Milwaukee’s ‘adversity scores’ are high. Will policymakers do anything to make things better?

Alan Borsuk:

The term “adversity scores” was added to the national dialogue on education Thursday when it was reported that, along with scores on SAT admission tests and other data, the College Board will start supplying colleges and universities scores for “overall disadvantage level” of students applying for admission. These quickly became labeled “adversity scores.”

Does anyone disagree that the odds of succeeding in education (and beyond) are far higher for some kids than for others because of the circumstances of life? And that kids from low-income communities are the ones you don’t see in anything resembling fair proportions when it comes to college campuses?

Letter from an “Anti-School Teacher”

Samuel Mosley:

I recently read The Case Against Education and it explained so much of what I see. Like many new graduates who do not know exactly what they want to do but want to do something that helps people, I became a teacher right after college. I have spent the last year teaching math at a high school in Chicago. Observing how unlikely it was that the decisions we make increase our students human capital, I wondered how it could be of benefit to the students. Your book helped me answer that question.

I was swayed to believe that education is overfunded. I began to view every decision made by my boss with the question “is this to add to our students’ human capital or their signaling value?” Looking at the school from this framework, I have come to suspect that education is best understood as a game theory problem. Often, my bosses are faced with options where one option would be better for the students’ human capital and another would help the student send a more functional signal. The school I teach at invests time in signals (like AP Calculus) because it will enrich our students’ lives more than classes that would cultivate their human capital (like AP Statistics). Because every school can choose to signal, we arrive at a Nash Equilibrium where students at none of the schools acquire human capital and the decisions of schools’ to signal cancel each other out.

Assume schools can either set the average grade to B or C. Schools that set the average grade to C have higher standards so students from those schools graduate college at a higher rate. Assume also that college admissions officers do not have perfect information about the standards of each high school so they admit students from schools where a B is the the average grade more often than students from schools where a C is the average grade.

Do Charter Schools Replicate?

Wall Street Journal, via a kind reader:

One critique of charter schools is that while a few energetic principals show success, it’s impossible to replicate. Not so, says a new study of Boston’s charters, which doubled from 16 schools to 32 in four years, even as they maintained their effectiveness.

This is great news, especially given the magnitude of the extra learning: A year of attending one of these charter spinoffs, the study suggests, improves math scores by an amount equivalent to about 40% of the “achievement gap” between Massachusetts’ black and white students.

The paper’s authors, three professors of economics or education policy, explain what happened after Massachusetts raised its charter cap in 2010. The state set rules encouraging successful charter schools—deemed “proven providers”—to seed new campuses. Most follow a “no excuses” framework, with high expectations and a low tolerance for misbehavior.

After the cap was lifted, growth came rapidly. By 2015 the share of Boston’s sixth-graders attending a charter school had risen from 15% to 31%. Yet applications increased even faster, to the point that there were two hopefuls for each open seat. Oversubscribed charters award admission by lottery, which randomizes the results. “Comparing the outcomes of students who receive lottery offers to those that do not,” the authors write, shows “large positive impacts of charter attendance on test scores.”

Philosophy can make the previously unthinkable thinkable

Rebecca Brown:

In the mid-1990s, Joseph Overton, a researcher at the US think tank the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, proposed the idea of a ‘window’ of socially acceptable policies within any given domain. This came to be known as the Overton window of political possibilities. The job of think tanks, Overton proposed, was not directly to advocate particular policies, but to shift the window of possibilities so that previously unthinkable policy ideas – those shocking to the sensibilities of the time – become mainstream and part of the debate.

Overton’s insight was that there is little point advocating policies that are publicly unacceptable, since (almost) no politician will support them. Efforts are better spent, he argued, in shifting the debate so that such policies seem less radical and become more likely to receive support from sympathetic politicians. For instance, working to increase awareness of climate change might make future proposals to restrict the use of diesel cars more palatable, and ultimately more effective, than directly lobbying for a ban on such vehicles.

Many More Students, Especially the Affluent, Get Extra Time to Take the SAT

Douglas Belkin, Jennifer Levitz and Melissa Korn:

At Scarsdale High School north of New York City, one in five students is eligible for extra time or another accommodation such as a separate room for taking the SAT or ACT college entrance exam.

At Weston High School in Connecticut, it is one in four. At Newton North High School outside Boston, it’s one in three.

“Do I think that more than 30% of our students have a disability?” said Newton Superintendent David Fleishman. “No. We have a history of over-identification [as learning-challenged] that is certainly an issue in the district.”

Across the country, the number of public high-school students getting special allowances for test-taking, such as extra time, has surged in recent years, federal data show.

And students in affluent areas such as Scarsdale, Weston and Newton are more likely than students elsewhere to get the fastest-growing type of these special allowances, known as “504” designations, a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 9,000 public schools found.

The special allowances don’t apply specifically to college entrance exams. They apply to all tests the students take while in school.

The effect, however, is to make these students much more likely to receive extra time or another special accommodation when they take an exam to get into college.

The 504 designation is meant to give students who have difficulties such as anxiety or ADHD a chance to handle the stress of schoolwork at their own pace and level the playing field. It often lets them have a separate room for test-taking and more time to do it.

The Journal analysis shows that at public schools in wealthier areas, where no more than 10% of students are eligible for free or reduced-cost school lunches, an average of 4.2% of students have 504 designations giving them special test-taking allowances such as extra time.

The Madison School District’s Section 504 page.

Diploma in hand, they are shocked to learn they still need remediation

Jane M. Von Bergen:

That’s because Burry, who studied AP English at her high school, Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet High School, couldn’t pass CCP’s placement test – not in English, not in math.

“I spent a lot of time crying about it,” she said. “Is this really where I’m at? In high school, I passed Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry with flying colors. I was in AP English and then I found myself here learning all these things all over again. And the math. That was basic math. I shouldn’t have been in that class. That was a disappointment being in that class.

“It hit my self-esteem really hard.”

Luckily for Burry, a business major, her determination outweighed her discouragement and she persisted through remedial classes and is now on track. “I keep my eye on Comcast,” she said.

Many students don’t feel that way and give up. “They come to college for a program that will lead to an associate degree. By putting them into developmental [remedial] courses, we are taking away that hope. We are wasting a semester of their time and their finances–but most importantly, time and hope,” said Samuel Hirsch, vice president for academic and student success.

“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”.

Advanced learning opportunities and Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district

Christina Gomez Schmidt:

Why is this a problem? Earlier this year, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board highlighted a concerning outflux of students from the Madison Metropolitan School District. Safety concerns might be partly to blame. But a glaring absence of consistent academic challenge in the typical school day no doubt contributes. Despite common knowledge of this lack of rigor, misconceptions over equity issues have limited progress in this area for decades. This has resulted in little action to address significant disparities at the highest levels of achievement.

In 2016, MMSD signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to resolve a two-year formal compliance review. This investigation focused on racial disparities in advanced coursework enrollment in MMSD high schools. The agreement requires the district to take steps to increase both access to and preparation for advanced coursework for black and Latino students. The OCR has said this must include boosting participation in any foundational courses that prepare students to be successful at an advanced level in high school.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

“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”.

Commentary on Avid/Tops in the Madison Schools

Logan Wroge:

The board also approved a three-year partnership renewal with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County for the college preparation program AVID/TOPS.

The program is meant to prepare students for post-secondary education, particularly low-income and minority students or students who would be the first in their family to go to college. AVID/TOPS is available to students at the four comprehensive high schools and 11 middle schools.

The Boys & Girls Club provides mentoring, summer internship opportunities and college coaching to students at the high schools and two middle schools, Cherokee and Wright, and partners with the district on tutoring, college field trips and career planning.

According to an evaluation of AVID/TOPS, conducted by a unit within UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, students who were in the AVID/TOPS program through 12th grade had a grade-point-average of 2.76 compared with 2.67 in the district overall.

About 75% of AVID/TOPS students initially enrolled at a post-secondary institution compared with 60.4% of all students. Although, the evaluation found that while there is some evidence to suggest AVID/TOPS students are more likely to stay in college, it is not statistically significant.

Jed Richardson, Grant Sim and Brie Chapa at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research:

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) have partnered with the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative to conduct an assessment of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program and Teens of Promise (TOPS) program in high school and postsecondary education. AVID/TOPS is a collaborative partnership between MMSD and the BGCDC designed to increase academic achievement, college preparation, postsecondary educational access, and degree attainment for students in the middle academically (i.e. grade point averages between 2.0 and 3.5) who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The program operates in all four MMSD high schools. This 2017-2018 AVID/TOPS report presents results from analyses of measurable student outcomes that reflect the program’s stated goals. These analyses focus on AVID/TOPS program impacts in three areas—2017-2018 academic and engagement outcomes, longitudinal end-of- high school outcomes, and longitudinal postsecondary outcomes. Research questions guiding these analyses are as follows:

1. How does the academic achievement of students who participated in the AVID/TOPS program in high school compare to that of academically and demographically similar peers during the 2017-18 academic year?
2. How does the end-of-high school academic achievement of students who participated in the AVID/TOPS program in high school compare to academically and demographically similar non- AVID/TOPS peers? How do impacts vary by the number of years students participated in AVID?

3. How do college enrollment, persistence, and graduation outcomes of AVID/TOPS high school participants compare to the outcomes of academically and demographically similar peers?

4. Are students, MMSD AVID staff, and BGCDC TOPS staff satisfied with the program?

Estimates of program effects were computed using propensity score matching. This statistical method matches AVID/TOPS and non- AVID/TOPS students based on their individual probabilities of high school AVID/TOPS participation. Groups of students were matched within cohort and high school, and balanced within eighth
participation academic, socioeconomic categoriescomparing selected AVID/TOPS students to all of their grade-level peers, this propensity score matching methodology compared AVID/TOPS students to other students who had similar academic and demographic profiles but chose not to participate.

About the WCER

There is a long term relationship between the WCER and the taxpayer funded Madison K-12 School District.

The taxpayer supported Madison School District is a WCER “funder”.

Side-hustle: China’s small-town youth are busting butt for fun and profit

Kendra Schaefer:

As internet use diversifies across China’s population, reaching younger, older, and rural demographics, there’s been a general scramble to understand these emerging consumer markets. Last month, we took a look at China’s Gen Z, collecting study results and big data reports to piece together a profile on “the Focused Generation”.

It’s interest stuff, but there’s one major flaw in most of the data: though there are huge disparities between the needs and characteristics of urban and rural residents, studies tend to lump the two together, drawing conclusions that are either biased towards urban populations, or are too general to be actionable. But a series of new reports are turning the lens on the attitudes of xiaozhen qingnian 小镇青年, or “small town youth”.

Drawing on big data scraped from its user base of 230 million 18-35 year olds from third-tier cities and below, short video platform Kuaishou 快手 painted a picture of a hard-working demographic willing to roll up their sleeves in the name of self-improvement:

More for your money: School choice

Corey DeAngelis:

Using Evers’ own publicly available Accountability Report Card data from the 2017-18 school year, I find that private schools participating in choice programs and independent charter schools tend to offer the citizens of Wisconsin more “bang for the buck” than district-run public schools.

Specifically, private schools deliver 2.27 more Accountability Report Card points for every $1,000 invested than district-run public schools, demonstrating a 36% cost-effectiveness advantage for private schools. Notably, private schools are 75% more cost-effective in Racine and 50% more cost-effective in Milwaukee, the cities with the highest proportions of students using school vouchers in the state.

The data reveal that Wisconsin’s independent charter schools also do more with less. Independent charter schools are 63% more cost-effective in Racine, and 50% more cost-effective in Milwaukee, than nearby district-run public schools.

This isn’t the only evidence that school choice is a good investment. In fact, a recent evaluation from researchers at the University of Arkansas finds that charter schools are around 40% more cost-effective than traditional public schools in Wisconsin. Another peer-reviewed study from 2017 finds that charter schools are more efficient than traditional public schools in Milwaukee.

But that’s not all.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama

7 and out of school since 2017: How Jazmiah slipped through the cracks of NYC’s special ed system

Alex Zimmerman:

On a January afternoon, seven-year-old Jazmiah Vasquez was teaching herself how to make goo out of eye drops, shaving cream, and Elmer’s glue. Based on instructions from a YouTube video, she mixed the ingredients together with a spoon, grinning at the sticky white ooze.

It wasn’t part of a homework assignment or school project. Jazmiah, who is autistic, and struggles with ADHD and behavior issues, has not attended school for nearly a year and a half. The scene playing out in her living room that afternoon was just her latest attempt at staving off boredom.

Her mother, Lisa Vasquez, says she is desperate to get her daughter into a school. She routinely emails the education department, has protested outside its Brooklyn offices with her two children in tow, and testified at a February City Council hearing and pleaded with lawmakers to intervene.

A legal ruling, issued last October, faulted the education department for failing to find a school placement for Jazmiah or providing any other appropriate education. But in the six and half months that followed, she was not provided one.

On the Vital Importance of (Good) Journalism

Victor Greto:

Democracy is about obtaining facts and deciding, while working with others and compromising, what the better public course might be. These democratic virtues have recently become confused with a lack of integrity, which has then been projected most glaringly onto independent journalists.

I am not naïve. Like any other craft or profession, journalism has its share of fakers—more now thanks to technological immediacy—of pseudo-journalists who cheat, sensationalize, and boldly declare their own agendas; who build—and are encouraged to build—themselves into a “brand,” to obtain a “following,” and to garner for his or her website more and more “likes” or “hits.”

International House: how an anonymous Chinese student sparked a century of cultural exchanges

Fionnuala McHugh:

That morning in the autumn of 1909 was frosty, an early hint of the bitter New York winter to come. The young Chinese student who’d just left Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library and was walking down its impressive front steps must have felt the chill. He was a long way from home. When a passing American cheerfully greeted him (“Good morning!”), he stopped. The American, being of a curious mind, turned back to find out why.
“I’ve been in New York three weeks,” the student said. “And you are the first person who’s spoken to me.”
The passer-by was a 26-year-old graduate engineer from New York state called Harry Edmonds. A few years earlier, he’d been offered a job at what was then called Canton Christian College and is now Lingnan University, in Guangzhou. He hadn’t taken the position and maybe a memory of that opportunity prompted the friendly impulse. Or maybe he was just someone who recognised loneliness in a crowd.
Edmonds apologised to the student. He explained that New Yorkers tended to speak only to people they knew. The pair exchanged names and parted. Passing behind the library Edmonds realised, as he put it in an oral history, that “something extraordinary” had happened. He felt it was a tragedy that his city had ignored “a fellow who had come from the other side of the world, China, to study in America”. He went back to find him but he’d vanished – forever, as it turns out. Edmonds didn’t record his name.

American life is improving for the lowest paid

The Economist:

BRAD HOOPER quit his previous job at a grocery in Madison because his boss was “a little crazy”. The manager threatened to sack him and other cashiers for refusing orders to work longer than their agreed hours. Not long ago, Mr Hooper’s decision to walk out might have looked foolhardy. A long-haired navy veteran, he suffers from recurrent ill-health, including insomnia. He has no education beyond high school. Early this decade he was jobless for a year and recalls how back then, there were “a thousand people applying for every McDonald’s job”.

This time he struck lucky, finding much better work. Today he sells tobacco and cigarettes in a chain store for 32 hours a week. That leaves plenty of time for his passion, reading science fiction. And after years of low earnings he collects $13.90 an hour, almost double the state’s minimum rate and better than the grocer’s pay. His new employer has already bumped up his wages twice in 18 months. “It’s pretty good,” he says with a grin. What’s really rare, he adds, is his annual week of paid holiday. The firm also offers help with health insurance.

Genomics – A programmer’s guide.

Andy Thomason:

The human genome consists of two copies of about 3 billion base pairs of DNA using the alphabet A, C, G and T. This is about two bits per base or

3,000,000,000 * 2 * 2 / 8 = 1,500,000,000 or about 1.5GB of data.

In reality the two copies are very similar and indeed the DNA of all humans is nearly identical from Wall Street trader to Australian aboriginal.

There are a number of “reference genomes” such as the Ensembl Fasta files available from here:

Reference genomes help us to build a map of where we might find particlar features in human DNA, but do not represent any real individuals.

For example, we can use it to name a “location” for a protein coding gene such as BRCA2, a DNA repair mechanism implicated in breast cancer:

Commentary on Regional economic development

Judy Newman:

The report, conducted by Market Street Services, an Atlanta business consulting firm, updates the first Advance Now plan, presented in 2012, and many of its recommendations are similar: Develop a brand identity for the Madison region — identified as Dane, Columbia, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock and Sauk counties — and promote it; educate and train more students for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers; promote a more diverse workforce; and create more centers of excellence.

As a companion to Advance Now 2.0 is a series of in-depth analyses conducted by MadREP and UW-Madison Extension over the past several years that explores each of the sectors determined to be the area’s main employment clusters: information and communication technology; bioscience; health care; agriculture, food and beverages; and advanced manufacturing.

In all, the reports comprise 900 pages of data and strategy, Jadin said.

They show the Madison region is strong in the technology, biotechnology and health-related industries.

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”.

Related: Superintendent Cheatham’s 2013 Madison Rotary Club speech and, again in 2019.

2013: “Plenty of resources”. Indeed, Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school Districts, now between $18k – 20k per student.

Bernie Sanders Wants to Destroy the Best Schools Poor Urban Kids Have

Jonathan Chait:

Bernie Sanders today is announcing the foundation of his K-12 education plan, which is to crack down on public charter schools. If enacted, the Sanders plan would snuff out one of the most successful social policy innovations in decades, and close off a lifeline of opportunity for hundreds of thousands of poor urban children.

The charter-school sector varies enormously from state to state, but on average, charter schools yield better outcomes for urban students (though not for other students). States with the worst-regulated systems fare no better than traditional neighborhood schools. But the best-managed charter systems produce dramatically better outcomes for low-income urban children than the same students receive in neighborhood schools.

The public charter models with the highest success are the most exciting and deserving of replication. Rather than learn what they’re doing right, Sanders would choke them off.

One of Sanders’s splashiest ideas is a good one: He would ban for-profit charter schools, a move Democrats also endorsed in 2016. More than 80 percent of charter-school students attend nonprofit schools, and the for-profit schools perform significantly worse. A complete ban on for-profit charters is a blunt tool, but probably a positive one. Ending for-profit charters would incidentally take away one of the most effective arguments against charters. Charter opponents have erroneously convinced many people that all charters are for profit, when in fact only a small minority are. (Even some professional columnists have repeated this myth.) The charter sector would be stronger if the for-profit segment disappeared.

But Sanders’s goal is not to make charters better. Indeed, nothing in his plan pays any attention to what charter methods work best. Instead his plan reflects the perspective of the teachers unions, which despise charters because they avoid the hiring and pay-scale contracts that most unions rely on. Rather than pay teachers based on seniority, requiring the most recently hired teachers be fired first, and making it all but impossible to fire ineffective teachers, charters allow schools to pay teachers based on performance and replace the ones who can’t do a good job.

Sanders would “call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed” and “halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president.” He would additionally require charter schools to match employment practices with neighboring schools, meaning they would have to replicate the same rigid contracts, eliminating one of the key innovations that lets charters do a better job of teaching poor children.

Teacher Experience and Preparation Led to Stronger Black and Hispanic Achievement, Study Says

Christina Samuels

Employing experienced and fully-credentialed teachers is one of the major factors contributing to California school districts that are producing higher-than-expected academic achievement among their Hispanic, black, and white students, says a new report from the Learning Policy Institute.

In the report California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds, released Thursday, the Palo Alto-based think tank identified California school systems where students were outperforming on state tests their peers in other school districts who come from families with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds, income, and education levels. The study was limited to 435 districts that had at least 200 white students and 200 black or Hispanic students.

Teacher certification was strongly associated with achievement for students of all races and ethnicities. The higher the percentage of teachers in a district working under emergency permits, waivers or intern credentials, the lower the average achievement for all students‐with students of color facing a larger negative impact than white students. A teacher’s length of time in the profession was also positively associated with achievement for black and Hispanic students.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama – Michelle Obama

‘One Seed Can Make an Impact’: An Interview with Chen Hongguo

Ian Johnson:

Chen Hongguo might be China’s most famous ex-professor. Five years ago, he quit his job at the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi’an, publishing his resignation letter online after administrators prohibited him from inviting free-thinking lecturers to speak to his students. After resigning, he decided to keep bringing edgy speakers to this inland metropolis by launching Zhiwuzhi in 2015, a reading room whose name is the Chinese translation of the Socratic paradox “I know that I know nothing.”

Zhiwuzhi is easily the most dynamic public space in China, hosting a dozen book clubs and two to three events a day, including regular appearances by some of China’s best-known public intellectuals, including Guo Yuhua, Hu Jie, He Weifang, and dozens more. While similar bookstores or arts spaces have closed or self-censored themselves into irrelevancy, Zhiwuzhi has remained open, a tribute to Chen’s desire not to preach but to educate the public in critical, democratic thinking—not as an opposition figure but as someone with one foot in the mainstream.

Late last year I went to Xi’an to explore how critical thinkers in China’s provinces are surviving the current period of repression in Chinese politics. I found a thriving, if cautious, ecosystem of videographers, writers, and journalists, all of whom consider Zhiwuzhi their spiritual home. Some of these interviews I have previously published, such as with the citizen journalist Tiger Temple, or the Buddhist writer Jiang Xue. I also wrote a broader look at Zhiwuzhi and Xi’an’s intellectual scene for the magazine here.

The origin story of data science


Today, data science is defined as a multidisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from data. It emerged thanks to the convergence of a wide range of factors: New ideas among academic statisticians, the spread of computer science across various fields, and a favorable economic context.

As the falling cost of hard drives allowed companies and governments to store more and more data, the need to find new ways to value it arose. This boosted the development of new systems, algorithms, and computing paradigms. Since data science was particularly appropriate for those wanting to learn from big data, and thanks to the emergence of cloud computing, it spread quickly across various fields.

It ought to be noted, though, that while the rising popularity of big data was a factor in the rapid growth of data science, it shouldn’t be inferred that data science only applies to big data.

Along the way to becoming the field that we know now, data science received a lot of criticism from academics and journalists who saw no distinction between it and statistics, especially during the period 2010–2015. The difference may not have been obvious to them without a statistician’s background. Here, we examine the origins of this field to get a better understanding of why it is a distinct academic discipline. And since it’s a story better understood when looked at through the individuals involved in creating it, let’s meet the four people who pushed the boundaries of statistics: John Tukey, John Chambers, Leo Breiman, and Bill Cleveland.

A Wake-Up Call for Grads: Entry-Level Jobs Aren’t So Entry Level Any More

Lauren Weber & Chip Cutter:

Welcome to the working world! The good news: You’re entering the hottest job market in half a century. The bad news: Your first step onto the corporate ladder could still be a tough one.

Automation and outsourcing have stripped many of the rote tasks from entry-level positions, so companies are reimagining the jobs they’re offering to the Class of 2019. You and your classmates will likely be expected to operate on a more sophisticated level than graduates of past decades.

Technical skills turn over fast, so employers are looking for fast learners who can quickly evolve and have exceptional soft skills—the ability to write, listen and communicate effectively.

Your future employer may expect you to make sales calls on day one. You might be asked to prepare a client presentation your first week. In short order, you could be handed the job of managing a project.

Some employees say Google is losing touch with its “Don’t be evil” motto. What happens when an empowered tech workforce rebels?

Beth Kowitt:

The spark that ignited the walkout was a New York Times article that had appeared a week earlier, reporting that Google paid former executive Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package, despite facing a sexual misconduct accusation Google deemed credible. (In a statement to the Times, Rubin said the story contained “numerous inaccuracies about my employment.”)

It was the first time the world had seen such a massive worker protest erupt out of one of the giants of the technology industry—and certainly the first time outsiders got a glimpse at the depth of anger and frustration felt by some Google employees. But inside the Googleplex, the fuel that fed the walkout had been collecting for months. Tensions had been on the rise as employees clashed with management over allegations of controversial business decisions made in secret, treatment of marginalized groups of employees, and harassment and trolling of workers on the company’s internal platforms. “It’s the U.S. culture war playing out at micro-scale,” says Colin McMillen, an engineer who left the company in February.

To many observers, the tech workforce—notoriously well-paid and pampered with perks—hardly seems in a position to complain. And it’s a surprising tune to hear from employees of one of the titans of Silicon Valley, a place that has long worshipped at the altar of meritocracy and utopian techno-futurism. But in the past few years, the industry’s de facto mission statement—change the world (and make money doing it!)—has been called into question as examples of tech’s destructive power multiply, from election interference to toxicity on social media platforms to privacy breaches to tech addiction. No one is closer to tech’s growing might, as well as its ethical quandaries, than the employees who help create it. “People are beginning to say, ‘I don’t want to be complicit in this,’ ” says Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research group and is one of the walkout organizers. Workers are beginning to take responsibility, she says: “I don’t see many other structures in place right now that are checking tech power.”

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

National Education Association May Lose Thousands of Las Vegas Members If City’s Bus Drivers, Food Service Workers & Custodians Shift to Teamsters

Mike Antonucci:

Most of the education support employees working for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas may soon find themselves switching state and national unions. A loss for the National Education Association will turn into a gain for the Teamsters.

The Education Support Employees Association is affiliated with the Nevada State Education Association and NEA. It is the exclusive bargaining agent for some 11,000 school district support personnel in Las Vegas. Historically, about half of those employees have been union members. ESEA calls itself the largest local of education support workers in the United States.

For almost 20 years, ESEA has been locked in an organizing and legal battle with Teamsters Local 14 for members and exclusive representative status. In 2006 and 2015, the Teamsters received a majority of votes in representation elections, but Nevada law requires a challenger to receive a majority of the entire bargaining unit, not just of votes cast. That law was ultimately upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court after years of litigation.

While ESEA held on to its negotiating status, it continued to hemorrhage members to the Teamsters. Reliable numbers are rare, but an examination of ESEA’s dues income indicates a range of somewhere between 2,500 and 4,500 active members remaining. Teamsters Local 14 had 2,487 active members as of December 2018, according to its disclosure report to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Harvard ditched US values of due process and diverse opinion in Harvey Weinstein case

Melinda Henneberger:

When I’m on the side of defending Harvey Weinstein, we are on all-new ground.

Yet I am, in the sense that I don’t think Harvard should have fired a faculty dean for providing legal counsel to this loathsome person.

Law professor Ronald S. Sullivan has lost his position at Winthrop House, where undergrads didn’t want to live and eat with, much less be mentored by, someone representing a world-class predator in court. (On Monday, Sullivan announced that he’s leaving Weinstein’s defense team anyway, because an upcoming trial would conflict with his class schedule — but he’s still available for advice and consultation.)

Yes, his former client has been credibly accused of serious crimes against generations of Hollywood actresses. The damage this one man has inflicted must make him a role model for psychopaths the world over.

But in our country, serial killers and terrorists and rapists, too, are entitled to the kind of defense that in theory separates us from, say, the Philippines, where Rodrigo Duterte has drug dealers murdered. Or from Saudi Arabia, where criticism is answered with assassination. In Hungary, you can be fired for dissenting views; in American academia, that’s not supposed to happen.

Civics: To Many Chinese, America Was Like ‘Heaven.’ Now They’re Not So Sure.

Amy Qin:

Qi Haohan describes with pride the times he has leaped and pirouetted with American dancers across stages in China, and he counts as a major influence Daniil Simkin, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater.

Ask him about China’s trade war with the United States, however, and Mr. Qi’s admiration for America evaporates.

“Fight, fight, fight!” the 25-year-old wrote on social media, urging his country to stand strong after trade talks with the United States broke down.

The Green New Deal is a path to a more militarized and authoritarian society.

Matthew Harwood:

“Until you do it, I’m the boss,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the socialist congresswoman from the Bronx, responding to critics of her Green New Deal in February. Later that night, the freshman congresswoman doubled down on her comment, tweeting that people who “don’t like the #GreenNewDeal” should “come up with your own ambitious, on-scale proposal to address the global climate crisis. Until then, we’re in charge—and you’re just shouting from the cheap seats.”

Much has rightly been made of the Green New Deal’s fuzzy-headed utopianism and its impossible goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero in 10 years. But we should also pay close attention to the plan’s authoritarian impulses, particularly in light of its historical inspirations: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the command economy he established during the Second World War.

If proponents of the Green New Deal are serious—and there’s no reason to doubt them—then they’re proposing a return to a militaristic America where Uncle Sam’s heavy hand intervenes in all aspects of life, curtailing individual freedom in pursuit of their collectivist goals. And like the planners of the Roosevelt years, their intentions are clear and grandiose: They want the power to regiment a society of nearly 330 million people in pursuit of a pipe dream they liken to a war for survival.

‘The New Deal and the Analogue of War’

After FDR defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932, the new president rolled out his first New Deal to confront the Great Depression. Roosevelt saw the economic collapse as directly analogous to war. In his first inaugural address, he said that Americans “must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.”

Like President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, President Roosevelt and his New Dealers moved to cartelize the economy with the enthusiastic support of business executives such as Gerard Swope, president of General Electric. “There was scarcely a New Deal act or agency that did not owe something to the experience of World War I,” according to FDR scholar William E. Leuchtenburg in an excellent paper published in 1964, “The New Deal and the Analogue of War.”

Turning Students’ Attention To Pitfalls Of Underage Drinking In A State That Minimizes Its Effects

Elizabeth Dohms and Mary Kate McCoy:

Yet while Wisconsin’s rate of underage drinking has dropped significantly, about 65 percent of Wisconsin high school students reported having at least one drink ever on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

That’s above the national average of 60 percent.

“Think of it as a report card with a bunch of C minuses on it,” Sherman said.

The number of Wisconsin high schoolers who have at least tried alcohol fell by just 1 percentage point between the 2013 and 2017 reports; whereas the national rate dropped by 6 percent.

For Madison, a Wisconsin high school student, being asked to drink is a fairly common occurrence with her peers. For the most part, those who offer drinks usually accept her excuses that she has other things to do.

She’s worried it will affect her participation in clubs and sports.

Should universities ever accept donations from hopeful parents?

Gillian Tett:

This aversion to unfair influence is so deeply ingrained at some colleges that when I applied to Cambridge, three decades ago, my schoolteachers sternly warned me to avoid mentioning that my father had attended the same institution. Having a parental link was seen as a potential black mark, not a help.

To US ears this may seem bizarre. For while most of the country’s elites may recoil from the idea of outright fraud, the notion of using “legacy” connections is regarded as par for the course.

In the UK, however, Cambridge’s stance is unremarkable. If anything, British universities have become more outspoken against parental pressure in recent years, while such influence-peddling has quietly proliferated in the US.

“Family connections or donations do not, and will not, play a role in that assessment process,” insists a Cambridge spokesperson. There is, in other words, a cultural gulf.

Does this mean that the British system is more “fair”? Not necessarily. Money and class still buy privilege aplenty in the UK, albeit in a more subtle way, via access to select schools: a report from the Sutton Trust last year showed that almost half of all Oxbridge places go to children at private schools, although only 7 per cent of kids in the UK attend these.

If you look at the issue from a wider social perspective, the issue of “fairness” becomes more nuanced. The perception that American parents can use legacy links and donations to boost their children’s chances of following in their footsteps pushes many of them to try to do precisely that, which helps to explain why many of them stay closely in touch with – and give generously to – their alma mater. (Of course, many also give in the spirit of disinterested philanthropy; but self-interest cannot be ignored.)

California Has the Highest Poverty Rate in America. Why?

Jon Miltimore:

Can you guess which state has the highest poverty rate in the U.S.?

Many people would say Mississippi. That’s how I would have responded if you had asked me this morning, and I would have been right in a sense.

There are two different ways to measure poverty, you see. One accounts for cost-of-living in different states; one does not. The method that accounts for living costs (the Supplemental Poverty Measure) is more accurate, and it was introduced in 2011 by the U.S. Census.

According to this measurement, the poverty capital of America is not Mississippi. It’s California, PolitFact says.

It was a point recently raised by California Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayer at a legislative forum in Sacramento.

“If you look at the official poverty measure in California, we’re about average with the rest of the country,” Mayes said. “But if you use the supplemental poverty measure, we are in the lead. We have the highest poverty rate in the nation — higher than New Mexico, higher than any of the Southern states, Louisiana, Alabama, higher than Idaho.”

The curse of genius

Maggie Fergusson :

Tom remembers the day he decided he wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist. He was deep into research about black holes, and had amassed a box of papers on his theories. In one he speculated about the relationship between black holes and white holes, hypothetical celestial objects that emit colossal amounts of energy. Black holes, he thought, must be linked across space-time with white holes. “I put them together and I thought, oh wow, that works! That’s when I knew I wanted to do this as a job.” Tom didn’t know enough maths to prove his theory, but he had time to learn. He was only five.

Tom is now 11. At home, his favourite way to relax is to devise maths exam papers complete with marking sheets. Last year for Christmas he asked his parents for the £125 registration fee to sit maths GCSE, an exam most children in Britain take at 16. He is currently working towards his maths A-level. Tom is an only child, and at first Chrissie, his mother, thought his love of numbers was normal. Gradually she realised it wasn’t. She would take him to lectures about dark matter at the Royal Observatory in London and notice that there were no other children there. His teacher reported that instead of playing outside with other kids at breaks, he wanted to stay indoors and do sums.

One day his parents took him to Milton Keynes to have his intelligence assessed by an organisation called Potential Plus, formerly the National Association for Gifted Children. “We told him it was a day of puzzles,” Chrissie says. “It was my dream world,” Tom says. “Half a day of tests!” His mother waited while he applied his mind to solving problems. When they were shown the results, Tom’s intelligence put him in the top 0.1% in Britain.

In Vermont, Small Colleges Are Closing

Jon Camp:

As Green Mountain College readied to close its doors after 185 years, students enjoyed one of their final spring days on the pastoral campus, with some carrying kale and cabbage from the school’s organic farm and others preparing for a class camping trip.

The school, along with two other small colleges in Vermont, will hold its final commencement this weekend. Green Mountain President Bob Allen mourned his college’s demise as well as its impact on an aging state that is struggling to hold on to young people.

“A lot of these students will probably never come back to Vermont,” Mr. Allen said about Green Mountain’s students, noting that more than 80% of them are from out of state. “They want to stay, they work very hard to find jobs in the state.”

Small private colleges are struggling across the country. Moody’s Investors Service projected last July that the typically slow closure rate for nonprofit, private colleges—about five a year between 2004 and 2014—would triple in the next few years. More schools will likely merge with other institutions, Moody’s said.

America’s loneliness epidemic: A hidden systemic risk to organizations

Michael Lee Stallard:

A considerable amount of evidence suggests that social disconnection is prevalent today. Based on its research findings, Cigna reported data in 2018 that chronic loneliness in America has reached epidemic levels. This is consistent with an earlier analysis on the potential public health relevance of social isolation and loneliness.
Looking forward, it would appear that over the next decade the workforce may become even more disconnected. Since 2011, research on adolescents has found they spend more time interacting with electronic devices and less time interacting with each other, while also experiencing declining well-being. As artificial intelligence further increases the presence and role of machines in people’s day-to-day lives, an unintended consequence is that technology may diminish people’s ability to connect.

Bath School Disaster


The Bath School disaster, also known as the Bath School massacre, was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan. The attacks killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and six adults, and also injured at least 58 other people.[Note 1] Prior to his timed explosives going off at the school building, Kehoe had killed his wife and firebombed his farm. Arriving at the site of the school explosion, Kehoe died when he detonated explosives concealed in his truck.

Toward an Information Operations Kill Chain

Bruce Schneier:

Cyberattacks don’t magically happen; they involve a series of steps. And far from being helpless, defenders can disrupt the attack at any of those steps. This framing has led to something called the “cybersecurity kill chain”: a way of thinking about cyber defense in terms of disrupting the attacker’s process.

On a similar note, it’s time to conceptualize the “information operations kill chain.” Information attacks against democracies, whether they’re attempts to polarize political processes or to increase mistrust in social institutions, also involve a series of steps. And enumerating those steps will clarify possibilities for defense.

I first heard of this concept from Anthony Soules, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who now leads cybersecurity strategy for Amgen. He used the steps from the 1980s Russian “Operation Infektion,” designed to spread the rumor that the U.S. created the HIV virus as part of a weapons research program. A 2018 New York Times opinion video series on the operation described the Russian disinformation playbook in a series of seven “commandments,” or steps. The information landscape has changed since 1980, and information operations have changed as well. I have updated, and added to, those steps to bring them into the present day:

Sir Roger Scruton: ‘Get Rid of Universities Altogether’

Human Events:

“It sounds as though we have [lost complete control of universities],” conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton told the Europe at a Crossroads conference today in London.

Sir Roger – who was recently fired from Britain’s Conservative Party-led government for the crime of being an actual conservative – made comments almost identical to those made by Human Events’ Will Chamberlain on the magazine’s Sunday night, members-only Discord chat.

“But there’s the other way forward, which is to get rid of universities altogether.” – Sir Roger Scruton

Sir Roger was responding to a question from the audience wherein he was told of physical violence being leveled at students who express conservative views at Birkbeck University, where Sir Roger once taught.

“There are two solutions to this, though,” explained Scruton – arguably one of the greatest living conservative philosophers.

“One is to start new universities, outside the nexus of state control, which is what happened with Buckingham [University]. Founded by Margaret Thatcher, and where I do teach a course, and which is going in the right direction. Which does have well known reactionaries like David Starkey talking openly from the platform. That’s a possibility, though of course it is a small gesture.

“But there’s the other way forward, which is to get rid of universities altogether.”

China establishes committee of experts on capacity of genetic counseling


A committee of experts has been established by the National Health Commission (NHC) Capacity Building and Continuing Education Center in Beijing for improving China’s capacity of genetic counseling.

It aims at dealing with birth defects in a positive manner and setting up an authoritative, scientific and normative national professional standard for genetic counselors, which will be completed by the end of the year.

The committee consists of 43 authoritative experts from 24 provincial-level regions across the country. According to the NHC, there is still a severe shortage of genetic counselors in China.

The Chilean government wants to bring back selective grammar schools

The Economist:

Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s current centre-right president, wants to avoid that. He has introduced two bills that would partially undo Ms Bachelet’s reforms. The first would allow some 300 high-achieving schools, including the emblematics, to select pupils on academic merit. Of those, half would have to come from hard-up families. The measure would apply to 10% of high schools. A second bill would allow all other non-private schools to choose 30% of pupils to suit their educational programmes, which may include goals other than academic achievement. This “fair admission” policy will reward merit and hard work, the government claims.

Academic elitism is a fraught subject in Chile. The school system is stratified. Graduates of the poshest schools, like The Grange, are as visible at the top of society as are Old Etonians in Britain. Two-thirds of private-school students who sit the university entrance exam get into one of the main universities. But just a third of those from state-supported independent schools, for which parents usually pay top-up fees, make the grade. For state-school students the success rate is just a fifth. In 2016, 18% of students admitted to the two best universities—Chile and Católica—came from state schools, which have 37% of enrolment. Of these, over half came from 19 emblematic schools. Run by local governments, they have been the main non-fee-paying route to good universities

Report on Title I Highlights Complex, Sometimes Unfair, Funding Mechanisms

Lauren Camera:

An investigation by U.S. News later found that 20 percent of all Title I money for poor students – $2.6 billion – ends up in school districts with a higher proportion of wealthy families because those districts are frequently so much larger that they can have larger numbers of poor students than even districts where poverty is more pervasive but populations are smaller.

Changes to the formula were crucial, the Democrats and Republicans lobbied their respective caucuses, because the $16 billion Title I program was meant to financially bolster school districts with high concentrations of poor children so they have access to the same types of learning opportunities as wealthier children – children who often reside in more affluent districts and whose schools benefit from higher property taxes, among many other supports.

In short, the lawmakers said, the program is the pillar of the federal government’s involvement in K-12 education and they had a responsibility – both to disadvantaged students and to taxpayers – to get it right.

But changing funding formulas ultimately means some states and school districts lose money while others gain money and, as is the fate of so many congressional efforts to alter formulas, the proposal couldn’t overcome the opposition of those whose constituents would have lost money – even if the changes would have been more fair to the law’s original purpose of equalizing education funding across incomes.

What did make it into the bill that became law, however, was a little known mandate that the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics conduct an analysis of the funding mechanisms. Specifically, it tasked government officials with analyzing how each one of the four separate parts of the formula affect funding levels for various types of school districts, including large or small districts, those in poor or rich areas and those in urban or rural areas.

The Damage That Harvard Has Done

Conor Friedersdorf:

Educational institutions ought to teach young adults this justice-enhancing logic. Harvard is now teaching its undergraduates how to undermine it.

Its shameful capitulation to popular passions began earlier this year when Ronald Sullivan, an African American law professor and faculty dean with a long history of freeing marginalized innocents from prison, announced that he would be working as a defense attorney for the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. “Many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students,” The New York Times reported.

Related: 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.

How an Academic Journal Censored My Review on Xinjiang

Timothy Grove:

On January 1, 2018, I received a request from China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies, a new journal sponsored by the academic publisher Brill, a respected Dutch publishing house with some 275 journals under its aegis, which claims “over three centuries of scholarly publishing.” The request from the journal was to review Tom Cliff’s book Oil and Water – an ethnography about Han settler experiences in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. I agreed, and the review had a generous November 2018 deadline as the journal would publish its first edition in early 2019. The journal’s book review editor is a trusted friend, and I was pleased to read China and Asia’s mission statement: “Its purpose is to promote communication and exchange among the global Asian studies community, especially among scholars based in Asian countries.”

After receiving several deadline reminders, I submitted the review on November 7, 2018. During those eleven months, the deteriorating situation in Xinjiang weighed heavily on my mind, with hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs reported to be detained in re-education camps. Cliff’s prevailing argument (see my review, which is reproduced in full below) afforded much-needed clarity to the confounding situation in the region. Therefore, I contextualized my review by opening with a paragraph-long discussion of Xinjiang’s “concentration re-education centers.”

Fukushima 8 Years On

Arkadiusz Podniesinski:

The efforts of thousands of workers and billions of dollars spent on decontaminating the contaminated areas are beginning to bear fruit. In the cleaned areas — marked on maps in previous years in orange and green — decontamination works have been completed and the evacuation order lifted. As a result, most of the residents of Tomioka and Namie, two of the largest cities around the damaged power plant may return to their homes. Yet intensive cleaning and demolition works are still being carried out. Buildings that were damaged during the earthquake or due to lack of upkeep because the residents had fled from the radiation are still being repaired or torn down. As a result, many homes are unfit for further residence and have to be dismantled and the furnishings, electronics, clothing and food inside disposed of. Public buildings are in a similar state: not only were shops and restaurants destroyed, so too were both of the local hospitals.

The scale of these changes is best seen from the air. In places where buildings once stood, today there are only empty lots covered by a thin layer of orange sand or gray gravel. There are perhaps more of them then there are built-up plots. And the work is not yet finished.

Why Emmanuel Macron wants to abolish France’s most elite college

The Economist:

Fifteen years ago this spring, students at France’s elite postgraduate civil-service college were preparing to celebrate their graduation. Behind them lay the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, its beer halls, and two years of intense study at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ena). Ahead stood fast-track jobs in the parquet-floored corridors of power in Paris, and the guarantee of brilliant careers. As the top-ranked graduating student stepped towards the front of the amphitheatre, however, she handed the astonished director a 20-page report, written by pupils and entitled “ena: the urgency of reform”. Among its signatories was a fellow graduating student with a shock of unkempt hair, Emmanuel Macron.

The student rebel, it seems, has turned into the presidential revolutionary. On April 25th, in response to the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) protesters and their rage against the out-of-touch elite, Mr Macron announced the abolition of ena. “Makeshift repairs”, the president declared, would not do: “If you keep the same structures, habits are just too strong.” It was the most controversial and spectacular of all the announcements made to mark the end of his months-long “great national debate”. At a stroke, Mr Macron gave in to a populist demand, and sent both his own alma mater and a symbol of modern France to the guillotine.

All countries select a governing elite. Six of the 13 post-war American presidents attended either Harvard or Yale. Ten of the 14 post-war British prime ministers graduated from Oxford. But France takes the principle to extremes. Though its annual intake is a minute 80 postgraduate students (compared with around 2,000 undergraduates for Harvard and around 3,000 for Oxford), ena has supplied the country with four of its eight Fifth-Republic presidents, including Mr Macron, and eight of its 22 prime ministers, including the current one, Edouard Philippe. Today énarques, as its graduates are known, run the French central bank, the finance ministry, the presidential office, the Republican party, the external intelligence service, the constitutional council, the state railways and a raft of top French private-sector companies.

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.

Anarchist Calisthenics

James Scott:

In the summer of 1990, in an effort to improve my barely extant German-language skills before spending a year in Berlin as a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg, I hit on the idea of finding work on a farm rather than attending daily classes with pimply teenagers at a Goethe-Institut center. Since the Wall had come down only a year earlier, I wondered whether I might be able to find a six-week summer job on a collective farm (Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft, or LPG), recently restyled “cooperative,” in eastern Germany. A friend at the Wissenschaftskolleg, it turned out, had a close relative whose brother-in-law was the head of a collective farm in the tiny village of Pletz. Though wary, the brother-in-law was willing to provide room and board in return for work and a handsome weekly rent.

As a plan for improving my German, it was perfect; as a plan for a pleasant and edifying farm visit, it was a nightmare. The villagers and, above all, my host were suspicious of my aims. Was I hoping to pore over the accounts of the collective farm and uncover “irregularities”? Was I an advance party for Dutch farmers, who were scouting the area for land to rent in the aftermath of the socialist bloc’s collapse?

The SAT’s Bogus ‘Adversity Score’

Thomas Chatterton Williams:

Between my freshman and senior years of high school in the late ’90s, my father spent his evenings, weekends and vacations drilling my best friend and me for our SATs. My father was born black in the 1930s in the segregated South and became the first member of his family to go to college, let alone graduate school. These were lean years for my family, and my white mother had to return to work after decades as a homemaker. We just managed to rent a small house on the white side of our de facto segregated New Jersey suburb.

My best friend, who was black and Puerto Rican and attended parochial school with me, commuted from a less affluent and more ethnically diverse neighborhood where his parents, who did not have graduate degrees and were divorced but frequently living together and pooling resources, were upwardly mobile homeowners. When the time came to take the test, I scored higher, though my friend did well enough to attend a selective four-year college, where he flourished, eventually moving on to the Ivy League and Wall Street. Both of us worked hard, had some advantages — namely highly supportive and involved parents — and were able to succeed despite being members of a historically oppressed demographic.

I thought of those long hard hours studying at the dinner table when I heard on Thursday that the College Board, the company that administers the SAT, was appending an “adversity index” to aptitude scores — essentially a handicap to standardize “privilege.”

This “overall disadvantage level” will appear on something the College Board is calling an “environmental context dashboard.” It incorporates demographic and census data to profile high school students along a scale, from one to 100, of relative poverty, opportunity and achievement on the SAT in relation to their classmates. A score north of 50 indicates adversity; below that threshold lies privilege. Colleges will see this number, but students will not.

Commentary on politics, Facebook and K-12 spending

Kyle Sammin:

The race to the far left in the Democratic primaries has been a sight to behold. Socialized health care, higher taxes on the rich, reparations for the descendants of slaves, abortion on demand, packing the Supreme Court, and more: all were once fringe issues. But once one candidate raises them, the rest fall in line, leapfrogging each other on the road to Wokeville. The competition for radical votes (and donations) has been impressive, if not admirable.

But as Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, sometimes the truly curious incident is when a dog does not bark. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) called for social media companies like Facebook to be broken up as monopolies, many other Democrats barked in approval. But not all.

Sen. Kamala Harris’s objection was predictable—the internet giants are all her constituents in California. But the pushback from Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) was the most surprising.

Where can I do a self-study math degree online?

Y Combinator:

My background is in CS and I’m currently working as an ML engineer, but I’m very eager to go back for a PhD soon.
In the mean time, I’ve noticed my maths isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be. That aside, I’ve also taken a big interest into calculus.

Are there any online courses (free or non-free) that would allow me to learn mathematics either through self study, or as a MOOC? I’ll gladly take undegrad level courses. I just want something structured.

I’ve found that even trying to really study through books things like number theory, proofs, and integration takes huuuuge time investments. I feel like this will be less so with a structured course and teacher.

How ‘Badger Promise’ would have helped me as a first-generation Wisconsin student

Kim Krautkramer:

I worked hard academically as a teenager, graduating first in my class at Marathon High School. I was accepted to UW-Madison but couldn’t swing the cost. Instead, I enrolled my freshman year at UW-Marathon County, a decision that turned out to be exactly right for me.

The cost was lower, the professors were exceptional, and the smaller campus allowed me to ease into college life, strengthening my confidence and teaching me how to advocate for myself. When I arrived at UW-Madison my sophomore year, I felt up to the challenge academically, though money was still a major issue.

I worked constantly: retail clerk, climbing gym instructor, certified nursing assistant, campus lab employee. A part-time job is by no means a bad thing for a college student, but it can become counterproductive.

Related: 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.

Civics: The Second Drone Age

Umar Farooq:

If Turkey’s killer drone program can be said to have a godfather, his name is Selçuk Bayraktar.

In 2005, Bayraktar convinced a group of Turkish officials to attend a small demonstration of a homemade drone he had been working on. The 26-year-old had studied electrical engineering at Turkey’s top university, obtained a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a doctoral student at MIT.

He was at the cutting edge of a technology he knew was going to be the next big thing in warfare. But he was worried about what he would do once his studies were over, and it was time to return to Turkey.

“Many of my friends are working on grants for U.S. military projects,” he told the officials standing beside his drone, which he motioned toward. “There’s this incredible thing here —but what will they, what will I work on when I come back to Turkey?”

The officials watched the drone take off on its own. They stood, arms crossed, watching it descend and then gently bounce its way down the landing strip, into the waiting hands of Bayraktar.

“Boeing, Lockheed, these are big companies right?” Bayraktar continued. “We are making those same systems. If Turkey supports this project, these drones, in five years Turkey can be at the forefront of the world, easily.”

It was an audacious pitch, but it didn’t immediately win over the officials. Before that day, Bayraktar was largely unknown among the power brokers in Ankara.

How Western universities are changing to meet the needs of their many Chinese students

Isabelle Niu:

In 1978, a delegation from the People’s Republic of China negotiated with the US government over 13 days to send Chinese students to American universities. The two countries had just announced they were normalizing diplomatic relations. The US eventually agreed to accept 500 students from China by 1979.

Today, there are over 360,000 students from mainland China in the US, making up a third of all international students. Unlike those Chinese students from the 1970s, the majority of Chinese students today are self-funded, with limited access to financial aid and scholarships. In 2017, Chinese international students contributed about $14 billion to the US economy.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Blue-Collar Jobs Boom Nobody Seems To Notice

John Merline:

Under Trump, jobs in goods-producing industries — manufacturing, construction, mining — have been increasing at a much faster clip than when Joe Biden was vice president. These are the jobs Democrats are constantly promising that their policies will create and protect.

The data show that the economy created 1.2 million goods-producing jobs since Trump took office. That’s more than twice as many as were created in Obama’s last 27 months in office (455,000).

Look at manufacturing. In Obama’s last 27 months, the economy created 109,000 manufacturing jobs. It’s created 470,000 so far under Trump. Jobs in the durable goods manufacturing industry declined during this time under Obama. As did mining and logging jobs. They made solid gains under Trump.

Blue-collar workers are seeing stronger wage gains as well, with weekly wages for goods-producing jobs up $70 under Trump (a 7% increase), compared with $39 under Obama (a 4% bump).

It’s white-collar service jobs that have been climbing more slowly under Trump. They’re up 4 million, compared with 5 million under Obama. Retail trade jobs actually declined in Trump’s first 27 months, compared with a 521,000 gain in Obama’s last 27 months. Government jobs have also been growing more slowly under Trump.

But even here, the more working-class transportation and warehousing industries saw faster job growth under Trump than Obama — 445,000 to 397,000.

And overall wage growth for service industry jobs has accelerated, with weekly wages up $46.66 under Trump (a 6.7% gain), compared with $35.64 (or 5.4%) under Obama

Civics: White House launches tool to report censorship on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter

Makena Kelley:

On Wednesday, the White House launched a new tool for people to use if they feel they’ve been wrongly censored, banned, or suspended on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

“Too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies,” the site reads. “No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.”

“Too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported”
A Twitter spokesperson responded to the new tool saying, “We enforce the Twitter Rules impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation. We are constantly working to improve our systems and will continue to be transparent in our efforts.”

Facebook, Google, and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Over the past few months, Republicans have taken aim at social media networks, citing claims that conservatives have been wrongly censored on these platforms. Some committees, like House Energy and Commerce and Senate Judiciary, have even held hearings on the issue where lawmakers questioned officials from companies like Facebook and Twitter over the alleged bias.

Robots Take the Wheel as Autonomous Farm Machines Hit the Field

Ashley Robinson , Lydia Mulvany , and David Stringer:

While industry leaders Deere & Co. and CNH Industrial NV haven’t said when they’ll release similar offerings, Saskatchewan’s Dot Technology Corp. has already sold some so-called power platforms for fully mechanized spring planting. In Australia, SwarmFarm Robotics is leasing weed-killing robots that can also do tasks like mow and spread. The companies say their machines are smaller and smarter than the gigantic machinery they aim to replace.

Security lapse exposed a Chinese smart city surveillance system

Zack Whittaker:

Smart cities are designed to make life easier for their residents: better traffic management by clearing routes, making sure the public transport is running on time and having cameras keeping a watchful eye from above.

But what happens when that data leaks? One such database was open for weeks for anyone to look inside.

Security researcher John Wethington found a smart city database accessible from a web browser without a password. He passed details of the database to TechCrunch in an effort to get the data secured.

The database was an Elasticsearch database, storing gigabytes of data — including facial recognition scans on hundreds of people over several months. The data was hosted by Chinese tech giant Alibaba. The customer’s database, which Alibaba did not name, made several references to the tech giant’s artificial intelligence-powered cloud platform, City Brain, but Alibaba later denied its platform was used.

“This is a database project created by a customer and hosted on the Alibaba Cloud platform,” said an Alibaba spokesperson. “Customers are always advised to protect their data by setting a secure password.”

Teachers unions look for return on Newsom investment with anti-charter school bills

Mark Bucher:

California teachers unions were the biggest donor to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s election campaign last year, giving him $1.2 million taken from teachers’ paychecks in the form of union dues. Now they’re looking for a return on investment with a legislative package that would cripple the growth of their charter school competitors.

Assembly Bills 1505, 1506, and 1507, sponsored by the California Teachers Association, would, respectively, give local public school districts sole control over authorizing new charters, set state and local caps on their numbers, and limit their locations. Last month, this trio of bills cleared the Assembly Education Committee, which is chaired by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a former member of the CTA’s policymaking assembly.

A rotten year Madison: teachers report from the classroom (2013 – “what will be different, this time?”)

Dylan Brogan:

But the transfrmation has been a rocky one and disparities persist. Isthmus collected over 30 hours of interviews with dozens of Madison educators over the past two months. Teachers from three elementary schools, five middle schools and three high schools shared their experiences in the classroom. Most requested anonymity because of fears of retribution and were given pseudonyms.

Some teachers are frustrated by the changes they see: few consequences for disruptive and disrespectful behavior; a lack of trust from administrators; and concern that recent reforms aren’t actually helping kids of color. Others believe their colleagues need to embrace the cultural shift brought by Cheatham’s time as superintendent. They say that white teachers might need to feel uncomfortable in order to purge the schools of systemic racism.

Adding to the tension are several highly publicized incidents centering around race that have sparked renewed outrage over the achievement gap. The cumulative result is that many teachers feel stressed, unsupported and disrespected.

Jim Lister, a science teacher at Hamilton, has taught in the district for 29 years and is retiring in June. He didn’t witness the April 5 incident but says that navigating both the school bureaucracy and the sensitive issue of race can become a quagmire for many teachers.

“What’s new this year is that there’s a feeling of walking around on pins and needles for many teachers. You don’t know how an interaction with a kid is going to go or that the district will support you after the fact. What ends up happening is teachers do nothing,” says Lister. “If a kid says, ‘Fuck you’ to you six or seven times and there are no repercussions — it becomes pretty clear who is in charge.”

“She is more interested in seeming woke than supporting teachers. Downtown [administrators] just want to look a certain way and when they don’t, teachers get blamed,” Leah says. “There’s no recognition that the daily grind is just unmanageable. I suspect we will see another exodus of teachers at the end of this year. That’s at least what I’m hearing.

“Everything is being dumbed down to make the numbers look better. We’re being told that a kid that hasn’t shown up for a majority of classes needs to be given the opportunity to make up work and it’s my fault for not engaging that kid the right way,” says Rebecca, the longtime high school teacher. “So forget that that is asking a lot of teachers, we want to do the work to get students to achieve at a high level. But too often it’s a Band-Aid. We are giving kids Ds who are doing 30 percent of the work.”

Opps, from La Follette, says the scrutiny from administration is making it harder to be an effective teacher. When one of his students is found wandering the hallway he’s asked, “Why aren’t you engaging this kid?”

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”.

Related: Superintendent Cheatham’s 2013 Madison Rotary Club speech and, again in 2019.

2013: “Plenty of resources”. Indeed, Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school Districts, now between $18k – 20k per student.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why Europeans Don’t Get Huge Medical Bills

Olga Khazan:

There is, however, a way to eliminate those bank-busting surprise medical bills without eliminating health insurance. Just ask Europe. Several European countries have health insurance just like America does. The difference is that their governments regulate what insurance must cover and what hospitals and doctors are allowed to charge much more aggressively than the United States does.

When I described surprise medical bills to experts who focus on different western-European countries’ health systems, they had no idea what I was talking about. “What is a surprise medical bill?” said Sophia Schlette, a public-health expert and a former senior adviser at Berlin’s National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. “Seriously, they don’t happen here.”

Almost all Germans are covered by a variety of health insurance, such as “sickness funds,” which are financed through taxes. Almost all doctors and hospitals accept these plans. About 90 percent of Germans never see a bill for their doctor visits, and the rest are covered by private insurance, which usually reimburses whatever they get charged. According to the researchers Roosa Tikkanen and Robin Osborn at the Commonwealth Fund, there’s a flat co-pay for people who are hospitalized, capped at a maximum of 280 euros—or about $315—for a 28-day stay. And doctors, too, are not allowed to charge more than the payment rates that are negotiated between the sickness funds and the doctors’ associations. A very small number of the country’s physicians are private and don’t accept the sickness funds, but they have to tell patients how much they’ll charge before a patient is treated, removing the surprise element.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: America just had its lowest number of births in 32 years, report finds

Jacqueline Howard:

The birth rate rose 1% among women aged 35 to 39 and 2% among women 40 to 44. The rate for women 45 to 49, which also includes births to women 50 and older, did not change from 2017 to 2018.

Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017, according to the report. The finding marks the fourth year that the number of births has declined, after an increase in 2014.

The total fertility rate in 2018 was below what is considered the level needed for a population to replace itself: 2,100 births per 1,000 women, according to the report.

“The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement for the last decade,” the authors wrote in the new report.

The total fertility rate for the United States in 2017 was 1,765.5 per 1,000 women.

CDC US Abortion data:

In 2015, 638,169 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.

Record Numbers of Public School Teachers Attacked as School Discipline Is Curbed


Supporters of curbing school discipline say it is necessary to prevent racially “disparate impact,” which they define in a racial quota-like way, to mean anytime a higher percentage of black students is disciplined than of students of other races. But as I and others have explained in the past, that wrongly defines “disparate impact,” legally speaking. It also pressures school districts to have racial quotas in discipline.

“Disparate impact” only matters in the eyes of the Supreme Court when it takes into account the racial composition of the “qualified population,” meaning those students who actually misbehaved. Students who didn’t misbehave can’t be suspended to meet a racial quota, and they shouldn’t be included in any “disparate impact” comparison, either, because they aren’t part of the qualified population.

Having a kid won’t kill your marriage, and other parenting “truths” debunked

Julia Belluz:

But, Oster finds, who you are before you have kids heavily influences the likelihood that your marital bliss will drop off a steep happiness cliff.

“In general, people tell you that you will not be happy with your marriage after you have kids,” she said. “That’s on average true — marital satisfaction declines — but those declines are larger in some groups and in some families than others.”

In particular, people who planned their pregnancies, those with more financial resources and social support, and couples that were happier pre-children tend to see smaller and shorter declines in their happiness post-baby. “It correlates in the way you might expect with differences in socioeconomic status,” Oster said. “Part of it is that there are a lot of stresses — financial and time — that come with having a kid, and those are more acute if you don’t have other resources.”

Assessing charter schools’ impact on districts is too important to get wrong

Robin Lake:

Several months ago I critiqued a report by Dr. Gordon Lafer that was published by In the Public Interest (ITPI), a think tank that has long been critical of charter schools and recently helped rally supporters of a five-year moratorium on new charters. Unfortunately, the report continues to inform policy deliberations in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has tasked a commission to study charter school policy changes.

Lafer’s methodology, which has not been peer-reviewed, measures the budget impact of closing local charter schools on three hypothetical school district budgets. It makes several flawed assumptions that result in unsupported conclusions.

The study assumes that without charter schools, all the charter students within district boundaries would attend that district’s schools. Then it assumes that the district’s new tax revenue connected to those new students would exceed the cost of educating them, resulting in an improved financial picture for the district.

The questionable assumptions don’t end there.

Journalism’s dependence on part-time freelancers has been bad for the industry—not to mention writers like me.

Jacob Silverman:

In 2009, in the paranoid middle days of the recession, I enacted a boomerang-child stereotype: I moved back home into my parents’ basement. Raised in privilege (son of lawyers, private schools, no college debt), I treated the move as a minor humiliation justified by the conditions of the times. Aside from the basement’s tendency to flood during the rare Los Angeles rainstorm, it was a fine setup, a linoleum warren of adolescent artifacts and piles of books that I ordered from eBay when stoned late at night. I worked a handful of freelance gigs—Hebrew school teacher, content farm contributor—applied for jobs, and wrote book reviews, the journalistic entry point for many young writers. On weekends I drank with my better-heeled friends and crashed at their apartments. A brighter era, I assumed, was yet to come.

One morning, I got what seemed to be a job offer from an editor at a literary magazine for which I had been writing. It was, and remains, the only time I’d been offered a full-time job in journalism. The exact contours of the offer were vague, but it involved my spending at least a few months going through the magazine’s archives and writing a kind of institutional history featuring one of the magazine’s early editors, a folklorist and general eccentric. I had graduated from college three years earlier. I had no entrepreneurial ability, an overriding fear that the economy would degrade into a more overt form of barbarism, and a desperate worship of all things intellectual. I emailed back, eagerly accepting the offer.

I spent days and then weeks sweating the editor’s response. A social coward, I debated with my parents the propriety of calling this tiny literary magazine’s office in an effort to reach the editor. It seemed like the most important thing in the world. Later I got over myself, placed the call, and talked to the magazine’s managing editor. He told me that the editor was traveling in southern California, not far from where I lived. I wrote the editor, offered to talk to him, drive to meet him, whatever was needed. I was ready to move across the country for this project. He didn’t respond to my messages.

Now the editor is a celebrated investigative journalist. I still haven’t gotten a job in journalism, and sometimes, I feel like I haven’t left that basement.

Civics: San Francisco Police Raid on Journalist’s Home Has Grave First Amendment Implications

Billy Binion:

When San Francisco police arrived at journalist Bryan Carmody’s apartment last week, they smashed the building’s gate with a sledgehammer, placed him in handcuffs, and raided his home with guns drawn.

They left with his notebooks, computers, phones, and various other electronic devices, as well as a police report on the death of Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender.

“I knew what they wanted,” said Carmody in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “They wanted the name.”

That is, they wanted the name of the person who leaked the police report to Carmody, who then sold it to three local news outlets. His company, North Bay News, tracks stories overnight and sells the resulting footage and information to television stations for their round-the-clock coverage.

Agents had attempted to identify his source several weeks prior; Carmody says he “politely” declined to provide it. The department then sought warrants for the raid, raising serious First Amendment concerns around Carmody’s protections as a journalist.

Harvard’s Disgrace

Mark Pulliam:

Utopian social movements often degenerate into unruly—and sometimes vicious—mobs. During the French Revolution, the slogan “liberty, equality, fraternity” quickly led to the guillotine as the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror. We are witnessing a softer version of this at Harvard, America’s most elite university, where Ronald Sullivan, an African-American law professor, faces professional retribution for the sin of representing a (presumed innocent) client (Harvey Weinstein) accused of sexual assault. Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz denounced the incident as “The new McCarthyism comes to Harvard.”

Capitulating to the noisy complaints of a small number of undergraduates, and a sit-in protest at the dining hall, the Harvard administration recently announced that, effective June 30, Sullivan and his wife, Stephanie Robinson (who likewise teaches at Harvard Law School), would be removed as “faculty deans” at the school’s Winthrop House—a student residence where Sullivan and Robinson also lived. (Sullivan remains as a law professor.) When appointed as residential deans in 2009, Sullivan and Robinson were the first African-Americans to hold that position at Harvard, according to The Harvard Crimson. The decision to remove Sullivan and Robinson was made by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who had reportedly joined the students’ sit-in protest, dubbed “Reclaim Winthrop.”

Students absurdly charged that Sullivan’s representation of a criminal defendant charged with sexual assault—by itself—made them feel upset, and contributed to an unsafe and hostile educational environment. Never mind that procedural due process (including the right of criminal defendants to zealous representation) is a critical tenet of the Anglo-American legal system, and that criminal law professors have long practiced criminal defense on the side, without controversy. Never mind that Sullivan previously represented other high-profile clients without incident, including accused terrorists and former New England Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez in his 2017 double murder trial. That was then.

The #MeToo movement sweeps away such precedents as inconvenient impediments to achieving a higher state of virtue, just as the Robespierre-led Committee of Public Safety eliminated many “enemies of the people.” It is tempting to ignore the horrors of the French Revolution, or to dismiss them as an aberration of history, but then—as now—idealistic reformers believed with moral certainty in the righteousness of their cause.

“High school math scores signal success”


“This is the Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin report — it’s the empirical evidence of that,” he added, referencing the college admissions bribery scandal, which has busted the notion that premier universities were admitting all students on the basis of merit alone.

Huffman pleaded guilty this month to fraud conspiracy. Loughlin and her husband pleaded not guilty.

Study followed kindergartners from 1989

The new study is unusual for its breadth and depth. Four researchers at Georgetown combined national data sets to follow the school and career trajectories of a representative sample of students in public and private schools.

They started with a group of kindergartners in the 1989-90 school year and tracked students through high school, college and into the labor market.

The researchers studied students’ test scores, college enrollment and attainment, and the prestige of their occupation, if they secured one.

The findings challenged the notion that America’s K-12 education system is a great equalizer. For example, nearly 40% of low-income kindergartners still had a low socioeconomic status by adulthood.

Researchers also found the achievement gap was already well established in kindergarten. Starting out, 74% of the wealthiest kindergarten students scored in the top half of the scale in math, compared to 23% of the poorest kindergartners.

As the students grew up, both groups — higher income and low income — wobbled academically, but wealthier students were more likely to rebound.

“When the high-scoring poor kids inevitably stumbled, their scores were more likely to decline and then stay low over time,” the study said.

High school math scores signal future success

Carnavale said research has shown that higher-income students have built-in family and economic supports that help them to recover. For example, affluent families spend about five times as much on enrichment activities for their children compared to low-income families.

Some good news: Across all racial and ethnic groups, students from disadvantaged families with top-half math scores in high school were more likely to obtain a good entry-level job as an adult.

Related: 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math.

“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”

President Trump, Come to Willmar

Tom Friedman, via a kind message:

The teaching challenge is huge — between Guatemalan, Honduran, Karen and Somali refugees, explained Schmitz, there are dozens of students in the high school who have had very little schooling, and none in English. They are known by the acronym Slife, for Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education. And recently many minors have arrived from Central America without parents and are living with relatives or family friends.

To ease their way, Schmitz said, Spanish-speaking and Somali-speaking cultural liaisons work with teachers, students and parents, so families can learn how to advocate for their kids, what the rules are and just how the local culture works. (The Somali liaison is a graduate of the high school.) Some students take seven years to get though grades nine to 12.

And for those who still can’t graduate by age 21, said Schmitz, “we work with them on job placement — what could you do in this community to help you support your family.” Willmar Goodwill Industries created a full-time position that helps find employment for students with disabilities and those aging out of high school without a degree.

Willmar spent $57,572,869 for 4,244 students during the 2018-2019 school year, about $13,562 per student. Madison spends 33% to 50% more, depending on the published numbers one uses….

Commentary on a proposed 2020 Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Increase Referendum

Logan Wroge:

If voters were to approve a $150 million referendum, the owner of a $300,000 house — near the median-value home in the district of $294,833 — could have their property taxes increase by $93 annually, according to district estimates.

A larger referendum of $280 million is estimated to raise property taxes on a $300,000 house by $159 annually.

If a $280 million referendum were approved, the Madison School District’s debt, excluding interest payments, would be $357 million, according to the district.

The district projects its debt as a percentage of the total tax base value under a successful $280 million at 1.3% — estimated to be the third lowest out of 15 Dane County school districts.

Currently, the Madison School District has $77 million in debt, which ranks last out of the 15 districts for debt as a percentage of total tax base value, according to the district.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Interestingly, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, despite space at nearby facilities

2010: Madison School Board member calls for audit of 2005 maintenance referendum spending.

Madison’s property tax base has grown significantly during the past few years, curiously following the unprecedented $40B+ federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy….

Civics: Dallas Has Now Lost 82 Cases Against Robert Groden. Someone Call Guinness.

Jim Schutze:

It’s sort of remarkable, is it not, almost as if they have a small research team somewhere in the city attorney’s office. Twice a year someone tells them, “Scour the books for something Groden isn’t doing wrong so we can charge him with it and get ourselves kicked out of court again.”

Kizzia is a major piece of the puzzle here, having stuck by Groden over many years. It was Kizzia’s cross-examination in the federal civil rights case that elicited damning testimony from a Dallas police officer. He confessed that he and his superiors knew Groden had broken no law when they jailed him six years ago.

When the arresting officer reported to his superior that Groden had been forced to go without prescribed medications in jail all night, the superior officer praised him for a job well done.

The battle between Dallas City Hall and Groden probably is not well known within our municipal borders, because the city’s only daily newspaper and other major media here have given it scant attention. But beyond our borders, the story grows. Last year Dutch documentarian Kasper Verkaik debuted his film about Groden and Dallas City Hall, Plaza Man, which has since been well received in international festivals. (Dallas City Hall is not the hero.) And in the online universe, the saga of Groden and Dallas City Hall has become Kennedy assassination equivalent of a Mexican corrido ballad.

Dallas did beat Kizzia in one round. In federal district court here, former federal District Judge Royal Ferguson ruled that Groden could not sue the city because he was unable to identify the top-most city official originally responsible for the campaign of persecution against him. But the appeals court tossed Ferguson’s ruling and sent the case back to Dallas for a fresh trial with the city as a defendant.

Watching Harvard, My Alma Mater, Surrender to the Mob

Kaveh Shahrooz:

On Saturday, Harvard University announced that it would not be permitting law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. to stay on as faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate residence where he has served in that position since 2009 (along with his wife Stephanie R. Robinson, who also teaches at Harvard Law School). When I heard news of this, my mind rushed back to a guided tour I’d once taken of Boston’s Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile path that features numerous historical landmarks, including the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s home and Bunker Hill Monument. At the time, I’d just arrived from Canada as a student at Harvard Law School. And I was eager to bring myself up to speed on America’s revolutionary history.

The most memorable story I heard during that tour was of a young John Adams, a future U.S. president, successfully defending Thomas Preston, a Captain of a redcoat British regiment who’d been accused of ordering the aforementioned massacre after British soldiers were hit with rocks and snowballs. When the administration of Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson put Preston and his men on trial, Adams agreed to serve as defence counsel, despite the fact he’d already staked out a reputation as a leading Patriot. Years later, he would declare that “the part I took in defence of [Captain] Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or witches.”

The story of Adams fighting to ensure that even his enemy’s rights were protected has special resonance for lawyers and law students, because it portrays the noble side of a profession that often is shown in a less than heroic manner. More broadly, the story reflects America’s larger, evolving national project of creating a democratic society in which popular passions would be tempered by the rule of law. Central to that project are due process and the right of all accused persons to zealous legal representation. It is ironic that these foundational principles should be forgotten by a place such as Harvard, from which Adams himself graduated in 1755.

Activists want a San Francisco high school mural removed, saying its impact today should overshadow the artist’s intentions

Amna Khalid:

For nearly a century, a massive mural by painter Victor Arnautoff titled “The Life of Washington” has lined the hallways of San Francisco’s George Washington High School.

It may not be there much longer.

The mural “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy [and] oppression.” So said Washington High School’s Reflection and Action Group, an ad-hoc committee formed late last year and made up of Native Americans from the community, students, school employees, local artists and historians.

It identified two panels as especially offensive. One shows Washington pointing westward next to the body of a dead Native American. The other depicts slaves working in the fields of Mount Vernon.

Because the work “traumatizes students and community members,” the group concluded that “the impact of this mural is greater than its intent ever was.” They are campaigning for its removal.

The idea that impact matters more than intention has informed debates about everything from microaggressions to cultural appropriation.

But when it comes to art, should impact matter more than intention?

The coming war on general-purpose computing

Cory Doctorow:

General-purpose computers are astounding. They’re so astounding that our society still struggles to come to grips with them, what they’re for, how to accommodate them, and how to cope with them. This brings us back to something you might be sick of reading about: copyright.

But bear with me, because this is about something more important. The shape of the copyright wars clues us into an upcoming fight over the destiny of the general-purpose computer itself.

In the beginning, we had packaged software and we had sneakernet. We had floppy disks in ziplock bags, in cardboard boxes, hung on pegs in shops, and sold like candy bars and magazines. They were eminently susceptible to duplication, were duplicated quickly, and widely, and this was to the great chagrin of people who made and sold software.

‘FBI Investigates Controversial Voucher Vote’

Laura Baigert:

However, the NewsChannel 5 story fails to identify any sources upon which it relied to make these bold assertions about a purported FBI investigation into “whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.” The story simply states “NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned,” and “NewsChannel 5 has learned.”

The NewsChannel 5 story implies knowledge that could only come from the FBI itself or from Tennessee lawmakers purportedly “interviewed” by “FBI agents . . . about whether whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.”

But, as is standard process, the FBI has neither confirmed nor denied that any such investigation is under way.

Elizabeth Clement-Webb, Public Affairs Officer at the FBI’s Memphis field office, told The Star that the FBI could not confirm nor deny an investigation, as NewsChannel 5 also reported.

Ms. Clement-Webb also clarified that the FBI cannot even comment as to whether a request for an investigation has been made, who initiated a request or how a request for investigation was made, such as a phone call, email or regular mail.

The NewsChannel 5 story fails to identify by name a single Tennessee lawmaker who confirms he or she has been interviewed by the FBI “about whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.”

In Florida, vouchers win ground, but courts may have ultimate say

Patrick Jonsson:

Chikara Parks is a registered Democrat and a “huge fan of public schools.” The single mom of four school-aged children is also a fan of vouchers.

Ms. Parks, who is African American, has, with the help of Florida’s tax credit scholarship for families with limited resources, parlayed her children’s struggle in public schools to success at two private schools, Mount Zion Christian Academy and Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg.

The choice and autonomy have been empowering, she says, for her children – and for herself as a single mom. “It’s hard for some people to know their worth and know what they are able to do [for their kids],” she says by phone. “Vouchers help parents to understand that and be more heard, and that is an amazing thing.”

Ms. Parks has become an outspoken advocate for a growing constituency across the U.S. and specifically in Florida, where a constitutional battle over the approach is brewing.

On Thursday Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that expands the state’s use of vouchers, which allow taxpayer dollars to fund tuition at private and religious schools. The legislation creates 18,000 new vouchers with a ceiling of $77,250 of household income per year – firmly middle class in a state with low taxes and a low cost of living.

Madison has largely rejected diverse K-12 governance. This despite spending far more than most while tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

The History and Results of America’s Disastrous Public School System,

Mike Margeson and Justin Spears:

The problem is the monopoly that schooling has gained over education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 97 percent of kids go through traditional schooling (as opposed to homeschooling or unschooling), and just over 90 percent of those attend government schools. That is to say, there is basically one accepted way to educate kids today: school them.

Given the relatively poor performance of American students on international achievement tests, you would think schooling might receive a second look. Quite the opposite, actually. It is instead made mandatory, and taxpayers are forced to subsidize it. This begs the question: Why would the government continue to propagate a system that produces such questionable results? The answer lies in their motives, and their motives are best understood by reviewing a brief history of compulsory schooling.

Roots in Germany

The earliest ancestor to our system of government-mandated schooling comes from 16th-century Germany. Martin Luther was a fierce advocate for state-mandated public schooling, not because he wanted kids to become educated, but because he wanted them to become educated in the ways of Lutheranism. Luther was resourceful and understood the power of the state in his quest to reform Jews, Catholics, and other non-believers. No less significant was fellow reformist John Calvin, who also advocated heavily for forced schooling. Calvin was particularly influential among the later Puritans of New England (Rothbard, 1979).

Considering compulsory schooling has such deep roots in Germany, it should be no surprise that the precursor to our American government school system came directly from the German state of Prussia. In 1807, fresh off a humiliating defeat by the French during the War of the Fourth Coalition, the Germans instituted a series of vast, sweeping societal reforms. Key within this movement was education reform, and one of the most influential educational reformers in Germany at the time was a man named Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Like Luther before him, Fichte saw compulsory schooling as a tool to indoctrinate kids, not educate them. Fichte describes his aim for Germany’s “new education” this way:

US National Teacher Union Reviews State Charter Statutes

National Education Association:

Points were tallied and converted into letter grades using a total of 100 potential points and a traditional A – F scale. Only six state statutes garnered enough points to avoid an “F,” and all of those were “D” grades except for Maryland (“B-“) and Tennessee (“C-“). To better distinguish among the statutes, the large majority of which simply failed to meet NEA’s standards, NEA divided states into sub-groups according to their overall score.2 By referring to these sub-group ratings, it is possible to better distinguish between, for exam- ple, the District of Columbia (“worst” with 20 out of 100 points) and Arkansas (“poor” with 59 out of 100 points), both of which received failing grades. NEA’s comprehensive review of all charter statutes in the country concluded on November 9, 2018. This Report reflects only laws in existence as of that date.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama.

Commentary on the proposed search for a new Madison School District Superintendent

Logan wroge:

Cheatham said she would prefer to know who will replace her by July 1 so that the person can attend a summer retreat with senior staff members planned for July and be around to prepare in August for the 2019-20 school year.

Cheatham, whose last day will be Aug. 30, has accepted a teaching position with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She became Madison’s superintendent in 2013, leaving an administrative role at the Chicago Public Schools.

Whoever the board selects as the interim leader, board member Cris Carusi said she would prefer the person is not interested in seeking the position on a permanent basis.

Monday’s meeting on hiring an interim superintendent was originally scheduled to be in closed session but was later opened to the public.

A handful of people called on the School Board to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent, with one East High School junior asking the board to engage with students on what they would like to see in a new superintendent.

Much more on recent Madison Superintendent searches, here

Woodburn, OR parents sue school district for $1M, allege teacher asked son if he’s transgender

Bonnie Silkman:

Parents in Woodburn said their 8-year-old son was held back from recess multiple times for one-on-one conversations about his gender identity – and they had no idea.

The mother and father in Woodburn are now suing a school district for nearly a million dollars after they say a second-grade teacher singled out their son by asking him if he was transgender. The parents say the teacher had inappropriate conversations with the child at school without their permission.

To protect their son’s privacy, the parents are not sharing their identity.

I Took ‘Adulting Classes’ for Millennials

Andrew Zaleski:

On the eve of my wife’s 30th birthday—a milestone I, too, will soon hit—she posed a troubling question: Are we adults yet?

We certainly feel that way: We hold our own jobs, pay our own rent, cover our own bills, drive our own cars. Our credit is in order. But we don’t yet own a house and have no children—two markers commonly associated with fully-fledged adulthood (and two markers that both our sets of parents had reached well before they turned 30). And there are other gaps in our maturity: I don’t buy napkins or know how to golf; up until last year, I didn’t know how to change the oil in my car’s engine. Thankfully, last year we managed to throw a dinner party, our first, without burning the pork roast.

A vague anxiety over these known-unknowns is something of a generational hallmark. A Monday-morning scroll through the social media feed of the average 20-something might turn up a handful of friends sharing memes of dogs—looking bewildered, exasperated, or both—unironically captioned with something like: “Don’t make me adult today.”

Yes, Millennials have killed yet another thing. In this case, it’s something so fundamental that it may have seemed unkillable, but apparently isn’t: knowing how to be an adult.

Math Teachers Should Be More Like Football Coaches

John Urschel:

Growing up, I thought math class was something to be endured, not enjoyed. I disliked memorizing formulas and taking tests, all for the dull goal of getting a good grade. In elementary school, my mind wandered so much during class that I sometimes didn’t respond when I was called on, and I resisted using the rote techniques we were taught to use to solve problems. One of my teachers told my mother that I was “slow” and should repeat a grade.

But my problem wasn’t with math itself. In fact, I spent countless hours as a child doing logic and math puzzles on my own, and as a teenager, when a topic seemed particularly interesting, I would go to the library and read more about it.

By high school, none of my teachers questioned my mathematical talent, but none of them really encouraged it, either. No one told me that I could become a professional mathematician. And frankly, that was fine with me. I had no desire to spend my life doing exercises out of a textbook, which is what I assumed mathematicians did — if I even thought about what they did.

“Besides, I am far less selfish than others. Look at how I vote (­progressive), what I believe in (equality), and who my colleagues are (people of all races from all ­places).”

Chris Arnade:

In many cases, these neighborhoods have literally been left behind by people like me. I spent most of my life focused on getting ahead by education. I left my rural hometown and got into elite schools, which got me into elite jobs, which got me into an elite neighborhood. I was not unusual. My office, my neighborhood, and most of my adult friends were like me. Almost all of us had used education to get out of a hometown that we saw as oppressive, intolerant, and judgmental.

We were the kids who sat in the front row, eager to learn and make sure the teacher knew we were learning. We were mobile, having moved many times to advance in our careers, and we would move again. Staying put was a form of failure. Our community was global, allowing us to proclaim it to be diverse, despite every resident’s having followed a similar path after high school.

Our isolation from the bulk of the country left us with a narrow view of the world. We valued what we could measure, and that meant material wealth. Things that couldn’t be measured—community, ­dignity, faith, happiness—were largely ignored ­because they were hard to see, especially from so far away.

We had compassion for those who got left behind, but thought that our job was to provide them an opportunity (no matter how small) to get where we were. It didn’t occur to us that what we valued wasn’t what everyone else wanted. They were the people who couldn’t or didn’t want to leave their town or their family to get an education at an elite college, the people who cared more about their faith than about science. If we were the front row, they were the back row.

Had I asked people in my hometown why they were still there, I would have received the answer I heard in neighborhoods from Cairo to Amarillo to rural Ohio. They would have looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Because it is my home.”

U.S. measles outbreak grows with 75 new cases, mostly in New York

Gabriela Borter:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 9.8% increase in measles cases as of May 10, a resurgence that public health officials have attributed to the spread of misinformation about the measles vaccine. Data are updated every Monday.

In New York, 66 cases were reported according to CDC spokesman Jason McDonald, with 41 in New York City and 25 in Rockland County, about 40 miles (64 km) north of New York city.

Health experts say the virus has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents, some in New York ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism. Medical science has debunked those concerns.

While the 2019 outbreak has spread rapidly within New York, the virus has not spread to any additional states since the previous week, when Pennsylvania became the latest state to confirm at least one case.


Isobel Stevenson:

This week’s pick is the EdWeek/PBS NewsHour segment, Parents of Students With Dyslexia Have Transformed Reading Instruction, which tells the story how weak reading results and impatient parents are pushing schools in Arkansas and other states to reconsider how they teach kids to read.

Produced and reported by EdWeek’s Cat McGrath and Lisa Stark, the piece makes explicit the connections between struggling readers, dyslexic and otherwise, slow-moving schools, and frustrated parents.

The segment succeeds because it tells the story from a human, individual perspective, with Arkansas parent advocates playing the underdog role going up against the school system. The policy and ideological issues are kept in the background. The segment is also a breakthrough for a national broadcast story in its reconsideration of phonics and other research-backed reading practices, part of a growing tide this past year.

Civics: Redefining Success in Chicago

Rafael A. Mangual:

To hear Emanuel tell it, Chicago is leading the way on both police reform and crime reduction. But his picture of success uses two questionable benchmarks. He concedes that “Chicago is still a long way from the level of public safety we want for every neighborhood,” but claims that, since 2016, “homicides are down 27 percent and shootings are down 32 percent.” These numbers mean less than he suggests. Emanuel forgot to add that 2016 was the year that shootings in Chicago skyrocketed, and the city racked up a staggering 765 homicides—a more than 50 percent increase from the 478 killed in 2015, which itself represented a 16 percent increase from the 411 killed in 2014. Shootings and homicides may be down over the last few years, but they’re down from a huge spike, and they’re still elevated compared with the pre-spike numbers. The city saw more than 530 homicides in 2018—hardly cause for celebration.

The mayor also makes his case by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of . . . Baltimore. Not New York. Not Los Angeles. But Baltimore—one of America’s most dangerous, crime-ridden cities. It’s no accident that Emanuel chose this comparison, instead of putting Chicago up against New York and Los Angeles—the Windy City had more murders than New York and L.A. combined last year, though it is the smallest of the three cities.

Beating out Baltimore in crime reduction is not exactly a coup. And make no mistake: while Chicago benefits from a densely populated North Side with low crime numbers, areas on the city’s South and West Sides don’t look so different from Baltimore when it comes to aggregate population and crime numbers. The neighborhoods in which Chicago’s serious violent crime is concentrated are among the worst in the nation.

The Biggest Education News Story You’ve Never Heard Of

The answer, unfortunately, is all of the above—and more. But perhaps the place to begin is with the last point. The education establishment, including schools of education and textbook publishers, have largely “pooh-poohed” the idea of knowledge, observed panelist Sonja Santelises, chief executive officer of the Baltimore public schools.

“It doesn’t take the place of other things,” she said, “but to say it’s a side dish, to say content doesn’t matter, is professional malpractice.”

In Baltimore and a few other places, leaders like Santelises are trying to turn things around by adopting curricula that build knowledge in history, science, literature, and the arts. That’s the kind of knowledge that can ensure academic success, and children from more educated families generally acquire it outside of school. Children from less educated families—like the majority of those who attend Baltimore’s public schools—often won’t acquire it unless they get it in school. And most don’t.

Santelises, a member of a group of top state and local education officials called Chiefs for Change, began her efforts by evaluating Baltimore’s homegrown literacy curriculum. Using a “Knowledge Map”—a tool developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Education Policy—she discovered gaps in coverage and weaknesses in the approach teachers were supposed to take. Last year the school system adopted a content-focused literacy curriculum called Wit & Wisdom for kindergarten through eighth grade that includes challenging books along with related works of art for students to analyze. Santelises says she worried teachers would say their students couldn’t handle the work. Instead, “teachers are saying their kids are eating up the content” and parents are thrilled to see how much their children are learning, she reported.

Academe’s Extinction Event

Andrew Kay:

All around them, the humanities burned. The number of jobs in English advertised on the annual MLA job list has declined by 55 percent since 2008; adjuncts now account for all but a quarter of college instructors generally. Whole departments are being extirpated by administrators with utilitarian visions; from 2013 to 2016, colleges cut 651 foreign-language programs. Meanwhile the number of English majors at most universities continues to swoon.

None of this shows any sign of relenting. It has, in fact, all the trappings of an extinction event that will alter English — and the rest of the humanities — irrevocably, though no one knows what it will leave in its wake. What’s certain is that the momentum impelling it is far past halting; behind that momentum lies the avarice of universities, but also the determination of politicians and pundits to discredit humanistic thinking, which plainly threatens them. They have brought on a tipping point: The stories they have told about these disciplines — of their pointlessness, of the hollowness of anything lacking entrepreneurial value — have won out over the stories the humanists themselves have told, or not told.

“Have I stayed too late at something that is over and done?” asked Sheila Liming, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota. Owing to enormous state-budget cuts, Liming told me, tenured and tenure-track faculty in her own department have lately been diminished by more than half. She likens herself and her colleagues to guests who have arrived at a party after last call. “That characterizes the morale of the people who come to this conference now. The project of academia might be over.”

What We’ve Built Is a Computational Language (and That’s Very Important!)

Stephen Wolfram:

I’ve sometimes found it a bit of a struggle to explain what the Wolfram Language really is. Yes, it’s a computer language—a programming language. And it does—in a uniquely productive way, I might add—what standard programming languages do. But that’s only a very small part of the story. And what I’ve finally come to realize is that one should actually think of the Wolfram Language as an entirely different—and new—kind of thing: what one can call a computational language.

So what is a computational language? It’s a language for expressing things in a computational way—and for capturing computational ways of thinking about things. It’s not just a language for telling computers what to do. It’s a language that both computers and humans can use to represent computational ways of thinking about things. It’s a language that puts into concrete form a computational view of everything. It’s a language that lets one use the computational paradigm as a framework for formulating and organizing one’s thoughts.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to properly internalize just how broad the implications of having a computational language really are—even though, ironically, I’ve spent much of my life engaged precisely in the consuming task of building the world’s only large-scale computational language.

China is now blocking all language editions of Wikipedia


China recently started blocking all language editions of Wikipedia. Previously, the blocking was limited to the Chinese language edition of Wikipedia (, but has now expanded to include all * language editions.

In this post, we share OONI network measurement data on the blocking of Wikipedia in China. We found that all sub-domains are blocked in China by means of DNS injection and SNI filtering.

The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’

Olga Khazan:

In the early ‘90s, a New Zealand man named Neil Fleming decided to sort through something that had puzzled him during his time monitoring classrooms as a school inspector. In the course of watching 9,000 different classes, he noticed that only some teachers were able to reach each and every one of their students. What were they doing differently?

Fleming zeroed in on how it is that people like to be presented information. For example, when asking for directions, do you prefer to be told where to go or to have a map sketched for you?

Today, 16 questions like this comprise the VARK questionnaire that Fleming developed to determine someone’s “learning style.” VARK, which stands for “Visual, Auditory, Reading, and Kinesthetic,” sorts students into those who learn best visually, through aural or heard information, through reading, or through “kinesthetic” experiences. (“I learned much later that vark is Dutch for “pig,” Fleming wrote later, “and I could not get a website called because a pet shop in Pennsylvania used it for selling aardvarks—earth pigs!”)

He wasn’t the first to suggest that people have different “learning styles”—past theories included the reading-less “VAK” and something involving “convergers” and “assimilators”—but VARK became one of the most prominent models out there.

Civics: CalPERS sued for withholding complete pension data

Robert Fellner:

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is unlawfully withholding information necessary to help safeguard the system from waste, fraud and abuse, a just-filed lawsuit alleges.

The problem of disability fraud has plagued California’s public pension systems for decades, costing taxpayers untold millions.

One of the first documented cases occurred in 1992, when a retired officer drawing a tax-free disability pension was spotted competing in a local rodeo.

As discussed in more detail below, historically lax oversight encouraged such abuses, which continue to this day.

Earlier this year, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported on an allegedly disabled firefighter who had competed in a half-marathon. The Times report ultimately led to an arrest and calls for reform from city councilmembers.

American universities have become whirlpools of downward mobility that target the people and the ideas that they once cherished and protected. It’s time for Jews to stop paying for them.

Liel Leibovitz:

As soon as I woke up that first morning, I took the train to 116th and Broadway, got off, strolled through the gates of Columbia University, and stood there gazing at the bronze Alma Mater sculpture guarding the steps to Low Library. Her face was serene, her lap adorned by a thick book, and her arms open wide, to embrace, or so I imagined, folks like me who were reasonably smart and wildly motivated and ready to work as hard as was needed to make something of themselves. In a year, maybe two, I thought, I’d find my way into the ivied cloister, and when I emerged on the other end I’d no longer be just another impoverished newcomer: A Columbia degree would accredit me, would validate me and suggest to those around me, from members of my family to potential employers, that I was a man in full, worthy of my slice of the American pie.

It wasn’t a story I had made up on my own. It was, in many ways, the foundational story of American Jewish life in the 20th century. Surveying the student body in major American universities between 1911 and 1913, the newly founded intercollegiate Menorah Association discovered 400 Jews at Cornell, 325 at the University of Pennsylvania, and 160 at Harvard; by 1967, The New York Times reported that 40% of the student body in both Penn and Columbia were Jewish, with Yale, Harvard, and Cornell lagging behind with a mere 25%. For a minority that today is still just three or four generations removed from the deprivations of the old continent and that never rose much further above the 2% mark of the population at large, education—especially at renowned universities—was a magical wardrobe that led into a Narnia of possibilities. All you had to do was open the door.

Civics: Audit suggests Google favors a small number of major outlets

Nicholas Diakopoulos:

To audit Top Stories, we scraped Google results for more than 200 queries related to news events in November, 2017. We selected the queries to test by looking at Google Trends every day and manually choosing terms related to hard news events. These included names of people in the news such as “colin kaepernick,” breaking news events such as “earthquake,” and issue-specific queries such as “tax reform” or “healthcare gov.” We set up our scraper to minimize the potential for result personalization (the process by which Google tailors its search results to an account or IP address based on past use), and ran each query once per minute for a full 24 hours.

In total, we collected 6,302 unique links to news articles shown in the Top Stories box. For each of those links we count an article impression each time one of those links appears.

The data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions. The top 20 percent of sources (136 of 678) accounted for 86 percent of article impressions. And the top three accounted for 23 percent: CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. These statistics underscore the degree of concentration of attention to a relatively narrow slice of news sources.

A number of taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

The Global Attention Span Is Getting Shorter

Dalmeet Singh Chawla:

It’s not your imagination: keeping up with the sheer amount of content that’s available today — whether it’s Twitter, the news, or the latest show on Netflix — is getting harder. As a result, the length of time that content remains popular — a rough measurement of the global attention span — is decreasing, according to a recent large-scale analysis published in Nature Communications.

The authors evaluated a total of 43 billion tweets and analyzed the top 50 trending hashtags in the world every hour on the hour, from 2013 to 2016. They then calculated the time the hashtags remained popular and found that in 2013, a hashtag remained in the top 50 list for an average of 17.5 hours, but the figure had dropped to 11.9 hours by 2016.

This attention contraction isn’t just a product of the internet. For instance, the researchers analyzed how long certain words and phrases remained fashionable in 100 years of literature made available by Google Books. They found that catchy terms were used in books for an average of six months in the 19th century, but only stuck around for a month by the 21st century.

Chinese University Staff ‘Must Study’ Marxism, Maoist and Xi Jinping Ideology

Radio Free Asia:

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has launched a new wave of political training for colleges and universities that aims to instill the ideology of President Xi Jinping and late supreme leader Mao Zedong in staff and students alike.

The Ministry of Education released on Monday a five-year training plan for teachers via a series of “political theory” courses in colleges and universities.

According to the ministry, “it is necessary to train dozens of ideological and political scholars with extensive influence … as well as hundreds of leaders in ideological and political education.”

Former Guizhou University professor Yang Shaozheng, who was fired outright after he made comments critical of the Communist Party in an online article, said the plan is essentially part of an attempt to step up the “brainwashing” of Chinese students.

“I think this is problematic,” Yang told RFA. “The students already have the desire for independent thought, and a critical faculty.”

He said the move would result in an education system that wasn’t fit for purpose.

Civics: Commentary on the freedom of religion and speech

Maureen Groppe:

Pence, who has been facing criticisms of his own religious views recently, warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left.

“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”

With his wife, Karen, sitting on stage as he spoke, Pence recounted the “harsh attacks” he said they endured when she returned this year to teaching art at a Christian elementary school where she’d worked when he’d served in Congress. Unlike her previous stint, this time Karen Pence faced scrutiny after news reports pointed out that the school bans gay students and teachers.

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence said. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”

Pence said the graduates will be asked not just to tolerate things that violate their faith, but to endorse them.

Pence didn’t specifically mention this, but he’s been a target on the presidential campaign trail, where Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has gotten attention for questioning how Pence can square his faith with both his support for Trump and his opposition to gay marriage.

And the commencement address that Pence is scheduled to deliver next week at a Christian school in his home state has divided Taylor University. An online petition started by a Taylor alum complains that the address will make the school “complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”

Much more on the first amendment, here.

Students cleared in college rape say SC school discriminates against men, lawsuit says

Charles Duncan:

Wofford issued a no-contact order for the students, but the men say in the lawsuit the woman harassed them at a fraternity function and later assaulted one of the men at a party. The court filing said the school destroyed video evidence that would have incriminated the woman.

“Instead of opening an investigation, Defendant condoned and hid PG’s misrepresentation about her conduct in relation to the Halloween party assault,” according to the lawsuit. “This destruction marked at least four times that Defendant destroyed evidence favorable to Doe or Roe or detrimental to the Defendant.”

The men also say there is evidence the woman sexually harassed one of them.

The men say the school’s policies for sexual assault violate federal discrimination laws.

“It was the Defendant’s policy to hold the man at fault when two intoxicated persons of the opposite gender engage in sexual relations,” the lawsuit says.

Wofford, the lawsuit states, “was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs’ rights to be free from the improper use of its Title IX policy to charge male students without any cause but fail to investigate complaints against female students.”

How to Teach Your Kid They Don’t Have to Be Perfect at Everything

Michelle Woo:

As children, we are at the mercy of our caregivers. When they are happy, they take better care of us (as a rule) and we feel safer. When they are not happy, we often feel as though there is a rupture in the relationship, either because the parent is more distant and less responsive, or maybe has a lower stress threshold, so things that normally the parent might find funny or endearing, the parent might react angrily to.

This is very scary to children because it is not following the normal patterns. The child experiences the parent’s response—both positive and negative—as a direct response to the child’s behavior. The child is not taking into consideration context or the parent’s mood outside of the relationship. This creates a sense of uncertainty. The child may think, “Last time I threw a pillow we had a pillow fight and Mommy was laughing. This time when I threw the pillow I got spoken to harshly. I wonder what I did wrong when I threw the pillow this time.” So this is laying the foundation for how magical thinking can create perfectionistic tendencies.
Tell me more about “magical thinking.”

Magical thinking is developmentally normal for small children and is at its peak between the ages of 2 to 7. It is the core of superstitions, like believing that you will bring yourself bad luck if you break a mirror.

New Orleans teen gets 115 college acceptance letters

Wilborn P. Nobles III:

When Antoinette Love was born six weeks prematurely to Anthony and Yolanda Love, all her mother wanted was for Love to live. The New Orleans native only weighed 4.4 pounds, but she eventually left the hospital 23 days later.

Years later, Love blew past another milestone: Acceptance into 115 colleges and universities nationwide.

Love, a senior at the International High School of New Orleans, applied to and was unanimously accepted at 115 schools across the country, according to her school. Her efforts also resulted in more than $3.7 million in offered scholarships. Love is determined to become an educator and wants to major in elementary education beginning this fall, her mother said by phone Tuesday (April 23).

Love, who is planning to be on the road the next few weeks visiting several colleges, said she’s excited to see what the schools have to offer. She advises students to seek out as many fee waivers as possible for every college they apply to. Students should only consider paying for applications at the colleges they “really want to” attend, she added.

Love said she’s planning to make her college choice by May 1.

‘Becoming Dr. Seuss’ Reveals Theodor Geisel As A Complicated Icon

Gabino Iglesias:

But he was also a complicated man who saw children’s literature as a step down in a writer’s career and whose work was stained with misogyny and racism, as highlighted in Brian Jay Jones’ Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodore Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination. This and other dichotomies are at the core of Jones’ book: Geisel was loved by millions of children but couldn’t have children of his own; he wanted his work to be published but panicked when he had to talk about it publicly.

Nuanced, profoundly human and painstakingly researched, this 496-page biography is perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time.

Becoming Dr. Seuss is an expansive biography that tracks Geisel’s life and roots from 1904 to 1991. The book is divided in stages and pays equal attention to every step of Geisel’s journey. While it is a standard biography in general terms, Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. This makes Becoming Dr. Seuss a fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel’s books while also showing the author’s more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist.