the experts here, which is better being in school or being out of school. Okay, but do you learn anything complete of China have poisoned my school? You learn about toys.

I do want a lot at school. But um last year in math. I won almost nothing I’d say math is probably my favorite subject. Awesome least favorite. So your dad’s a cartoonist, but art is your least favorite. Yes. Okay. Yeah, not exactly chip off the old block not exactly chip off the old block. You can’t go look at Nasa.
They’ll be just fine.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

“The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to reveal which schools have been accused of violating students’ civil rights, as well as any corrective actions or other resolutions of its probes”

Annie Waldeman:

Under federal law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Office for Civil Rights is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and investigating allegations of discrimination in the country’s schools and colleges. Families and students can file complaints with the office, which then investigates and determines whether a college or school district may have violated federal law. If violations are substantiated, the office typically negotiates a settlement or prescribes corrective changes, which it sometimes oversees. For some complaints, the office may mediate a resolution. It receives more than 10,000 complaints annually, and has a target of resolving 80 percent of them within six months.

As the Obama administration tackled more complicated investigations, the cases took longer to resolve. From 2010 to 2015, time spent on the average sexual violence investigation increased from 289 to 963 days; on a school discipline case, from 198 to 451 days; and on a harassment probe, from 200 to 287 days. At the department’s request, Congress boosted the office’s budget.

Locally, the Simpson Street Free Press has covered the office of civil rights investigation into the Madison school District.

I’ve not seen substantive mention of this in the traditional media.

Madison, despite spending more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2006: they’re all rich white kids and they will do just fine, not!

Small Learning communities.

English 10

Talented and gifted lawsuit

“Consumers are jaded about advertising in a way they weren’t several decades ago.”

Kalle Oskari Mattila:

But perhaps the most powerful impetus for these slimmed-down logos is that it’s increasingly more difficult to reach buyers when so many of them are skeptical of big corporations. A recent survey by the public-relations firm Cohn & Wolfe found that four-fifths of global consumers now consider brands neither open nor honest. “Consumers are jaded about advertising in a way they weren’t several decades ago,” says Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, via email. “It is harder to appeal to them than it used to be, and they tend to see through overt marketing pitches.” That has in turn led to a new arsenal of branding tactics. “Companies have had to learn subtlety,” Alter says.

Exit interview, portfolio will be required for all future Baraboo High School graduates

Jake Prinsen:

Baraboo High School seniors will be required to complete a portfolio and exit interview before receiving their diplomas.

The Baraboo School Board approved the new graduation expectations Monday despite reservations from several board members.

While they agreed the experience would benefit students, staff and community members, critics said withholding diplomas from non-willing participants is “onerous” and could lead them to record false information throughout the process.

“There are a lot of kids just busting their butts trying to get their diploma,” said board member Sean McNevin. “I think there might be an opportunity where some kids aren’t, or can’t or don’t participate, and withholding the diploma almost seems punitive over something like this.”

As Hannah Arendt argued, there is one common thread which connects individuals drawn to all kinds of extremist ideologies

Nabeelah Jaffer:

‘Loneliness is the common ground of terror’ – and not just the terror of totalitarian governments, of which Hannah Arendt was thinking when she wrote those words in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). It also generates the sort of psychic terror that can creep up on a perfectly ordinary individual, cloaking everything in a mist of urgent fear and uncertainty.

By ‘loneliness’ Arendt did not simply mean solitude, in which – as she points out – you have your own self for consolation. In the solitude of our minds, we engage in an internal dialogue. We speak in two voices. It is this internal dialogue that allows us to achieve independent and creative thought – to weigh strong competing imperatives against each other. You engage in it every time you grapple with a moral dilemma. Every clash of interests, every instance of human difference evokes it. True thought, for Arendt, involved the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. True loneliness, therefore, was the opposite. It involved the abrupt halting of this internal dialogue: ‘the loss of one’s own self’ – or rather, the loss of trust in oneself as the partner of one’s thoughts. True loneliness means being cut off from a sense of human commonality and therefore conscience. You are left adrift in a sea of insecurity and ambiguity, with no way of navigating the storms.

Commentary on Madison’s “micro school”

Chris Rickert:

A typical school day included physical education, a humanities course, “community circle” time, time to earn credits for classes they’d failed during their regular schooling, and one-on-one or “or small group academic and socio-emotional counseling,” according to the report. There were also weekly field trips and off-site, hands-on learning in one of three career paths: education/teaching, entrepreneurship/barbering and music engineering.

Madison spends far more than most, but has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Mea culpa: there *is* a crisis in the humanities

Sapping Attention:

Back in 2013, I wrote a few blog post arguing that the media was hyperventilating about a “crisis” in the humanities, when, in fact, the long term trends were not especially alarming. I made two claims them: 1. The biggest drop in humanities degrees relative to other degrees in the last 50 years happened between 1970 and 1985, and were steady from 1985 to 2011; as a proportion of the population, humanities majors exploded. 2) The entirety of the long term decline from 1950 to 2010 had to do with the changing majors of women, while men’s humanities interest did not change.

I drew two inference from this. The first was: don’t panic, because the long-term state of the humanities is fairly stable. Second: since degrees were steady between 1985 and 2005, it’s extremely unlikely that changes in those years are responsible for driving students away. So stop complaining about “postmodernism,” or African-American studies: the consolidation of those fields actually coincided with a long period of stability.

I stand by the second point. The first, though, can change with new information. I’ve been watching the data for the last five years to see whether things really are especially catastrophic for humanities majors. I tried to hedge my bets at the time:

The mysteries of the classroom: What works, what doesn’t and why

Jay Matthews:

When I try to learn more about schools, I often feel as if I am struggling to get inside a black box — the mysterious classroom. I can get data on what goes into the box, such as the backgrounds of teachers and students. I can measure what comes out of the box — test scores, graduation rates and student work.

But what happens inside the classroom is hard to quantify.

This is particularly true of the major educational reform of this era, the Common Core State Standards. The project of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers was designed to use research results to remake K-12 teaching. It recommended more lessons about the real world, more nonfiction reading and writing, and more unified math instruction.

The great academy schools scandal

Sonia Sodha:

Kinsley Academy may officially be less than three years old, but its redbrick buildings stand as a reminder that there has been a primary school here, serving this rural, former mining community in West Yorkshire, for well over 100 years. Jade Garfitt didn’t hesitate to send her son, aged five, to the school: Kinsley born and bred, she felt she’d got an excellent education there herself.

But since he started she has become increasingly concerned. “He’s received one piece of homework this academic year,” she tells me over a cup of tea in the community cafe across the road. “He’s only done PE once since November. At one point, his class went two weeks without having their reading books changed. If you tried to say, ‘Look, there’s issues here’, you’d be shooed away.”

She says her son was for months taught by a revolving door of supply teachers. “They never introduced themselves. We never knew their name. The children were really unsettled, crying, not wanting to go to school.”

For Sale: Survey Data on Millions of High School Students

Natasha Singer:

Three thousand high school students from across the United States recently trekked to a university sports arena here to attend an event with an impressive-sounding name: the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders. Many of their parents had spent $985 on tuition.

Months earlier, the teenagers had received letters, signed by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, congratulating them on being nominated for “a highly selective national program honoring academically superior high school students.”

The students all had good grades. But many of them were selected for the event because they had once filled out surveys that they believed would help them learn about colleges and college scholarships.

Through their schools, many students in the audience had taken a college-planning questionnaire, called MyCollegeOptions. Others had taken surveys that came with the SAT or the PSAT, tests administered by the College Board. In filling out those surveys, the teenagers ended up signing away personal details that were later sold and shared with the future scientists event.

Survey: Modern Physics in the High School Science Curriculum

Scott Hertting:

My name is Scott Hertting. I teach physics at high school in Wisconsin. Part of my summer professional development was participation in a graduate course in Modern Physics.
The purpose of this survey gather data related to the teaching of Modern Physics topics (quantum mechanics and relativity) in the high school science curriculum.

The data will be analyzed and used in a short paper for the graduate course in Modern Physics I participated in this summer.

Using smartphones during lectures leads to lower grades, study finds


Otherwise, the distraction might translate into a lower grade on the final exam.

For the study, researchers followed 118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers University in New Jersey. For one term, electronic devices were banned in half of the lectures and permitted in the other half. When the devices were allowed, students reported whether they had used them for non-learning purposes during the lecture.

Having an electronic device wasn’t associated with lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures, but was associated with at least a 5 percent (half-a-grade) lower score in end-of-term exams.

Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular

Sigal Samuel:

The one that focuses most on refugees, Modeling Religion in Norway (modrn), is still in its early phases. Led by Shults, it’s funded primarily by the Research Council of Norway, which is counting on the model to offer useful advice on how the Norwegian government can best integrate refugees. Norway is an ideal place to do this research, not only because it’s currently struggling to integrate Syrians, but also because the country has gathered massive data sets on its population. By using them to calibrate his model, Shults can get more accurate and fine-grained predictions, simulating what will happen in a specific city and even a specific neighborhood.

Another project, Forecasting Religiosity and Existential Security with an Agent-Based Model, examines questions about nonbelief: Why aren’t there more atheists? Why is America secularizing at a slower rate than Western Europe? Which conditions would speed up the process of secularization—or, conversely, make a population more religious?

Shults’s team tackled these questions using data from the International Social Survey Program conducted between 1991 and 1998. They initialized the model in 1998 and then allowed it to run all the way through 2008. “We were able to predict from that 1998 data—in 22 different countries in Europe, and Japan—whether and how belief in heaven and hell, belief in God, and religious attendance would go up and down over a 10-year period. We were able to predict this in some cases up to three times more accurately than linear regression analysis,” Shults said, referring to a general-purpose method of prediction that prior to the team’s work was the best alternative.

Madison School District’s Class of 2017 Reading Results (Grades 3-11)

Here is the reading performance of the MMSD Class of 2017 over time.

(Note: this is the MMSD class with “improving graduation rates“, especially for African American students.

Is access to literacy a right?

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.



The Tyranny of the Structureless.

Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them


Prof Andrew Gerstle teaches pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London.

He explained to the BBC the term might be older than you think – it can be found in print as early as 1879, meaning it was likely in use before that.

The word “doku” can be used as a verb to mean “reading”. According to Prof Gerstle, the “tsun” in “tsundoku” originates in “tsumu” – a word meaning “to pile up”.
So when put together, “tsundoku” has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.

“The phrase ‘tsundoku sensei’ appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo,” Prof Gerstle explained. “Which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn’t read them.”
While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, Prof Gerstle said the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.

Claremont Graduate University Board Votes to Close Philosophy Department; Current Students Will Receive Full Support to Complete Their Degrees


The Board of Trustees of Claremont Graduate University has decided to close the university’s Department of Philosophy as a result of a “combination of market, enrollment, and limited faculty resources,” according to a statement released late last week by Interim President Jacob Adams.
The board, which voted for the closure during its meetings held earlier this month, considered a range of factors, including “the dwindling market for philosophy programs at small privates in our selectivity range,” Adams explained in his message, which was sent out to the university’s staff and faculty.

As a follow-up to Adams’s message, Patrick Mason, who is the dean of the School of Arts & Humanities (SAH), wrote to the various constituencies of SAH: current philosophy students, philosophy alumni, philosophy faculty of The Claremont Colleges, and SAH faculty, alumni, and current students.

Early computer science education vital to continued growth | Madison Wisconsin Business News

Tom Still:

In fact, there are solid reasons why Wisconsin schools might not offer computer science courses. In addition to money, schools wonder where they can find instructors and what courses they might teach in a world where technology changes rapidly. Other local districts aren’t keen on state requirements of any type. Still others think the school day is pretty filled as it is.

Roberts said many of the teachers who use Code.org’s template aren’t subject-matter experts but educators from other disciplines who essentially teach problem-solving.

“You can bring teachers on board who have never taught computer science before,” he said, and they usually perform as well as teachers who brought more computer science skills to the task. Examples include teachers in math or science disciplines, librarians and instructional media teachers, and teachers in languages and the humanities.

Even in a fast-changing world, basic computer science courses can become a foundation for future learning. The Code.org recommendations are tied to fundamentals, discoveries and principles that serve as building blocks – and simply to attract the interest of young minds.

Madison School District Responds to Civil Rights Investigation

Taylor Kilgore:

Jim Bradshaw of the Office for Civil Rights’ Washington D.C. office confirmed in an email that “the process is ongoing.”

Greg Jones, president of the NAACP says it is important to know “what the district has done to comply with their agreement with Office for Civil Rights.”

“Given the urgency of education outcomes in Dane County, the local NAACP branch will monitor the agreement as it relates to our mission. The NAACP thinks it is very important to keep the public informed,” Jones said.

Chris Gomez Schmidt a local education advocate with the Madison Partnership for Advanced Learning, agrees with Jones.

“The Office for Civil Rights resolution and the work being done to meet these requirements should be part of the community conversation and our work on closing achievement gaps. More can be done to make this a transparent process.”

“The importance of this Civil Rights resolution process cannot be emphasized enough,” Gomez-Schmidt says. “This work cannot continue to fly under the radar if Madison is truly interested in closing achievement gaps,”

An Advanced Learning Advisory Committee required to comply with the Resolution Agreement has met several times but questions remain about what is being accomplished. Only five parents attended the committee’s most recent meeting on May 23, 2018.

Civics: TSA is tracking regular travelers like terrorists in secret surveillance program

Jana Winter:

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

The internal bulletin describes the program’s goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists,” and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked.

When the World Opened the Gates of China

Bob Davis:

Adding China would link Beijing to Western economies and reduce the government’s ability to control its vast population, he said in a speech that March at Johns Hopkins’s School of Advanced International Studies. “By joining the WTO, China is not simply agreeing to import more of our products, it is agreeing to import one of democracy’s most cherished values, economic freedom,” Mr. Clinton said. “When individuals have the power not just to dream, but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.”

Mr. Clinton’s idealistic rhetoric played well among most of Washington’s elites, but a trade lawyer often dismissed as a protectionist, Robert Lighthizer, was skeptical. As he had warned in a New York Times op-ed a few years earlier, if admitted to the WTO, mercantilist China would become a “dominant” trading nation. “Virtually no manufacturing job in [the U.S.] will be safe,” he wrote.

Mr. Lighthizer is now the U.S. Trade Representative, President Donald Trump’s chief negotiator on global trade. In the administration’s view, allowing China to enter the WTO in 2001 was a historic mistake that cost the U.S. millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in accumulated trade deficits. The U.S. is now bypassing WTO rules and threatening Beijing with tariffs on up to $500 billion of imported goods.

‘Yes’ to year-round school, which is finally coming to Madison (Not in the Madison School District)

Scott Milfred:

In this week’s “Center Stage” political podcast, Milfred and Hands interview pint-sized experts on the need for year-round school to stop the summer slide in learning. A year-round class schedule is finally coming to Madison, thanks to two new public charter schools.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most K-12 school districts, nearly 20,000 per student.

The Trickle-Down Effect of Lowering Teacher Standards

Alina Adams:

“I read that New York teachers don’t have to be literate, anymore. Is that true, Mom?,” my seventh-grader asked last week. He’s recently become determined to “fix all education in America” (I have no idea where a son of mine could have picked up such an interest), and was on the Internet doing research. He’d already expressed his surprise at New York City’s less than 50% college readiness graduation rate and the fact that the most frequently failed college course was Algebra.

Now, he wanted to know about the NY Board of Regents decision to eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) for prospective teachers.

My thirteen year-old son isn’t the only one puzzled by the ruling. I am, too.

Among the move’s supporters are deans of Education Schools. Michael Middleton of Hunter College was quoted by The New York Times as saying, “We already know that our licensure candidates have a bachelor’s degree, which in my mind means they have basic literacy and communication skills.”

Education or espionage? A Chinese student takes his homework home to China

Cynthia McFadden:

Meet the man dubbed China’s Elon Musk, Ruopeng Liu. Like Musk, he’s working on sending people into space, and has already sent them flying. He’s the man behind jet-powered surfboards, and is a multi-billionaire at just 35 years old.

“We call ourselves the future studio,” said Liu during an NBC News visit to his company’s headquarters here. “We design the future.”

But is he guilty of stealing the intellectual property of a famous American scientist?

Dr. David Smith of Duke University is one of the world’s experts on something called “metamaterials.” Liu, who says he had long been a fan of Smith’s, came to the U.S. a dozen years ago with the express intent of studying at Smith’s lab. Some observers, including the former assistant director of counterintelligence at the FBI, believe he was actually on a mission from the Chinese government.

Dr. Smith is famous for creating a metamaterial that functions as a so-called “invisibility cloak.” Metamaterials, he explains, are “some weird material that doesn’t exist in nature.” Dr. Smith’s invisibility cloak is not like Harry Potter’s famous version as it does not hide things from the human eye, but it does make them invisible to microwave signals.

Dependency or sifting and winnowing: The lifelong reading disaster tax (Tyranny of low expectations)


“Facebook has hampered our efforts to get information about their company throughout this inquiry. It is as if it thinks that the problem will go away if it does not share information about the problem, and reacts only when it is pressed,” it will say.

“It provided witnesses who have been unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.”

It will repeat its call for Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991:

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn’t what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.

Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:

The first lesson I teach is: “Stay in the class where you belong.” I don’t know who decides that my kids belong there but that’s not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive.

In any case, again, that’s not my business. My job is to make the kids like it — being locked in together, I mean — or at the minimum, endure it. If things go well, the kids can’t imagine themselves anywhere else; they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overall blueprint, I make an effort to urge children to higher levels of test success, promising eventual transfer from the lower-level class as a reward. I insinuate that the day will come when an employer will hire them on the basis of test scores, even though my own experience is that employers are (rightly) indifferent to such things. I never lie outright, but I’ve come to see that truth and [school]teaching are incompatible

2018 Millennial Survey


The difference between what millennials believe companies should do and what they observe firsthand is not without consequence. Business’ actions appear to strongly influence the length of time millennials intend to stay with their employers.
 Before we delve into the factors that influence loyalty, it’s important to note that loyalty levels have retreated to where they were two years ago. Among millennials, 43 percent envision leaving their jobs within two years; only 28 percent seek to stay beyond five years. The 15-point gap is up from seven points last year. Employed Gen Z respondents express even less loyalty, with 61 percent saying they would leave within two years if given the choice.
 Younger workers need positive reasons to stay with their employers; they need to be offered the realistic prospect that by staying loyal they will, in the long run, be materially better off and as individuals, develop faster and more fully than if they left.

How California’s public schools are grappling with growing pension costs

Jessica Calefati:

California’s public schools have enjoyed a remarkable restoration of funding since the bone-deep cuts they endured during the recession, but many now face a grave financial threat as they struggle to pay the escalating costs of teachers’ pensions.

Over the next three years, schools may need to use well over half of all the new money they’re projected to receive to cover their pension obligations, leaving little extra for classrooms, state Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates show.

Some districts are predicting deficits and many are already bracing for what’s to come by cutting programs, reducing staff or drawing down their reserves even though per-pupil funding is at its highest level in three decades and voters recently extended a tax hike on the rich to help pay for schools.

At the same time, some districts are grappling with how to simultaneously afford raises for teachers who have threatened to strike.

As new vaccine scandal grips China, parents say they’ve lost faith in the system

Sidney Leng Kristin Huang:

Parents say they have lost faith in the system after a major drug maker was found to be supplying inferior vaccines that were given to babies as young as three months old, in the latest public health crisis to grip China.

The Jilin Food and Drug Administration revealed the vaccine safety scandal on its website on Friday.

After an investigation, Jilin-based Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology was found to have sold some 252,600 substandard DPT vaccines to the Shandong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency in charge of public health in a province of about 100 million people.

It was not yet known how many children had been given the inferior vaccines against three infectious diseases – diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus – through the state-sponsored disease control system.

Sixth Tone:

A WeMedia article published Saturday on social app WeChat stoked public outrage over the public health fiasco. “These vaccines they produced are being injected into you and your kids every day,” read the article, which pointed out that the same powerful individuals who run Changchun Changsheng are also responsible, through their ownership of other companies, for producing a large proportion of the most widely used vaccines in China, including those for hepatitis B, chicken pox, and influenza.

A Tax on Free Campus Parking?

Rick Seltzer:

If you park at no charge in the university lot in front of your campus office, you might be sticking your employer with a tax bill without even knowing it.

Or maybe you ride public transportation to work at an urban college. You purchase your metro pass using money from your paycheck that’s routed to a pretax account instead of your taxed paycheck. You also might be unknowingly leaving your employer holding a new tax bill.
Colleges and universities are facing possible new tax bills like these, plus a dizzying number of questions about how and when they should be calculated, in the wake of the Republican tax-reform package signed into law at the end of last year. Even seven months after President Trump etched his signature onto the bill, institutions have little guidance on what, specifically, they will be paying.

The uncertainty was clear Sunday at the National Association of College and University Business Officers annual meeting. A tax update session seemed to raise more questions than answers about a host of issues, including unrelated business income taxes on employee parking, transit benefits and the sections of the new tax code covering them.

Experts made clear that colleges aren’t blaming employees for tax law changes they couldn’t control. Still, they warned that under some interpretations, universities might have to pay taxes on employee parking benefits even if they don’t charge anyone to park in lots at all. They worry the law will be interpreted to say that employers have to pay taxes on the amount they spend to maintain one of their parking lots where they reserve spaces for employees — like money paid to pave or plow.

A controversy arose a few years ago regarding the free parking provided to Madison School District administrators. I don’t know if this practice continues.

China Built an Army of Influence Agents in the U.S.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian:

In May, a classified Australian government report revealed that the Chinese Communist Party had spent the last decade attempting to influence every level of that nation’s government and politics.

“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time,” said the author of the report in March.

“They put an enormous amount of effort into making sure we don’t talk about what it’s doing.”

Commissioned by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the wake of a series of Chinese influence scandals that rocked Australian politics last year, the report, compiled under the auspices of an intelligence agency, examined Chinese attempts to influence politicians, political donations, media, and academia.

But such a report could easily be written about the United States—and may soon be. U.S. intelligence agencies have long tracked Beijing’s clandestine attempts at political influence inside the United States.

Visa Restrictions for Chinese Students Alarm Academia

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks:

President Trump’s confrontation with China is beginning to ripple through American academic and research institutions, as a crackdown on visas for certain Chinese citizens has left the higher education community wondering how it will adapt to the administration’s effort to stop intellectual property theft and slow China’s push for technological supremacy.

Educators and academic groups fear that the additional scrutiny could hinder scientific innovation, alienate talented applicants or intensify aggressions toward Chinese scientists already in the country.

Academics are already wrestling with the increased attention. At an aerospace conference in Georgia last month, Ella Atkins, a University of Michigan professor, recalled a colleague approaching her with a dilemma.

Public Views of Gene Editing for Babies Depend on How It Would Be Used

Cary Funk and Meg Hefferon :

Americans’ views on the appropriateness of changing a baby’s genetic characteristics depend in large part on the intended purpose and on whether or not human embryos would be used in testing these techniques. A majority of Americans support the idea of using gene editing with the goal of delivering direct health benefits for babies, but at the same time, a majority considers the use of such techniques to boost a baby’s intelligence something that takes technology “too far.”

About seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say that changing an unborn baby’s genetic characteristics to treat a serious disease or condition that the baby would have at birth is an appropriate use of medical technology, while 27% say this would be taking technology too far. A somewhat smaller share of Americans say gene editing to reduce a baby’s risk of developing a serious disease or condition over their lifetime is appropriate (60% say this, while 38% say it would be taking medical technology too far). But just 19% of Americans say it would be appropriate to use gene editing to make a baby more intelligent; eight-in-ten (80%) say this would be taking medical technology too far.

These are some of the findings from a new Pew Research Center survey conducted April 23-May 6, 2018, among 2,537 U.S. adults.

China Panics Over Substandard Vaccine Scandal

Sixth Tone:

The Chinese internet has erupted in outrage after a pharmaceutical company was found to have produced and sold hundreds of thousands of vaccines that did not meet national drug standards, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Sunday.

“This vaccine case has broken the moral bottom line,” Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday. He instructed the State Council, China’s cabinet, to dispatch inspectors immediately to investigate the matter. Li also stressed that apart from obvious law-breaking on the part of the company involved or its employees, any lesser misconduct or dereliction of duty would also be severely punished.

It’s not standardized tests educators hate, it’s accountability

Citizen Stewart:

Education Week likes to frustrate me in the morning. Reading their article today about the retreat of the anti-testing suburban opt-out movement, I should have been happy, but a few word-bytes in it are restating flimsy complaints about the testing of public school students and that put vinegar in my coffee.

I despise vinegar.

There was the superintendent in Bedford, New Hampshire who said: “I would love to get away from this obsession with standardized testing.” The problem he says is how being “locked in” to doing annual assessments makes it difficult for his district to “try new forms of instruction.”


McDonald’s Says Goodbye Cashiers, Hello Kiosks

Ed Rensi:

“Would you like fries with that?” may soon be a phrase of the past.

As minimum wage levels approach or surpass $15 nationwide, restaurant customers expecting to be greeted by a smiling face will instead be welcomed by a glowing LED screen.

As of 2020, self-service ordering kiosks will be implemented at all U.S. McDonald’s locations. Other chains, including fast-casual brands like Panera and casual-dining brands like Chili’s, have already embraced this trend. Some restaurant concepts have even automated the food-preparation process; earlier this year, NBC News profiled “Flippy,” a robot hamburger flipper. Other upcoming concepts include virtual restaurants which eliminate the need for full-service restaurants (and staff) by only offering home delivery.

While some consumers may appreciate the novelty or added convenience, the conveniences come at the cost of entry-level jobs.

Civics: How should the Chinese media approach Belt and Road reporting?

Panda Paw Dragon Claw:

Many Chinese netizens, including myself, recognize the pen name “Michael Anti” (real name Zhao Jing) as an internet legend. His blogs, back in the early 2000s, were must-reads of an emerging body of online writing that was distinctive in style and latitude from what people usually saw on media outlets back then. As a journalist, columnist and blogger, Anti represents the outward-looking, critical voice that introduces liberal ideals into the Chinese cyberspace. In 2005 he famously celebrated China’s Super Girl show (an American Idol style singing talent show) as a massive experiment of democracy, where tens of millions of Chinese viewers voted for their favorite singers through mobile phone SMS. His critique of the global and Chinese media/cyber landscape has established his reputation as one of the sharpest journalistic minds in China. He was the winner of the 2011 M100 Sanssouci Media Award, worked as a war correspondent for 21st Century Business Herald and a researcher for the New York Times Beijing bureau, and became a Harvard Niemann fellow in 2008.

High myopia rates among Chinese teenagers influence defense security

Senior Colonel Dai Xu:

According to a recent media report in the UK, in a study involving about 4,700 primary and junior middle school students in Guangzhou, a city located in southern China, that 12% of students from Grade One in primary schools were found to be suffering from myopia. This number shockingly goes up to 67% among students of Grade One in junior middle schools.

My colleague in charge of the PLA Air Force pilot recruitment sector and I visited a senior middle school in South China three years ago to study the vision problems of students. Based on our investigation, we found that only 8 – 10 students in a class of 40 students did not wear glasses, and there was a high rate of myopia of about 80%.

According to my colleague, some students without glasses might be wearing contact lenses. Combined with other indexes, in a senior middle school with almost 10,000 students, it was difficult to select a student who could qualify to be trained to become a pilot.

I was shocked. Was this the real condition of our military talent reserves supporting our modern and powerful Air Force? Based on later investigations, I found that this was a universal result. Undoubtedly, a high rate of myopia has already greatly influenced national defense security.

Why Do the Biggest Companies Keep Getting Bigger? It’s How They Spend on Tech

Christopher Mims:

Economists have proposed many possible explanations: top managers flocking to top firms, automation creating an imbalance in productivity, merger-and-acquisition mania, lack of antitrust regulation and more.

But new data suggests that the secret of the success of the Amazons, Googles and Facebook s of the world—not to mention the Walmart s, CVSes and UPSes before them—is how much they invest in their own technology.

There are different kinds of IT spending. For the first few decades of the PC revolution, most companies would buy off-the-shelf hardware and software. Then, with the advent of the cloud, they switched to services offered by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft . Like the difference between a tailored suit and a bespoke one, these systems can be customized, but they aren’t custom.

IT spending that goes into hiring developers and creating software owned and used exclusively by a firm is the key competitive advantage. It’s different from our standard understanding of R&D in that this software is used solely by the company, and isn’t part of products developed for its customers.

Madison schools committee scraps concept of police liaison program

Logan Wroge:

A Madison School Board committee on Wednesday scrapped the concept of replacing school-based police officers with a liaison program, while it continued to draft recommendations on the future of the school district’s relationship with the Madison Police Department.

A draft report from the committee studying armed and uniformed officers stationed in the Madison School District’s main high schools — La Follette, Memorial, East and West — who are known as educational resource officers, or EROs, included the idea of a liaison program in which officers would be in regular contact with schools and receive special training but not be embedded in the school buildings.

Several committee members said the liaison concept was not vetted well enough over their 16 months of meeting, and they did not feel it would be appropriate to provide such a recommendation to the School Board.

Gangs and school violence forum.

How Elite Schools Stay So White

Natasha Warikoo and Nadirah Farah Foley:

That question is being debated in Massachusetts, where court papers argue over Harvard’s use of race in its “holistic” admissions process, and in New York City, where politicians are trying to increase the number of black and Latino students at top public high schools.

But the answer has always been obvious: only the elite.

While standards of merit shift over time, prominent schools and even their critics usually take for granted admissions systems that uphold the privileges of elite groups. In the United States, “elites” are mostly white people. That means Asian-Americans and underrepresented minorities — Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans — are pitted against one another for coveted spots at elite schools.

Madison recently expanded their least diverse schools.

Doctors rely on more than just data for medical decision making

Anne Trafton:

Many technology companies are working on artificial intelligence systems that can analyze medical data to help diagnose or treat health problems. Such systems raise the question of whether this kind of technology can perform as well as a human doctor.
A new study from MIT computer scientists suggests that human doctors provide a dimension that, as yet, artificial intelligence does not. By analyzing doctors’ written notes on intensive-care-unit patients, the researchers found that the doctors’ “gut feelings” about a particular patient’s condition played a significant role in determining how many tests they ordered for the patient.
“There’s something about a doctor’s experience, and their years of training and practice, that allows them to know in a more comprehensive sense, beyond just the list of symptoms, whether you’re doing well or you’re not,” says Mohammad Ghassemi, a research affiliate at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES). “They’re tapping into something that the machine may not be seeing.”

The death of Don Draper Advertising, once a creative industry, is now a data-driven business reliant on algorithms. The implications are deeply sinister – not only for the consumer but for democracy itself.

Ian Leslie:

The earthquake, of course, was the internet, and the subsequent seizure of the ad business by technology companies. Between them, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (about whom Galloway has written an acclaimed, critical book, The Four), have transformed advertising’s terms of trade. Clients pour billions into a digital ecosystem that revolves around Google and Facebook in particular. The ad industry, run by people who pride themselves on creativity, is being displaced by the ad business, which prides itself on efficiency. Clients are spending less on the kind of entertaining, seductive, fame-generating campaigns in which ad agencies specialise, and more on the ads that flash and wink on your smartphone screen.
 The ad industry views itself as a field of applied artistry, a next-door neighbour to the entertainment industry. Though it often fails, it aspires to surprise, charm, move and delight people on behalf of its clients. The ad business is obsessed with data science, and distrusts the messy stuff of story, image and idea. The ad industry thinks of itself as the custodian of a brand’s meaning in popular culture. The ad business could not care less about such fluff. Instead, it seeks to identify the precise moment that a consumer needs something so that it can trigger a sale. Shopping, on its model, is essentially an engineering problem to which a satisfyingly logical solution has finally been found.
 The ad business is largely automated. Clients only have to decide how many people they want to reach, and how much they want to spend; algorithms do the rest. In the milliseconds before a page loads on to your screen, a virtual auction takes place. Advertisers bid for the chance to place their client’s ad on it, based on data about your online behaviour: where you live, whether you’re young or old, recently shopped for shoes or searched for a car brand. The advertiser might create multiple ads and serve different executions to different slices of its audience. Some companies, such as Cambridge Analytica, claim to be able to target personality types using this method. The more valuable your particular profile is to the advertiser, the higher price its algorithm will pay the publisher to get an ad in front of your eyes. In this way, every scintilla of attention is transformed into money.

To Raise Exceptional Children, Teach Them These 7 Values

Sherrie Campbell:

To parent our children to be exceptional, we must allow our children to experience “optimal levels of frustration.” It is our job to love and support them through their struggles, but to refrain from solving their problems for them.

We need to equip our children with the insight that their struggles and failures serve as master teachers that help grow them into stronger, more successful people. It is important we help our children overcome the emotional blocks they face, which breed thoughts of small-mindedness and create self-imposed limitations. We must teach them to set high standards for themselves and to never apologize for striving to live up to those higher standards. Our goal as parents should be to encourage our children to think as big as they can, expect nothing less than the best, to have courage and, most importantly, to be kind.

The ugly scandal that cancelled the Nobel prize

Andrew Brown:

In the eyes of its members, there is no more important cultural institution in the world than the Swedish Academy. The members, who call themselves The Eighteen (always in capitals), are elected for life by their peers, and meet for a ritual dinner every Thursday evening at a restaurant they own in the heart of the old town in Stockholm. And once a year, at a ceremony brilliant with jewels and formality, the permanent secretary of the academy hands out the Nobel prize in literature and all the world applauds.

But this year there will be no prize and no ceremony. In November 2017, it was revealed in the Swedish press that the husband of one of the academy members had been accused of serial sexual abuse, in assaults alleged to have taken place over more than 20 years. Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer and cultural entrepreneur, is married to the poet and academician Katarina Frostenson. In addition to assault accusations against him, the pair are accused of misusing academy funding. Arnault has denied all accusations, and Frostenson has refused to comment.

The academy is paralysed by the scandal, which was followed by a slew of resignations and expulsions. Six of The Eighteen have withdrawn from any part in its deliberations; another two were compelled to do so. The statutes say that 12 members must be present to elect any new ones, so with only 10, no important decisions can be taken and no new members elected. The vacuum has been filled with invective.

Big Tech is Throwing Money and Talent at Home Robots

Mark Gurman:

Science fiction writers and technologists have been predicting the arrival of robot butlers for the better part of a century. So far domestic robots have been relatively pedestrian: robot dogs, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers. Rosie of “The Jetsons” fame? Not so much.

That may be about to change. Behind the scenes, big tech companies are funding secret projects to develop robots. Amazon.com Inc. has been working on a robot version of its Echo voice-activated speaker for a while now and this year began throwing more money and people at the effort. Alphabet Inc. is also working on robots, and smartphone maker Huawei Technologies Inc. is building a model for the Chinese market that will teach kids to speak English.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Venezuela’s Inflation to Reach 1 Million Percent, IMF Forecasts

Andrew Rosati:

Venezuela’s inflation will skyrocket to 1 million percent by the end of the year as the government continues to print money to cover a growing budget hole, the International Monetary Fund predicted on Monday.

The crisis is comparable to that of Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s, said Alejandro Werner, head of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere department. He forecast the economy to shrink 18 percent in 2018 — the third consecutive year of double-digit contractions — as oil production falls significantly.

“The collapse in economic activity, hyperinflation, and increasing deterioration in the provision of public goods as well as shortages of food at subsidized prices have resulted in large migration flows, which will lead to intensifying spillover effects on neighboring countries,” Werner wrote in a blog post.

Related: US Debt Clock

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Housing is eating the world

Alex Tabarrok:

The return to education, for example, has increased in the United States but it’s less well appreciated that in order to earn high wages college educated workers must increasingly live in expensive cities. One consequence is that the net college wage premium is not as large as it appears and inequality has been over-estimated. Remarkably Enrico Moretti (2013) estimates that 25% of the increase in the college wage premium between 1980 and 2000 was absorbed by higher housing costs. Moreover, since the big increases in housing costs have come after 2000, it’s very likely that an even larger share of the college wage premium today is being eaten by housing. High housing costs don’t simply redistribute wealth from workers to landowners. High housing costs reduce the return to education reducing the incentive to invest in education. Thus higher housing costs have reduced human capital and the number of skilled workers with potentially significant effects on growth.

Facebook quietly sets up subsidiary in China despite hardening censorship

Cate Cadell:

“We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups,” a Facebook representative said via email.

Facebook’s website remains banned in China, which strictly censors foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including content from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Having a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in China does not change Facebook’s approach in the country, the company said, adding that it was still learning different approaches on what it takes to be in China.

Last year Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp was also blocked in the run up to the country’s twice-a-decade congress, and it has remained mostly unavailable since.

The filing listed Facebook Hongkong Ltd and no other entities as a shareholder.

Departing Facebook Security Officer’s Memo: “We Need To Be Willing To Pick Sides”

Ryan Mac and Charlie Warzel:

In March, days after confirming his plans to leave the company, Facebook’s highest-ranking security official implored his colleagues to take responsibility for the social network’s failings amid the fallout of the most notable privacy scandal in the company’s 14-year history.

Advocating for dramatic shifts in Facebook’s culture, Alex Stamos, the company’s outgoing chief security officer, sent a reflective, brutally honest note to employees on March 23 attributing the social network’s problems to “tens of thousands of small decisions made over the last decade.” The memo, which has not previously been circulated outside Facebook, is a rare look at some of the internal debate currently taking place over the company’s future direction and the growth-at-any-cost attitude that has driven it for years.

“We need to build a user experience that conveys honesty and respect, not one optimized to get people to click yes to giving us more access,” Stamos wrote. “We need to intentionally not collect data where possible, and to keep it only as long as we are using it to serve people.”

What Is Academic Freedom? Statement That Alarmed Professors at U. of Texas Sets Off Debate

Zlindsay Ellis:

Who gets academic freedom at the University of Texas at Austin? In a court filing on Monday, three professors at the state’s flagship argued that it depends on whom you ask — and in what context.
Lawyers representing UT-Austin as part of a campus-carry lawsuit argued in January that academic freedom, if it exists, belongs to the institution and not to individual professors. In response to recent inquiries, the flagship’s president, Gregory L. Fenves, affirmed to faculty leaders that the principle of freedom remained central to the campus.

But the debate continued this week. A lawyer representing the professors — Jennifer Glass, Lisa L. Moore, and Mia Carter — wrote on Monday that the two positions were “inconsistent.” A lawyer representing the state and the university fired back on Tuesday, saying academic freedom was a “workplace policy,” not a First Amendment right.

The statements suggest that there may be a line beyond which a pledge to support academic freedom doesn’t matter, some supporters of the professors say. The lawsuit was initially dismissed, and for its appeal, lawyers for the state are representing Fenves; Ken Paxton, attorney general of Texas; and the UT regents.

Renea Hicks, a lawyer for the faculty members, said if Fenves disagrees with the brief, he must tell UT’s legal team to change their tune. The president’s letter doesn’t offer much protection, he said.

“And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Amber Walker:

Critics were also concerned about Madison Prep’s operating costs — totaling $11,000 per student — and its reliance on non-union staff in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10, a state law that severely limited collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees which passed early in 2011.

Caire said despite the challenges, building Madison Prep would have been an opportunity for the district to respond to the longstanding concerns of African-American parents for better educational outcomes for their children.

“How could (the Madison School Board) question us like that? (They) hadn’t gotten this thing right in two to three decades,” Caire said.

“Black kids were not getting what they needed. Black community members felt that and it’s real,” he said. “White community members said we were trying to tell them that their system doesn’t support black kids… a whole lot of it was about that.”

In December 2011, hundreds of people on both sides of the Madison Prep debate crowded the auditorium at Madison Memorial High School to appeal to the Madison School Board. Ultimately, the Board voted 5-2 against the charter proposal.

“It actually made me feel like Madison was no longer my home, going through that,” Caire said. “A lot of friends I had, to this day, after that experience don’t hang out with me like they used to. I miss that… unfortunately, there were some casualties with that whole episode.”

Ed Hughes, former Madison School Board president who was one of the two members who voted in favor of Madison Prep [Incorrect], agreed.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me. I had been on the board for a few years, but there was not previously an issue like that, one that highlighted the school district’s failure to educate children of color,” Hughes said.

“It took someone like (Caire) to come in, request the data, put it out, and say, ‘The school district is failing in some really significant ways and no one is doing anything about it.’ It is a real credit to him that he got people talking about the issue and starting to focus on it.”

Current Madison School Board member T.J. Mertz is an instructor at Edgewood College who blogs extensively about K-12 education issues in the city. Before joining the board, Mertz voiced his concerns about Madison Prep’s funding structure and pedagogical approach in his blog.

In an interview with the Cap Times, Mertz acknowledged the Madison Prep debate illuminated MMSD’s shortcomings in serving low income, African-American students, but it bolstered the rift between black families and the district.

“I think the campaign around Madison Prep shed more heat than light on the issues. It certainly called attention to it, but also created difficulties in district and community members working together,” Mertz said.

“I implored him, ‘Don’t make it harder for African-American families to work with the school district,’” Mertz said regarding a conversation he had with Caire early on in the Madison Prep charter process.

Correction: Mr. Hughes voted against Madison Prep, along with Beth Moss, Mary Passman, Arlene Silveira and Maya Cole.

Lucy Mathiak and James Howard voted for it.

Much more on the 2011 Madison School Board’s rejection of Madison prep, here.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham: “without; being held accountable to district standards”. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Finally, Madison spends far more than $11k per student….

Beijing’s new Zaha Hadid-designed airport to showcase latest facial recognition technology

Sarah Dar:

Beijing’s new US$12 billion airport, which is designed to handle up to 100 million passengers a year at full capacity, will feature cutting-edge surveillance technology to ease bottlenecks in security and immigration screening.

Chinese artificial intelligence start-up Yitu is preparing a bid to provide its facial recognition technology to the airport, while its close rival SenseTime Group is also expected to compete for the contract.

The new Zaha Hadid-designed airport is situated about 50 kilometres south of central Beijing and will help ease congestion at the current airport located in the northeast of the capital. It will also serve Xiongan, the satellite city in neighbouring Hebei province created to reduce overcrowding in Beijing.

The Tyranny of Stuctureless

Jo Freeman aka Joreen:

If the movement is to grow beyond these elementary stages of development, it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organization and structure. There is nothing inherently bad about either of these. They can be and often are misused, but to reject them out of hand because they are misused is to deny ourselves the necessary tools to further development. We need to understand why “structurelessness” does not work.


Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the people involved. The very fact that we are individuals, with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any basis whatsoever could we approximate structurelessness — and that is not the nature of a human group.

This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free” social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire” group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire” philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, and within the women’s movement is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.

Trade war risks university joint ventures in China

Lisa Murray:

The escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing has increased the risk for university joint ventures and partnerships operating in China, according to Jeffrey Lehman, vice-chancellor of New York University Shanghai.

When NYU set up China’s first Sino-American joint university in Shanghai five years ago, the biggest risk it faced was attracting students and teaching staff to the new and experimental institution. However, Mr Lehman said geostrategic developments have rocketed up the risk list, threatening the viability of international collaborations.

UK snooping ‘unlawful for more than decade’


The system that allowed spy agency GCHQ access to vast amounts of personal data from telecoms companies was unlawful for more than a decade, a surveillance watchdog has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal said that successive foreign secretaries had delegated powers without oversight.

But it added there was no evidence GCHQ had misused the system.

Privacy International criticised the “cavalier manner” in which personal data was shared.

The group brought the legal challenge and solicitor Millie Graham Wood said it was “proof positive” that the system set up to protect personal data was flawed.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New Yorkers Trying to Flee High State Taxes Find Moving Isn’t So Easy

Ben Steverman:

Among the wealthy tri-state-area set, there’s more buzz than ever about fleeing south to Florida, land of mild winters and, more importantly after last year’s federal tax overhaul, zero state personal income tax.

Actual action? Pretty scarce.

High-earners are learning what tax experts have known for years: Tax collectors in states like New York make it really hard to leave. Wealth managers and tax lawyers say many of their clients are staying put after hearing about the scrupulous records they would have to keep to show they’ve really uprooted their lives and severed ties with their former states — and that it’s not as easy as just spending a few more days a month in a Florida vacation home.

Like other high-tax states, New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance will go to great lengths to keep wealthy residents on their tax lists. The states’ methods can be aggressive: Issuing subpoenas to pore through credit card statements, bank transactions or phone records to track a taxpayer’s location, and sending auditors to interview doormen or confirm doctors’ appointments.

“When people understand they have to change their life circumstances, some people say: ‘Never mind, that’s too big a life change for us to do right now”’ said Timothy Noonan, a partner at law firm Hodgson Russ LLP, who’s based in Buffalo and Manhattan.

The ‘Overparenting’ Crisis In School And At Home

Anya Kamenetz:

Julie Lythcott-Haims: We parents are overprotecting, overdirecting and doing a lot of hand-holding, ostensibly in furtherance of kids’ safety — physical, emotional — and security — emotional, academic, reputational, professional, financial. But also in furtherance of our own ego. Our kid becomes chronologically adult but still expects us to tell them what to do and how to do it, and is bewildered by the prospect of having to fend for themselves as an actual independent human. God help them when we are gone.

How are schools playing into this dynamic?

Lahey: Teachers and administrators complain about parents, but we helped create this frenzy … Teachers have come to accept that parents interfere and co-opt school projects and have begun to take that for granted when grading.

Lythcott-Haims: The other way in which high schools in particular play into the dynamic is during the college admission process, where they feel judged based on the brand names of the colleges their seniors get into, and their incentive is to brag about that.

California teacher pension debt swamps school budgets


California’s public schools have enjoyed a remarkable restoration of funding since the bone-deep cuts they endured during the recession, but many are now facing a grave financial threat as they struggle to protect pensions crucial for teachers’ retirement.

Over the next three years, schools may need to use well over half of all the new money they’re projected to receive to cover their growing pension obligations, leaving little extra for classrooms, state Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates show. This is true even though the California State Teachers’ Retirement System just beat its investment goals for the second straight year.

Some districts are predicting deficits and many districts are bracing for what’s to come by cutting programs, reducing staff or drawing down their reserves—even though per-pupil funding is at its highest level in three decades and voters recently extended a tax hike on the rich to help pay for schools.

At the same time, some districts are grappling with how to simultaneously afford raises for teachers who have threatened to strike.

Audit Bureau Survey of Parents Shows Support for Special Needs School Choice Program

Will Flanders:

The Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) represents an important new option for families of students with disabilities in Wisconsin. The SNSP provides a substantially larger voucher for families of students with disabilities who do not feel their needs are being met in the traditional public school setting to attend a private school that better meets those needs.

During the previous legislative session, a number of constraints on the program were removed meaning that many more Wisconsin children will be able to participate in the future. For the 2018-19 school year, 84 schools have signed up to participate including 55 schools which will be participating in the program for the first time. With a growing program such as this, it is important to get an assessment ‘on the ground’ of how well it is meeting the needs of participating students.

Retro UW-Madison delivery van hits road to dispel myths about school, and get in a few licks

Karen Herzog:

If you’ve heard it’s next to impossible for Wisconsin kids to get into the University of Wisconsin-Madison, here’s the scoop.

And if you’re in the right place at the right time, you also may get some Babcock ice cream.

UW-Madison’s Alumni Association is on the road this summer with a retro 1957 dairy delivery truck loaded with campus-churned ice cream. It’s making scheduled stops across the state at community events like band concerts and farmers markets as part of a myth-busting #GetTheScoop outreach.

One of the biggest “myths” the alumni foundation-funded effort aims to knock down is that few Wisconsin kids get into Madison — something that creates frustration and makes the flagship campus seem elitist. The outreach aims to create positive connections with Wisconsin residents ahead of next spring’s state budget deliberations — where the rubber meets the road — and to make sure people know the facts; not just what they hear on the street. ‚

UW-Madison and other UW campuses in recent years have faced budget cuts and criticism from some Republican state lawmakers. There’s a lack of trust. Some of that comes from accounting issues within the UW System unearthed in recent years. But there’s also a sense among many residents that the flagship campus doesn’t benefit — or even looks down on — all residents of Wisconsin, UW officials acknowledge.

To Think or Not to Think?

Mike St. Thomas:

“Thinking for yourself” is an anomaly.

Or so argues Alan Jacobs in his recent book How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. “Thinking,” he argues, “is necessarily, thoroughly, and wonderfully social.” For Jacobs, a cultural critic and professor at Baylor University, thinking well involves navigating the often bumpy terrain of other people’s lives and ideas. We learn through dialogue, and we begin to think as individuals only in relation to the communities which shape us. The Greeks had a word for this process, paideia, and in their view each citizen, educated in this way, distills the habits and vision of the entire community.

What happens to individuals raised not on books and conversation but on an unholy amalgam of YouTube videos, Snapchat streaks, and clickbait? What happens to good thinking when a community threatens every moment to splinter into a thousand shouting tribes? Attempting to make sense of it all often seems like so much wandering in a dark wilderness. Jacobs’s tidy book, as portable as a field manual and only 157 pages long, attempts to lead us out of the briars.

As an academic and a Christian (he is Anglican), Jacobs is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between some of the most entrenched tribes in our country. He has consciously chosen a modern and diverse range of thinkers to include in this book. Hipsters and evangelicals alike will recognize the cast of How to Think: We encounter Megan Phelps-Roper, whose public departure from the Westboro Baptist Church in 2012 landed her spots on NPR, the New York Times, and, eventually, a TED talk. Shortly thereafter we hear from Roger Scruton, the Anglican intellectual steeped in the classical tradition whose writing often appears in culturally conservative journals. Young Catholic convert and writer Leah Libresco makes an appearance, as do Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ursula K. LeGuin. And this is just in the first two chapters of the book.

Time to Junk Racial Quotas in Higher Education

Michael Barone:

But the increasingly glaring contact between elite institutional practice and constitutional principle is driving the case against racial quotas and preferences. “Governmental use of race must have a logical end point,” Justice Sandra O’Connor wrote in Grutter v. Bollinger, allowing racial preferences at Michigan Law School. “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

That was in 2003. Ten years left to go.

Except it may come sooner. Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s Education and Justice Department withdrew six possibly illegal guidance letters issued to colleges and universities by their Obama administration predecessors, each one encouraging racial discrimination in admissions.

Harvard, meanwhile, faces a lawsuit from Asian plaintiffs who charge the elite school with racial discrimination against Asians, similar to its discrimination against Jews from the 1920s to the 1950s, designed to prevent the overrepresentation that their academic achievement might justify. Discovery in the case has revealed that Harvard lowballs “personality” ratings of Asian applicants who have high test scores, grades, and extracurriculars. In other words, not the kind we want in our country club.

For me, the clinching argument against racial discrimination in admissions is not how it hurts Asians or, to a much lesser extent, whites, but how it hurts the intended beneficiaries. As Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor showed in their 2012 book Mismatch, and as subsequent research has confirmed, black and Hispanic students who are less well prepared than their schoolmates tend to struggle with instruction pitched to others more advanced. They are thus more likely to shun science and tech courses and to drop out without degrees, weighed down in many cases by debts they cannot pay.

Lawrence University sued over campus sex assault procedures

Bruce Vielmetti:

A Lawrence University student has sued the institution, alleging it allowed a sexually aggressive student to remain on campus, despite repeated complaints about him, until months after she reported to police that he had raped her.

The woman, identified in the suit as Jane Doe, accuses Lawrence of “deliberate indifference” toward the suspected male student, who was eventually expelled after Doe reported him to Appleton police.

The federal lawsuit says the assault occurred last fall when the woman was an 18-year-old freshman at the Appleton campus. The male student, it says, was a junior and is now 21.

Doe’s lawsuit names the male student in the complaint, but it does not list him as a defendant. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Lawrence for negligence, and violations under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.

How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity “Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”

Maria Popova:

“Each note rubs the others just right, and the instrument shivers with delight. The feeling is unmistakable, intoxicating,” musician Glenn Kurtz wrote in his sublime meditation on the pleasures of practicing, adding: “My attention warms and sharpens… Making music changes my body.” Kurtz’s experience, it turns out, is more than mere lyricism — music does change the body’s most important organ, and changes it more profoundly than any other intellectual, creative, or physical endeavor.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity, how it impacts executive function and memory, and what it reveals about the role of the same neural structure implicated in explaining Leonardo da Vinci’s genius.

Only one fourth-grader at a school in California can read at grade level; now a lawsuit claiming the state is violating students’ ‘constitutional right to literacy’ is moving to trial

Esmeralda Fabián Romero :

Can a school in California where only one fourth-grader is able to read at grade level be violating students’ constitutional guarantee to a basic education?

A lawsuit could get the green light within days to move forward with its claim that the state’s Department of Education is depriving low-income students equal access to learn to read and write. The suit claims to be the first in the United States to seek recognition of the constitutional right to literacy.

Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos will rule by next Tuesday on the state’s petition to dismiss the lawsuit. She heard both parties’ arguments last week in Los Angeles.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

You’ve Heard of Berkeley. Is Merced the Future of the University of California?

Jennifer Medina:

In the decades since a ballot measure banned affirmative action in California’s public institutions, the University of California has faced persistent criticism that it is inadequately serving Latinos, the state’s largest ethnic group. The disparity between the state’s population and its university enrollment is most stark at the state’s flagship campuses: at University of California, Los Angeles, Latinos make up about 21 percent of all students; at Berkeley, they account for less than 13 percent.

But at Merced, the newest addition to the 10-campus University of California system, about 53 percent of the undergraduates are Latino, most closely mirroring the demographics of the nation’s most diverse state.

Can Unions Be Sued For Janus Claims?

Will Baude:

Last month the Supreme Court held in Janus v. AFSCME that it is unconstitutional for the states to require public employees to pay labor unions if they choose not to become members (these payments were called “agency fees”). There has been plenty written about what this means for the future of public sector unions and what might happen next. But it turns out that there is another important question: what about the agency fees that unions had been collecting before Janus? Are unions liable for collecting them? Can they be forced to pay them back?

A series of lawsuits have been recently brought in seven states arguing that unions are liable, and now subject to quite significant liability. Noam Scheiber has a story in the New York Times about the suits, (and the lawyer bringing the suits, a former law professor and former Texas solicitor general, Jonathan Mitchell):

The “Intellectual Dark Web” Is Nothing New

Jacob Hamburger:

THE FIRST DISTINCT intellectual movement to have emerged during the Trump presidency is not the alt-right, which rose to prominence during the 2016 campaign. Nor is it democratic socialism, the egalitarian platform that many young progressives have embraced since the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Instead, this movement may well be what some are calling the “intellectual dark web.” It is a heterogeneous group, bringing together neuroscientists, biologists, and psychologists with entrepreneurs, comedians, and sports commentators. Some claim to lean to the left, others to the right. There is nonetheless a common enemy that unites them. Despite their various differences, all members of the movement believe their ideas are being stifled by an epidemic of “political correctness.”

Unlike the actual “dark web” of hidden online networks, this one requires no specialized software to be made accessible. Its ideas can be found in best-selling books and media channels with millions of subscribers. Mathematician and financier Eric Weinstein coined the term intellectual dark web, and he meant to point out not that this group is obscure — it isn’t — but that its figures all pride themselves on upturning conventional beliefs.

Evidence on New York City and Boston exam schools

Susan Dynarski:

New York City is wrestling with what to do with its exam schools. Students at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech (the oldest exam schools) perform brilliantly and attend the best colleges. Their students score at the 99th percentile of the state SAT distribution (with Stuyvesant at the 99.9th percentile) and they account for the majority of New York City students attending Harvard, Princeton and Yale.1 These are by any measure elite schools and are revered as jewels of the city school system.

But of the 900 freshmen who enrolled at Stuyvesant this past fall, just 10 were black.2 By state law, admission to these schools is via a specialized, voluntary, admissions test. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others complain that this admissions system perpetuates inequality in opportunity to an excellent education.

A lot of ink has been spilled over the exam schools, in popular news outlets as well as in academic journals. In this piece, I address a narrow but relevant question: the causal impact of these schools on the students who attend them. Do the exam schools produce academically outstanding graduates, or do they simply admit stellar students and enjoy credit for their successes? I also briefly discuss alternative methods the city could use to dole out scarce seats at these over-subscribed schools.

Understanding the effectiveness of any school is a challenge because parents choose their children’s schools. In many cases, the school a child attends is tied to her address, so a parent effectively chooses a school when she picks a residence. In places like New York and Boston, which have district-wide choice, families can choose from dozens of public schools, including charters, magnets and exam schools. And there are private schools for those who can afford them or who have vouchers to subsidize the cost.

Civics: Perspective

Lyle Jeremy Rubin:

I was trained at NSA headquarters as a signals intelligence officer in the Marines. This was about a decade ago, and I was by no means an area specialist. That said, I was privy to relevant briefs. At the time I learned that U.S. cyber operations in Russia, across Russia’s periphery, and around the world already dwarfed Russian operations in size, capability, and frequency. It wasn’t even close, and the expectation was that the gap was about to grow a whole lot wider.

This should hardly come as a surprise. Just compare the defense budgets of the United States and Russia. The president recently signed a gargantuan $700 billion gift to the Pentagon, with marginal dissent from either party or their affiliated media outlets. The budget increase alone ($61 billion) exceeds Russia’s entire annual expenditure ($46). The U.S. military budget now equals more than the combined budgets of China, Russia, Britain, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, and France. As Vice concluded, “it’s 14 times larger than the Kremlin’s budget.”

Furthermore, covert American operations are deeply invested in interrupting democratic processes not only in Russia, but everywhere else. This includes the heart of Europe, where corporate media is now pretending the United States has always respected happy norms and decorum. It is as if the Snowden leaks never happened. The Defense Department’s tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone never happened. The Obama administration’s spying on the German press, including Der Spiegel, never happened. The same administration’s outing of German government whistle-blowers never happened.

Electoral meddling in particular happens all the time, both to us and by us. The U.S. government rigged the Russian election for Yeltsin in 1996, and then they bragged about it in a cover story for Time. (You can still find the cover online.) This followed the disastrous capitalist “shock therapy” of the early nineties and preceded the rise of the Russian oligarchs. Putin’s brand of nationalist resentment grew out of this moment of extreme collective humiliation. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is happily on record pushing for the tampering of Palestinian elections in 2006.

1 big thing: The childless, aging future


Whichever the case, almost no one seems prepared. People are going to have to work longer, experts say. And the U.S. requires “major reforms” in its programs for the elderly, says Richard Cincotta, director of the Global Political Demography Program at the Stimson Center, and fofrmerly a lead demographer for the U.S. intelligence community. But the government “seems to be nowhere near making the social security reforms that are needed.”

A new digital divide: Young people who can’t use keyboards

Toshihiko Katsuda:

“How do I double click?” “What is a cell in a spreadsheet?”

Mashiko Ishii often hears that her fellow lecturers at Uchida Human Resources Development Center become confused when they are asked such basic questions during training for new employees of IT companies.

Pressing the button of a computer mouse twice and knowing the basic unit for data input in spreadsheets are some of the fundamentals of using a computer, but it is not uncommon for even would-be system engineers to ask such questions.

The reason is clear. As smartphones have become extremely convenient, a growing number of students have never laid their hands on a personal computer.

Lecturers who work with Ishii often start training by teaching students how to use a keyboard.

The Mismatch Effect: A Danger for Students of All Races

Eugene Volokh:

Say that you apply to many schools, including some where other students have much better predictors (chiefly test scores and grades from earlier institutions) than you. And you get in! Maybe it was affirmative action (whether based on race, socioeconomic status, or something else), maybe it was a preference because your relatives had gone to the same school, maybe it was something in your admission essay, maybe it was just luck. Either way, you’re thrilled.

Might you have reason to be less thrilled, and actually not want to go to this highly ranked school? (Conversely, might the school reconsider its policy that led you to be let in?) If the predictors are actually reasonable predictors (and apparently grades and test scores tend to be reasonable predictors), then you can expect you’ll end up lower in the class at the new school than you might be at some other school, precisely because the other students are better than you. The advantage of having a more prestigious degree might be counteracted by the disadvantage of having a less prestigious class rank. But might you end up getting a worse education, being less likely to graduate, and being less likely to pass any professional licensing exams (such as the bar) that you might be expecting to take?

That’s the debate about the “mismatch effect,” which I’ve followed over the years (though from a distance); it has mostly focused on whether race-based affirmative action causes problems (such as lower black bar passage rates) as a result of this effect, but it can also be relevant to many students of all races. I was first exposed to it because of the work of my UCLA School of Law colleague Rick Sander, and Robert Steinbuch at Arkansas / Little Rock has been working in it as well; Rob has been kind enough to pass along these thoughts on the subject:

Thoughts on Mass Tenure Revocation at Vermont Law School in the Shadow of the Market and Beyond Shared Governance

Larry Data Backer:

The reactions are what might be expected, though surprisingly muted (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here). In the end, after the hand wringing and acrimony, the substance of this action will likely remain undisturbed. “If the reports are accurate, Vermont has essentially acted as if tenure does not exist. This could potentially raise questions about whether Vermont is in compliance with ABA standard 405, but it is unclear how assertive the ABA or site visit teams will be in enforcing those standards.” (How secure is tenure? (Michael Simkovic)).

For this post I offer some brief thoughts on what is likely to be a very useful and evolving addition to the toolkit of administrators as they continue the hard task of commodifying and capitalizing education within what is still nostalgically referenced as “the university.” The focus is not on the lawyering of protection for those faculty with respect to whom tenure has been made a mockery, though one clothed in the delightfully unctuous ululations of administrator speak. Rather the reflections here focus on the ways in which these actions evidence more generally a perhaps significant changes of power relations within an institution in which the notions of traditional shared governance has withered away. The character of that withering away is itself of interest, as the successful de-professionalization of the faculty has opened the way for their replacement in governance by an emerging corps of professional administrators only some of whom are drawn from their ranks who (ironically) remain protected by tenure.

Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States

Lisa Ko:

Coerced sterilization is a shameful part of America’s history, and one doesn’t have to go too far back to find examples of it. Used as a means of controlling “undesirable” populations – immigrants, people of color, poor people, unmarried mothers, the disabled, the mentally ill – federally-funded sterilization programs took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century. Driven by prejudiced notions of science and social control, these programs informed policies on immigration and segregation.

As historian William Deverell explains in a piece discussing the “Asexualization Acts” that led to the sterilization of more than 20,000 California men and women,“If you are sterilizing someone, you are saying, if not to them directly, ‘Your possible progeny are inassimilable, and we choose not to deal with that.’”

According to Andrea Estrada at UC Santa Barbara, forced sterilization was particularly rampant in California (the state’s eugenics program even inspired the Nazis):

The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union

Natan Sharansky:

Sakharov’s essay, which coincided with the Prague Spring, helped energize democratic dissident movements that were just budding in a post-Stalinist world. The largest of these was one I would soon join: the so-called refusenik movement to allow the Soviet Union’s long-oppressed Jews the freedom to emigrate.

Some Russian dissidents mistrusted the Zionist movement as particularistic and unpatriotic, fearing it would distract from their broader human rights agenda. Not Sakharov. He supported the refuseniks because he recognized the right to emigrate as a gateway to democratic entitlement that opens everyone to embracing freedom in a closed society.

By the mid-1970s I was serving as Sakharov’s spokesman, and I remember after yet another friend of ours had been sentenced to prison, he told me: “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.”

Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained.

Partnerships with people on the spectrum yield rich research insights

Nicholette Zeliadt:

There are different views on whether ‘people with autism’ or ‘autistic people’ is the better way to refer to individuals on the spectrum. Some of the people quoted in this article prefer to say ‘autistic,’ but Spectrum’s style is to refer to ‘people with autism.’

It wasn’t until Anna Remington had nearly finished collecting data that she uncovered the flaw in her study.

A couple of years ago, Remington, then a lecturer at University College London, was investigating how people determine whether someone is trustworthy. She and her colleagues showed participants with the condition a series of images of unfamiliar faces, along with some hypothetical information about each person. They then asked the participants, “Would you approach this person — either in a social or financial context?”

Overwhelmingly, the participants with autism said “no,” even in response to characters who had been described as trustworthy. Eventually, one of them pulled her aside to explain: He wasn’t interested in “approaching” anyone.

Steps Toward Super Intelligence I, How We Got Here

Rodney Brooks:

Once again, with footnotes.

God created man in his1 own image.2

Man3 created AI in his3 own image.

At least that is how it started out. But figuring out what our selves are, as machines, is a really difficult task.

We may be stuck in some weird Gödel-like incompleteness world–perhaps we are creatures below some threshold of intelligence which stops us from ever understanding or building an artificial intelligence at our level. I think most people would agree that that is true of all non-humans on planet Earth–we would be extraordinarily surprised to see a robot dolphin emerge from the ocean, one that had been completely designed and constructed by living dolphins. Like dolphins, and gorillas, and bonobos, we humans may be below the threshold as I discussed under “Hubris and Humility”.

Or, perhaps, as I tend to believe, it is just really hard, and will take a hundred years, or more, of concerted effort to get there. We still make new discoveries in chemistry, and people have tried to understand that, and turn it from a science into engineering, for thousands of years. Human level intelligence may be just as, or even more, challenging.

In my most recent blog post on the origins of Artificial Intelligence, I talked about how all the founders of AI, and most researchers since have really been motivated by producing human level intelligence. Recently a few different and small groups have tried to differentiate themselves by claiming that they alone (each of the different groups…) are interested in producing human level intelligence, and beyond, and have each adopted the name Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) to distinguish themselves from mainstream AI research. But mostly they talk about how great it is going to be, and how terrible it is going to be, and very often both messages at the same time coming out of just one mouth, once AGI is achieved. And really none of these groups have any idea how to get there. They are too much in love with the tingly feelings thinking about it to waste time actually doing it.

55% of the US National Debt Is the Result of Repaying Debt with More Debt

Taps Coogan:

The last time the US completely paid off the national debt was in 1840. It was the result of decades of balanced budgets under Presidents James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.

In the 179 years since 1840 (counting the 2018 budget), the US has run a deficit 109 times and a surplus or balanced budget just 70 times, amounting to a cumulative net deficit of $14.2 trillion. All of the surpluses combined in the last 179 years amount to $580 billion, less than the deficit in 2017 alone ($665 billion).

Since the national debt was last eliminated in 1840, the US has paid a cumulative $7.8 trillion of interest on the national debt. This interest includes repaying principal. Simple arithmetic reveals that 55% the $14.2 trillion in deficit spending since 1840 has, in effect, gone towards servicing the national debt. Put differently, instead of paying down its debt with tax revenue, the federal government has essentially rolled over 55% of its debt since 1840 with new debt. The result is that despite running ‘only’ $14.2 trillion in deficits over that last 179 years, and despite having already repaid all debt issued more than 30 years ago, the national debt today is $21.4 trillion. The difference, $7.2 trillion, represents the cumulative interest the US has paid to fund its deficits minus its modest surpluses. As a result, a full 36% of today’s national debt is, in effect, the interest paid on past debt. Only 45% of the national debt went to spending on actual programs. The rest went to servicing the national debt itself and to rolling the debt over with new debt. It also means that the government has been carrying forward the majority of the national debt going all the way back to 1840 by paying it off with new debt. A portion of the money the government borrowed in 1841 is still being paid for today via rolling the debt forward.

Tulane University awarded $10 million grant to launch national school choice research center

Keith Brannon:

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to Tulane University to study how different approaches to school choice, such as voucher programs and charter schools, can better serve disadvantaged students.

The grant will create the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH), a first-of-its-kind center that will be housed at Tulane and led by prominent education scholars from around the country, including Douglas Harris of Tulane, Joshua Cowen and Katharine Strunk of Michigan State University, Julie Marsh of the University of Southern California and Amy Ellen Schwartz of Syracuse University.

Most states have charter school systems, and more than half have voucher or tuition tax-credit policies that allow students to use public funds to attend private schools. School choice programs have delivered some notable successesin cities like Boston, New York and New Orleans but have not succeeded everywhere.

‘My brain feels like it’s been punched’: the intolerable rise of perfectionism

Paula Cocozza:

Tom Nicol thought he had a problem with sleep. He could never get enough. He took “a very disciplined, stripped approach” to his routine. He drank water only at premeditated times, ate according to schedule, avoided caffeine, exercised (but not close to bedtime) and shut down all screens at 9pm. Nicol, a PhD student, was recounting this long list of sleep settings to his student counsellor after yet another bad night, when she told him: “You have perfectionism.”

“I’m not good enough to have perfectionism,” Nicol replied.

It was “one of the most perfectionist things you can say”, he says now. At the time, though, the discovery took Nicol by surprise. He shared his surprise with his partner. “She was like: ‘Well, duh!’” But he needed to be convinced.

On the phone, Nicol, 25, has a persuasive and clear-eyed sense of his own averageness. He is “not particularly” industrious, “quite” messy and has “never been the kind of person who was seen as one of the top achievers”, he says. He recounts these perceived shortcomings with an amiable ease that sounds a lot like contentment. But maybe this, too, is a perfectionist sleight of hand, to present persistent self-criticism as casual self-deprecation. I arrange to visit Nicol at the University of York, where he is in the second year of his doctorate in theoretical chemistry.

Can’t Enter Uni Because of Daddy’s Bad Social Credit – The Blacklist Story That’s Got Weibo Talking

Manya Koetse:

However, the public black list was introduced before this time, with Chinese courts in 2013 starting to publicly give out the names online of people who have not complied with court orders. Additionally, In 2006, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) also already began operating its own independent Credit Reference Center tasked with managing a national commercial and consumer credit reporting system. With the recent launch of the so-called ‘trust alliance’ (信联), a new unified platform that has access to an enormous number of personal credit data, China’s credit-based society has taken another leap – with state level and commercial organizations joining forces in further developing China’s credit systems. In recent (English-language) media reports, the lines are often blurred between the Social Credit system and a number of private programs, including the Sesame Credit program. These misunderstandings partly come from the fact that both the government’s plans on introducing their ‘Social Credit System’ (社会信用体系) and the Central Bank’s endeavors to build a stronger personal credit industry (个人征信行业) were major developments in the period from 2013-2015 up to the present. Together with the 2013 judicial online blacklist, these policies and programs all built on a stronger credit-based society that governs both economic and social areas.

Civics: When a U.S. citizen heard he was on his own country’s drone target list, he wasn’t sure he believed it. After five near-misses, he does – and is suing the United States to contest his own execution

Matt Taibbi:

How to Survive America’s Kill List

Bilal Abdul Kareem is an expert in staying alive.

Born Darrell Lamont Phelps, he grew up just north of the Bronx in Mount Vernon, New York. He did what lots of kids in his neighborhood were doing in the late Seventies and Eighties: He spent his time rolling on the floor laughing to comics like Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor.

Later, after college at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, he decided to try stand-up himself. Hecklers were a problem.

In upscale white clubs where he sometimes performed, audiences would clap politely if his jokes missed. Not so much in the Brooklyn clubs he worked. The mostly black audiences there let him have it when he was off.

“Black folks always want to get involved in the act, you know what I’m saying?” he recalls, laughing. “Then you gotta respond with some ‘Yo mama’s so fat’ jokes just to get them to sit down and shut up.”

Over a decade later, after some major life changes – he’d converted to Islam and found himself working as a TV reporter in the Middle East under his new name, Bilal Abdul Kareem – he again drew upon his stand-up experience to stay alive. Only he wasn’t worried about dying on stage this time. This time it was more serious.

In the waning days of the Battle of Aleppo, as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces closed in on the city, Kareem found himself in a room full of desperate Free Syrian Army rebels.

Researchers produce images of people’s faces from their genomes

The Economist:

CRAIG VENTER, a biologist and boss of Human Longevity, a San Diego-based company that is building the world’s largest genomic database, is something of a rebel. In the late 1990s he declared that the international, publicly funded project to sequence the human genome was going about it the wrong way, and he developed a cheaper and quicker method of his own. His latest ruffling of feathers comes from work that predicts what a person will look like from their genetic data.

Human Longevity has assembled 45,000 genomes, mostly from patients who have been in clinical trials, and data on their associated physical attributes. The company uses machine-learning tools to analyse these data and then make predictions about how genetic sequences are tied to physical features. These efforts have improved to the point where the company is able to generate photo-like pictures of people without ever clapping eyes on them.

In a paper this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Venter and his colleagues describe the process, which they call “phenotype-based genomic identification”. The group took an ethnically diverse group of 1,061 people of different ages and sequenced their genomes. They also took high-resolution, three-dimensional images of their faces, and measured their eye and skin colour, age, height and weight. This information was used as a “training set” to develop an algorithm capable of working out what people would look like on the basis of their genes.

Algorithms and Venture Capital Investing

Dan Primack:

When most venture capitalists want approval to make a new investment, they go to their partners. When venture capitalists at GV do it, they go to something called “The Machine.”

Axios has learned that the firm, formerly known as Google Ventures, for years has used an algorithm that effectively permits or prohibits both new and follow-on investments.

Staffers plug in all sorts of deal details into “The Machine” — which is programmed with all sorts of market data, and returns traffic signal-like outputs. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means proceed with caution, but sources say it’s usually the practical equivalent of red.

It was initially designed and used as a due diligence assistant that could be overruled but, according to three sources, it has evolved into a de facto investment committee.

History: GV was formed in 2009 as one of the first venture firms to employ engineers whose primary job was to work with portfolio companies on technical challenges. But, in the early days, there weren’t too many portfolio companies yet, so the engineers were tasked first with building a dealflow management tool dubbed “Vortex,” and then with what would become “The Machine.”

Madison’s K-12 Governance Non Diversity: Police in Schools Meeting

Logan Wroge:

Throughout the public comment period, several people said the presence of police officers inside school can negatively affect students of color and feeds into the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“Ain’t no amount of training, ain’t no amount of special certificates is going to matter when it comes to black and brown kids, because (police officers) see us as thugs and criminals,” said Bianca Gomez, a member of Freedom Inc., an activist organization focused on issues that affect minority populations.

As Blaska attempted to capture the public comment on his cellphone, others took issue with juvenile speakers being recorded and attempted to block his view by either standing in front of him or putting objects in front of his phone, alleging he runs a racist blog where the youths’ photos would be posted.

Blaska moved about the meeting room, which was held in the McDaniels Auditorium in the district’s Doyle Administration Building, and others continued to follow along and block his phone.

The emotions culminated in a heated face-to-face argument between a woman who had earlier spoke in support of EROs and some people wishing to remove EROs.

Steven Elbow:

A public hearing on a proposal to redefine the Madison School District’s relationship with police descended into chaos Wednesday when factions confronted each other with invective, insults and physical altercations.

The proposal would remove armed educational resource officers from the district’s four main high schools and replace them with at least 20 specially trained school liaison officers that would develop relationships with all district schools and respond to incidents when needed.

The proposal drew no support from 20 people who registered to speak, many of them members of Freedom Inc., a grassroots social justice group that sees the move as an increase in policing efforts. But a small minority of speakers blasted the committee in charge of drafting the new policy for proposing to remove armed officers at East, West, La Follette and Memorial high schools.

“Think of that potential school shooter out there,” said Patrick O’Loughlin, an accountant who teaches business math at a local private high school. “Experience tells us that they think about it for quite some time before acting. What is he going to think when you kick the armed officers off campus?”

O’Loughlin suggested that the draft proposal was intentionally light on statistics supporting the elimination of EROs. He went on to list the kinds of statistics the proposal should have included.

“You can take your statistics and shove them,” said Mahnker Dahnweih of Freedom Inc.


Gangs and School Violence Forum

Police Calls: Madison Schools 1996-2006

Why did Cops Out of Schools committee ignore its own safety expert?

NBC 15 meeting report.

Free speech and the Madison School Board. Former President Obama on “shutdown culture“.

Madison should kick police officers out of its public high schools, a school board committee is poised to recommend. Instead, they would be replaced by 20 more so “liaison” officers who would be called into the schools only as needed.

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

“They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”: 1995-1999 (!)

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Madison school district spends far more than most: budget details.

What’s different, this time (2013)?

Additional commentary here, and here.

‘I kind of gave up’: how academics in danger rebuild their lives in exile

Tim Judah:

A few minutes after meeting Zaher al-Bakour in a Caffè Nero on Aberdeen’s Union Street, his phone rings and he swipes to decline the call. It is just his sister, he says. Mortified that he should do this to someone WhatsApp-calling him from rebel-held territory in Syria while we chat over croissants and cappuccinos, I suggest that he call her back. She thinks her nine-year-old daughter has typhoid and, since there are no doctors there, wants al-Bakour, an academic who specialises in pharmacology, to analyse the case. He can’t. Though he spends his days in a white lab coat tinkering with test tubes and microscopes, “I’m not a doctor,” he says.

It’s a cruel twist to a modern war. Imagine that, in 1943, you could have called Aberdeen from the Warsaw ghetto. Indeed, in a way al-Bakour, a 27-year-old from conflict-torn Aleppo, has ended up in the granite “grey city” because of the Nazis. He is an exiled academic who has been brought to Britain by the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara), a British organisation founded in 1933 to help German-Jewish scholars who were fired when Hitler came to power.

China’s ‘red education’ history tours and the rise of communist cosplay

Josephine Ma:

If anyone can best tell the scale and intensity of China’s “red education” drive to promote loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, it’s businessman Yu Meng.

The 36-year-old runs the largest Red Army uniform rental business in Jinggangshan, a city dubbed the “cradle of the communist revolution” deep in the mountains of Jiangxi. Last year alone, his company rented uniforms to 256,000 people taking part in red ideology study tours.

Yu started the Xiangganbian Red Army uniform company 10 years ago. But it’s only in the last three years that the business has really taken off, thanks to the relentless push of patriotic education by President Xi Jinping. Xi has said he wants “faith” in communist rule to be passed down to a new generation as “red DNA”.

Why the Unfair Sex Tribunals of Title IX Are Losing Ground

KC Johnson:

In a reproof to Obama-era guidance on campus sex hearings, Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos issued interim Title IX guidance fair to the accused as well as the accusers. This brought a storm of abuse from the founders of the kangaroo court system, favored by the Obama team.

The lawsuits against the interim guidance issued by DeVos appear to have stalled. So on June 27, a coalition of accusers’ rights organizations invoked an obscure law, the Data Quality Act, to demand “corrections” in the September 2017 guidance issued by DeVos. The effort, which smacks of desperation, doesn’t seem likely to yield a victory for the groups, but that’s probably not the goal—as a fundraiser and publicity effort, the letter probably will serve its purposes.

The accusers’ rights groups claim that the interim guidance falls short factually in six respects, reproduced below:

A Fast-Food Problem: Where Have All the Teenagers Gone?

Rachel Abrams and Robert Gebeloff:

A quarter-century ago, there were 56 teenagers in the labor force for every “limited service” restaurant — that is, the kind where you order at the counter.

Today, there are fewer than half as many, which is a reflection both of teenagers’ decreasing work force participation and of the explosive growth in restaurants.

But in an industry where cheap labor is an essential component in providing inexpensive food, a shortage of workers is changing the equation upon which fast-food places have long relied. This can be seen in rising wages, in a growth of incentives, and in the sometimes odd situations that business owners find themselves in.

This is why Jeffrey Kaplow, for example, spends a lot of time working behind the counter in his Subway restaurant in Lower Manhattan. It’s not what he pictured himself doing, but he simply doesn’t have enough employees.

Mr. Kaplow has tried everything he can think of to find workers, placing Craigslist ads, asking other franchisees for referrals, seeking to hire people from Subways that have closed.

What Knitting Can Teach You About Math

Sara Jensen:

One snowy January day, I asked a classroom of college students to tell me the first word that came to mind when they thought about mathematics. The top two words were “calculation” and “equation.”

When I asked a room of professional mathematicians the same question, neither of those words were mentioned; instead, they offered phrases like “critical thinking” and “problem-solving.”

This is unfortunately common. What professional mathematicians think of as mathematics is entirely different from what the general population thinks of as mathematics. When so many describe mathematics as synonymous with calculation, it’s no wonder we hear “I hate math” so often.

So I set out to solve this problem in a somewhat unconventional way. I decided to offer a class called “The Mathematics of Knitting” at my institution, Carthage College. In it, I chose to eliminate pencil, paper, calculator (gasp) and textbook from the classroom completely. Instead, we talked, used our hands, drew pictures and played with everything from beach balls to measuring tapes. For homework, we reflected by blogging. And of course, we knit.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “suggests that the minimum wage increases led to employment losses in Minnesota, particularly in the restaurant industry and youth demographic most affected by the changes”

Noah Williams:

Over 60% of employees in the restaurant industry in Minnesota work for the minimum wage or less, and workers under the age of 24 account for 54% of minimum wage earners. Following the minimum wage increases limited service restaurant employment fell by 4% in Minnesota relative to Wisconsin. Further, youth employment fell by 9% in Minnesota following the minimum wage increases, while it increased by 10.6% in Wisconsin over the same time period.

In addition, part of the increased wage costs employers faced have been passed on to consumers through higher prices. The relative price of restaurant food in the Minneapolis metro area had fallen by 2% in the four years preceding the minimum wage hikes, but it has risen by 6% in the four years since. On the benefit side, earnings for affected workers grew more rapidly in Minnesota than Wisconsin following the minimum wage hikes, with average annual pay at limited service restaurants increasing by 5.5% more in Minnesota from 2014-2017.

Overall, this evidence is consistent with a competitive market for low wage workers in Minnesota, with the minimum wage increases leading to labor market distortions.

Venmo: how the payment app exposes our private lives

Olivia Solon:

Anyone can track a Venmo user’s purchase history and glean a detailed profile – including their drug deals, eating habits and arguments – because the payment app lacks default privacy protections.
 This was the finding of a Berlin-based researcher, Hang Do Thi Duc, who analysed the more than 200 million public Venmo transactions made in 2017. Her aim was to highlight the privacy risk from using a seemingly innocuous peer-to-peer app.
 By accessing the data through a public application programming interface, Do Thi Duc was able to see the names of every user who hadn’t changed their settings to private, along with the dates of every transaction and the message sent with the payment. This allowed her to explore the lives of unsuspecting Venmo users and learn “an alarming amount about them”.
 The default state for transactions when a user signs up to the app is “public”, which means they can be seen by anyone on the internet. Users can change this to “private” by navigating to the app’s settings, but it’s not clearly highlighted during sign-up.

Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates

Marshall Allen:

With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story. The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. They’re collecting what you post on social media, whether you’re behind on your bills, what you order online. Then they feed this information into complicated computer algorithms that spit out predictions about how much your health care could cost them.
 Are you a woman who recently changed your name? You could be newly married and have a pricey pregnancy pending. Or maybe you’re stressed and anxious from a recent divorce. That, too, the computer models predict, may run up your medical bills.
 Are you a woman who’s purchased plus-size clothing? You’re considered at risk of depression. Mental health care can be expensive.
 Low-income and a minority? That means, the data brokers say, you are more likely to live in a dilapidated and dangerous neighborhood, increasing your health risks.
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 “We sit on oceans of data,” said Eric McCulley, director of strategic solutions for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, during a conversation at the data firm’s booth. And he isn’t apologetic about using it. “The fact is, our data is in the public domain,” he said. “We didn’t put it out there.”
 Insurers contend they use the information to spot health issues in their clients — and flag them so they get services they need. And companies like LexisNexis say the data shouldn’t be used to set prices. But as a research scientist from one company told me: “I can’t say it hasn’t happened.”

K-12 Governance Diversity; Charlotte Edition – Nearly 1 in 5 NC students are opting out of traditional public schools. Does it matter?

T. Keung Hui:

Nearly 1 in 5 North Carolina students is not attending a traditional public school, and that percentage is likely to continue rising as more families choose alternative education options.

For the third year in a row, enrollment has fallen in North Carolina’s traditional public schools even as the number of students continues to rise in charter schools, private schools and homeschools. The percentage of the state’s 1.8 million students attending traditional public schools has dropped to 80.8 percent and is continuing to fall rapidly.

“Families are more attuned to and used to having choices at their fingertips, and that is entering education as well,” said Brian Jodice, interim president of Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “We’re no longer in this mindset that because I live at this address or this ZIP code I have to attend this particular school that works for many students but doesn’t have to be the only choice.”

But what’s seen as an expansion of school choice by some is viewed by others as part of an effort to undermine the state’s traditional public schools.

“North Carolina has already embraced the privatization, the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda of dismantling public schools in favor of their donors who’d rather try to monetize what should be a public good,” said Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project.

The education landscape has changed considerably since Republicans took control of the General Assembly after the 2010 election. Changes have included:

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

Yet, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else

Melissa Korn:

Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.

Anyone with a grade-point average of at least 3.4 is granted Latin honors at Middlebury College; the number of students graduating with honors has been rising in recent years, the school says, and was north of 50% this spring.

“I’d say that it’s time to reconsider our eligibility criteria,” said Middlebury Interim Provost Jeff Cason.