Charges against Michael Bonds a scandal with few rivals in Milwaukee education

Alan Borsuk:

In 2007, he ran for the Milwaukee School Board for the first time, seeking to represent a north side district that includes his home in Sherman Park. He won and quickly became a leader on the board.

Combine that with his marriage to a long-time high school principal and central office administrator in MPS, and the pieces were in place for a positive narrative involving one of the leading couples in Milwaukee education.

It never quite seemed that way. Kathy Bonds stayed out of the public eye intentionally, and whatever Michael Bonds wanted to convey about what he brought to his efforts, joy wasn’t it.

At times during his board tenure, Bonds challenged the administration with good questions and had independent-minded ideas for dealing with specific situations. He worked hard, which is a big reason other board members picked him to be president, a position that brings occasional influence but a bunch of extra chores.

Madison community schools look to be an ‘extension of home’

Chris Rickert:

More than two and a half years into the Madison School District’s launch of “community schools,” there are signs that students and parents are benefiting from the expanded array of services the schools provide.

Less clear is whether such a wrap-around pedagogical approach — which largely aims to boost student success by boosting family stability — will result in measurable academic improvements.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts (now around $20k/student). This despite long term, disastrous reading results.

The first AI-generated textbook shows what robot writers are actually good at

James Vincent:

Academic publisher Springer Nature has unveiled what it claims is the first research book generated using machine learning.

The book, titled Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research, isn’t exactly a snappy read. Instead, as the name suggests, it’s a summary of peer-reviewed papers published on the topic in question. It includes quotations, hyperlinks to the work cited, and automatically generated references contents. It’s also available to download and read for free if you have any trouble getting to sleep at night.

“a new era in scientific publishing”
While the book’s contents are soporific, the fact that it exists at all is exciting. Writing in the introduction, Springer Nature’s Henning Schoenenberger (a human) says books like this have the potential to start “a new era in scientific publishing” by automating drudgery.

“The populist triumphs of 2016 caught us unawares”

Simon Kuper:

The populist triumphs of 2016 caught us unawares. The slow death of local newspapers (the traditional early warning system for anything brewing outside court) meant that we missed the anger in Sunderland and Ohio. Populist jibes at the “out-of-touch metropolitan media” hit home: elite media are now largely staffed by people with masters degrees, taking the national pulse from Brooklyn or north London.

Two teens arrested after alleged sexual assault at Madison East High School

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Two 15-year-old boys were arrested this week after a girl said she was sexually assaulted inside a bathroom during after school hours at East High School on Wednesday, according to police.

The girl, who is also 15 years old, reported the incident to East’s school resource officer on Thursday, according to a Madison Police Department incident report. One suspect was arrested Thursday night on a charge of second degree sexual assault of a child, while another was arrested Friday morning on the same charge.

Finally Some Robust Research Into Whether “Diversity Training” Actually Works – Unfortunately It’s Not Very Promising

Jesse Singal:

Diversity trainings are big business. In the United States, companies spend about £6.1 billion per year, by one estimate, on programmes geared at making companies more inclusive and welcoming to members of often-underrepresented groups (British numbers aren’t easy to come by, but according to one recent survey, over a third of recruiters are planning to increase their investment in diversity initiatives).

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence-backed consensus about which sorts of diversity programmes work, and why, and there have been long-standing concerns in some quarters that these programmes don’t do much at all, or that they could actually be harmful. In part because of this dearth of evidence, the market for pro-diversity interventions is a bit of a Wild West with regard to quality.

For a new paper in PNAS, a prominent team of researchers, including Katherine Milkman, Angela Duckworth, and Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, partnered with a large global organisation to measure the real-world impact of the researchers’ own anti-bias intervention, designed principally to “promote inclusive attitudes and behaviors toward women, whereas a secondary focus was to promote the inclusion of other underrepresented groups (e.g., racial minorities).” The results were mixed at best – and unfortunately there are good reasons to be sceptical that even the more positive results are as positive as they seem.

A Math Teacher’s Life Summed Up By The Gifted Students He Mentored

Joe Palca:

George Berzsenyi is a retired math professor living in Milwaukee County. Most people have never heard of him.

But Berzsenyi has had a remarkable impact on American science and mathematics. He has mentored thousands of high school students, including some who became among the best mathematicians and scientists in the country.

I learned about Berzsenyi from a chance conversation with a scientist named Vamsi Mootha.

In the late 1980s, when Mootha was in high school in Beaumont, Texas, he won a science fair. A few days later, a letter arrived in the mail.

“It said, ‘Dear Vamsi, Congratulations on winning the Houston Science Fair, this is quite the accomplishment,’ ” Mootha recalls.

“But then when I started reading the next paragraph, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach,” Mootha says.

The letter went on to say that the math problem young Vamsi solved to win the fair had been solved hundreds of years earlier.

College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street

Claire Boston:

To pay for college, Amy Wroblewski sold a piece of her future. Every month, for eight-and-a-half years, she must turn over a set percentage of her salary to investors. Today, about a year after graduation, Wroblewski makes $50,000 a year as a higher education recruiter in Winchester, Va. So the cut comes to $279 a month, less than her car payment.

If the 23-year-old becomes a star in her field, she could pay twice as much. If she loses her job, she won’t have to pay anything, and investors will be out of luck until she finds work.

Wroblewski struck this unusual deal as an undergraduate at public Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. To fund part of the cost of her degree in strategy and organizational management, she sidestepped the common source of money, a student loan. Instead, she agreed to hand over part of her future earnings through a new kind of financial instrument called an income-sharing agreement, or ISA. In a sense, financiers are transforming student debtors into stock investments, with much of the same risk and, ideally, return.

In Wall Street terms, Wroblewski, a first-generation college student, is more small-company stock than Microsoft. Her mother works as a waitress; her father, as a quality control inspector in a car dealership’s body shop. With a strong work ethic, Wroblewski always held down at least two part-time jobs in school, working as a Purdue teaching assistant, a Target cashier, and an Amazon seasonal worker. Showing potential for leadership—not to mention earnings—she rose to vice president of Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity.

Google and surveillance capitalism

Brian Barth:

“History offers sobering lessons about societies that practise mass surveillance.”

But the privacy overreaches and the betrayal of consumer trust are, for Balsillie, sideshows to the real scandal: that Silicon Valley’s main business model is founded on the exhaustive monitoring of human behaviour—a revenue stream it is loath to give up. The five most valuable corporations in the world are all tech companies, and the top two, Apple and Amazon, recently became the first trillion-dollar enterprises, which put their worth above the GDP of all but sixteen countries. Balsillie, like many, refers to this new economic order as “surveillance capitalism,” which he described at the hearing as “the most powerful market force today.”

The subject of surveillance capitalism seemed to hit a nerve with McKay. “Despite what Mr. Balsillie said,” he countered, “we do not sell the personal information of our users.” Google’s business model, he explained, is based on “services that are provided free to Canadians and everyone else in the world through advertising. It’s advertising that’s targeted at aggregated groups, not at individuals, and there’s no exchange of personal information between Google and advertisers.”

Don’t be “tricked by platitudes,” Balsillie urged the MPs. While Google might not sell user information per se, it certainly monetizes it in transactions with third parties. Nearly 85 percent of the revenue generated by Alphabet—Google’s parent company—comes from advertising, so the levers between personal data and profit making are plain to see. The relevant question, said Balsillie, taking off his glasses, is, “Do you exploit information?” Given that Google fields around 90 percent of internet searches worldwide, the company’s search algorithm represents a source of power with few historical precedents. In an age of fake news, cyberwarfare, and toxic online culture, it would seem reckless not to be concerned that such power is accountable to shareholders rather than elected officials.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, including Madison use Google services.

Article on assistant principal’s fate blows up into controversy engulfing Oshkosh school

Devi Shastri:

Doemel contended that is when he started getting squeezed. He said the principal pulled him out of class three times to question him. Kiffmeyer asked if his source was in the school, male or female, Doemel said.

Kiffmeyer did not respond directly; she is out on medical leave.

Cartwright said she talked to Kiffmeyer. She contended Doemel was pulled from class twice — not three times. She said Doemel’s characterization of the conversations was false; he was asked if the source was a district administrator and if he would turn over his notes. Doemel refused.

Doemel told the Journal Sentinel he stands by the accuracy of the posted story and this his source has years of experience at the district. He said he continued to try to get more information, enlisting the help of fellow North Star staffer Tess Fitzhenry. Fitzhenry’s father, James Fitzhenry, suggested the students connect with the Student Press Law Center for guidance.

Civics: First Amendment, taxpayer subsidies and the Yale Law School

Ethan Beeman:

The Christian legal group has won nine Supreme Court cases in the past seven years, including Masterpiece Cakeshop. That’s the case where seven justices said Colorado showed “religious hostility” to cake designer Jack Phillips when it found that his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding violated the state’s antidiscrimination law.

The Yale chapter of the Federalist Society hosted Kristin Waggoner, the alliance lawyer who argued Masterpiece. When the chapter sent a school-wide email about the event, the campus LGBT group Outlaws and several other progressive groups called for a boycott, according to chapter member Aaron Haviland in The Federalist.

What the Federalist Society got was “over-the-top even by Yale standards,” Haviland wrote.

Two days before Waggoner’s event, the Outlaws asked the administration if students would be able to use Yale-funded public interest fellowships “to push discriminatory agendas during their summers,” according to The Daily Wire.

Open the Books:

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

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

The First Amendment

Does Google meet its users’ expectations around consumer privacy? This news industry research says no

Jason Kint:

Numerous privacy scandals over the past couple of years have fueled the need for increased examination of tech companies’ data tracking practices. While the ethics around data collection and consumer privacy have been questioned for years, it wasn’t until Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics scandal that people began to realize how frequently their personal data is shared, transferred, and monetized without their permission.

Cambridge Analytica was by no means an isolated case. Last summer, an AP investigation found that Google’s location tracking remains on even if you turn it off in Google Maps, Search, and other apps. Research from Vanderbilt professor Douglas Schmidt found that Google engages in “passive” data collection, often without the user’s knowledge. His research also showed that Google utilizes data collected from other sources to de-anonymize existing user data.

That’s why we at Digital Content Next, the trade association of online publishers I lead, wrote this Washington Post op-ed, “It isn’t just about Facebook, it’s about Google, too” when Facebook first faced Capitol Hill. It’s also why the descriptor surveillance advertising is increasingly being used to describe Google and Facebook’s advertising businesses, which use personal data to tailor and micro-target ads.

Many Taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, including Madison, use Google services.

The Pentagon Wants to Streamline Security Clearances by Using A.I. That’s a Dangerous Idea.

John Bowers:

This piece was originally published on Just Security, an online forum for analysis of U.S. national security law and policy.

In June, the White House announced that the government’s security clearance program, including for individuals in civilian roles, would be consolidated under the Department of Defense.

This reorganization, largely motivated by an enormous backlog of clearance investigations, is aimed at streamlining the clearance process, and in particular the “reinvestigation” of individuals with clearances that require periodic review. At the core of these new efficiencies, the DOD claims, will be a “continuous evaluation” system that autonomously analyzes applicants’ behavior—using telemetry such as court records, purchase histories, and credit profiles—to proactively identify security risks. The rollout is already underway: The DOD had enrolled upward of 1.2 million people in continuous evaluation as of November. But the program is far from uncontroversial, raising credible privacy concerns and the hackles of advocacy groups including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As the DOD takes over millions of new civilian clearances, these worries will find a broader audience.

And, thanks to machine learning, a type of algorithm that allows an A.I. to learn by example rather than being explicitly programmed, it seems that things may soon get a lot more complicated.

Madison Teacher who said n-word says she was correcting student’s use of another slur

Chris Rickert:

The teacher and the State Journal have both asked for the district’s report of its investigation of the event, but the district has refused to release it, citing student privacy. The state open records law permits the district to black out information that would identify students.

Emails that were sent to Hamilton staff regarding the teacher — and released to the State Journal under the state’s public records law — refer to her initial suspension, recount the event and otherwise support the teacher’s version of what happened on Oct. 31 and in the days after. Several, along with two letters in her personnel file, also laud the teacher’s work and interaction with students.

The teacher’s personnel file, also accessed through a public records request, includes no prior incidents of disciplinary action against her. She said she had never before been subject to such action.

“I’ve never even been called to the principal’s office and said, like, ‘That lesson plan wasn’t a great idea’ or ‘You probably shouldn’t have done that,’” she said.

Is the U.S. a Democracy? A Social Studies Battle Turns on the Nation’s Values

Dana Goldstein:

The United States, unlike many other developed nations, lacks a national curriculum that defines what students should know. Each of the 50 states can create its own learning standards.

These documents are closely examined. While schools can teach material not included in them, they shape the content in standardized tests, and many educators rely heavily on the standards as they craft lesson plans. Student teachers are trained to use them.

Activists have long seen influencing state standards as an effective way to shape the next generation of voters. In 2010, conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education removed the word “democracy” as a description of American government, prompting protests. Georgia has also debated the term, eventually settling, in 2016, on standards that use the phrase “representative democracy/republic.”

The Michigan conservatives — who prefer “constitutional republic” — say their arguments are historical, not partisan.

The kindergarten section of the new draft of the Michigan social studies standards. Previously, conservatives pushed for the nation to be called a “constitutional republic” founded on “core values,” not “democratic values.” The previous draft also used the term “roles of the citizen” instead of “civic participation.”

Who will teach the parents?

David Blaska:

Just catching up with events in the Mad Madison school district, this time at Leopold elementary school. Thanks to Dylan Brogan of Isthmus, one of the finest reporters in town, we learn only this week of an incident four weeks ago, well before the Spring school board election.

Children lie about what happened at school? Who knew?

Parents turn a behavior issue into a racial incident? Forget it, Jake, it’s Madison.

Most disturbing, school district P.R. person urges the news media to spike the story? Of course.

Ten-year-old girl alleges principal smacked her in the face. Mother over-reacts.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”, and

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

US essay mill firm targets new students through WhatsApp

Iftikhaar Aziz and Sarah Marsh:

A US firm is targeting first-year university students by infiltrating their private WhatsApp groups and offering to write essays for £7 a page, the Guardian can reveal.

The firm and a series of anonymous individuals are offering made-to-order essays and have been hijacking new students’ group chats at at least five universities, including four prestigious Russell Group institutions.

The messages, posted on accommodation and course group chats created to help freshers settle into university life, boast that students can “pay after delivery”.

Academics said the practice is extremely concerning. One professor called the tactics employed by essay mills to market to students “abhorrent”.

The findings come as universities and government ministers have expressed concern about the growth of essay mills, which offer pieces of academic work to order for a fee. They are nearly impossible to detect through anti-plagiarism software.

234 House Democrats, Two Republicans Co-Sponsor Bill Forcing Schools To Let Male Athletes Compete On Girls’ Sports Teams

Peter Hasson:

Every House Democrat but one has co-sponsored a bill requiring schools to allow male athletes who identify as transgender girls to compete on female sports teams.

Democrats’ Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make “sexual orientation and gender identity” protected characteristics under federal anti-discrimination law. Among other things, the bill would force public schools to expand female athletic teams to include biological males who identify as transgender girls.

Buying College Essays Is Now Easier Than Ever. But Buyer Beware

Tobias Smith:

As the recent college admissions scandal is shedding light on how parents are cheating and bribing their children’s way into college, schools are also focusing on how some students may be cheating their way through college. Concern is growing about a burgeoning online market that makes it easier than ever for students to buy essays written by others to turn in as their own work. And schools are trying new tools to catch it.

It’s not hard to understand the temptation for students. The pressure is enormous, the stakes are high and, for some, writing at a college level is a huge leap.

“We didn’t really have a format to follow, so I was kind of lost on what to do,” says one college freshman, who struggled recently with an English assignment. One night, when she was feeling particularly overwhelmed, she tweeted her frustration.

“It was like, ‘Someone, please help me write my essay!’ ” she recalls. She ended her tweet with a crying emoji. Within a few minutes, she had a half-dozen offers of help.

Chicago is Tracking Kids With GPS Monitors That Can Call and Record Them Without Consent

Kira Lerner:

On March 29, court officials in Chicago strapped an ankle monitor onto Shawn, a 15-year-old awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery. They explained that the device would need to be charged for two hours a day and that it would track his movements using GPS technology. He was told he would have to be given permission to leave his house, even to go to school. But he found out that through his monitor, officers wouldn’t just be able to track his location, as most electronic monitors do. They would also be able to speak—and listen—to him.

“I feel like they are listening to what he’s saying,” said Shawn’s mother. “They can hear everything. We could be here talking about anything.”

Shawn, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, is one of hundreds of children in Chicago whose ankle monitors are now equipped with microphones and speakers. The stated purpose of these devices is to communicate with the children, but they are raising concerns among civil liberties watchers that they are actually a mechanism for surveilling the conversations of these kids and those around them—and potentially for using the recordings in criminal cases.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 School Tax & Spending Referendums

Margaret Cannon:

According to Wisconsin Policy Forum report, voters approved referendum questions totaling $783 million. Total borrowing requests on school district ballots statewide reached $1.2 billion, with voters turning down some of the largest individual ballot items.

Voters approved 45 of the 60 questions on this year’s ballot.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows a 15 percent drop in approval ratings compared to last year when voters said yes to 90% of referendums on the ballot. Even so, 2019 ranked as the third-highest approval year since revenue caps were created in the 1993-94 school year.

“To get large numbers like these, you probably need a lot of things to happen at once,” said Jason Stein, research director at the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Factors such as the economy and interest rates often indicate how the public will vote on school spending. A recent Marquette University Law School survey showed that voters felt it was more important to spend on schools than to lower property taxes.

Much of the support was found in increases for basic district operations, such as teacher salaries, school maintenance, transportation and classroom spending. Districts have said that state-imposed spending caps and Wisconsin’s school funding formula have caused them to turn to local voters to approve higher spending.

Weekly Update Shared to Madison School Board Members

Curiously, this document is NOT shared as part of the Madison School Board public documents. Chan Stroman obtained the April 4, 2019 70 page package via an open records request (!).

The April 4, 2019 document contains a number of interesting links and shares, including a summary of Governor Ever’s (Former long time Wisconsin DPI leader) proposed budget. I found no mention of DPI’s elementary reading teacher mulligan practice, yet noted this on page 16:

Teacher Shortage and Teacher Licensure Provisions
• Authorizes school districts to rehire a retired annuitant teacher if:

– at least 30 days have passed since the teacher left employment with a district;

– at the time of retirement, the teacher does not have an agreement with any school district to return to employment; and

– upon returning to work the teacher elects to not become a participating employee and continue receiving their annuity.

• Repeals the alternative education preparation licensure pathway through which teachers can become licensed without in-classroom teaching time.

• Provides $571,200 in 2019-20 and $652,900 in fiscal year 2020-21 to help recruit and retain high quality master educator and national board-certified teachers in high poverty schools. (This funding would triple the size of continuing grants to qualified teachers in high poverty urban schools and double the size of the continuing grant for teachers at high poverty schools elsewhere in (i.e., throughout) the state, and would incentivize an estimated 130 or more highly qualified teachers to continue teaching in schools with high levels of poverty.)

• Requires teachers at private schools participating in a private school choice (voucher) program to be licensed as of July 1, 2022. (This item also appears below under voucher programs.)

Related: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

We Will Never Fix Campus Indoctrination Until We Cut College Subsidies

Dustin Steele:

People Think College Is About Education, But It’s Often Not

Higher education is riding on its reputation as a gateway to a bright future. As of 2018, 82 percent of Americans believed a four-year degree was either “very” or “somewhat” good preparation for attaining a well-paying job. However, recent events have eroded that reputation, especially amongst conservatives.

“Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today,” President Trump said as he signed the executive order.

Trump’s comments weren’t just red meat. Do a Google search for names like Brett Weinstein, Jordan Peterson, Heather Mac Donald, Dave Rubin, and Ben Shapiro plus the term “college controversy” to find shocking stories of liberals, moderates, and conservatives being driven from college campuses. A common theme is the rationale under which the above-named figures are driven out: promoting “inclusivity,” “equity,” or “safety” from “hate” and “violence.”

This attempt at silencing is now aimed all the way up to justices on the Supreme Court. Most recently, when George Mason University’s School of Law hired Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to teach a class, students at the university demanded his appointment be rescinded, one saying, “As a survivor, as a student who comes to this university, and expects to have a good education, to experience a happy, safe place, I am insulted.”

It’s tempting to dismiss this kind of rhetoric. College kids are expected to be a bit radical in their youth, right? This language is much harder to defend when students, faculty, and alumni of Yale Law School use it in penning an open letter protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Where do students learn such crazy ideas about the world? Who is providing them with this familiar script?

The Dutch East India Company was richer than Apple, Google and Facebook combined

Bobby Salomon:

The Dutch East-India Company – Apple Didn’t Have Nothing On It!

The “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie” (VOC), better known as the Dutch East-India company was set up in 1602, head-quartered in the “Oost-Indisch Huis” (East-India House) in downtown Amsterdam – which still stands today. It was founded as a private merchant company that was granted a two decade long monopoly by the government for spice trading in Asia, in particular the Dutch East-Indies, known today as the Republic of Indonesia.

And if you think Amazon is thrifty with deliveries – the VOC sent over one million voyagers across Asia, which is more than the rest of Europe combined, in a time where a trip from Amsterdam to Batavia (Djakarta) would last no shorter than 8 to 10 months and many ships, or individual passengers, would never return. Many of the massive sailing ships perished in storms, fell prey to piracy or infectious disease. Traveling at the time came at a huge risk, but once on location and with the right knowledge and attitude there was a great chance of becoming wealthy and so many took the risk.

The company was also the first official company to issue stocks, which peaked during the Dutch “Tulip Mania”, a craze for tulip bulbs that is seen as the world’s first true financial bubble. The VOC’s stocks pushed the company’s worth to a massive 78 million Dutch guilders, which is a pretty solid business even today, but translates to a whopping $7,9 trillion dollar worth today… Yes, really, trillion. That’s 7,900 billion – or 79,000 million!

Reliable novelty: New should not trump true

Bjorn Brembs:

Although a case can be made for rewarding scientists for risky, novel science rather than for incremental, reliable science, novelty without reliability ceases to be science. The currently available evidence suggests that the most prestigious journals are no better at detecting unreliable science than other journals. In fact, some of the most convincing studies show a negative correlation, with the most prestigious journals publishing the least reliable science. With the credibility of science increasingly under siege, how much longer can we afford to reward novelty at the expense of reliability? Here, I argue for replacing the legacy journals with a modern information infrastructure that is governed by scholars. This infrastructure would allow renewed focus on scientific reliability, with improved sort, filter, and discovery functionalities, at massive cost savings. If these savings were invested in additional infrastructure for research data and scientific code and/or software, scientific reliability would receive additional support, and funding woes—for, e.g., biological databases—would be a concern of the past.

Activists Disrupt Law Professor’s Talk at the University of Chicago

Robby Soave:

Eyewitnesses told Reason that the hecklers were not enrolled at Chicago, though one student did attempt to record Kontrovich on a cell phone, and was silently involved in the protest.

Kontrovich, an alumni of the law school, told Reason he had been invited by a student group to discuss the First Amendment as it pertains to laws that target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for direct action to oppose Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. A group of about five pro-Palestinian activists showed up for his talk and shouted over him as best they could, making it very difficult for attendees to hear.

“During the first few minutes of this disruption, Professor Kontorovich could not proceed with his lecture,” Seth Cohen, a student who attended the lecture, told Reason. “After about five minutes, we gathered around Professor Kontorovich, and he attempted to resume the talk. The protestors raised their voices.”

Explicit Phonics Instruction: It’s Not Just for Students With Dyslexia

Kyle Redford:

“When we know better, we do better.” There is something forgiving and medicinal about that teaching mantra.

I am regularly realizing that I could have taught something more effectively or that I should have been more culturally responsive in my language or practices. Content becomes outdated or is later revealed to be incomplete or inaccurate. Some teaching memories haunt me so much that I have had fantasies about finding ways to apologize to former students for the cringe-worthy lessons they’ve endured.

I recently had a wake-up call around reading instruction, and determined I need to intellectually embrace something that I have long suspected: While dyslexics clearly need robust reading instruction (often more specialized and intensive than their peers), their needs are not as distinct from non-dyslexics as I have previously advocated.

“I’ve had the experience,” he says of working in a role that everyone knew would become outmoded and, inevitably, eliminated. “That’s a depressing feeling.

Elisabeth Behrmann:

“Four years ago, there were only two of us,” said Julia Wimmer of her team that maintains machines producing electric motors and battery packs in the Dingolfing factory. “Now we’re between 25 to 30.”
Battery-pack production uses robots to perform diagnostics and remove traces of dirt before placing each cell into the metal casing, a process that’s obviously simpler and less labor-intensive. The cells arrive at Dingolfing in cardboard boxes from Samsung factories in South Korea.
In this small town northeast of Munich, generations of BMW workers have flocked into the giant halls each day since the factory opened in 1967. A straightforward economic arrangement has endured: Workers come through the gates to build cars, the company provides the comfort of security and bonus payments, and everyone maintains a lustrous reputation for excellence.

Related: The Madison School District as General Motors

The Toy Store: The Milton Bradley Big Trak


The Milton Bradley Big Trak (also stylised as bigtrak) is a programmable toy resembling a futuristic utility vehicle that could have been used by Moon astronauts or colonists. It has six wheels (two drive wheels), a “photon beam” headlamp and a keypad on top.

Users could program in a sequence of up to 16 commands, with multiple presses of the movement and directional directives combining into single commands, such as “move forward 10” or “turn right 90 degrees”.

China’s rural students continue to enjoy favorable college admission policies


Students from China’s rural and poor areas will continue to enjoy favorable policies when they apply for major universities in 2019, according to a circular released by the Ministry of Education Tuesday.

The poverty-stricken counties entitled to special enrollment plans will continue to enjoy such policies in 2019, even if they have already shaken off poverty, the circular said.

With disparities in teaching standards among different regions, high school graduates from underdeveloped areas are at a disadvantage in the competition for a spot in the country’s major universities.

However, Chinese education authorities have rolled out favorable policies for students from remote rural areas in recent years as the country eyes higher education’s role in poverty relief.

Most bullying happens away from adults. This Wisconsin school teaches kids to step in.

Rory Linnane:

On a winter day last school year, Ashley Jenkins noticed a defeated look on a student’s face. She pulled him aside. With three words, she might have saved his life: “Are you OK?”

“You don’t have to tell me, but know I’m here,” Jenkins, now a senior at Adams-Friendship High School, remembers telling him.

Jenkins is part of the Safe School Ambassadors program, which trains students to intervene when they see bullying. They speak up in defense of victims and check in with students if they are worried about their mental health. They also record information about incidents, without names, in a central database so staff members are aware of trends.

In some cases, the student ambassadors ask adults for help.

Jenkins quickly realized she would need help with the student she pulled aside. He told her he felt like no one at school cared about him.

“There were students being incredibly cruel,” she said. “They would always say things about him and his family.”

Jenkins kept asking questions.

“He looked at me and he was like, ‘I’m just getting really tired of everything,’” Jenkins said. “He started tearing up and I knew he was thinking about hurting himself.”

The End of Aspiration

Joel Kotkin:

The drive against bourgeois aspirations underpins an emerging neo-feudal system in which people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants. This may end the dream of ownership that has defined the middle class for a half millennium, but it could assure a steady profit for the owner class, a rent that would seem appropriate to a medieval landlord.

French economist Thomas Picketty has suggested that today’s ageing societies exacerbate this pattern. Older people dominate the stock and property assets, forcing up prices to the point that younger generations or newcomers to these countries face growing obstacles to upward mobility. High rents as well as rising house prices make the extension of property ownership increasingly difficult for all but inheritors.

This receding horizon is generating an ever more feudalistic mentality among the young—those with wealthy parents are far luckier to own a house and enter what one writer calls “the funnel of privilege.” In America—like Australia, a country whose mythology disdains the power of inherited wealth—millennials are increasingly counting on inheritance for their retirement at a rate three times that of the boomers. Among the youngest cohort, those aged 18 to 22, over 60 percent see inheritance as their primary source of wealth as they age.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Proposed property tax increases

Mark Sommerhauser:

The increased tax bills are driven largely by Evers’ plan to boost by 2% the amount counties and municipalities could collect through local property tax levies.

But a countervailing effect comes from Evers’ plan to give a $1.4 billion infusion of state aid to school districts in the next two years. That would enable the state to shoulder a larger share, relative to local property taxpayers, of school district costs.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said in a statement that the report shows how Evers’ budget would mark a shift from budgets enacted under former Gov. Scott Walker.

“The fact is, the Governor’s budget raises property taxes by the largest amount in a decade,” Nygren said. “Republicans have a record of cutting taxes and remain committed to this goal, whereas the governor would rather increase taxes to grow government in Madison.”

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said part of the projected property tax increase is due to voters approving referendums to increase their property taxes to fund their local school districts — which she said Evers can’t control.

Notes and links on Madison’s $20k per student budget.

Murphy’s troubling failure to defend charter school success

Tom Moran:

The New Jersey Education Association just revived its call for a freeze on the growth of charter schools, a declaration of war from a muscular union that spends more on lobbying and campaigns than any other special interest group in the state, by far.

So, this is a serious threat, especially in Newark, where families are competing against tough odds to win a spot in the booming charter sector. One in three kids in Newark now attends a charter school, but many more want in, drawn by high test scores, high graduation rates, and a glide-path to college.

The verdict from Newark families is in. When offered a choice, they consistently prefer charters, whose students are overwhelmingly black and brown, and low-income. The resistance is coming from the unions, from strong suburban districts that don’t really need charters, and from orthodox liberals like our governor, who relies on the NJEA for political support.

Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Growth Sentiment

Negassi Tesfamichael:

However, the group said support dipped once additional information on current spending levels and other information about the budget was included.

The poll found only a third of respondents supported Evers’ proposal to freeze the growth of private school vouchers and independent charter schools. The poll found a majority of support for public charter schools and for parts of Act 10, including a provision that requires teachers to contribute at least 12 percent to their health care costs.

Indeed. One wonders how many citizens are aware of our $20k per student Madison school
District budget?

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Schools ‘Need’ to Teach Kids ‘How Not to Be Offended’ in 2019, Educator Pleads

Jason Duaine Hahn:

“Teaching young people how not to be offended is to equip them to embrace people as complex individuals and not just as mascots of this or that tribe,” says Manji. “We grow by engaging those with whom we disagree. When we take offense, we’re in [a] reactive mode, and we miss opportunities to ask people why they believe what they do.”

The 51-year-old educator explains that when she speaks with people who have different opinions, she refuses to be “offended that they’re offended,” and instead tries to find common ground with the person — a lesson that young people could benefit from, she believes.

“Schools should be teaching students the how of not taking offense at everything,” Manji tells Time. “It’s a life skill. No matter what kind of life you have, to tackle nagging problems in your family, with friends, at work, in the wider world, you need buy-in.”

Civics: How did Department of Justice get the Trump-Russia investigation so wrong?

Bob Kerrey:

Delusions fascinate me in part because I have so many of my own. Most often delusions are harmless. Sometimes they are not.

At the moment my fellow Democrats are suffering from two that are harmful. The first is that Americans long for a president who will ask us to pay more for the pleasure of increasing the role of the federal government in our lives. That this is a delusion can be seen in the promises made by six successful Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan: three governors and three senators. Not one of them supported the Green New Deal, a tax on wealth or “Medicare for all.”

The second Democratic delusion is that Americans were robbed of the truth when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr concluded that President Trump did not collude with Russia in 2016. All evidence indicates that the full report will not change the conclusion that Donald J. Trump did not collude with Vladimir Putin to secure his victory in 2016.

Rather than investigating the president further, Congress needs to investigate how the Department of Justice got this one so wrong. If the president of the United States is vulnerable to prosecutorial abuse, then God help all the rest of us. Members of Congress cannot do this themselves. We do not trust them enough with such a vital mission.

Declassified U2 spy plane images reveal bygone Middle Eastern archaeological features

University of Pennsylvania:

In the 1950s and early ’60s, with the Cold War at its peak, the United States flew U2 spy planes across Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia, taking images of interesting military targets. Though the missions typically connected Point A to Point B, say an air field and an important city, in many cases the camera kept recording between those spots, capturing thousands of photos of the desert, steppes, fields, and villages below.

Such a collection can represent a goldmine for landscape archaeologists like Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania and Jason Ur of Harvard University. But for decades, all film and documents from these missions—code-named CHESS by the U.S. government—remained classified. And even when they became public in 1997, they weren’t indexed or scanned.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Workers Are Highly Taxed If You Count Premiums

Matt Bruenig:

But formal labor taxes are limited because they omit “non-tax compulsory payments” (NTCPs). NTCPs are payments workers and employers are legally compelled to pay to private parties. NTCPs are no different from taxes except that NTCPs are made to private corporations like health insurance companies rather than to the government.

Occasionally the OECD publishes information that combines formal taxes and NTCPs together in order to allow researchers to compare “compulsory payment rates” across countries. The last time they did this was in 2018. The 2018 OECD publication acknowledges that employer health insurance premiums in the United States are NTCPs because they are mandated under Obamacare’s employer and individual mandates. But the publication nevertheless excludes employer health premiums from its US NTCP calculations because the authors say these premiums cannot be modelled to their satisfaction.

The apparent reason these mandated premiums are incompatible with the OECD’s Taxing Wages model is that they are open-ended payments: employers and employees have to buy private insurance regardless of its cost. If the mandated premiums were set by law as a fixed sum per worker or percentage of payroll as in other countries, then they could be included in the OECD’s figures.

Dieter Rams designed products to last a lifetime — and he’s horrified by how we throw things away

Buffy Gorilla:

We hear quite often that less is more, but what about less is better? Those are the words of designer Dieter Rams.

For more than 50 years, Rams made an indelible mark on product design, predominantly at the German electronics company Braun, with a focus on function over form and products that would last a lifetime.

The effects of his influence are extraordinary — a legacy that transformed the nature of consumer products and, some would argue, defined the concept of good design.

Rams was the design director at Braun from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. He was in charge of the look and function of more than 500 consumer products. He helped the founding Braun brothers create everything from radios and alarm clocks to juicers and razors and even record players.

Harvards glass menagerie

Rod Dreher:

Over the weekend, I met a friend in Cambridge, Mass., for lunch. He’s a foreigner studying at Harvard. He told me that his experience there has been quite an education in how the American elite constructs its worldview and reproduces itself. In fact, that is perhaps the most important lesson he has learned from his experience at the top US university.

I’m writing this with his permission, but I want to be careful about what I say, to protect his privacy. In general, he said it has been a real shock to him — and to the other foreign students in his circle — to observe how “coercive” (his word) the intellectual atmosphere at Harvard is, at least in the areas he’s been studying. He explained that it is quite simply impossible to discuss certain things, and ask certain questions, because of the ideological rigidity of the American students and their teachers. My friend made clear that this is the consensus view of the foreigners he knows there, whether they are on the left or the right.

My lunch companion said that the elites formed by this most elite American university are people who have set up a world in which they never have to encounter an idea, or a person, that they don’t already endorse or embrace. We were joined at the table by a third person, a left-wing Baby Boomer who works in a very liberal Boston institution (I’ll not name it to protect his privacy), and who said that he finds the ideological rigidity of Millennials and the generation behind them to be insufferable. Such joyless, humorless, incurious people, he said. The foreigner, though a Millennial himself, agreed.

On our way to the restaurant, I had mentioned to my foreign friend something I’ve heard from several of you readers of this blog who are conservative academics: that as long as old-school liberals remain in charge of faculties and academic institutions, there will be a place for right-of-center scholars. But when the Jacobin-like younger generation moves into leadership, that will be the end. He agreed, and brought up several examples from academia and academia-adjacent institutions (e.g., publishing). He told me one story about a left-liberal scholar he knows who has been turned into a non-person for questioning out loud some of aspects of au courant progressive dogma. I’m not easy to shock about things like this, but this particular story — my foreign friend named names — was for me a sign of how advanced the ideological militancy has become.

The physical sacrifice of thinking: Investigating the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life

Todd McElroy, David L Dickinson, Nathan Stroh, Christopher A Dickinson:

physical activity level is an important contributor to overall human health and obesity. Research has shown that humans possess a number of traits that influence their physical activity level including social cognition. We examined whether the trait of “need for cognition” was associated with daily physical activity levels. We recruited individuals who were high or low in need for cognition and measured their physical activity level in 30-second epochs over a 1-week period. The overall findings showed that low-need-for-cognition individuals were more physically active, but this difference was most pronounced during the 5-day work week and lessened during the weekend.

CDC: Measles count up over 100 in U.S. since last week

Ed Adamczyk:

Reported cases of measles increased by nearly 100 last week, to 465 across 19 states, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention said on Monday.

A week ago, the CDC reported 387 cases in 15 states. The figure, reported on Monday, is the second-highest reported total since the contagious disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, and is approaching the record high since that year of 667 in 2014.

The increase has been driven in part by groups who, largely for religious or anti-government reasons, choose not to receive anti-measles vaccinations. Most people who acquire the disease have not been vaccinated, the CDC said, although it noted that outbreaks have been linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries dealing with outbreaks, including Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines.

Three or more localized cases qualifies as an outbreak, and thus far include Rockland County, N.Y.; New York City; Washington State; Michigan, New Jersey and Butte and Santa Cruz counties in California. The outbreaks in New York State and New Jersey account for most of the identified cases, and have been traced to unvaccinated members of Orthodox Jewish communities, the CDC said.

Leopold Conflict illustrates simmering tension in Madison schools

Dylan Brogan:

But the Leopold student was not telling the truth. The alleged assault was caught on video surveillance. Blackamore, after viewing the footage, concluded that “there was nothing that appeared to be any intentional striking or harm done to [the student].” The mother of the student eventually told the police “several times how deeply she regretted her actions and apologized for her behavior.”

This incident, the latest in a series of racially charged conflicts in Madison’s schools, is another example of how much mistrust exists between parents and the school district. District Spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson urged Isthmus not to publicize the episode, saying it would prevent healing between the family and the staff at Leopold, and reinforce negative stereotypes.

School board member TJ Mertz, who lost his re-election bid on April 2, didn’t know the details of the Leopold incident. But he says, generally, trust between families and the schools is “greatly strained” and teachers don’t feel like they are supported by administrators when children act out.

“There is damage that is done just by an accusation. The accusation damages reputations. It causes stress for people who are already stressed,” Mertz tells Isthmus. “If the accusations are real, then yeah, all of that is deserved. But when things aren’t so cut and dried, there is a sense from staff that no one has their back.”

This has created an environment where teachers and other educators are afraid of how their actions will be perceived, rather than being judged by what actually occurred.

“It’s not just Leopold, it’s all over the district. It makes it very difficult for people to work together for the best of the kids,” says Mertz. “There is a lot of fear among our staff of something like this happening.”

However, in a statement provided to Isthmus, Keeler says it’s important to have “trusting relationships with all of our families and students.”

“We’re committed to working proactively to have those strong relationships with our families so that if there is ever a conflict of any kind, we can come together and resolve it in a way that restores relationships in our community, and puts our students at the center,” writes Keeler. “Every student and family should feel welcome, safe, and supported, and like they belong in our school community.”

Chinese parents want students to wear dystopian brainwave-detecting headbands

Jiayun Feng:

In today’s dystopian news: An elite primary school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province is making its students wear brainwave-reading headbands that can supposedly detect their attention levels in the classroom.

The practice was exposed in a series of photos that are now going viral on the Chinese internet. In two pictures, students at Jiangnan Experimental School can be seen wearing black electronic headbands while in class.

The devices are produced by BrainCo Inc., a Harvard University-backed startup based in Boston. According to a sponsored piece of content published on PRNewswire, the high-tech company is dedicated to developing Brain Machine Interface technology with a focus on big data and brain science. The students in Hangzhou were given the Focus 1, a flagship product of BrainCo, which detects and quantifies students’ attention levels. The headbands come with a portal called Focus EDU, which the company boasts as “the world’s first classroom portal for teachers to assess the effectiveness of their teaching methods in real time and make adjustments accordingly.”

As the photos suggest, the analytical system seems to be working pretty well at the school. One photo shows a digital screen that displays real-time ranking of students’ concentration levels. At the end of a class, the portal provides a report that highlights students with the three highest scores.

Commentary on Wisconsin DPI Leadership; Elementary Teacher Mulligans

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Gov. Evers had been at DPI for a while until now. Has there been a foundation at DPI built by Gov. Evers that you feel like you can expand upon?

Initially, I went to DPI in 2001 — that was when Libby Burmaster became superintendent. And Libby and I worked together in the Madison School District, so when she offered the opportunity for me to join that team, I jumped at it because the areas she explained to me were areas I was deeply involved in anyway. It was looking at equity and how do we move the state, or how do we begin the conversation about who are our students who are not part of this dream that we have as society.

So we initially started our focus and looking at the data and finding out who those populations were. And at that time, Tony Evers was Libby’s deputy, so when Libby ran two terms, Tony ran and won three terms. And I stayed on with him. And one of the reasons is — I don’t know if a lot of people know about the Department of Public Instruction (and) that we have a lot of passionate people who work there, people who come from education settings, leaders in their schools, people who come with the same aspirations to make a wider impact. So it always felt like a family to me and that we were pulling in the same direction.

So when Tony left and offered this opportunity to me, it was an opportunity to expand our equity agenda. The agenda has been equity for a number of years, but for me it is an opportunity to drill deeper and to try to put a little more flesh on the bones and be more intentional about the work we’re doing as an agency to have strategic impacts on the school districts we work with.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”:

Elementary Teacher Mulligans

The bizarre story of the L.A. dad who exposed the college admissions scandal

Joel Rubin, Matthew Ormseth, Suhauna Hussain and Richard Winton:

“Our first lead in this came during interviews with a target of an entirely separate investigation, who gave us a tip that this activity might be going on,” he said.

The tip led investigators to a soccer coach at Yale University, who, in turn, pointed them to William “Rick” Singer, the college admissions consultant who would confess to being the mastermind of the admissions racket. With Singer’s cooperation, FBI agents set about building cases against dozens of the wealthy parents on his client list as well as people at universities across the country Singer allegedly paid to help students cheat their way into school. Prosecutors needed less than a year from that first tip to file criminal charges, a remarkably quick turnaround for a case so large and with such high stakes.

In all, 50 people have been charged — including 33 parents, several college coaches, a man Singer paid to take college admission exams for students, and Singer himself, who pleaded guilty to several felonies in a deal with prosecutors. The investigation is ongoing, and prosecutors indicated in court last week that more people were likely to be charged.

Not included in the pool of defendants, however, is Tobin, whom multiple law enforcement officials and a person close to him identified as the unnamed tipster Lelling credited with setting the investigation in motion.

Civics: Donald Trump’s rhetoric is breathtakingly authoritarian, but so far he’s done less than his predecessors to expand executive power.

Gene Healy:

Standing on the Shoulders of Tyrants
Donald Trump’s rhetoric is breathtakingly authoritarian, but so far he’s done less than his predecessors to expand executive power.

Gene Healy from the May 2019 issue – view article in the Digital Edition

“I have the absolute right to PARDON myself,” President Donald Trump announced via Twitter in June 2018. With that, he pitched a can of Sterno into the ongoing media firestorm over the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

The last time a president contemplated a self-pardon was during the “final days” of Watergate. Nixon wasn’t entirely in his right mind during this period: frequently drunk, possibly suicidal, incoherent, pacing the halls at night “talking to pictures of former presidents,” according to his son-in-law. Still, even at his worst moment, Nixon had enough wits about him to know that trying to pardon himself would be crazy.

Trump seems to have arrived at a similar conclusion. His claims about his right to undermine the rule of law are frequent and contemptible. Yet as far as we can tell, they have mostly been rhetorical.

In the run-up to the 2018 midterms, for instance, the president threatened to issue an executive order revoking birthright citizenship—a move that would have flouted the plain language and legislative history of the 14th Amendment while putting more than 4 million Americans at risk of deportation. But this too seems to have been a pump fake designed to thrill the base and rile the media; it was abandoned after Election Day.

It’s become a familiar pattern. Trump hits “send tweet” on some crank theory of absolute executive power. Law professors and pundits cancel their weekend plans, scrambling to figure out “Can he do that?”—only to realize, weeks later, that they needn’t have taken him literally or seriously.

Ancestry-Testing Company: It’s Our ‘Moral Responsibility’ to Give The FBI Access to Your DNA

Jennings Brown:

A popular DNA-testing company seems to be targeting true crime fans with a new pitch to let them share their genetic information with law enforcement so cops can catch violent criminals.

Two months ago, FamilyTreeDNA raised privacy concerns after BuzzFeed revealed the company had partnered with the FBI and given the agency access to the genealogy database. Law enforcement’s use of DNA databases has been widely known since last April when California officials revealed genealogy website information was instrumental in determining the identity of the Golden State Killer. But in that case, detectives used publicly shared raw genetic data on GEDmatch. The recent news about FamilyTreeDNA marked the first known time a home DNA test company had willingly shared private genetic information with law enforcement.

Several weeks later, FamilyTreeDNA changed their rules to allow customers to block the FBI from accessing their information. “Users now have the ability to opt out of matching with DNA relatives whose accounts are flagged as being created to identify the remains of a deceased individual or a perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault,” the company said in a statement at the time.


Eugene Wigner:

There is a story about two friends, who were classmates in high school, talking about their jobs. One of them became a statistician and was working on population trends. He showed a reprint to his former classmate. The reprint started, as usual, with the Gaussian distribution and the statistician explained to his former classmate the meaning of the symbols for the actual population, for the average population, and so on. His classmate was a bit incredulous and was not quite sure whether the statistician was pulling his leg. “How can you know that?” was his query. “And what is this symbol here?” “Oh,” said the statistician, “this is pi.” “What is that?” “The ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.” “Well, now you are pushing your joke too far,” said the classmate, “surely the population has nothing to do with the circumference of the circle.”
Naturally, we are inclined to smile about the simplicity of the classmate’s approach. Nevertheless, when I heard this story, I had to admit to an eerie feeling because, surely, the reaction of the classmate betrayed only plain common sense. I was even more confused when, not many days later, someone came to me and expressed his bewilderment [The remark to be quoted was made by F. Werner when he was a student in Princeton.] with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. “How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?” It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.

Madison Parents, you do have a choice

David Blaska:

Parents, you do have a choice, thanks to Tommy Thompson, Scott Walker and the Republican legislature.

Low income choice

If you are low-income, you can participate in the WI Parental Choice Program. Your annual household income for a family of three must not exceed $45,716. Application period ends April 20.

Unfortunately, state law mandates that no more than 4% of the pupil membership of a public school district may participate in the WPCP. The DPI conducts random drawings.

Much more on open
, charter~/a< and voucher student options.

An emphasis on adult employment”.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Arizona students at center of Border Patrol incident to face criminal charges

KOLD News:

The student can be heard comparing Border Patrol agents to the KKK.

“They allow murders on campus, where I pay to be,” she said. “This is supposed to be a safe space for students, but they allow an extension of the KKK into campus.”

Videos of the incident quickly made their rounds on social media. KOLD News 13 reached out to the student who filmed the encounter but she did not give us permission to use them. Other social media users, like the Lone Conservative, have posted copies of the video. You can see them HERE and HERE.

Why “Worthless” humanities degrees may set you up for life

Amanda Ruggeri:

At university, when I told people I was studying for a history degree, the response was almost always the same: “You want to be a teacher?”. No, a journalist. “Oh. But you’re not majoring in communications?”

In the days when a university education was the purview of a privileged few, perhaps there wasn’t the assumption that a degree had to be a springboard directly into a career. Those days are long gone.

Today, a degree is all but a necessity for the job market, one that more than halves your chances of being unemployed. Still, that alone is no guarantee of a job – and yet we’re paying more and more for one. In the US, room, board and tuition at a private university costs an average of $48,510 a year; in the UK, tuition fees alone are £9,250 ($12,000) per year for home students; in Singapore, four years at a private university can cost up to SGD$69,336 (US$51,000).

Learning for the sake of learning is a beautiful thing. But given those costs, it’s no wonder that most of us need our degrees to pay off in a more concrete way. Broadly, they already do: in the US, for example, a bachelor’s degree holder earns $461 more each week than someone who never attended a university.

Artist who hatched paint-by-numbers idea in Detroit dies at 93

John Seewer:

Dan Robbins, whose works were dismissed by some critics but later celebrated by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, died Monday in Sylvania, Ohio, said his son, Larry Robbins. He was 93.

He had been in good health until a series of falls in recent months, his son said.

Robbins was working as a package designer for the Palmer Paint Company in Detroit when he came up with the idea for paint-by-numbers in the late 1940s. He said his inspiration came from Leonardo da Vinci.

“I remembered hearing that Leonardo used numbered background patterns for his students and apprentices, and I decided to try something like that,” Robbins said in 2004.

He showed his first attempt – an abstract still life – to his boss, Max Klein, who promptly told Robbins he hated it.

The Inclusive School Fighting China’s Stigma Against Autism

Ni Dandan:

For once, the kindergarten classroom in Dongguan is quiet. Around the room, 28 young children nap on small single beds. When their teachers gently wake them in the early afternoon, Duan Yiyang stretches, removes his eye mask, and exchanges his pajamas for his orange school uniform.

Like most of his peers here, 5-year-old Duan is a gentle, polite kid. He patiently waits in line for afternoon dessert, compliments his classmates on their drawings, and pays close attention to his teachers. Only small details indicate that Duan has autism. The eye mask, for instance, blocks out any light that stops him from sleeping — a common problem among autistic children, who tend to find it harder to nod off than other kids. When he speaks, Duan tends to use simpler language than his peers and sometimes fails to complete his sentences. On rare occasions, he loses his temper and becomes disruptive.

Duan, who was diagnosed with a mild form of autism spectrum disorder at 2 years old, is now in his second year at Dongguan Yulan Experimental Kindergarten, known locally as “Yulan.” The public preschool is the only facility in the southern Chinese city that offers so-called integrated education — a model that has preschoolers without special needs learn, play, and socialize alongside those receiving support for certain conditions. Of the 160 kids enrolled here, 18 require extra learning support due to autism and other conditions, like cerebral palsy, and hearing disabilities. This relatively high ratio means that each class of around 30 children accommodates two or three with special needs.

What’s needed to restock the ranks of talented teachers is more Alyssa Molinskis


The number of people making second career decisions to go into teaching or coming to teaching from unconventional backgrounds has increased, and that is, overall, a good thing.

But a lot of teachers are needed now and will be needed in coming years and the mainstream way to get into teaching — go to college, major in education, go to work in a school — remains important.

UW looks to improve teacher pipeline

The University of Wisconsin System has created a task force to recommend ways to improve the pipeline.

The session at UWM was sort of an open-microphone night for those who are concerned. Speakers were mostly people involved in the field, not all of them at UWM. They voiced support for more financial aid for students, more partnerships in developing teachers, more encouragement for people to become teachers, fewer bureaucratic barriers.

You’re trying to push a string unless more is done to improve the working situations in schools, one speaker warned. “There’s got to be something to go to that’s attractive,” he said.

Commentary on Wisconsin Act 10

CJ Safir and Collin Roth

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” the dog that didn’t bark reveals the greater truth. The same might be said of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s first state budget proposal. Derided by critics as a “liberal wish list,” Mr. Evers’s budget proposes to expand Medicaid, freeze school choice, overturn right to work, fund Planned Parenthood, add more than 700 government jobs, increase spending by $7 billion, and raise taxes by more than $1 billion

Much more on Act 10, here

What They Don’t Teach You at the University of Washington’s Ed School

Nick Wilson:

I am not interested in politics or controversy, and I derive no pleasure in creating difficulties for the UW out of personal resentment. But whenever family and friends ask me about graduate school, I have to explain that rather than an academic program centered around pedagogy and public policy, STEP is a 12-month immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism. This program is a bizarre political experiment, light on academic rigor, in which the faculty quite consciously whips up emotions in order to punch home its ideological message. As a consequence, the key components of teaching as a vocation—pedagogy and how best to disseminate knowledge—are fundamentally neglected. With little practical training or preparation, graduates of the program begin their teaching careers woefully unprepared. Even for the most ardent social justice activist, STEP’s lack of practical content is a serious shortcoming. I found the program so troubling that I have decided to write this first-hand account with specific examples of the daily experience to illustrate how social justice activism in the academy has a high opportunity cost.

To put this in context, STEP’s approach to education deserves some explanation. Public schools haven’t done a great job of bridging ugly chasms in American life, such as the racial academic achievement gap between black and white populations, which has hardly narrowed since the Civil Rights Act. Discrimination based on gender and sexuality remain impediments to equality of opportunity and the way children are currently treated in public schools is clearly a part of that. The statistics on these matters are appalling, and slow progress is no excuse for complacency. Additionally, teachers should work to cultivate catholic tastes, and in light of demographic changes, white Americans shouldn’t expect the literature and old-fashioned narrative history of Europe and the United States to be considered the normal curriculum, with a few token “diverse” authors alongside Shakespeare and Hemingway. Nonetheless, while these challenges exist, and although public education is a vital mechanism in the struggle to resolve inequality and to further the development of an open cosmopolitan culture, the program’s attempts to address these issues are deeply disturbing.

Organized according to the standard tenets of social justice theory, anyone in the graduate school class who does not identify as a straight white male is encouraged from the outset to present themselves as a victim of oppression in the social hierarchy of the United States. And so a culture emerges rapidly in the 60-student cohort in which words and phrases fall under constant scrutiny, and ideas thought to be inimical to social justice are pounced on as oppressive. Moreover, instead of imparting knowledge about the rudiments of pedagogy or how to develop curriculum content and plan for high school classes, the faculty and leadership declare that their essential mission is to combat the colonialism, misogyny and homophobia that is endemic in American society. The logic here is that if teachers are immersed in social justice ideology they will then impart these ideas to young people at all levels of K-12 and post-secondary education. This lofty aim explains why the program focuses so heavily on training students in the discourse of far-left identity politics and why it demands total intellectual acquiescence. When you consider that STEP’s ostensible purpose is to prepare graduates to become novice high school teachers, this approach in a public university is difficult to justify.

The first three of STEP’s four quarters address social constructivism, postmodernism, and identity politics through flimsy and subjective content. With a few notable exceptions, the content one might expect to study at graduate school is absent. Although the classes have names like “Teaching for Learning,” “Creating Classrooms for All,” “Teaching in Schools,” and “Adolescent Psychology,” the vast majority of their content is essentially political. These classes are difficult to distinguish from one another, each experienced as a variation on the theme of imploring students to interpret every organization and social structure through the paradigms of power and oppression via gender, race, and sexuality. Students are expected to demonstrate that the attributes of their personal identity (always reduced to race, sexuality and gender, and sometimes disability status) will shape their assumptions when they work as classroom teachers. Practically speaking, the purpose is to have teachers acknowledge and embrace a broad variety of behavioral norms and activities in the classroom and to explore a wider range of academic content than has traditionally been the case in American public schools. Above all, the program emphasizes that diversity and inclusion are the most important considerations in education, and that equity—equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity—ought to be the primary goal of public policy.

Related: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

Inside the Minds of Chinese Millennials

Wǒ Men Podcast

Karoline Kan is a second child born among the one child generation in 1989. In order to give birth to her, her mother hid from local officials for almost ten months. But the challenges didn’t end there — to her paternal grandparents, she was an unwanted girl, an idea that shadowed her whole childhood.

Yet she was also a lucky girl with a strong mother who pushed the family out of a remote Chinese village and completely changed Karoline’s life by providing her with the best education she could. In her late twenties, Karoline, a girl with humble background, became an author and international journalist for The New York Times.

Recently, she published Under Red Skies, widely touted as the first English-language memoir written by a Chinese millennial.

Civics: As vice president, Biden sought to remake the rules of sexual culture on college campuses and beyond. He succeeded—and now is suffering for it.

Emily Yoffe:

Joe Biden is now living in the world of accusation he helped to create. It is one of peril for the accused, in which they are subjected to expansive definitions of sexual misconduct and little benefit of the doubt. Biden helped to bring it about as the leader of the Obama administration’s cornerstone effort to end sexual assault at colleges and universities, a worthy undertaking that quickly spiraled into overreach. The goal, as Biden often says, was to remake sexual culture on campuses and in society at large—a goal that’s reached remarkable fruition in the #MeToo era. Now, as he mulls whether to enter the presidential race, Biden is finding himself ensnared by some of the doctrines he has advocated over the past several years.

In the past few days, Biden’s not-yet candidacy has been rocked by accusations of unwanted touching. Last week, Lucy Flores, a former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Nevada, said that at a campaign rally in 2014, the then-vice president, standing behind her, placed his hands on her shoulders, sniffed her hair and gave the back of her head a “big slow kiss.” A few days later, Democratic former congressional aide Amy Lappos said that at a 2009 event, Biden put his hands on her face, pulled her to him and rubbed his nose with hers. This week, two more women have come forward—a student who said he touched her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long,” and a writer who said his hand strayed from her shoulder and moved down her back before her husband intervened.

systemic failings at schools in poor neighborhoods are “the equivalent of child abuse.”

Erik Schatzker:

The solution, he argues, lies in better leadership at the “top of the country;” treating the wealth and income gap as a national emergency; a bipartisan commission to re-engineer the economic system; more accountability, presumably for elected officials; minimum standards for health care and education; some redistributive taxes on the wealthy; and more coordination of monetary and fiscal policy to stimulate growth.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Plan For The Internet Would Be A Disaster For Free Expression

David Harsanyi:

In a recent op-ed, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg implored the state to get more involved in governing the internet. “Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” he began. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

Zuckerberg’s case for government-instituted speech codes is a cynical attempt to deflect criticism aimed at his company. But it’s also propelled by two corrosive political myths.

For starters, there’s no such a thing as “harmful speech.” There might be speech that offends us. There might be speech we disagree with. There’s also speech that’s inarguably ugly, dishonest, pornographic or despicable. “We” allow these unpleasant words to go largely unregulated because we value the broader liberty of being able to offer opinions without government censors dictating which thoughts are acceptable.

So if Zuckerberg wants to rid his platform of this “hate speech,” no one is stopping him. Facebook allegedly employs a number of new mechanisms to achieve this very task. Good luck.

Genome engineers made more than 13,000 CRISPR edits in a single cell

Antonio Regalado:

Since its invention, CRISPR has let scientists introduce DNA changes at specific locations in a genome. Often these precise changes are made one at a time.

Perhaps not for much longer. A team at Harvard University says it has used the technique to make 13,200 genetic alterations to a single cell, a record for the gene-editing technology.

The group, led by gene technologist George Church, wants to rewrite genomes at a far larger scale than has currently been possible, something it says could ultimately lead to the “radical redesign” of species—even humans.

Large-scale gene editing of this sort has been tried before. In 2017, an Australian team led by Paul Thomas peppered the Y chromosome of mice with edits and succeeded in blasting it out of existence. That strategy is being eyed as a potential treatment for Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an extra chromosome.

To set the new gene-editing record, team members Oscar Castanon and Cory Smith aimed CRISPR at a type of DNA sequence called a LINE-1, a mysterious repetitive element found littered across the human genome. These genetic elements, which are able to copy themselves, are estimated to account for about 17% of our genome.

Civics: Republican Senators are Skating Awfully Close to White Christian Identity Politics

David Bernstein:

As readers may recall, Judge Neomi Rao’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hit a snag when Senator Josh Hawley questioned her commitment to opposing “substantive due process” and whether her personal political views leaned toward being pro-choice. After significant pressure from conservative activists, the Trump administration, and, according to reports, personal reassurances from Rao’s former boss Justice Clarence Thomas regarding her conservative bona fides, Hawley relented and Rao was confirmed.

Jessie Liu, nominated to be associate attorney general, wasn’t so lucky. Opposition from Utah Senator Mike Lee killed her nomination, she withdrew on Friday.

According to his spokesman, Lee opposed Jessie Liu’s nomination to be associate attorney general because of “questions about her record on life issues.” The only basis provided for concluding that Liu might be pro-choice is Liu’s prior affiliation with the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), which opposed Sam Alito’s 2005 nomination to the Supreme Court based in part on concerns about reproductive rights. NAWL is a professional development organization, whose slogan is “Empowering Women in the Legal Profession Since 1899.” Any statements it makes related to abortion are tangential to its mission. Liu said that she played no role in the decision to oppose Alito’s nomination, and no one contradicted her assertion.

WSU teaches students how to handle College Republicans at bias training

Ben McDonald :

Washington State University’s Bias Advisory Response Team planned two de-escalation trainings in late March and early April with the purpose of trying to help students learn how to manage public encounters like a recent College Republicans event.

WSU Police Sgt. Dawn Daniels helped set up the event because she thought it was necessary given the rise of “programs that are controversial,” The Daily Evergreen reported.

Why Austin’s Schools Aren’t Working For Students Of Color

Claire McInerny:

Last year, only a third of the 557 students met grade level in all subjects, compared to 52 percent in the district overall. Nearly 65 percent of Overton students were English-language learners, and 93 percent came from low-income households. Only a handful of them were white.

A year ago, she stood in the middle of her fourth-grade classroom, breaking the students into small groups for a language arts lesson.

To prepare for an upcoming STAAR test, Wilson had the students practice reading comprehension. The kids in one group didn’t understand the phrase “well known,” so she walked them through some examples.

“Let’s think of Beyonce; she’s well known,” Wilson said. “What’s another word for that?”

“Famous,” a student responded.

Related: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

What to expect from the 2019 Madison School Board

Christina Gomez Schmidt:

With the spring election over, what should we as a community now expect of the Madison School Board?

Its role is to provide consistent leadership and direction that results in every student receiving the best education possible. Genuine collaboration is needed among these seven people to tackle the complex problems in our schools. They don’t have to agree on every issue, but they can provide for and model vigorous public debate of issues, a problem-solving mindset and consensus building.

We should expect the School Board to:

Insist on accurate, comprehensive and publicly accessible information to enable informed decision-making by the board and informed participation by the community.
Publicly discuss important topics including school improvement plans, enrollment trends, and the board’s evaluation of the superintendent.

Facilitate two-way communication with the community and insist on better outreach to those who feel their voices are unheard
Ensure that while addressing student needs, the district also supports our educators and staff.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

A chance to shape their future

Promoted Content at the Times:

Teaching is a bit like planting an arboretum. You have a pretty good idea how it is going to turn out – you nurture the saplings, you encourage them to put down firm roots, you get them established in the soil – but you know you are not going to see its fruition. It is the ultimate statement of confidence in the future.

After a short career in the British Army keeping the massed forces of the Warsaw Pact at bay, then a longer one as a Fleet Street journalist, in 2015 I traded in my reporter’s notebook and press card for a stack of exercise books and a union card. I became a late (very late) entrant to teaching, and now front maths classes at a comprehensive academy in Chelmsford, Essex.

Facebook Hearings Reveal How Government Regulations Work

Jeffrey Tucker:

A commentator on Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the Senate observed that the event seemed like a 5-hour tech-support call. Truth.

If you have ever had to do tech support, you know the way it happens. The user is hopeless, frustrated, and essentially ignorant of the product. That’s the Senate. The support employee tries to organize tasks and stay patient. That’s Zuckerberg.

Eventually, the problem is resolved when its source becomes immediately obvious. It was something dumb all along and the fix was easy. (A secret of tech support is the time on hold. The longer the technician delays answering, the more likely it is that the user will fix his or her own problem.)

So it went with the Facebook hearings. It became obvious that Senators knew essentially nothing about how Facebook works, who owns the data, how the business makes money, the platform’s relationship to the app economy, what a data breach means, and so on. Mark was on the other end of the call, explaining all the basics, filling in technical details, revealing the basic business model, speaking earnestly of his personal history and dream for the platform.

Study: Few Houston students study for high-demand careers

Shelby Webb:

Houston students enrolled in career-and-technical education courses disproportionately are studying fields that employ relatively few workers in the region, according to a study by the Fordham Institute.

The study, published Wednesday, found that more than half of students in the greater Houston-area who are enrolled in CTE courses chose to pursue programs in information technology, healthcare, and arts and communications. Those fields, however, only account for about 9.2 percent of local jobs.

The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Caitlin Flanagan:

I will now add as a very truthful disclaimer that the horrible parents constituted at most 25 percent of the total, that the rest weren’t just unobjectionable, but many—perhaps most—were lovely people who were so wise about parenting that when I had children of my own, I often remembered things they had told me. But that 25 percent was a lesson that a lifetime of reading novels hadn’t yet taught me. In the classroom I was Jane Eyre, strong and tranquil in the truth of my gifts; in the college-counseling office, I was the nameless heroine of Rebecca, running up and down the servant stairs at the Hôtel d’Azur as Mrs. Van Hopper barked at me.

During those three years before the mast, I saw no evidence of any of the criminal activity that the current scandal has delivered. But I absolutely saw the raw materials that William Rick Singer would use to create his scam. The system, even 25 years ago, was full of holes.

The first was sports. Legacy admissions have often been called affirmative action for white people, but the rich-kid sports—water polo, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, and even (God help us all) sailing and actual polo—are the true affirmative action for the rich. I first became acquainted with this fact when I was preparing for a meeting with the parents of a girl who was a strong but not dazzling student; the list her parents had submitted, however, consisted almost exclusively of Ivy League colleges. I brought her file in to my boss for guidance. She looked it over and then, noticing something in the section on extracurricular activities and tapping it decisively with her pen, said, “Oh, she’ll get in—volleyball.”

Volleyball? Yale was going to let her in—above half a dozen much more academically qualified and many much more interesting kids on my roster—because she played volleyball? I soon learned that the coaches of all these sports were allowed a certain number of recruits each year, and that so long as a kid met basic academic qualifications—which our kids easily did—the coaches got their way. I never heard an admissions person question a coach; “She’s on the soccer list,” the admissions person would say, and we’d move on to the next kid.

The statistical consequences of fat tails

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

This book consists in 1) published papers and 2) (uncensored) commentary,about classes of statistical distributions that deliver extreme events, and howwe should deal with them for both statistical inference and decision making.Most “standard” statistics come from theorems designed for thin tails: theyneed to be adapted preasymptotically to fat tails, which is not trivial –orabandoned altogether

Photo Essay: China’s Left-Behind Elders

Liu Min and Teng Jing Xuan:

In the mountains surrounding the city of Dingxi in Northwest China’s Gansu province, entire communities have lost their youngest residents.

Left behind in the province, one of China’s poorest, are the oldest people who continue to eke out meager existences in a bleak landscape.

In Bailiu village near Dingxi, there are fewer than 4,000 people — nearly none under the age of 35.

Zhang Wenqing, who looks out of place in the 21st century with his full white beard and old-fashioned cap, says he’ll be 80 by the 12th month of this lunar year.

Zhang and his wife, 63-year-old Cai Jiaoying, live in a house he built in 1985. The roof tiles were brought in on a donkey from Huining county, 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away, Zhang said. It took a fortnight to transport all the tiles to Bailiu. When it was completed, it was the best-looking house in the village. “When he was young, he could walk (into town in) Dingxi and back within a day,” Cai said. “At the time, there was nothing to eat or drink, so he went around peddling goods.”

Civics: Manhattan D.A. Spent $250K in Asset Forfeiture Funds on Fine Dining and Luxurious Travel

C J Ciaramella:

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance spent nearly $250,000 over the past five years from a state asset forfeiture fund on fine dining, first-class airfare, and luxurious hotels, according to public records obtained by The City, a nonprofit news outlet in New York City.

While regular state employees, like the line prosecutors under Vance, are bound by strict travel and expense rules, Vance is under no such regulations, and his office controls more than $600 million in funds seized by New York law enforcement in civil and criminal cases.

During his frequent trips across the country, Vance lived high on the hog, The City reports:

He bought the fencing coach’s house. Then his son got into Harvard

Boston Globe:

The buyer, it turns out, was the father of a high school junior who was actively looking at applying to Harvard with an eye toward being on the fencing team.

Soon enough, Jie Zhao’s younger son would gain admission and join the team. And Zhao, who never lived a day in the Needham house, would sell it 17 months after he bought it for a $324,500 loss.

The home sale may become the next chapter in the national debate over fairness in college admissions.

Zhao, who has lavished his largesse on the fencing world and on Harvard, knows how the home purchase looks. But he said it was not meant to help his younger son get into college. Rather, in a series of interviews with the Globe, he called it an investment and favor for Brand, the coach whom he said had become his close friend.

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

Chinese Couple to Fund up to 400 Brain Science PhDs Each Year in California

Qian Tongxin:

A California-based non-profit institute co-founded by famous Chinese entrepreneur Chen Tianqiao will establish a global postdoctoral program to support research into the human brain.

One of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute’s priorities this year is to launch the global postdoctoral program and it will be the first project directly operated by the organization, Tianqiao Chen, the chief executive of Shanda Investment Group, told Yicai Global. The lab was founded in 2016 after the couple donated USD115 million to the California Institute of Technology.

The TCCI has bought over 13 hectares of land in Silicon Valley to build a center for the program which will fund of 300 to 400 young scientists each year, the founder of the private investment group said, without disclosing the total funding.

The program is certainly a good thing for the development of brain science, one young researcher told Yicai Global, adding that many eligible scientists will sign up.

China and the US have many labs for PhDs in the medical field, including the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation in the US, which gives awards worth up to USD200,000 per year for each postdoc student.

The global average of how much money it takes to cultivate a PhD researcher in brain science is CNY300,000 (USD44,700) each year, according to ShanghaiTech University. This would mean that the TCCI needs to spend at least CNY200 million (USD29.8 million) to fund up to 400 people for a two-year curriculum.

Administrative Burden: Policymaking by Other Means

Cass Sunstein:

Reducing these burdens can have an enormous impact on people’s lives. For free school meals, the Department of Agriculture has adopted a “direct certification” program, which means that if the locality or the school district has enough information to know that children are eligible, they are automatically enrolled. In recent years, more than 11 million children have benefited from the program (about 91 percent of the eligible population). Simplification of the FAFSA dramatically increases the likelihood that low-income students will apply for aid and eventually enroll in college. A number of states have adopted automatic voter registration, which means that if eligible citizens interact with a state agency (for example, by receiving a driver’s license), they are registered as voters. In 2016, Oregon’s automatic registration program produced more than 250,000 new voters; almost 100,000 of them voted. The private sector can also do a lot more to reduce sludge—for example, it can help people choosing among health care plans by simplifying options and explaining what is likely to be their best choice.

Paperwork burdens are often a product of decisions by public officials. At the national level, those decisions come from Congress or from administrative agencies, which have diverse motivations. Many of their goals are legitimate. Perhaps most important, they might be trying to ensure that people are actually eligible for the benefits for which they are applying. In addition, officials might be trying to collect data that they can use to improve their programs. Sometimes they use paperwork burdens as a kind of rationing device, limiting licenses, permits, or money to people who are willing to run some kind of gauntlet.

Demographic time-bomb: Finland sends a warning to Europe

Richard Milne:

Yet finding answers has proved nigh on impossible. Finland’s three-party coalition government collapsed last month over its failure to pass landmark healthcare and local government reforms before an election on April 14. The only long-term issue related to demographic trends that has been addressed in two decades of trying has been pension reform.

For Europe, Finland may be a warning about the intractable political problems that lie ahead. Its population is ageing faster than any other European country, although Germany and Italy will have bigger peaks of older people later on this century. The lesson from Finland may be that trying to make health and elderly care costs sustainable involves the types of political choices few governments are willing to make, raising questions about long-term economic growth and the health of public finances for increasingly cash-strapped governments across Europe.

While parts of the rest of Europe face what researchers at the Robert Schuman Foundation have called “demographic suicide”, the lessons from the Finnish experience are complex. Breaking the omertà around ageing — as the foundation argued for — has not particularly helped in Finland. “In European terms we have been preparing early but only a little has been done,” says Marja Vaarama, a professor of social work at the University of Eastern Finland.

Nikoli Puzzles


PuzzlesHere we show you some of the famous Nikoli puzzles. You can solve these puzzles without knowing Japanese or mathematical techniques. The Nikoli pages on Wikipedia are very useful to understand the rules of Nikoli puzzles for English speakers. Here on our homepage you get the basic rules at each puzzle.

Want to Fix College? Admissions Aren’t the Biggest Problem

Nicholas Lemann:

The indictment last week of more than thirty clients of William Singer, the Max Bialystock of élite-college admissions, by the U.S. Attorney in Boston was, among other things, a form of de-facto federal-government support to journalism, because it gave so many people so much to write about. It wasn’t just that the details were so juicy—celebrities, rich helicopter parents and their spoiled kids, S.A.T. cheating, coaches taking bribes—but also that they seemed to confirm something that many people already feel, which is that the admissions system is deeply corrupt. Over the years, as the ratio of available slots in the very best colleges to the number of aspirants for them has become more and more insanely lopsided, and the way that the decisions are made has remained mysterious, it has become almost impossible to avoid concluding that somebody in this system is getting screwed. Maybe it’s kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, or kids who don’t fit into any of the categories that bring you special consideration, or, most likely, it’s you and people you know. Nobody seems to believe that the process is fair.

As often happens, a spectacular crime has drawn the public’s attention to a system where what’s legal and objectionable is actually much more pervasive than what’s illegal. It isn’t all that common for affluent families to cheat on admissions tests or to pay six-figure bribes, but it’s very common for them to provide their children with expensive and evidently effective coaching—for tests and other aspects of admissions—that ordinary families can’t afford, and to make over-the-table gifts to colleges from less than purely philanthropic impulses. Most coaches probably can’t be bought, but most coaches are given (in Singer’s phrase) a “side door” into the admissions office, which allows them to bypass the normal deliberative process for their favorite recruits. It may be that the Singer case will engender not just new precautions against outright criminality but also a fresh look at some of the standard practices that Singer found ways to corrupt. That would be a healthy outcome.

Teacher Credentialism Commentary

Joe Nathan:

I agree with Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, which represents more than 40 suburban and urban districts. Croonquist told me on March 13 his organization agrees with many others: “The new system has only been in effect for half a year. We have no data to support changes.”

Anoka-Hennepin teacher Drew Moldenhauer, who spent 11 years as a police officer in Ramsey and has earned a master’s degree, might lose his job under proposed revisions in the law because he does not have a teaching degree. He also teaches classes at Hennepin Technical College. If proposed changes are made, he believes, “It will be very difficult to attract good, professional police officers to teach due to career instability.” That’s because proposed revisions allow a state agency to decide whether he can keep teaching, even if the district wants to keep him.

Nicole Tuescher, Anoka-Hennepin district executive director of human resources, testified recently in a Minnesota House committee, “We need time to collect information on how the currently adopted structure serves our students.” She pointed out that “positions in our district’s robust career and tech education program … might go unfilled” if changes are made.

Tuescher also explained the new approaches “look promising toward statewide efforts to ensure a diverse teaching corps.”

Josh Crosson, senior policy director with Minneapolis-based EdAllies, agrees with Tuescher. He told legislators on March 13 that almost 900 “teachers of color” are in the categories that opponents want to restrict. While teachers of color and American Indian teachers represent about 5 percent of Minnesota’s public school teachers, they represent about 10 percent of the teachers in categories that opponents want to restrict.

Related: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

Hindsight 2070: We asked 15 experts, “What do we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years?” Here’s what they told us.

Javier Zarracina:

Some 50 years ago, in 1964, 42 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Smoking in bars and offices was normal and cigarettes were given to soldiers as part of military rations. Half of American physicians smoked. Ads for cigarettes bombarded the American public. That year, the surgeon general released a report outlining the health risks of smoking. Two years later, only 40 percent of Americans said that they believed smoking was a major cause of cancer.

Today, we know that smoking is bad for our health. We’ve banned smoking in most indoor public spaces. We stopped allowing tobacco companies to advertise and forced them to put warning labels on cigarette boxes. By 2001, 71 percent of the country said they recognized smoking was a major cause of cancer, and by 2017, the rate of smokers dropped to 14 percent. The habit is now looked at as a relic of the past, something we’ve come to accept as unquestionably harmful.

When we think about what common habits, social norms, or laws that are widely considered unthinkable in today’s world, a variety of past atrocities come to mind. We could point to bloodletting, Jim Crow-era segregation, and drinking and driving as being on the “wrong side” of history.

But what modern practices will we one day think of as barbaric? It’s a framework invoked frequently in political or scientific beliefs: Actor Harrison Ford recently said leaders who deny climate change are on the “wrong side of history.” President Barack Obama said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was on the “wrong side of history.” Filmmaker Spike Lee said that President Donald Trump himself is on the “wrong side of history.”

Berkeley law school dean: Trump’s free speech executive order is ‘unconstitutional’

Brittany Slaughter:

In light of President Donald Trump’s executive order on free speech, Erwin Chermerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law, and Howard Gillman, Chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, penned an op-ed in which they state that the executive order does not help protect free speech on college campuses and that it is even “unconstitutional.”

“[T]he order is so vague and ambiguous, it makes compliance by colleges and universities extremely difficult — and it is almost certainly unconstitutional,” Chermerinsky and Gillman wrote for the Los Angeles Times.

Our Graduation Requirements Are Doing a Disservice to Students Who Want to Serve in the Military

Ronald Fay:

For the most part, state legislators and the Department of Education have maintained high standards for students in Colorado by requiring students to meet a variety of graduation requirements and benchmarks that prove they’re ready for success in college and career.

But, are we challenging students who want to go into the armed forces with the same rigor as those who opt for college? According to The Education Trust’s study, Shut Out of the Military, “Our high schools are undermining the preparedness of too many of the young people who seek to serve their nation, leaving our country—and our youth—in harm’s way.”

It’s time for this to change.

We spend millions of dollars on programming and testing to ensure our students walk across the stage with a diploma that signifies they are ready to contribute to society. The state has outlined a list of measures that districts can use to show that their students are ready to graduate from high school. It includes everything from ACT/SAT scores to concurrent enrollment and even capstone projects. The state suggests that if a student can meet a minimum standard in at least one area, they’re ready for the challenges and opportunities of college and the workforce. But for that to be true, the bar must be set appropriately for each measure of success, and I fear the bar has been set too low for students who plan to enter the armed forces after graduation. This represents an egregious oversight on the part of policy makers.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

K-12 Tax &Spending Climate: America’s Biggest Economic Challenge May Be Demographic Decline

Neil Irwin:

A new report from the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank funded in large part by tech investors and entrepreneurs, adds rich new detail, showing that parts of the United States are already grappling with Japanese-caliber demographic decline — 41 percent of American counties with a combined population of 38 million.

At the national level, slower growth in America’s working-age population is a major reason that mainstream forecasters now expect the economy to expand around 2 percent each year rather than the 3 percent common in the second half of the 20th century. As a matter of simple arithmetic, lower growth in the number of people working will almost certainly mean slower growth in economic output.But demographic change doesn’t hit everywhere equally. Besides the inevitable effect of the extra-large baby boom generation hitting retirement age and stepping away from the work force, decisions by working-age people can accentuate or lessen the impact of that underlying shift.

Dear Humanists: Fear Not the Digital Revolution

Ted Underwood:

Historians and literary critics started out with the same generalizing impulse. In the 18th and 19th centuries, we posited taxonomies of genres and laws of cultural evolution. But we found that those approaches weren’t usually flexible enough to describe human history. It turns out that Homo sapiens excels at making up new games — a talent that gives culture a remarkable and maddening specificity. It can be clear that there are only six possible narrative arcs — until someone invents a seventh, or until an expanding middle class decides that stories shouldn’t be characterized by clear narrative arcs at all, but should become long, baggy things called “novels” that imitate the chaos of biography. This is why humanists make such a fuss about situating every piece of evidence in a specific historical context. Since the 18th century, we have been stung repeatedly by the discovery that our descriptive categories are less universal than we thought. We have learned to temper generalization with attention to the quirks of particular places and times.

In short, humanists have spent centuries acquiring a distinctive interpretive expertise, and they are right to feel that research on cultural history would be more meaningful if it were built on that foundation. But there is, alas, another side to this story, less likely to be popular in history and English departments. While scientists usually do a better job if they work in collaboration with humanists, it must be admitted that today they can often make genuine contributions to historical understanding with or without our assistance. “Quantitative Analysis of Culture in Millions of Digitized Books” may not have created a new field called culturomics, but it did (in collaboration with Google) help produce an interactive website that journalists and schoolteachers still use to understand linguistic trends. The project wasn’t led by humanists, but it was nonetheless one of the most consequential public humanities projects of the last decade. And this was only an early, crude example of interdisciplinary interest in the humanities. More recent publications go far beyond graphing the frequencies of words. Sociologists have theorized the function of ambiguity in literary criticism; cognitive scientists have used information theory to describe historical change; the economist Thomas Piketty stormed the best seller list with Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014), reinterpreting the last two centuries of history with illustrations drawn from Balzac. Humanities departments really are no longer alone.

Google employees demand removal of conservative member from AI-ethics council

Rachel Metz:

By midday on Monday, Googlers Against Transphobia said that more than 900 Google employees and dozens of others — including a range of academic researchers, activists and tech industry employees — had added themselves to a list of supporters.

This isn’t the first time Google has faced pushback from employees on topics related to artificial intelligence. In 2018, 4,000 employees signed a petition demanding the company refrain from building technology that can be used for warfare after learning about a controversial contract the company had for the Pentagon’s Project Maven program, which uses AI to enhance drone strikes. Google subsequently

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, including Madison, use Google services.

One Day There May Be a Drug to Turbocharge the Brain. Who Should Get It?

Carl Zimmer :

In 2011, Dr. Dena Dubal was hired by the University of California, San Francisco, as an assistant professor of neurology. She set up a new lab with one chief goal: to understand a mysterious hormone called Klotho.

Dr. Dubal wondered if it might be the key to finding effective treatments for dementia and other disorders of the aging brain. At the time, scientists only knew enough about Klotho to be fascinated by it.

Mice bred to make extra Klotho lived 30 percent longer, for instance. But scientists also had found Klotho in the brain, and so Dr. Dubal launched experiments to see whether it had any effect on how mice learn and remember.

The results were startling. In one study, she and her colleagues found that extra Klotho protects mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from cognitive decline. “Their thinking, in every way that we could measure them, was preserved,” said Dr. Dubal.

What Does the Punishment of a Prominent Scholar Mean for Intellectual Freedom in China?

Donald Clarke, David Yeliang Xia, Sarah Biddulph, Teng Biao, Taisu Zhang, Jerome A. Cohen, Margaret Lewis, Orville Schell:

The news of Xu Zhangrun’s suspension is paradoxically both shocking—there did not seem to be any immediate cause—and not shocking at all. Not only had Xu been a constant critic of China’s political institutions, but—perhaps most unforgivably—he had also personally mocked Xi Jinping, writing pointedly that “the speeches of officials, originally nothing more than some clichéd officialese written by their secretaries, are now assembled into finely bound volumes and distributed free all over the world, wasting vast amounts of paper. It’s enough to make you spit out your food with laughter.”

That Chinese academics (like everyone else in China) do not enjoy the freedom to speak their minds is not news. Some people used to say that you could say pretty much anything in China, provided you didn’t say it in an organized way. That has not been true for a while. (Mockery of the leader, it seems, is especially serious: one man was sentenced to 22 months in jail in 2017 merely for referring to “Steamed-Bun Xi” in a closed WeChat group.) The government is steadily ratcheting up pressure on academics who do not toe the line. The more outspoken ones get fired. Others find themselves banned from publishing, find their existing work removed from bookstores and university reading lists, or are banished to the library.

Tulsa’s black schools unequal to white schools 51-years after integration

The Black Wall St. Times:

An apocalyptic future awaits America’s Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma that will ultimately decimate the descendants of this once seemingly-viewed promised land for Blacks escaping racial hostility in the American south.

In this city, schools with a large African-American student-population are failing some 51-years after the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) to force a plan for desegregation.

Upon this forced governmental policy on this twin city, African-American students were isolated from their prosperous community that already produced successful schools in the Greenwood District, dubbed the Negro Wall Street of America by Booker T. Washington. They were forced to attend unfriendly, and at times, hostile learning environments at white schools.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Google’s brand-new AI ethics board is already falling apart

Kelsey Piper:

The board, founded to guide “responsible development of AI” at Google, would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google’s AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more.

Of the eight people listed in Google’s initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won’t serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal — Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James’s removal.

James and Gibbens are two of the three women on the board. The third, Joanna Bryson, was asked if she was comfortable serving on a board with James, and answered, “Believe it or not, I know worse about one of the other people.”

Altogether, it’s not the most promising start for the board.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Eight Austin-area educators among finalists for annual H-E-B awards

Melissa Taboada:

Eight Austin-area educators are being recognized among the best in their profession.

The six teachers and two principals were named finalists this week for the 2019 H-E-B Excellence in Education awards, the largest such program in the state. The educators are among 40 finalists statewide and were surprised this week at their schools with balloons, cookies, flowers and cash prizes.

The finalists were chosen by regional judging panels comprised of former winners, community leaders and administrators. To compete for the state awards, each finalist will be interviewed by a statewide panel of judges.

Finalists are chosen in three teaching categories: Rising Star, for teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience; Leadership, for those with 10 to 20 years of experience; and Lifetime Achievement, for those educators with at least 20 years of experience. The program also doles out principal awards.

2019 Madison School Board Election Result Commentary

David Blaska:

I met many people throughout the city (and reconnected with sister Jane). Gratified at the many educators, teaching support staff, and mainstream Democrats who said they voted for me. Another shout-out to liberal downtown Madison blogger Greg Humphrey. That took courage.

We started a long overdue conversation in this community. That will continue.

I am proud of the campaign we ran and many of you were a big part of that. We talked the issues, we did not disparage motives or call names. (But we sure were on the receiving end! Thought I had a tough hide but there are some bruises.) We offered real-life solutions rather than blaming nebulous, macro socio-economic conditions, Act 10 or various Koch brothers. Returning control of their classrooms to teachers was, Tuesday’s results show, a bridge too far. Who’d a-thunk it?

Jenny Peek:

Caire said he knew it would be a tight race, but said the 32,000 people who voted for him want change. “That 32,000 is a sign that there are folks that want to move in different directions. So we’re going to keep pushing,” he said. He said he is concerned that the “hardcore left” in Madison is not truly committed to change for kids of color. “You don’t see them fighting and calling people names and yelling and screaming and picketing when it’s black kids failing. And that bothers me, that bothers me. I feel like if they’re really with us, they should be with us all the time.”

Mirilli and Muldrow said they will address the issues they campaigned on.

“Now we get to work,” Muldrow said. “Now we try to make our schools into places where every single kid can be successful and … give it everything we’ve got.”

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Caire said he will continue to be active in Madison’s education scene and will push for universal preschool in the city.

“I keep going; I don’t stop,” Caire said. “(The election) is not going to stop me from doing what it is that we need to do … there’s a lot going on in the schools I feel I could help with, and I’ll still try to help.”

Carusi, who has touted her many years of attending School Board meetings and being a grassroots organizer, has staunchly opposed voucher schools and independent charter schools like One City. Her opposition to independent charter and voucher schools scored her the endorsement of Madison Teachers Inc., the local teachers union.

“I’m looking forward to being able to bring all voices to the table and representing our whole community on the School Board,” Carusi said.

WORT-FM commentary mp3 audio.

Notes and links on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

Turnout: 26.6% statewide

Civics: New deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office makes first public remarks: Calls on Hongkongers to be patriotic, study Chinese history and help develop nation

Tony Cheung:

Hongkongers should be patriotic, learn more Chinese history and help in the overall development of the nation.

Those were the words of the Beijing’s new liaison official as she made her first public appearance in the city on Tuesday.

Lu Xinning, the new deputy director of the central government’s liaison office, also promised that her office would continue to listen to Hong Kong’s younger generation.

American Employers Are Hung Up on Hiring Ph.D.s

Noah Smith:

Meanwhile, salaries for electrical, mechanical and software engineers are rising as well, if a bit less spectacularly. For those with the skills to “tell computers what to do” (as venture capitalist and inventor Marc Andreessen once put it), capitalism still looks like a good deal. And there’s also the financial industry, which has long offered attractive salary premiums for highly talented people willing to endure the competitive culture and potential moral ambiguity.

But there’s a hidden downside to this high-end labor market. Many of these good jobs require Ph.D.s. A survey by Paysa found in 2017 that about 35 percent of AI jobs required a doctorate. In finance, Ph.D.s are heavily recruited for top quant trading jobs — as a professor at Stony Brook University, I helped advise applied-math doctoral students who were aiming for that industry. Plenty of workers at top tech companies such as Intel have Ph.D.s too. And more Ph.D. economists are going to work for industry. A quick Google search reveals a vast array of tech industry positions that now require this most advanced of degrees.

Google Helps Government Conduct Warrantless Searches, Alleges EPIC

Lucian Armasu:

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”), a civil liberties group based in Washington D.C., filed an amicus brief in the United States vs. Wilson case concerning Google scanning billions of users’ files for unlawful content and then sending that information to law enforcement agencies.

Bypassing the Fourth Amendment

EPIC alleges that law enforcement is using Google, a private entity, to bypass the Fourth Amendment, which requires due process and probable cause before “searching or seizing” someone’s property.

As a private entity, Google doesn’t have to abide by the Fourth Amendment as the government has to, so it can do those mass searches on its behalf and then give the government the results. The U.S. government has been increasingly using this strategy to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of U.S. citizens and to expand its warrantless surveillance operations further.

Image Hashes vs. Image Matches

Google and a few other companies have “voluntarily” agreed to use a database of images hashes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help the agency find exploited children.

More than that, the companies would also give any information they have on the people who owned those images, given they are users of said companies’ services and have shared the images through those services.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Don’t Fall into the Calculus Trap

Richard Rusczyk:

You love math and want to learn more. But you’re in ninth grade and you’ve already taken nearly all the math classes your school offers. They were all pretty easy for you and you’re ready for a greater challenge. What now? You’ll probably go to the local community college or university and take the next class in the core college curriculum. Chances are, you’ve just stepped in the calculus trap.

For an avid student with great skill in mathematics, rushing through the standard curriculum is not the best answer. That student who breezed unchallenged through algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, will breeze through calculus, too. This is not to say that high school students should not learn calculus—they should. But more importantly, the gifted, interested student should be exposed to mathematics outside the core curriculum, because the standard curriculum is not designed for the top students. This is even, if not especially, true for the core calculus curriculum found at most high schools, community colleges, and universities.