Civics: When Battlefield Surveillance Comes to Your Town

Christopher Mims:

Over a period of three months in 2016, a small aircraft circled above the same parts of West Baltimore that so recently drew the ire of President Trump. Operated by a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, the plane was equipped with 12 cameras which, at 8,000 feet, could take in 32 square miles of city in minute detail.

This system is an update of one originally designed for the Air Force, which was used in Iraq to provide aerial intelligence to Marines as they rolled into Fallujah, says Ross McNutt, founder and president of Persistent Surveillance Systems. Only this time, it was being used to catch criminals in the U.S.

Across 300 hours of flight time, the system captured 23 shootings, five of them fatal. In some instances, detective could use this 192-megapixel gods’-eye view to trace suspects to their getaway cars, then rewind to points when those cars had passed in front of one of the city’s 744 closed-circuit cameras.

Civics: Chester HolLman iii

Registry of Exonerations:

Chester Hollman III with his father, Chester Sr. (left) and his sister, Deanna. (Photo: Steven M. Falk/
Shortly before 1 a.m. on August 20, 1991, 24-year-old Tae Jung Ho, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, was robbed and shot to death as he walked with a friend near 22nd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Ho’s friend, Junko Nihei, told police that two black men approached and pushed Ho to the pavement. One man, wearing red shorts, held his legs and searched his pockets. The other man, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, put a handgun to Ho’s chest and pulled the trigger. Ho was four days away from returning to his home in South Korea. Nihei said neither man wore glasses or a hat.

John Henderson, a taxi driver, told police he saw the flash of a pistol and a man wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt get into a white vehicle on Chestnut Street. He said he saw four people in the car and after following it for seven blocks, he lost sight of it. Henderson told police the vehicle’s license plate contained the letters YZA, but he did not get the numbers.

At 1:01 a.m., police broadcast the description of the vehicle. Four minutes later and six blocks from the crime, police pulled over a white Chevrolet Blazer which had a license plate with the letters YZA. The driver, 21-year-old Chester Hollman III, and his passenger, Deirdre Jones, were the only occupants. Police searched the vehicle, but found no weapon or anything related to the crime.

Hollman, who was wearing green pants, glasses and a hat, said the SUV had been rented from Alamo Rent-A-Car by his roommate, Shawn Boyce, who was in New York City that night and gave Hollman permission to use it. Hollman said he asked Jones, his neighbor, to go out with him. He said no others had been in the vehicle that night and he knew nothing about the crime.

Police brought Hollman to the scene of the crime. Andre Dawkins, a homeless crack addict with a history of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse, identified Hollman as the man who held Ho’s legs and searched his pockets.

Hollman and Jones were taken to the police station and interrogated separately. Hollman denied involvement in the crime. He said he had a steady job working for an armored car company.

Detectives falsely told Jones that Hollman had confessed to taking part in the crime and that she would not be charged if she implicated him. Ultimately, Jones gave a statement saying that there had been two others in the car—a man and a woman—although she did not know their names. Jones’s statement said that the other woman got behind the wheel while Hollman and the other man committed the crime. She said that she heard a shot and saw the victim fall—which was untrue because Ho’s friend said he was lying on the pavement when he was shot. Hollman and the other man got back in the vehicle and they drove off. The unknown couple then got out at some location prior to police pulling over the vehicle.

Police located several witnesses who said they saw two people in a car from which the two men fled after robbing and killing Ho. Three of them said the vehicle was a white Chevrolet Blazer with a woman behind the wheel.

Dawkins was brought to the police station and gave a statement that he was working at a nearby gas station sweeping the parking lot when he saw a white Chevrolet Blazer parked with its engine running. He said he was speaking to the driver, a woman, when the shooting occurred. He initially said he only heard the shots.

CSU victim junkies know power of changing language

Jon Caldara:

It’s important to train our kids how to be offended and to know which words should trigger them.

Thankfully the victim junkies at our state-sponsored Colorado State University have updated their Inclusive Language Guide. This is an arbitrary and ever-changing list of words and phrases they’d like scrubbed from our collective vocabulary.

All I can say is: This list takes the cake as being the craziest, most insane, deranged, demented, and dumb list made by uppity ladies and gentlemen going to war with us normal people in the peanut gallery to gyp us of our speech and sell our freedom down the river.

Can you identify all 14 non-inclusive words or terms in the previous sentence? Yes, 14.

“Takes the cake” should be replaced by “that was easy” because according to the guide,“cakewalks became popular through the racism of 19th-century minstrel shows, which portrayed black people as clumsily aspiring to be and dance like white people.”

“Ladies and gentlemen” implies that gender is binary.

“Uppity” is verboten because “during segregation, Southerners used ‘uppity’ to describe African-Americans who didn’t know their socioeconomic place.”

How should you address a letter without using Mr./Mrs./Ms.? Be careful because “using titles can be problematic when you are not aware of a person’s gender identity … These terms also exclude folks outside of the man/woman binary … Mx is a gender-neutral title.”

You can’t be a freshman in college because “man” excludes women and non-binary gender identities. There is no handicapped parking. No one is homosexual, Hispanic, Latino, paraplegic.

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns.

Karen Hao:

Experts agree AI will be important in 21st-century education—but how? While academics have puzzled over best practices, China hasn’t waited around. In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded. Tech giants, startups, and education incumbents have all jumped in. Tens of millions of students now use some form of AI to learn—whether through extracurricular tutoring programs like Squirrel’s, through digital learning platforms like 17ZuoYe, or even in their main classrooms. It’s the world’s biggest experiment on AI in education, and no one can predict the outcome.

Silicon Valley is also keenly interested. In a report in March, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation identified AI as an educational tool worthy of investment. In his 2018 book Rewiring Education, John Couch, Apple’s vice president of education, lauded Squirrel AI. (A Chinese version of the book is coauthored by Squirrel’s founder, Derek Li.) Squirrel also opened a joint research lab with Carnegie Mellon University this year to study personalized learning at scale, then export it globally.

But experts worry about the direction this rush to AI in education is taking. At best, they say, AI can help teachers foster their students’ interests and strengths. At worst, it could further entrench a global trend toward standardized learning and testing, leaving the next generation ill prepared to adapt in a rapidly changing world of work.

As one of the largest AI education companies in China, Squirrel highlights this tension. And as one of the best-poised to spread overseas, it offers a window into how China’s experiments could shape the rest of the world.

Civics: California Police Are Sharing Facial Recognition Databases to ID Suspects

Dave Gershgorn:

The network is called California Facial Recognition Interconnect, and it’s a service offered by DataWorks Plus, a Greenville, South Carolina–based company with law enforcement contracts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara.

Currently, the three adjacent counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino are able to run facial recognition against mug shots in each other’s databases. That means these police departments have access to about 11.7 million mug shots of people who have previously been arrested, a majority of which come from the Los Angeles system.

Giving up Darwin

David Gelernter:

The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.

Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. He cannot answer the big question. Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer, which collects some of the arguments Meyer’s book stirred up. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore. Bringing to bear the work of many dozen scientists over many decades, Meyer, who after a stint as a geophysicist in Dallas earned a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge and now directs the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact.

Meyer doesn’t only demolish Darwin; he defends a replacement theory, intelligent design (I.D.). Although I can’t accept intelligent design as Meyer presents it, he does show that it is a plain case of the emperor’s new clothes: it says aloud what anyone who ponders biology must think, at some point, while sifting possible answers to hard questions. Intelligent design as Meyer explains it never uses religious arguments, draws religious conclusions, or refers to religion in any way. It does underline an obvious but important truth: Darwin’s mission was exactly to explain the flagrant appearance of design in nature.

The religion is all on the other side. Meyer and other proponents of I.D. are the dispassionate intellectuals making orderly scientific arguments. Some I.D.-haters have shown themselves willing to use any argument—fair or not, true or not, ad hominem or not—to keep this dangerous idea locked in a box forever. They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.

As for Biblical religion, it forces its way into the discussion although Meyer didn’t invite it, and neither did Darwin. Some have always been bothered by the harm Darwin is said to have done religion. His theory has been thought by some naïfs (fundamentalists as well as intellectuals) to have shown or alleged that the Bible is wrong, and Judeo-Christian religion bunk. But this view assumes a childishly primitive reading of Scripture. Anyone can see that there are two different creation stories in Genesis, one based on seven days, the other on the Garden of Eden. When the Bible gives us two different versions of one story, it stands to reason that the facts on which they disagree are without basic religious significance. The facts on which they agree are the ones that matter: God created the universe, and put man there for a reason. Darwin has nothing to say on these or any other key religious issues.

Camden students have shown significant improvements in math proficiency, a new independent study has found (Madison?)

Vincent DeBlasio:

Released Monday, the study from the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) looked at student academic growth in the various K-12 schools on a year-by-year basis from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

Schools superintendent Katrina McCombs said the study confirms that students benefitted from the district’s “collaborative and focused efforts over the last five years.”

“This rigorous independent study demonstrates that citywide, student performance has improved since 2014. We applaud the educators, families, and community leaders for this progress and thank them for their commitment to our students,” McCombs said in a statement. She was appointed to head the state-run district in April, and served in an acting role since June 2018.

The report noted that while Camden students overall showed “weaker learning gains compared to the state average gains in reading” over the period analyzed, performance in math “caught up” in 2015-16 after falling behind the first year.

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”.

Civics: What Really Happened With West Virginia’s Blockchain Voting Experiment?

Yael Grauer:

Last year, West Virginia did something no other U.S. state had done in a federal election before: It allowed overseas voters the option to cast absentee ballots for the midterm election via a blockchain-enabled mobile app. According to Voatz, the company West Virginia worked with, 144 individuals from 31 countries successfully submitted ballots via the app for the November election. Before that, there was a smaller pilot of the system in two West Virginia counties that May.

West Virginia billed the experiment as a success and says it plans to use the technology again in 2020. Voatz has already made deals with other local governments in the U.S., most recently for Denver’s May municipal election.

But how secure and accurate was the 2018 vote? It’s impossible to tell because the state and the company aren’t sharing the basic information experts say is necessary to properly evaluate whether the blockchain voting pilot was actually a resounding success. With 2020 looming, that’s troubling, given what we now know about the extent of Russian incursions into our election systems in 2016.

State officials in West Virginia said the goal of rolling out the mobile voting option was to make voting easier for troops living abroad. But West Virginians overseas didn’t have to be in the military to take advantage of the process. All citizens had to do was register, download the app, go through a few verification steps such as uploading a photo ID and taking a video selfie, and make and submit their ballot selections on the screen. And all of it was said to be secure. With the blockchain technology it used, the firm insisted, the votes would be near-impossible to hack. (Blockchain is a digital public ledger that records information. It can be shared and used by a large, decentralized network, so it is theoretically more resistant to tampering.)

Civics: Prosecutors protect themselves first

Glenn Reynolds:

When you’re charged with a crime, you’re in a tough spot. As soon as charges are filed, you’re faced with the necessity of either (1) negotiating a plea bargain, which means you’ll plead guilty to something or other; or (2) going to trial, where you risk a much more serious conviction if the jury doesn’t believe you. Facts are often confused. The prosecution has access to law enforcement for its investigations. You’ll have to pay for yours.

It’s a big enough challenge when everybody plays things straight. But what about when you’ve got a prosecutor willing to lie? Then things are worse. And given that prosecutors often face no consequences for misconduct, it’s not surprising that some are willing to lie about it.

That’s what happened in the California case of The People v. Efrain Velasco-Palacios. In the course of negotiating a plea bargain with the defendant, a Kern County prosecutor committed what the California appeals court called “outrageous government misconduct.”

What prosecuting attorney Robert Murray did was produce a translated transcript of the defendant’s interrogation to which he had added a fraudulent confession. The defense attorney got a copy of the audio tape of the interrogation, but it “ended abruptly.” Eventually, Murray admitted to falsifying the transcript, presumably in the hopes of either coercing a plea deal, or ensuring a victory at trial.

When the trial judge found out, charges against the defendant were dismissed. Incredibly, the State of California, via Attorney General Kamala Harris, decided to appeal the case. The state’s key argument: That putting a fake confession in the transcript wasn’t “outrageous” because it didn’t involve physical brutality, like chaining someone to a radiator and beating him with a hose.

Well, no. It just involved an officer of the court knowingly producing a fraudulent document in order to secure an illicit advantage. If Harris really thinks that knowingly producing a fraudulent document to secure an illicit advantage isn’t “outrageous,” then perhaps she slept through her legal ethics courses.

The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District didn’t buy Harris’s argument, and upheld the dismissal of charges. That means the defendant went free.

The Whiter, Richer School District Right Next Door

Adam Harris:

The Democratic presidential debates, when they have turned to education, have so far focused on busing, college affordability, and school safety. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, notably, veered away from busing to talk about modern segregation during the second slate of debates, but only for a moment. But the schools trapped within these isolating, segregating borders will require more sweeping solutions to break free of them.

Related: Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results. This despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Civics: Facebook Plans on Backdooring WhatsApp

Bruce Schneier:

This article points out that Facebook’s planned content moderation scheme will result in an encryption backdoor into WhatsApp:

In Facebook’s vision, the actual end-to-end encryption client itself such as WhatsApp will include embedded content moderation and blacklist filtering algorithms. These algorithms will be continually updated from a central cloud service, but will run locally on the user’s device, scanning each cleartext message before it is sent and each encrypted message after it is decrypted.

The company even noted that when it detects violations it will need to quietly stream a copy of the formerly encrypted content back to its central servers to analyze further, even if the user objects, acting as true wiretapping service.

Facebook’s model entirely bypasses the encryption debate by globalizing the current practice of compromising devices by building those encryption bypasses directly into the communications clients themselves and deploying what amounts to machine-based wiretaps to billions of users at once.

Taleb is wrong about IQ

Jonatan Pallesen:

The probability if there was 0 correlation is of course 0.5. So using IQ as a criteria beats random selection by 16.67% (as Taleb also found). This is a little more than 6%, but that is a detail. More importantly, this example is a theoretical use case where using IQ testing is not so useful. To look at something a little more realistic, let’s say a company wants to avoid people with a performance more than 2 standard deviations below the mean. (Perhaps such employees have a risk of causing large harm, which could for instance be an issue in the military.) And we again compare admitting people at random vs only taking applicants with above average IQ.

If the company admits people at random, we get this proportion of people with a performance more than 2 SD below the mean:

How We Got the Story About Parents Transferring Guardianship of Their Kids to Win Financial Aid They Wouldn’t Otherwise Qualify For

Jodi Cohen:

I’ve covered higher education for many years and was part of a team that revealed the University of Illinois admissions clout scandal in which students from politically connected families got preference over more-qualified applicants. This latest tip was in my wheelhouse. I got to work.

First, I needed to find the records of these guardianship transfers, which the tipster told me had taken place in Lake County, a largely wealthy area north of Chicago. So I called up the Lake County courthouse and a clerk said, “Sure, come on up.”

The case records looked like medical files: long, long rows of folders organized by date. I asked if I could start with the most recent ones, and workers at the clerk’s office patiently pulled down stacks of files. I flipped past the estate cases and stopped at the folders labeled “minors person.” I finished one stack of files, gave it back and got the next batch. This went on all day.

Most of the records dealt with families in desperate situations who needed someone else to care for their children. Those records were primarily handwritten. Then I started seeing ones filled out by lawyers — typewritten — many of which had language about the guardianship changes being for educational and financial opportunities. They just stood out.

By the end of that day, I had gotten through maybe 800 files. My colleague Melissa Sanchez joined me the next day. In total, we looked through 1,800 cases from 2018 and 2019 in about 13 hours (plus 1,200 cases from 2017). We identified about four dozen we wanted to follow up on from the past 18 months.

We called the University of Illinois, the state’s flagship public university and the school of choice for many suburban students. We had learned through social media that some of the teens involved in the guardianship changes were U. of I. students or soon-to-be students. U. of I.’s admissions director said that he was aware of the situation, which he called a “scam,” and that he was trying to combat it.

K-12 Tax & SPENDING Climate: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

AnnaMaria Andriotis, Ken Brown and Shane Shifflett:

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

Student debt totaled about $1.5 trillion last year, exceeding all other forms of consumer debt except mortgages.

Auto debt is up nearly 40% adjusting for inflation in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. And the average loan for new cars is up an inflation-adjusted 11% in a decade, to $32,187, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from credit-reporting firm Experian.

Unsecured personal loans are back in vogue, the result of competition between technology-savvy lenders and big banks for borrowers and loan volume.

In a Life-or-Death Crisis, Humility Is Everything

Sam Walker:

Capt. Haynes spoke calmly and clearly to ground controllers and even thanked them for their assistance. At one point, when he was told he’d been cleared for an emergency landing on any runway at nearby Sioux City, he laughed. “You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?”

Thinking quickly, he instructed one member of his three-man crew to grab ahold of the throttles controlling the two functioning wing engines. By carefully offsetting their thrust, the crew managed to direct Flight 232 down to one of those runways, but the odds were still against them.

The passenger jet was drifting side to side in a tailwind. It would have to land at 250 m.p.h., almost double the usual speed—and it had no brakes.

The Cost of Reading

Ayşegül Savas:

Two weeks after I read Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living, I found out that she would be speaking at a literary symposium titled “Against Storytelling” at a venue some minutes from where I live.

The Cost of Living is a memoir about the period following Levy’s separation from her husband. She moves into a dreary apartment block with her two daughters, loses her mother, takes every job she is offered, and continues writing, in an entirely new set-up of family, home, and work.

The book is about other things, too, like cycling up a hill after a day writing at a garden shed; buying a chicken to roast for dinner which tumbles out of the torn shopping bag and is flattened by a car; putting up silk curtains in the bedroom and painting the walls yellow; showing up to a meeting about optioning the film rights to her novel with leaves in her hair.

It is, mysteriously, about a scarcity of time and money, of trying to make ends meet. Mysteriously, because it is such a generous book, so lush and unrushed.

One of my best friends, visiting for the weekend, picked it up from the coffee table while my husband and I were preparing breakfast on Saturday morning.

Carleton abd dUe process

Robby Soave:

Should continuing to assert your innocence be seen as a sign of guilt? After issuing a three-semester suspension to football player “John Doe” for sexual assault, Carleton College in Minnesota gave him the option of appealing the verdict. He did so, to no avail.

Then the dean of students wrote to Doe that “the fact you continue to assert that it was okay to engage in sexual activity with a person in [Jane Doe’s] condition is deeply troubling.” John’s suspension was upgraded to a permanent expulsion.

That’s just one of many troubling claims made in Doe’s lawsuit against Carleton College, which was filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month. John alleges that investigators violated his due process rights, ignored evidence that undercut his accuser’s claims, and evinced bias against him at all stages of the process.

The lawsuit stems from the events of April 28, 2017, when John, Jane, and many other students received invitations to join a secret society. They were told to meet at a specific place on campus at 2:00 a.m., where the members of the society instructed them to consume copious amounts of alcohol and then cover the president’s house in toilet paper. On the way to the house, the lawsuit claims, Jane stopped John, whom she had just met, and began kissing him and then touching him below the belt. According to John’s lawsuit, he eventually grew uncomfortable with the public nature of their contact, and suggested they go back to his dorm.

Reading Lessons

Irina Dumitrescu:

I have forgotten how to read. It isn’t the first time. I have forgotten before and I will forget again. In other words, I am still learning how to read.

“Read,” like “love” or “think,” has a thousand meanings pressed into one deceptively elementary verb. We use it in a way that tends towards simplicity. It is the connection of sounds and concepts to standardized squiggles, to trails of ink on squares of paper, scratches carved into sticks, glowing lines of curved neon, careful stitches poked through a tight canvas. It can seem a basic skill, at least to those who have left the learning of letters behind.

Watching my son learn it now, I begin to understand how daunting a task it is, even given a phonetic language with a small alphabet, even with all the plasticity of a child’s brain at his disposal. Learning to read is a years-long series of internalizing rules and their many exceptions, of tiny modulations and adjustments. At first I thought it would be a matter of recognizing 26 letters. Then I saw that he must navigate upper and lower cases, print and cursive, different typefaces and hands, the sounds rendered by certain combinations of letters, umlauts and double S’s, unmarked short and long vowels, and the vagaries of foreign words and their unpredictable pronunciations.

So much work requires attention. My son approaches the challenge of decoding the world with intense concentration, straining to squeeze out meaning from each word and image. He is spellbound by anything legible, whether a phrase in bold, clear type or a comic strip that communicates just enough plot to fascinate, and will stare at it for what feels like ages. He is laboring hard, I know, but I still envy his power of absorption. Sometimes it feels like my practice as a reader has made me faster, but not consistently better. When I think of my own journey of learning to read, I am in fact thinking of a long process of learning and forgetting how to be with texts slowly, intimately, deeply.

Parental Insights into Kids and Technology

Ben Bajarin, via a kind email:

Hello panelists! I hope you are all having a great summer. We have a number of surveys planned for the fall so look for many opportunities to participate coming!

We are conducting a study on kids use of technology and how parents make decisions around technology their children have access to and use. Our ideal participant for this study has children in the household between the ages of 5 and 18. If that is you, please help us and participate in this research. If that is not you, we have plenty of more survey opportunities coming!

The length of this survey is around 8-10 minutes, which I apologize as I know that is long. But we are trying to get deep insights into kids and technology, so the length was necessary.

If you complete the survey, you will automatically be entered into a raffle for $100 Amazon gift card, and we will randomly choose three winners to receive the gift card.

Thanks again for your participating in our studies we greatly appreciate it your time and contribution to our research.

Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash

Jugal Patel:

From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States.

In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

In Weston, where the median household income is $220,000, the rate is 18 percent, eight times that of Danbury, Conn., a city 30 minutes north. In Mercer Island, outside Seattle, where the median household income is $137,000, the number is 14 percent. That is about six times the rate of nearby Federal Way, Wash., where the median income is $65,000.

Students in every ZIP code are dealing with anxiety, stress and depression as academic competition grows ever more cutthroat. But the sharp disparity in accommodations raises the question of whether families in moneyed communities are taking advantage of the system, or whether they simply have the means to address a problem that less affluent families cannot.

Related: Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results. This despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Is our education system failing us?

Richard Phelps: Critically Speaking:

In this episode, Therese Markow and Richard Phelps discuss the education system in the United States, especially in comparison with Western Europe and other industrialized societies. They look at how Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and the changes to the SAT test have affected the curriculum, learning, and student preparedness both for further education as well as life after school. These trends in educational standards and standardized tests continue to impede our students compared to those of the industrialized world. Students from all levels and backgrounds are affected by these programs and the changes that need to be made are discussed.

Key Takeaways: The U.S. is falling behind other countries, even those with less spending on education. Common Core and No Child Left Behind have caused progress to be lost in elementary and secondary educations standards. The SAT has become less of an aptitude test and more of an achievement test, and can discriminate against talented students from underrepresented groups that attended lower quality high schools.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights embraces alternative facts

Max Eden:

There’s an old Mark Twain saying that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But without any statistics to support its point, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has stamped its imprimatur on the central lie of school discipline reform, that “students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their peers.”

If true, this would be astonishing. Black students are disciplined at more than three times the rate of white students. If their actual rates of misbehavior were precisely statistically equal, then the only explanation for the discipline disparity would be that teachers and administrators are tremendously, deplorably, and irredeemably racially biased.

But even the commission’s chair, Catherine Lhamon, won’t defend the claim. When Washington Post reporter Laura Meckler pointed out that the commission’s report, “Beyond Suspensions,” contained no citations that actually supported this point, Lhamon fell back to the position that the statistical disparity in school discipline “is not explained by differences in behavior.”

As I have covered in my review of the literature, there are several studies suggesting that the disparity is not entirely explained by differences in behavior. But as researchers have made more rigorous efforts to control for behavior, the remainder that could plausibly be attributed to teacher racial bias has shrunk dramatically

Preschool teachers ask children too many simple questions

Ohio State:

When preschool teachers read books in their classrooms, the questions they ask play a key role in how much children learn, research has shown.

But a new study that involved observing teachers during class story times found that they asked few questions – and those that they did ask were usually too simple.

Only 24 percent of what teachers said outside of reading the text were questions, the results found. And the kids answered those questions correctly 85 percent of the time.

“When kids get 85 percent of the questions right, that means the questions the teacher is asking are too easy,” said Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University.

You’re probably making incorrect assumptions about your opposing political party

Arthur Brooks:

Let’s take a specific example of what this means in the case of a contentious issue like immigration, which continues to roil American politics. Despite a recent ugly rally and series of tweets from the president, the data show that, in fact, a strong majority of Republicans believe that properly controlled immigration can be good for the country. They also show that a strong majority of Democrats disagree that the United States should have completely open borders. In other words, while left and right differ on immigration, those holding extreme views are a minority in both parties. However, Republicans think a majority of Democrats believe in open borders while Democrats think a majority of Republicans believe immigration is bad for the United States. The perception gap is 33 percentage points on each side.

And that is the perception gap for the average Democrat or Republican. Strong partisans — progressive activists and devoted conservatives — are most inaccurate in their perceptions of the other side, reaching more than 45 percentage points on extremely divisive issues.