Civics: Large Tech Organization Censorship Examples

Tony Perez:

You can argue that the openness of the web has been dying for the past decade. For the web, death comes in the form of a centralization of control and power, and arbitrary authoritarian changes made for the “greater good.” 

The current state of our fear for the safety of public health has created the perfect event to push the pendulum out of balance. 

Let there be no mistake in our minds, the actions that my fellow technologists, and associated companies, are taking, and pushing, are things that society as a whole will feel in the not so distant future. 

The scariest part for me is that as a technologists, I have seen first hand what an organization can do with unfettered access to data, when the checks and balances are lost, when we believe we are the ones capable of dictating what is good for society, on their behalf, without choice, and what a little power can do to any person. 

What further amplifies the concern is that it is not government that is driving this “big brother” state of affairs, its big tech. These are entities that are not elected officials, but corporations that transcend physical and logical boundaries. They have the ability to influence what you see, what you think, and they have the ability to choose sides. 


This was not a case of individuals selling snake oil. They were sharing their observations, and opinions. Right or wrong, is not the point. It’s the process of normal debate and discourse. They were also seasoned medical professionals.

Shortly after its release, it was removed from the platform. Because it didn’t conform to the guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). Say what?

It seems a far stretch to remove their content simply because it doesn’t conform to WHO, and goes contrary to spirt of the examples Susan provided. In essence, YouTube is saying you are not allowed to disagree with WHO, at all; do so, and your content will be removed. But what if they are wrong? Are we not allowed to question that?

Once it’s demonstrated that a company has this level of power, how, who, draws the distinction between what government policies they conform with, and which you don’t? What happens when society as a whole disagrees? How do you say yes to state government, but not Federal? How do you tell China, Cuba, North Korea they are wrong for their censorship when we do the same thing?

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

Coronavirus Pushes Colleges to the Breaking Point, Forcing ‘Hard Choices’ about Education

Melissa Korn, Douglas Belkin and Juliet Chung:

MacMurray College survived the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars, but not the coronavirus pandemic. The private liberal-arts school in central Illinois announced recently it will shut its doors for good in May, after 174 years.

Like many small schools, it faced declining enrollment and financial shortfalls. To lure prospective students, it was using steep discounts to its $30,000 listed tuition. Then the global health crisis brought unexpected costs for shifting classes online and partially reimbursing room…

“A major source of skepticism about the infection-tracing apps is distrust of Google, Apple and tech companies generally”

Craig Timberg,  Drew Harwell and Alauna Safarpour:

A major source of skepticism about the infection-tracing apps is distrust of Google, Apple and tech companies generally, with a majority expressing doubts about whether they would protect the privacy of health data. A 57 percent majority of smartphone users report having a “great deal” or a “good amount” of trust in public health agencies, and 56 percent trust universities. That compares with 47 percent who trust health insurance companies and 43 percent who trust tech companies like Google and Apple.

“I don’t feel like they have a good track record of taking care of people’s privacy and data. And I don’t want to give them more if I don’t trust them,” said Brent Weight, 43, a Republican-leaning independent voter who runs a small trucking company in Rigby, Idaho. “Seems like every other day you’re hearing of a data breach in a big company, and they’re losing credit card information and everything else. For them to just tell us it’s going to be safe and anonymized, I’m not going to take them at face value.”

Among Americans overall, 41 percent say they both have a smartphone and are willing to use an infection-tracking app, the poll finds. Oxford University researchers have suggested that 60 percent of a country’s population would need to use a coronavirus-tracking app like this to stop the viral spread. Reduced adoption could limit its effectiveness in slowing new infections and deaths.

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

Metro Nashville school board denies five charter school applications

Holly Meyer:

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Cooper said he asked Nashville school leaders to figure out how they could carve up to $100 million out of the district’s budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

The school board’s denial of charter school applications is also in keeping with its overall trend in recent years. The debate over charter schools in Nashville has been one of the city’s most contentious. 

Critics say charter schools, which receive public money but are operated independently, pull students, money and resources away from zoned schools. Proponents have said they allow choices for parents and alleviate needs at some schools. 

Nashville now is projected to spend $139 million on the city’s 28 charter schools, which enroll nearly 13,000 students.

Board members, who met Tuesday via an online video chatting platform due to the pandemic, considered applications for the following schools: 

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

The University of Wisconsin “charter czar” can approve “independent charter schools” in Madison.  One City Learning operates under this model.

Desperate for students, colleges resort to previously banned recruiting tactics

Jon Marcus:

Free classes! Free parking! Prime dorm rooms! More cash!

The more they worry about whether students in this year of the coronavirus will show up in the fall, the more admissions officers responsible for filling seats at colleges and universities have started sounding like the salesmen on late-night TV infomercials.

“The gloves have come off,” said Angel Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Connecticut, who laments this trend. “You’re talking about a scenario where colleges need to enroll students at any cost.”

A Bad Time To Hate Homeschool

Kenneth Pike:

The pandemic that has halted entire industries and eliminated scores of jobs overnight has not taken education down with it. It has canceled in-person education—but educators of all kinds, and for all age groups, have shifted to remote learning. While this is not homeschooling, it is home schooling, and we are all home schoolers now.

This is the context in which a discussion of Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection,” in the May-June 2020 edition of Harvard Magazine, appears.

The piece is headed by an illustration of several children playing outside while one child, from behind the barred window of a house constructed of books, looks forlornly on. The inversion of reality (as public schools cut recess time to increase instruction hours) is stark, and the books are, without apparent irony, titled Reading, Writing, Arithmatic, and Bible. (The misspelling of “arithmetic” was later stealth edited, as Corey DeAngelis documents here. The version below, which is current, contains the correct spelling.)

Wisconsin Teacher Unions seek to Intervene in support of Governor’s health orders

Riley Vetterkind:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday swiftly rejected an attempt by employee unions to help defend Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order in court.

The four unions on Tuesday filed a motion to intervene as parties in a lawsuit the Republican Legislature brought last Tuesday to suspend the governor’s “safer at home” order. Doing so would have allowed the unions’ arguments to be heard in court.

But the conservative-dominated court, just hours after the unions submitted their filings, unanimously dismissed the request without providing an explanation. The court’s action could indicate trouble ahead for Evers’ executive order, especially since it has previously sided against Evers in other high-profile cases. Most recently, the court struck down Evers’ order delaying the April 7 election due to COVID-19.

In their motion to join the case, the unions — the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Madison Teachers Inc., SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 — argued the Legislature does not have the constitutional authority to be a party in the case and that the case does not meet the criteria for the Supreme Court to take it up.

The unions, which represent teachers, health care and transit workers, said Evers’ order protects them by preventing the spread of COVID-19 at schools, keeping hospitals from overflowing and ensuring health care workers get personal protective equipment. If the court revokes the order, as Republicans want, they said they fear infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths from the respiratory disease will increase and the economy will be threatened even further.

Related: $1.57 million for four state Senators.

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: Mnuchin Says No Bailout for States With Badly Managed Budgets

Saleha Mohsin:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said states that had poorly managed budgets before the Covid-19 outbreak sent their economies reeling should not be rescued by the federal government.

“This isn’t just going to be a federal bailout of the states,” Mnuchin said early Tuesday on CNBC. “States that had specifically large expenses because of the coronavirus, like New York and New Jersey, it was the right thing that the federal government gave them money.”

He said he approves of local governments using coronavirus funding to enforce public safety through law enforcement, but not for revenue lost because of the economic shutdown or “states that were mismanaged” before the pandemic hit.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

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”.

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

Here’s a List of Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall

The Chronicle:

The coronavirus pandemic has left college leaders facing difficult decisions about when to reopen campuses and how to go about it. The Chronicle is tracking individual colleges’ plans.

Most colleges remain uncommitted on whether they’ll offer in-person classes in the fall or when they’ll decide. Some colleges have made their intentions clearer, and we’re listing them here.

New additions are Chapman, East Tennessee State, Emory, George Mason, George Washington, Harvard, Marquette, Shenandoah, Virginia Commonwealth, and Yale Universities; Macalester College; and the Universities of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mary Washington, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Portland, South Carolina, Tennessee at Knoxville, Texas at Austin, and Virginia.

Use this form to tell us your college’s plans or if they are different than reported below. Please provide a link to relevant information on the college’s website or a reputable news source.

Here’s an alphabetical list of colleges that have either disclosed their plans, mentioned them in news reports, or set a deadline for deciding:

College students clamor for tuition refunds after coronavirus shutters campuses

James Hill and Arielle Mitropoulos:

Grainger Rickenbaker was more than halfway through his freshman year at Drexel University in Philadelphia when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the school to clear its dormitories and suspend in-person instruction indefinitely.

Now at home in South Carolina, the real estate management major is taking his spring courses remotely and finding the experience lacking.

“There are two classes that aren’t even using the live-lecture format,” Rickenbaker said. “It almost feels that I’m just tuning in for a podcast. It doesn’t really feel like the full classroom experience.”

Drexel administrators informed students last month they wouldn’t be on the hook for housing bills or meal plans while the campus was closed. But there would be no discounts to normal tuition rates, the university said, despite the shift to e-learning, which is ordinarily offered to undergraduates at up to 40 percent less per credit, according to rates posted on the school website.

2020-2021 Madison K-12 Food Service Prices (with nearby prices)

Kelly Ruppel, Chief Financial Officer
Chad Wiese, Executive Director of Building Services & Administration Steve Youngbauer, Office of Food & Nutrition

MMSD participates in the National School Lunch Program, and therefore, we must adhere to federal regulations, including meal pricing. Section 205 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires our full paid meal prices to cover all costs of the meal. The Act prevents schools from using federal reimbursement for free or reduced meals to supplement by under-charging full pay students (or “of income families”). This law is in place in order to ensure equity in meal pricing. USDA provides us with a Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Tool to calculate the minimum price we should be charging our full pay students for meals.

3. Analysis: The last increase for paid meal pricing in MMSD took effect in the 2014-15 school year, where lunch was increased by $.10 per meal. Food & Nutrition is requesting a price increase of $.20 per meal for breakfast and lunch, effective for the 2020-21 school year. This will exceed the pricing requirements of the PLE, and will cover increased operating costs in the areas of food, supplies, salaries, and benefits.

Badger Rock Middle School Contract

Madison School District.

Notes and links on the Badger Rock Middle School Madison Style charter school (largely subject to the same teacher work rules and costs as the rest of the taxpayer supported Madison School District).

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

The University of Wisconsin “charter czar” can approve “independent charter schools” in Madison. One City Learning operates under this model.

Madison School District Graduation Requirement Update

Madison School District:

It is the policy of the BOARD to establish minimum requirements for graduation from the Madison Metropolitan School District. These minimum requirements provide consistent standards for graduation for all Madison high school students and, at the same time, allow a variety of options through which students may meet the requirements. Through these requirements we believe that we will prepare college, career and community ready graduates while simultaneously developing the skills outlined in our vision of the MMSD graduate.

The BOARD will not grant a high school diploma to any student unless, during the high school grades, the student has been enrolled in a class or has participated in an activity approved by the BOARD during each class period of each school day, or the student has been enrolled in an alternative education program, as defined in Wisconsin statute and administrative code. Approved activity includes any course or activity under the responsibility of the school, with the school having flexibility in defining an accountability system which shows whether students are where they are supposed to be.

“Redline final version”
“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”.

Notes and Commentary on Madison’s Planned 2020-2021 K-12 Budget

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The $476.1 million proposed spending package would increase property taxes by $46 for the owner of an average-value home in the district, now estimated at $311,500.

Faced with an $8 million shortfall at the beginning of crafting the 2020-21 budget, district officials propose cutting nearly 50 staff positions and doubling the share employees pay for health care premiums.

The total budget, which includes payments on debt service, capital maintenance and community programs, would slightly decrease from current-year spending, but the property tax levy would rise 2.9% to $339.5 million. The district’s portion of property taxes on an average-value home is estimated at $3,386 next year, or a 1.4% increase, in the preliminary budget.

Operating expenses — which include costs such as teachers’ salaries and classroom instruction — make up $432 million of the budget. The operating budget would decrease 0.22% from current spending levels.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

“Getting Carried Away With History”

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email:

Marcia Reecer, American Educator, [AFT] Winter 1993/1994, pp. 19-23

“Wanted: Essays for a history quarterly devoted to the work of students.” Will Fitzhugh has been putting out calls like this since 1987 when he embarked on the first issue. One of the few magazines that prints only the work of students—and the only one that specializes in scholarly articles—the Review has published essays from as far away as Tasmania and Singapore, but most come from American high school students.

You might not know this if you picked up the magazine—or read it. It is all type, including the cover, and has the old-fashioned (some might say stuffy) look of a scholarly journal. But there is nothing stuffy about the articles. They are lively, straightforward explorations of ideas and events that obviously fascinated the writers. One of Will Fitzhugh’s favorite stories is about the officer of a foundation who, having turned down the Review’s application for financial support, glanced at one of the essays. Before he knew it, he had read the whole 150-page issue [386 pages in Summer 2020 issue].

Fitzhugh got the idea for The Concord Review when he was teaching history at Concord High School in Concord, Massachusetts. Every year there were a couple of students who really got into the long essays he assigned them. They caught fire, and for these kids, it was no longer a question of how many pages they were supposed to produce or the number of books required for their reference list. The subject took over, and the students were hungry to find out all they could.

But when the essays came in, Will Fitzhugh was struck by how little he could do to recognize their excellence. Of course, he could give the writers As, and that was important, but it didn’t seem commensurate with what they had accomplished. There must be some other and better way to recognize this kind of achievement. Also, he reflected that if his students wrote essays like this, there must be lots of kids all over the country doing similar things. And so The Concord Review was on its way [1987]. The idea was neat and obvious—the way a lot of the best ideas are: Give high school students a vehicle for publishing their excellent history essays and an audience of their peers.

What kinds of articles appear in The Concord Review, and who writes them? Fitzhugh asks for 4,000-6,000-word essays, but he has accepted ones that are shorter [and longer ones up to 14,000 words]…Essays are sent in by students from private and public schools (about fifty-fifty), and American history is the most popular subject. Some writers try to answer difficult questions about recent history. For example: Was the United States soft in its treatment of Nazis after World War II? What were the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam? Is U.S. immigration policy traditionally racist? Others go for constitutional issues or topics in social history, or the implications of historical movements or events. The essays vary in quality—the way they do in any magazine—but the general level is extraordinarily high.

It is no surprise that The Concord Review has gotten a lot of praise. Al Shanker devoted two of his “Where We Stand” columns (New York Times) to it, and Will Fitzhugh has gotten warm letters from famous names in education like Theodore Sizer and Diane Ravitch as well as from teachers and students from all over the world. The Review has been called a hopeful sign—in the midst of much gloom—of what our kids can accomplish. And many people have noted its relevance to proposed education reforms. It is right in line with the idea of performance-based assessments. And, at a time when there is talk about setting standards for excellence by locking some people in a room and asking them to define excellence, The Concord Review demonstrates what high standards are in the most concrete way possible: It shows the kind of work that pre-college students can do—and are doing.

Perhaps most important is the assumption it makes about writing. Writing is, or is supposed to be, a way of telling an audience something you want them to know. But it’s all too easy for students to think of writing as an assignment, a sort of trick they perform for the teacher. In fact, the way writing is taught often encourages this attitude, and as John Bruer points out in Schools for Thought, his book on cognitive psychology and learning, even the best students often suffer from it. In making the assumption that students can produce serious and excellent pieces of writing based on intellectual work they have done, the Review demonstrates a simple and elegant way to get around the destructive practice of treating student writing like exercises.

But how relevant is all this to the real world of what goes on in most classrooms? How many American students write long essays? And if they did, how many teachers in this country would have time to grade the essays, much less supervise kids as they did the research and the writing? Unfortunately, there is a lot of substance to these questions.

The simplest response is that the thousands of students who take AP history every year are working to a standard comparable to the one represented by the Review, and every AP history class must produce essays as good as the ones Will Fitzhugh got from his students in Concord High School. Giving these kids a chance to read The Concord Review would show them what students their own age can do and give them a standard and a reward to aim for.

To respond on a more fundamental level, The Concord Review may seem to have little relevance for the many students in our high schools who can’t even produce a good paragraph. But if we believe in high standards for all our students—not just the ones who are currently doing excellent work—the standard the Review sets has a great deal of long-term relevance.

In a speech given to the Urban League, its president, John Jacob, said that instead of lowering our ideas of what students can do, we must raise them and demand high academic performance of every student. Among the specific standards Jacob mentioned is that every African-American student, and in fact every student, be required to write a 25-page paper in order to graduate from high school. And Al Shanker sees The Concord Review as a possible catalyst in this effort. Why not, he says, organize large school districts to work toward producing special issues of the Review. This would take a number of years, but it would focus resources and attention where they’re really needed—toward getting students to work and think and write.

In the meantime (and to come back to planet Earth), The Concord Review is in financial trouble, despite its soundness and promise. Will Fitzhugh has never had the money to promote it properly. As a result, his subscription list is too small to support the magazine. And, though the number of teachers who know about the Review and use it as a teaching tool and submit their excellent student essays grows year by year, it is smaller than it should be. Will the magazine fold after this year? So far, Will Fitzhugh has found a way to scrape together the money for each issue, but each issue could be the last.

Fitzhugh remarks that we have many ways of rewarding and encouraging excellence in non-academic areas like sports but few in academic areas, and he likes to compare the idea behind The Concord Review to the Westinghouse science competition. Perhaps his magazine for kids who love history—and love to write it—will find a well-heeled corporation to offer it long-term support. Fitzhugh hasn’t given up hope, but a financial angel, however important, wouldn’t take the place of what he’s really after—a bunch of faithful subscribers and a flood of papers by kids who can hardly wait to tell other kids what they’ve discovered about Oliver Cromwell or the Harlem Renaissance or the sinking of the Titanic or glasnost or…

Marcia Reecer, Ph.D. [Bryn Mawr], is assistant director in the Office of the President of the American Federation of Teachers. She has been an elementary, high school and college teacher.

Very interesting!Thanks for sharing! Very interesting.

K-12 Tax, Spending and Referendum climate: Covid-19 Crisis Will Make Clear How Tenuous California’s Financial Condition Has Become

Joel Kotkin:

The pressure on California’s government resources is made much worse by a bifurcated economy that produces a disproportionate amount of poorly paid jobs. As manufacturing and middle-management jobs have fled the state, notes new research from Chapman University’s Marshall Toplansky, the vast majority of all new jobs—some 80 percent—pay less than the median income, and roughly half of those pay under $40,000 annually, virtually a poverty income in the expensive coastal areas. Critically, California has been among the worst states in producing middle-income jobs, while rivals such as Utah, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Washington have boosted these kinds of positions at five to ten times California’s rate.

California’s low-end jobs in restaurant and retail have been hard-hit by the pandemic, as they have everywhere. But California’s pain will be made worse by the outsize role of tourism and hospitality in employment. This sector, now 2 million strong, has accounted for a quarter of all new jobs created in the state this decade; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, its share of all employment grew from 10.6 percent to 13.4 percent, with much of the growth concentrated in idyllic coastal Southern California.

Even one of the steadiest sources of higher-wage blue-collar employment, shipping and trade, could be severely affected. International trade, including exports and imports, supports nearly 5 million California jobs—nearing one in four jobs. Yet due to regulatory and labor issues, Southern California’s ports, Long Beach–Los Angeles, have been losing market share to other regions, notably in the American South. Reduced trade flows, particularly with China, could have additional negative effects.

Under the governorship of Pat Brown in the late 1950s and 1960s, California, observed the late historian and onetime state librarian, Kevin Starr, enjoyed a “golden age of consensus and achievement, a founding era in which California fashioned and celebrated itself as an emergent nation-state.” In 1971, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith described the state government as run by “a proud, competent civil service,” and enjoying among “the best school systems in the country.”

This competence is now rarely seen. For all its activism, California’s bloated nanny state, for example, showed a distinct lack of preparation for a pandemic. Looking to save money under Governor Jerry Brown, the state abandoned a program to store ventilators and other emergency equipment for a future pandemic. Even after the budget crisis ended and the surplus surged along with rapid spending, the state did not revive the program. To his credit, Governor Newsom admits to “owning” the state’s slow implementation of testing, which has lagged other states, notably New York.

Tips for mathematical handwriting

John Kerl:

Now that you’re majoring in one of the technical disciplines (engineering, science, or math), you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time communicating in writing with others. You may find that previously unimportant details, such as crossing your z’s, now become essential — not only so that others can understand you, but also so that you can avoid mistaking your own 2z for z2 and so on. This is especially important if your handwriting (like mine!) is less than perfect.

Before I continue, take a fresh look at our Roman alphabet, the digits, and the Greek alphabet:

The University Tries its Students: Case Histories From the CRR File

Susan Faludi:

IT TOOK LOCAL POLICE and state troopers less than an hour to clear University Hall of student protesters in 1969, battering heads with billyclubs, choking lungs with tear gas, and knocking Timothy H.S. Venn ’72 from his wheelchair onto the concrete. It took the Faculty less than one day to agree to set up a disciplinary body called the Committee of Fifteen, later the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR), to punish these student demonstrators. It took less than two months for the Committee of Fifteen to penalize 135 students, forcing 16 to leave the University–many for good.

And it has taken slightly more than a decade for the students who have taken their places to forget everything. They have forgotten that the members of the Committee of Fifteen–along with the CRR, which replaced it–conducted its hearings in seclusion behind locked and guarded doors on the penthouse-level Meeting Room K of Holyoke Center, high above the student rallies. They have forgotten that it accepted hearsay evidence; they have forgotten that it would not permit appeal outside of itself. They have forgotten that students and faculty were not equally represented on the committee panel. They have forgotten that Faculty and administrators–not to mention the police–could not be prosecuted for breaking the same rules as the students.

This month the Class of ’84 and South and Adams Houses decided to break the student boycott of CRR–a boycott started because of these conditions and because students felt the CRR existed only to stifle political expression. The Freshman Council and the Adams House Committee last week decided to place their decisions on hold while they poll their student constituencies. South House students, however, still plan to send two students to CRR, which has not met since 1975.

Coronavirus bursts the US college education bubble

Rana Foroohar:

But millions in the middle get neither a cheap nor a useful education. Underemployed and debt laden, they were struggling even before coronavirus struck. One study by the think-tank Demos found that the average student debt burden for a married couple with two four-year degrees was $53,000, and resulted over their lifetimes in an overall wealth loss of $208,000.

Economically, young people have been hit especially hard by the crisis as they do much of the low-paid, high-touch service work that has been shut down. Some 11m college students work: almost three-quarters of them for 20 hours or more a week, and 4.4m full time. Yet few are eligible for federal bailout money.

Colleges, however, will get plenty. Many of the top recipients of federal aid are big state universities, such as the University of California, which incurred $558m of coronavirus-related costs in March alone. But a number of rich Ivy League colleges have received aid, too. Harvard, with its $40bn endowment, was given a nearly $9m CARES grant. It is returning the funds, as are many other top private schools, following public pressure.

They are right to do so. Covid-19 has put moral hazard front and centre on the national agenda. The US cannot have taxpayer-funded bailouts that put big rich companies — or colleges — ahead of those who need help more. We need to focus on the most productive use of funds and worry first about helping the most vulnerable individuals and worthy public institutions.

Madison City Council members warned about illegal meetings


In a memo to council members on Wednesday, which mentions a local political party but doesn’t name Progressive Dane, May wrote, “I was deeply disturbed to hear reports this week that seven or eight alders met privately to discuss matters on the City Council agenda. Such meetings almost certainly involve negative quorums on some issues and thus, under the Showers (state Supreme Court) decision, could easily be violations of the Open Meetings Law.

“At this point, I have not done or requested any further inquiry on the reports I received,” May wrote. “I urge you to be very careful in your private meetings and discontinue those involving more than five alders, unless the meetings are properly noticed.”

At least one council member, Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, 1st District, has formally requested additional follow-up and sanctions. “This warning is not sufficient for me,” she wrote in an email to May.

Taxpayer supported Dane County Board joins the Madison School Board in ignoring open meeting laws:

Meetings between the board’s leadership and leaders of some of its key committees, first reported by a local blogger, raise questions about whether the board is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the state open meetings law, as well as why county leaders feel the meetings need to be secret at a time when the board has been making a concerted effort to interest the public in its work.

No campus lectures and shut student bars: UK universities’ £1bn struggle to move online

David Batty & Rachel Online:

UK universities need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to deliver degrees online, with warnings that many are unprepared to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students’ education.

Only around 20 universities are in a good position to provide a range of high-quality online courses by the start of the new academic year in September, according to Prof Sir Tim O’Shea, the former vice-chancellor of Edinburgh University. Some of the country’s top-ranked Russell Group institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge, were not in that category, he added.

Harassment fears as students post extreme pornography in online lectures

The warning comes as the sector seeks to expand online education in a bid to offset huge losses from tens of thousands of international students cancelling their studies due to Covid-19. Prolonged social distancing also mean freshers could face a radically different university experience, with no lectures on campus and bars closed.

Most universities would face costs of at least £10m to create five or six new online degrees in different faculties, said O’Shea, a leading expert on computer-based learning. This would total well over £1bn across the sector.

The costs will add to the financial pressures facing universities, with a report from the University and College Union (UCU) forecastingthat the sector could lose around £2.5bn next year in tuition fees alone if the pandemic continues.

“Free inquiry on controversial topics”

Journal of Controversial Ideas:

Welcome to the website of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, the first open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal specifically created to promote free inquiry on controversial topics.

The Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a forum for careful, rigorous, unpolemical discussion of issues that are widely considered controversial, in the sense that certain views about them might be regarded by many people as morally, socially, or ideologically objectionable or offensive. The journal offers authors the option to publish their articles under a pseudonym, in order to protect themselves from threats to their careers or physical safety.  We hope that this will also encourage readers to attend to the arguments and evidence in an essay rather than to who wrote it. Pseudonymous authors may choose to claim the authorship of their work at a later time, or to reveal it only to selected people (such as employers or prospective employers), or to keep their identity undisclosed indefinitely. Standard submissions using the authors’ actual names are also encouraged.

We welcome submissions in all areas of academic research insofar as the topics discussed are relevant to society at large.

To Access Online Services, New Jersey Students With Disabilities Must Promise Not To Sue

Rebecca Klein:

Some New Jersey schools have been forcing students with disabilities to sign waivers promising not to sue the district before giving them access to special education services, HuffPost has learned. 

A form distributed by districts asks families to “waive and relinquish; fully release and discharge; and indemnify and hold harmless” the school district and all of its employees “from all claims, liabilities, causes of action, costs, expenses, attorneys’ fees, damages, indemnities, and obligations of every kind and nature, in law, equity, or otherwise,” before providing students with the counseling and speech services outlined in their individualized education program, or IEP. (An IEP is the legal document that details the educational services districts are required to provide to a given student with disabilities.) 

The form, devised with help from an education law firm, has raised alarms for disability advocates and lawyers, who have taken up the matter with the New Jersey Department of Education. Rebecca Schore, the legal advocacy director at Disability Rights New Jersey, said her organization already has two clients who have been asked to sign the waiver in order to receive counseling and speech support. 

“If the parent refuses to sign it, they will absolutely withhold services,” Schore said.

Anatomists of Melancholy in the Age of Coronavirus

Spencer Lee-Lenfield:

Before 2015, few people would have thought of not finishing college as a public-health issue. That changed because of research done by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, economists at Princeton who are also married. For the past six years, they have been collaboratively researching an alarming long-term increase in what they call “deaths of despair” — suicides, drug overdoses, and alcoholism-related illnesses — among white non-Hispanic Americans without a bachelor’s degree in middle age.

The term “deaths of despair” has taken on a life of its own, becoming ubiquitous in newspapers, magazines, and op-eds. It has been the subject of think-tank panels, conferences, and even government inquiry. “America Will Struggle After Coronavirus. These Charts Show Why,” proclaims a New York Times article that visualizes some of their research. This past fall, Congress’s Joint Economic Committee issued its own report on “Long-Term Trends in Deaths of Despair.”

Case and Deaton’s new book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (Princeton University Press), takes their message even further. Capitalism itself, they argue, needs serious reform if it is to make good on its potential to improve the lives of all Americans. In particular, as Case pointedly observed in a lecture last year at Stanford University, “We don’t think [American capitalism] is working for people without a four-year college degree — and that’s two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64.” The coronavirus outbreak, the dire economic forecast, the millions of newly unemployed — all of these recent events raise the stakes of their research.

What difference does education make to a life?

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: Millions of Credit-Card Customers Can’t Pay Their Bills. Lenders Are Bracing for Impact.

AnnaMaria Andriotis and Orla McCaffrey:

Robert Rodriguez and Migdalia Wharton, a married couple in Orlando, Fla., have been out of work for more than a month and can’t afford to pay their credit-card bills.

When they called Capital One Financial Corp. to explain, the bank told them they could skip their April payments. But they doubt they will have money in May. Ms. Wharton, a school-bus driver, was told she wouldn’t get paid until school reopens. Mr. Rodriguez, a cancer survivor, is worried for his health and has stopped driving for Uber.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

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”.

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

Intellectual Alchemist

Marta Figlerowicz:

An American interviewer once asked me how I managed to reconcile my work as a scholar and university professor, author of books published by university presses, with my other work as what would be called in the United States a “columnist” … My answer was that this habit is common to all European intellectuals, in Germany, France, Spain, and, naturally, Italy: all countries where a scholar or scientist often feels required to speak out in the papers, to comment, if only from the point of view of his own interests and special field, on events that concern all citizens. And I added, somewhat maliciously, that if there was any problem with this it was not my problem as a European intellectual; it was more a problem of American intellectuals, who live in a country where the division of labor between university professors and militant intellectuals is much more strict than in our countries.1

The End of the Harvard Century

Matteo Wong:

“He told me to cancel the talk,” Teng says. “He told me the time we were supposed to give our talk, that day was when the Harvard president would fly back from Beijing. And a few weeks before that, the Harvard president was meeting Xi Jinping.” The administrator told him hosting an event with two Chinese dissidents only days after a historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then University President Drew G. Faust would “embarrass” Harvard, Teng recalls.

“It was not about the title or the topics — but because of ourselves,” Teng says. “We ourselves are sensitive.”

Teng and the other organizers persisted, hoping they could find another Harvard venue. “We tried to avoid him, but eventually we realized we were not able to,” he says.

The second phone call, on March 10, was a formal and final warning. The powerful person called Teng to his office and told him the event would embarrass the University and potentially threaten the continuation of collaborative programs and joint research with China. The administrator asked Teng to “postpone” the event, and Teng finally agreed.

“Postpone is a polite word,” Teng recalls. “They never invited us to give a talk after that.”

Chen Guangcheng puts it more bluntly. “What he meant was that it was going to be postponed indefinitely,” he explains, through an interpreter. “It was just another way to cancel it completely.”

That powerful person also made Teng promise to keep the cancellation a secret, and at the time Teng told almost nobody. Chen was particularly struck by this self-censorship. “It seemed really strange to me at the time, because this is not what Teng Biao is like when he’s back in China,” Chen says. “He’s very outspoken.”

Additional notes from Gady Epstein.

Ben Thompson:

Imagine writing this four months after China forced a group of doctors to sign an apology for discussing a new coronavirus in a chat room.

Referencing this, by Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods:

In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.

One New York Special-Needs School Is Ahead of the Curve With Remote Learning

Lee Hawkins:

When New York City special-needs teacher Marie Cornicelli learned in March that the city’s 1.1 million public-school students would be migrating to remote learning, she expected the foray into “crazy, unknown and unfamiliar territory” to be a difficult one.

“I wondered if my students would be able to do the work well at home with the level of support that they’re used to,” said Ms. Cornicelli, who has been an educator for 15 years.

Now, with a month of remote teaching behind her due to the coronavirus outbreak, the behavior-management specialist at Staten Island Pre-K to eighth grade school P 373R, which has an enrollment of 640 special-needs students, says the transition has been almost seamless, thanks to careful execution and strong parental involvement.

“When you work with students with disabilities…you work with the families, the siblings and the home-care givers,” she said. “It takes a team.”

Harvard vs. the Family: A scheduled academic conference confirms the suspicions of homeschooling parents.

Max Eden:

This June, pandemic conditions permitting, Harvard University will host a conference—not open to the public—to discuss the purported dangers of homeschooling and strategies for legal reform. The co-organizer, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, believes that homeschooling should be banned, as it is “a realm of near-absolute parental power. . . . inconsistent with a proper understanding of the human rights of children.” The conference has caused a stir on social media, owing to a profile of Bartholet in Harvard magazine, accompanied by a cartoon of a forlorn-looking girl behind the barred windows of a house made out of books titled, “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Bible.”

Harvard claims, based on a Bartholet law review article, that as many as 90 percent of homeschoolers are “driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture.” But Bartholet’s research falls short of supporting this observation. In fact, we know strikingly little about homeschooling families. A 2013 review of the academic literature noted that, while academics assume that conservative Christians make up the largest subset of homeschoolers, “whether this percentage is two-thirds, one-half, or less is a matter of speculation.”

To support her claim that as many as 90 percent of homeschoolers are motivated by conservative Christian beliefs, Bartholet cites two primary sources. One is a survey by Cardus Education Group, which, she notes, “reveals 70 percent [of homeschoolers] in the religious category vs. the nonreligious category.” But that survey categorizes students as “religious homeschoolers” if their mother attends church once a month. Bartholet’s other source is a survey by the Department of Education, which asked parents about their motivation for homeschooling. Only 16 percent said religious considerations were of primary importance (compared with 34 percent who cited safety and 35 percent who listed academic or special-needs considerations). Fifty-one percent said that religion was important, while 80 percent said that safety was important. It’s reasonable to conclude from these data that most homeschool parents are religious—but empirically false to claim that as many as 90 percent are conservative Christians who wish to shield their children from mass culture.

Some, to be sure, fit this description. But before making judgments about them, academics might first try to understand them. Stanford University professor Mitchell Stevens, for example, published an inquiry into the culture of homeschooling that the New York Review of Books commended for taking readers beyond media-driven stereotypes. Bartholet does not cite Mitchell’s book. She does, however, manage to fit into a single footnote references to Gawker, Bitch Media, and an anonymous blog with a defunct URL. Her law review article contains several anecdotes about homeschooling families who teach female subservience or white supremacy, but she makes no effort to quantify this phenomenon, or to demonstrate her contention that “homeschooling to promote racist ideologies and avoid racial intermingling” is a common motivation, beyond the case of a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who homeschooled his son for that reason.

It would be useful to know how homeschooled students perform academically compared with their public school counterparts. A 2017 literature review, focusing only on peer-reviewed articles, found that the majority of studies showed positive academic, social and emotional, and long-term life outcomes. Bartholet dismisses much of this literature, noting that it tends to focus on a not necessarily representative sample of homeschoolers who “emerge from isolation to do things like take standardized tests.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results:

Under your leadership, the Wisconsin d.p.i. granted Mulligan’s to thousands of elementary teachers who couldn’t pass a reading exam (that’s the “Foundations of Reading” elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam), yet our students lag Alabama, a state that spends less and has fewer teachers per students.

What message are we sending to parents, citizens, taxpayers and those students (who lack proficiency).

It is rather remarkable that Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results have remained litigation free.

Another Thing the Virus Could Kill: More Than 1,000 Colleges and Universities

Richard Greenwald:

Traditional universities are refunding room and board. While the lucky few schools have the money to do this as well as pay for the new requirements and expenses of moving instruction online, estimates are that between 10 and 20 percent of all universities are in financially precarious situations. The U.S. has about 5,300 institutions of higher learning. Twenty percent would mean 1,060 institutions could close.

But even among the other 80 percent, no one here gets out unscathed. Some state institutions have watched their appropriated budgets be pulverized over the last decade by tax-cut focused governors and state legislatures. The lucky ones have learned to do more with less and find alternative revenue sources. But most simply are squeezed, and hard.

Universities are also facing a demographic cliff. Simply put, in the next decade, there will be fewer college-age students because of birth-rate decline. Over the past decade there was an 11 percent enrollment drop, which will continue for the next decade. To remain competitive, many private universities have tried to balance the sharp competition for students by raising their discount rate — the percentage of scholarship they award.

Kettle Moraine School District furloughs 50 employees, the majority being custodians and food service employees

Alec Johnson:

It won’t know the total impact until the district’s fiscal year is complete.

“With the closing of school buildings and grounds extended to June 30, KM has

re-evaluated the role of various employee groups,” Deklotz said in the news release. “We simply do not have the normal work responsibilities as when people are using the buildings or serving meals to the full student population. This action is not a reflection on the valuable role our furloughed employees play, but a reality of the lack of work, and the need for the district to remain fiscally responsible.”

The district said its schools will likely face additional hardships because of the coronavirus.

The district said it expects school district budgets statewide to be impacted.

“Through these uncertain times, Kettle Moraine remains steadfast in its commitment to educate, serve and support students and their families,” Deklotz said. “Our mission and goals to provide educational excellence continues. We will get through this challenging time together as a community.”

Can Colleges Survive Coronavirus? ‘The Math Is Not Pretty’

Elissa Nadworny:

Most campuses in the United States are sitting empty. Courses are online, students are at home. And administrators are trying to figure out how to make the finances of that work. 

“The math is not pretty,” says Robert Kelchen, who studies higher ed finance at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “Colleges are stressed both on the revenue side and on the expenditure side.” 

On one end of the equation, colleges are spending money to take classes online, in some situations purchasing software, training professors or outsourcing to online-only institutions. That’s on top of refunds for room and board and parts of tuition. On the other side, money isn’t coming back in, in the form of expected tuition and revenue from events such as athletics, conferences on campus and summer camps. College endowments, which can sometimes offer some insulation from hard financial times, have also taken a hit.

“This will touch every sector of higher education. Every size of institution, every region of the country,” says Dominique Baker, a professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

And it already has. The University of Michigan estimates it may lose up to $1 billion by the end of the year. For the University of Kentucky, it’s $70 million. Hundreds of schools — including some with endowments of more than a billion dollars, like Duke University, Virginia Tech and Brown — have announced hiring freezes. Other institutions have cut pay and have laid off staff and contractors. In Vermont, state officials have floated potential college shutdowns.

Education Needs to Address Significant Quality Issues with its Restraint and Seclusion Data

US Government Accountability Office:

The Department of Education requires public school districts to biennially report incidents of restraint (restricting a student’s movement) and seclusion (confining a student to a space alone).

Education’s data quality checks may not catch misreporting or statistical outliers:

70% of districts reported 0 incidents of restraint and seclusion, but Education’s quality check only applies to fewer than 100 large districts

Education doesn’t have a quality check for districts reporting relatively high incident rates like one that reported an average of 71 restraint incidents per student per year

Statewide review finds Marquette restricts freedom of speech

Marquette Wire:

The review states. the colleges’ policies restrict speech in various ways, including “vague proscriptions, the creations of so-called ‘free speech zones’ and prior restraints.”

“Students across the country are made to parrot the accepted orthodoxy by school administrators or else are badgered into silence,” the report states. “Of the tools used by school administrators to stifle free speech, speech codes figure prominently.”

The review rated universities and colleges using a system created by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The rating system uses a “traffic light” approach, where each color of a stoplight represents how that particular college ranks.

After the most severe rating, red, comes yellow ratings. A yellow rating means the college “is one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague working, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.” A green rating means the college’s “policies do no seriously imperil speech.”

In addition, there is a blue rating set for a private college that “clearly and consistently states that it holds a certain set of values above a commitment to freedom of speech.”

Overall, 53% of private colleges in Wisconsin are rated “red.”

Among Marquette, private four-year institutions including Alverno College, Concordia University, Edgewood College, Mount Mary University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Northland College, Ripon College, Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, St. Norbert College and Viterbo University all ranked red.

“Although these private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment and have much wider latitude in adopting policies, they very often ‘promise debate and freedom’ to their students,” the review states.

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: Survey of Wisconsin businesses finds millions in lost income, wages, productivity

Briana Reilly:

Businesses across Wisconsin lost millions of dollars in income, inventory, wages and productivity during the early weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the first statewide survey of employers finds. 

Meanwhile, 35% of respondents say they would be forced to shutter permanently if current conditions continue for more than three months. 

The results, released Wednesday by the Madison Region Economic Partnership in conjunction with county and regional economic development partners, come six weeks after Gov. Tony Evers first declared a public health crisis in Wisconsin, an announcement that kicked off school closures and limits on crowd sizes. 

Ivy League Universities Flush With Cash Set To Receive Millions In Federal Coronavirus Funding

Andrew Kerr and Mary Margaret Olohan:

The Ivy League is comprised of eight elite private colleges that control endowments with a combined value of over $140 billion as of 2019.

Five of the schools reported operational surpluses of over $200 million in their 2019 financial statements.

The eight elite schools are set to receive a combined $61.7 million in taxpayer-funded federal coronavirus stimulus funding.

The eight elite private colleges of the Ivy League are slated to receive millions in taxpayer-funded coronavirus stimulus money despite controlling endowments with a combined value in 2019 of over $140 billion.

Five Ivy League schools posted operational surpluses of over $200 million in 2019, according to their financial statements from that year. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that schools with significant endowments should determine whether they really need federal assistance and to send any unneeded stimulus funding to schools that are actually in need.

The eight Ivy League schools are set to receive a combined $61.7 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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.

After Repeated Failures, It’s Time To Permanently Dump Epidemic Models


The crisis we face is unparalleled in modern times,” said the World Health Organization’s assistant director, while its director general proclaimed it “likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.” This was based on a CDC computer model projection predicting as many as 1.4 million deaths from just two countries.

So when did they say this about COVID-19? Trick question: It was actually about the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone five years ago, and the ultimate death toll was under 8,000.

With COVID-19 having peaked (the highest date was April 4), despite the best efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase numbers by first saying any death with the virus could be considered a death from the virus and then again this week by saying a positive test isn’t even needed, you can see where this is going.

Since the AIDS epidemic, people have been pumping out such models with often incredible figures. For AIDS, the Public Health Service announced (without documenting) there would be 450,000 cases by the end of 1993, with 100,000 in that year alone. The media faithfully parroted it. There were 17,325 by the end of that year, with about 5,000 in 1993. SARS (2002-2003) was supposed to kill perhaps “millions,” based on analyses. It killed 744 before disappearing.

“Little Prince” Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on Losing a Friend

Maria Popova:

With an eye to his life as a pilot, Saint-Exupéry considers with unsentimental sweetness the common experience of losing fellow pilots to accident or war. In a passage that radiates universal insight into the loss of a friend, whatever the circumstance, he writes:

Bit by bit… it comes over us that we shall never again hear the laughter of our friend, that this one garden is forever locked against us. And at that moment begins our true mourning, which, though it may not be rending, is yet a little bitter. For nothing, in truth, can replace that companion. Old friends cannot be created out of hand. Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.

So life goes on. For years we plant the seed, we feel ourselves rich; and then come other years when time does its work and our plantation is made sparse and thin. One by one, our comrades slip away, deprive us of their shade.

More Than Half of Wisconsin Colleges Substantially Restrict Free Speech


Broad speech restrictions, bias response teams, and free speech zones impair free expression and open debate

The News: review of speech codes at Wisconsin colleges and universities by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) found that more than half of institutions reviewed substantially restrict freedom of speech. Three quarters of Wisconsin’s technical colleges and one third of the four-year colleges in the University of Wisconsin system have policies that severely restrict free speech. WILL could not identify one college or university that had no policies that restrict or threaten free speech.

Speech Code Review: WILL rated Wisconsin institutions of higher education according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) traffic light system: red means that the school “has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech,” yellow means that the school “is one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression,” and green means that the school’s “policies do not seriously imperil speech.” Critical findings include:

Mission vs Organization: Priorities in a changing world

Daniel Larison:

The core of the book is a survey of three different sources for the unraveling of U.S. hegemony: major powers, weaker states, and transnational “counter-order” movements. Cooley and Nexon trace how Russia and China have become increasingly effective at wielding influence over many smaller states through patronage and the creation of parallel institutions and projects such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). They discuss a number of weaker states that have begun hedging their bets by seeking patronage from these major powers as well as the U.S. Where once America had a “near monopoly” on such patronage, this has ceased to be the case. They also track the role of “counter-order” movements, especially nationalist and populist groups, in bringing pressure to bear on their national governments and cooperating across borders to challenge international institutions. Finally, they spell out how the U.S. itself has contributed to the erosion of its own position through reckless policies dating back at least to the invasion of Iraq.

The conventional response to the unraveling of America’s hegemony here at home has been either a retreat into nostalgia with simplistic paeans to the wonders of the “liberal international order” that ignore the failures of that earlier era or an intensified commitment to hard-power dominance in the form of ever-increasing military budgets (or some combination of the two). Cooley and Nexon contend that the Trump administration has opted for the second of these responses. Citing the president’s emphasis on maintaining military dominance and his support for exorbitant military spending, they say “it suggests an approach to hegemony more dependent upon military instruments, and thus on the ability (and willingness) of the United States to continue extremely high defense spending. It depends on the wager that the United States both can and should substitute raw military power for its hegemonic infrastructure.” That not only points to what Barry Posen has called “illiberal hegemony,” but also leads to a foreign policy that is even more militarized and unchecked by international law.

Cooley and Nexon make a compelling observation about how Trump’s demand for more allied military spending differs from normal calls for burden-sharing. Normally, burden-sharing advocates call on allies to spend more so the U.S. can spend less. But that isn’t Trump’s position at all. His administration pressures allied governments to increase their spending, while showing no desire to curtail the Pentagon budget:

Retrenchment entails some combination of shedding international security commitments and shifting defense burdens onto allies and partners. This allows the retrenching power, in principle, to redirect military spending toward domestic priorities, particularly those critical to long-term productivity and economic growth. In the current American context, this means making long-overdue investments in transportation infrastructure, increasing educational spending to develop human capital, and ramping up support for research and development. This rationale makes substantially less sense if retrenchment policies do not produce reductions in defense spending–which is why Trump’s aggressive, public, and coercive push for burden sharing seems odd. Recall that Trump and his supporters want, and have already implemented, increases in the military budget. There is no indication that the Trump administration would change defense spending if, for example, Germany or South Korea increased their own military spending or more heavily subsidized American bases.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed how misguided our priorities as a nation have been. There is now a chance to change course, but that will require our leaders to shift their thinking. U.S. hegemony is already on its way out; now Americans need to decide what our role in the world will look like afterwards. Warmed-over platitudes about “leadership” won’t suffice and throwing more money at the Pentagon is a dead end. The way forward is a strategy of retrenchment, restraint, and renewal.

Mission vs organization: Online School Demands More of Teachers. Unions Are Pushing Back.

Dana Goldstein and Eliza Shapiro:

Unlike many other college-educated workers, teachers are unaccustomed to spending the day tethered to screens. Many work under meticulously negotiated contracts that detail their work hours and break times, and the rules for how they engage with administrators — contracts that now seem all but irrelevant with students and teachers confined to their

As the realities of online education have become starkly apparent, unions are seeking new protections for their members. But they are also trying not to jeopardize the public support they won, including in red states, during massive walkouts in 2018 and 2019 that shut down schools in places like Oklahoma, West Virginia, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The failure of a mathematical approach to Shakespeare’s authorship

Brian Vickers:

I Imagine, if you will, the works of Shakespeare laid out on a map like the United States of America. The Poems are coloured blue, the Comedies green, the History plays red, and the Tragedies black. The five plays in which Shakespeare had a co-author – Titus Andronicus with George Peele, Timon of Athens with Thomas Middleton, Pericles with George Wilkins, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen with John Fletcher – are marked with a diagonal band. Then imagine a series of changes. A patch of yellow (for Middleton) is spreading over the black of Macbeth, and another yellow patch has established itself on the green of Measure for Measure. Also, a small and hitherto un-regarded offshore island, no more than a pile of rocks, has been annexed in blue.

These are the changes that were made by the Oxford Shakespeare Complete Works in 1986 and justified in a separate Textual Companion the following year. The prime mover in all three revisions to Shakespeare’s canon was Gary Taylor, a young American scholar who had just been promoted from editorial assistant to co-editor alongside Stanley Wells, a respected Shakespeare scholar. Since no external evidence exists for these ascriptions, Taylor had to rely on other evidence or his own aesthetic judgement. The small rocky island on the new map was a banal lyric, “Shall I die?” which Taylor inserted in the canon because in one manuscript the scribe signed it “William Shakespeare”, increasing its value to other collectors. In fact, it looks like a poem written for music in around 1610. None of Taylor’s co-editors, and indeed no other critic, ever endorsed the ascription, but if you’re editor of the Oxford Shakespeare you don’t need anyone else’s approval.

Survey: 35% of Wisconsin businesses could close permanently if shutdown continues for 3 months

Mitchell Schmidt:

More than a third of Wisconsin businesses say they will be forced to shut down permanently if the state’s economic shutdown — implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 — persists for more than three months, according to a new survey.

The results come as Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order finds itself before the Wisconsin Supreme Court after the Republican-controlled state Legislature filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to suspend the order. The order was issued to maintain public safety amidst the pandemic, but also has resulted in skyrocketing unemployment statewide.

The voluntary survey, which was conducted by the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) and the eight other regional organizations in the state along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and UW-Oshkosh, yielded results from only about 1.3% of businesses in the state, but officials say more respondents are expected in May.

Officials with the survey say it is meant to help the state, regional economic development organizations and chambers of commerce identify businesses most in need of financial aid in order to stay in operation.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

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”.

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

University of Michigan makes cuts, forecasts losses of up to $1 billion

Frank Witsli:

The University of Michigan announced cuts Monday to all three campuses — Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint — and Michigan Medicine, include reductions in hours, pay and nonessential expenses.

In addition, President Mark Schlissel said Monday in an open letter addressed to colleagues, there would be hiring and salary freezes, and if the financial situation worsens, even deeper cuts, including layoffs, may be necessary.

He also suggested that the university did not plan to tap into the endowment because it “supports funds that can be used only for a specific purpose,” and U-M is committed to honoring donor agreements and “support scholarships, important programs and the long-term stability of the university.”

The pandemic, he said, has adversely affected the community, “creating personal difficulties and adding fear and uncertainty to our lives.” It also “has threatened the financial stability and future strength of our university.”

SURVEY: 77% of colleges use secret social media blacklist to censor the public, in violation of First Amendment


Colleges block over 1,800 unique terms on their social media pages
Secret filters automatically remove comments mentioning political figures, corporate partners, sports teams, faculty members, and even an emoji
87% of colleges block users on Facebook or Twitter
Administrators abuse social platform tools to quietly censor posts and users — transforming their pages from public forums into vehicles for positive publicity

PHILADELPHIA, April 22, 2020 — The majority of top public colleges and universities use a blacklist of secret words, created by Facebook, to automatically censor comments on university social media pages, according to a new survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. As campuses sit empty and much of student life moves online, this censorship has an amplified importance.

Colleges also compile custom lists collectively banning more than 1,800 words and phrases: from profanities to posts referencing matters of local and national concern, campus controversies, criticism of colleges’ corporate partners or sports teams, and even the weather. The findings, gleaned from public records from nearly 200 top institutions, show that public universities — bound by the First Amendment — are impermissibly censoring public dialogue.

Why Are so Many Languages Spoken in Some Places and so Few in Others?

Marco Túlio Pacheco Coelho & Michael Gavin:

It’s uttered in hushed tones during mommy-and-me yoga classes and at Montessori-school drop-offs, discussed ad nauseam in breastfeeding support groups and on parenting message boards.

It’s called tongue tie, and it’s everywhere. In online mom groups, it’s blamed for all sorts of parenting woes. Baby isn’t gaining weight, or won’t take a bottle? Have you tried checking for ties? Kid won’t nap? It’s probably related to tongue tie. Baby have a rash? Check under the tongue!

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is characterized by an overly tight lingual frenulum, the cord of tissue that anchors the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. It occurs in 4 to 11 percent of newborns. A lip tie—a related condition—is an unusually tight labial frenulum, the piece of tissue that keeps the upper lip tethered close to the gum line. Tongue and lip ties often occur in tandem.

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: Johns Hopkins’ stark economic outlook and planned cutbacks signal what’s to come for Maryland higher education

Liz Bowie & Phil Davis:

As the coronavirus began shutting down universities and colleges in March, the financial hit for higher education began piling up. First came refunds of room, board and fees for students. Then universities needed to spend to enable students and faculty to move to online education.

And all the while endowments, which often provide significant revenues for private colleges, were suffering heavy investment losses as the stock market tumbled amid the economic paralysis, and leaders worried they would see dramatic enrollment declines as students opted for less expensive options or no college at all.
Johns Hopkins University announced a series of austerity measures Wednesday after estimating the university and its medical system will have to cut costs by $475 million through June 2021. Separately, the University System of Maryland chancellor has warned of a $230 to $240 million shortfall for the current semester.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


Detroit Literacy Lawsuit


“The recognition of a fundamental right is no small matter. This is particularly true when the right in question is something that the state must affirmatively provide. But just as this Court should not supplant the state’s policy judgments with its own, neither can we shrink from our obligation to recognize a right when it is foundational to our system of self-governance.

Access to literacy is such a right. Its ubiquitous presence and evolution through our history has led the American people universally to expect it. And education—at least in the minimum form discussed here—is essential to nearly every interaction between a citizen and her government. Education has long been viewed as a great equalizer, giving all children a chance to meet or outperform society’s expectations, even when faced with substantial disparities in wealth and with past and ongoing racial inequality.

Where, as Plaintiffs allege here, a group of children is relegated to a school system that does not provide even a plausible chance to attain literacy, we hold that the Constitution provides them with a remedy. Accordingly, while the current versions of Plaintiffs’ equal protection and compulsory attendance claims were appropriately dismissed, the district court erred in denying their central claim: that Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to a basic minimum education, meaning one that can provide them with a foundational level of literacy.”

Michigan Advance:

“We respect everything the Governor has, and is, trying to do for traditional public education throughout the state and in Detroit. However, it is time for her to stop listening to her attorneys and rely on her instincts. She knows the state was wrong,” Vitti said. 

Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said the office is reviewing the court’s decision.

“Although certain members of the State Board of Education challenged the lower court decision that students did not have a right to read, the Governor did not challenge that ruling on the merits,” Brown said in an email. “We’ve also regularly reinforced that the governor has a strong record on education and has always believed we have a responsibility to teach every child to read.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel has supported the students and filed an amicus brief stating that she believes basic education should be a fundamental right. However, the brief was rejected by the court, which noted attorneys from her office are representing the state. 

Nessel praised the court’s decision Thursday.  

“I am overjoyed with the Court’s decision recognizing that the Constitution guarantees a right to a basic minimum education,” Nessel said. “This recognition is the only way to guarantee that students who are required to attend school will actually have a teacher, adequate educational materials, and a physical environment that does not subject them to filth, unsafe drinking water and physical danger. Education is a gateway to exercising other fundamental rights such as free speech and the right to citizenship, it is essential in order to function in today’s complex society, and it is a necessary vehicle to empower individuals to rise above circumstances that have been foisted on them through no fault of their own.”

Detroit Mayor Duggan also praised the ruling, calling it a “major step forward.”

Literacy is something every child should have a fair chance to attain. We hope instead of filing another appeal, the parties sit down and focus on how to make literacy available to every child in Michigan,” Duggan said. 

Helen Moore, a Detroit resident who has been vocal in her support for the plaintiffs, told the Advance Thursday, “It’s been a long time coming and finally, we may see justice for our Black and Brown children. The court was right.”

Appeals court finds Constitutional right to literacy for schoolchildren in Detroit case:

The ruling comes in a 2016 lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of students from some of Detroit’s lowest-performing public schools. The crux of their complaint was that without basic literacy, they cannot access other Constitutionally guaranteed rights such as voting, serving in the military and on juries.

“It’s a thrilling and just result,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer who represents the students. “It’s an historic day for Detroit.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results:

Under your leadership, the Wisconsin d.p.i. granted Mulligan’s to thousands of elementary teachers who couldn’t pass a reading exam (that’s the “Foundations of Reading” elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam), yet our students lag Alabama, a state that spends less and has fewer teachers per students.

What message are we sending to parents, citizens, taxpayers and those students (who lack proficiency).

It is rather remarkable that Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results have remained litigation free.

Madison School District prepping for multiple fall scenarios, including online-only learning

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Students in the Madison School District may not return to their schoolroom desks in the fall.

That’s one of several scenarios district officials are preparing for in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led Gov. Tony Evers to shutter schools through the end of the current school year.

Among the possibilities for fall are continuing an entirely online operation, phasing in classroom-based learning later in the semester, and providing in-person instruction like normal or combining multiple learning formats, according to interim Superintendent Jane Belmore.

The eventual choice depends on the pandemic’s trajectory, Wisconsin’s COVID-19 testing capacity and residents’ adherence to social distancing principles.

“The one thing that we’re focused on the most is that when we return, we want to be sure we are helping students recover moving forward and that we are working together to adjust instruction to make up for some of the time that has been lost,” Lisa Kvistad, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said at a virtual news conference Wednesday.

As uncertainty lingers, district officials are working to better train teachers on best practices in online instruction.

“We don’t really know what’s going to be best yet (for the fall),” Belmore said. “But the one thing we do know is we will always benefit from our professional development on virtual learning. We need to tap into what virtual learning can bring to us during a regular school year.”

Madison high school students to be graded on pass/no pass; 3,000 students without internet (expensive K-12 system built for a long gone era).

Madison’s Infinite Campus expenditures have been a missed opportunity. The District last published a usage survey in 2012….

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: Local governments avoid employee furloughs, reduced hours during shutdown

Chris Rickert:

Keillor was not aware of what union school security staff were doing, and district spokesman Tim LeMonds did not respond to requests for comment about what they and school custodians are currently responsible for.

Madison school crossing guards, who work under Madison police, are on paid leave per a directive from the mayor’s office, police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

In Sun Prairie, district human resources director Chris Sadler said custodians are “on call” for building-related needs, but also help distribute deliveries still coming into the district.

He said about 200 of the district’s 1,300 employees “are really, really connected to schools,” meaning if the schools are empty, there’s less for them to do.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


One thing way worse than standardized testing is unstandardized testing

Chris Stewart:

Sometimes I feel like I’m the last man standing in favor of standardized testing.

I don’t think people know that when I ask “how are the children,” I’m usually asking about their intellectual care and development. I’m an education activist so when you answer, I expect to hear results from a relatively objective source.

Like standardized test scores.

I can hear your collective sighs and hisses. Heresy, I know. Am I unaware that testing students, as a practice, was invented by the Klan?

Don’t I know the tests states give school children in 2020 are actually the product of mad scientists in 1940. (Because that’s totally plausible).

While those are fascinating questions, I have my own questions.

What is the rate of reading, math, and science proficiency in your city or school district? What gaps do you see when you disaggregate the testing results by race, class, and gender? Which schools are accelerating the academic growth of their students, and which ones aren’t?

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: Massive layoffs and pay cuts are likely coming to state and local governments as federal aid goes elsewhere

Ylan Mui,Karen James Sloan:

“The approaching state budget cuts … will cause the U.S. economy to contract further — making the economic downturn deeper and more protracted, causing many more people to lose their jobs, and magnifying the serious hardship we already see,” said Robert Greenstein, the think tank’s president.

Roughly 20 million people work in the public sector at the state and local level, which is more than the number employed in the hard-hit retail industry. The last time the public sector faced such steep budget cuts was during the Great Recession a decade ago. State and local governments shed 627,000 jobs in the three years following the downturn, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts are worried this time could be even worse, but plugging the hole could require a staggering infusion of cash, which the union representing public sector workers readily acknowledges. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is pushing for at least $700 billion in the next relief package.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


Gov. Brown and the Oregon Teachers Union shut down online charter schools

Aaron Withe and Jeff Kropf:

In a time of national emergency, when our leaders need to be thinking outside the box and giving struggling families more choices rather than fewer, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown instead decided to pay back political favors by shutting down online charter schools.

On paper, online charter schools that allow students to proceed at their own pace and learn from the comfort and security of their own home is the ideal response to a pandemic that has just closed the state’s schools for the remainder of the academic year. Closing brick and mortar schools will especially hurt large numbers of students who are already struggling academically. Most high school seniors need just a few more credits to graduate so they can attend college in the fall, credits they may not be able to get without an online charter school. Allowing such an option will help these seniors catch up to where they should be at this point in the semester and perhaps even graduate on time and as planned.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

How Reliable are University Rankings?

Ali Dasdan, Eric Van Lare, Bosko Zivaljevic:

University or college rankings have almost become an industry of their own, published by US News \& World Report (USNWR) and similar organizations. Most of the rankings use a similar scheme: Rank universities in decreasing score order, where each score is computed using a set of attributes and their weights; the attributes can be objective or subjective while the weights are always subjective. This scheme is general enough to be applied to ranking objects other than universities. As shown in the related work, these rankings have important implications and also many issues. In this paper, we take a fresh look at this ranking scheme using the public College dataset; we both formally and experimentally show in multiple ways that this ranking scheme is not reliable and cannot be trusted as authoritative because it is too sensitive to weight changes and can easily be gamed. For example, we show how to derive reasonable weights programmatically to move multiple universities in our dataset to the top rank; moreover, this task takes a few seconds for over 600 universities on a personal laptop. Our mathematical formulation, methods, and results are applicable to ranking objects other than universities too. We conclude by making the case that all the data and methods used for rankings should be made open for validation and repeatability.

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum climate: Due To COVID-19, International Student Enrollment ‘Is Not Going To Slow Down—It’s Going To Shut’

Karen Sloan:

Many international students want the experience of living and studying in the U.S. for a year or more and may be reluctant to sign up for online programs if university campuses remain closed in the fall, according to law school administrators. International travel restrictions could also hinder their ability to study in the U.S. In addition, whether foreign students will be able to obtain visas in time for the fall is also uncertain. The State Department has currently suspended routine visa services across the globe. Finally, questions remain about the ability of LL.M. students to sit for the New York bar exam if classes remain online, as the state’s rules require in-person instruction.

“It’s not going to slow down—it’s going to shut,” said Marc Miller, dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. “There is no plausible scenario for [international law students] to be here, even if they have the resources, schools are open, and they want to be here. If you can’t get a visa—unless you can start digitally—it doesn’t matter. And it’s not clear that people can start in January either. We may be talking about a year delay, or more, imposed by the realities of immigration policy and the availability of international air travel.”

Miller is one of many law deans thinking through how to adjust programming to accommodate international students who may not be able to come to the U.S. in the fall, or who simply don’t want to travel here amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Arizona has a small LL.M. program, but international students make up 20% of its J.D. class. …

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: Will States Owe Businesses Just Compensation for Forced Closures When the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Over?

Ethan Lamb:

The spread of the coronavirus has prompted most states to issue orders mandating non-essential businesses to close and non-essential workers to stay home. These regulations, whether or not they are justified, will decimate small and large businesses alike (and indeed already are, in many areas). Loans are being made available to businesses, some containing a forgiveness option provided that the business spends the money in a specified way.

But when the dust settles after all of this, we could very well see a flood of lawsuits from business owners, destitute after the government’s loan money has run out and their firms are dried up. And these suits will likely be on the grounds of the Fifth Amendment. Commercial enterprises, some attorneys will say, were entitled to compensation from the government, not beheld to it for repayment of an emergency loan. The statewide regulations mandating business closure violated, they’ll insist, the takings clause of the Fifth—forcing them to close up shop was a regulatory taking.

A regulatory taking is when a regulation put forth by a governmental authority diminishes the value of one’s property, such that that property owner becomes entitled to compensation for it. But as to whether these aforementioned regulations constitute a regulatory taking? Well, it’s complicated.

There has been significant disagreement within the Supreme Court over the years, leaving a lot to be clarified. One of the key cases governing regulatory takings is Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York (1978). This case, which dealt with an ordinance precluding Penn Central leasing airspace above Grand Central Terminal, lays out a three-pronged balancing test to guide the court. The three factors are: (1) the economic impact on the owner of the property; (2) the regulation’s interference with the owner’s reasonable investment-backed expectations; and (3) the character of the government action.

A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder

Emma Pettit:

Margaret Chapman wanted to know how her students were faring after her institution, Elon University, shifted to remote learning. When the dust settled, she sent a survey to the students in her course on women, gender, and sexuality studies.

The feedback was united: Ditch the textbook. We can’t focus on it.

That didn’t really surprise Chapman. “Neither can I,” she thought.

Typically, Chapman, a lecturer in the English department, has no trouble parsing dense texts. But since the Covid-19 pandemic shifted into high gear and higher education entered fully into emergency distance learning, Chapman has observed a change in herself. She notices she has trouble concentrating on student papers. She can no longer submerge in an argument and wade around. Even a beach read at the end of the day cannot hold her interest.

I was homeschooled for eight years: here’s what I recommend

Mordechai Levy-Eichel:

I was homeschooled for eight years, from age 11 through to college, before it was a novel way for tiger parents to show off their dynamic commitment to their children’s education. Now, if millions of parents and families are suddenly going to be homeschooling their kids for the coming weeks (and, let’s be honest, quite likely beyond), it’s worth trying to think about how to do this in a manner as smooth, healthy and wise as possible.

Learning at home is quite different from learning at school. It requires us to reorient how we think about learning in general, and how we approach the process with our children – maybe even with ourselves, too. Historically, education has been the province of parents. But the question of how kids spend their time, and learn, and grow, is one to which society as a whole should pay more substantive attention, instead of leaving it to the professional advocates and their tired debates about charter schools, unions and uniforms.

Homeschooling is at once traditional, radical, empowering, frustrating, revealing and, most importantly, not quite any of the above. That’s because it is, by its nature, highly dependent on the individuals involved. Spending very long stretches of time with my parents (I’m an only child) was both the most trying and also the most positively formative part of being homeschooled. Finding my own motivations to overcome setbacks was the most difficult. Browsing whatever ideas and subjects piqued my curiosity was the most rewarding. For this and other reasons, try not to compete with all your friends (online and off) about how much your child is hitting the proverbial books. Not only is it morally and intellectually detrimental – it teaches kids the wrong lessons about what’s important – but homeschooling is one of the best opportunities you’ll get to indulge in more substantive and important comparisons in the first place. Try to use this opportunity for something genuinely alternative.

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: The stock market downturn portends big losses for government pension funds—and billions in new obligations for taxpayers.

Steven Malanga:

The sharp decline in financial markets will likely result in a huge setback to government-employee pension funds, which never fully recovered from the last recession. Though the accounting of these systems is more complex than ordinary municipal budgets, and the implications of market drops can take time to become apparent, a picture is emerging of the costs that some of the biggest funds—like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)—face. Meantime, the risks that some of our worst-funded state and city pension systems must now confront, including New Jersey’s and Chicago’s, are also becoming evident. Last week, the president of the Illinois State Senate even asked for a multibillion-dollar bailout of the state’s pension system. The failure of many pension funds to fix their funding during the last decade of market expansion will weigh heavily on taxpayers if the economy and financial markets don’t turn around rapidly.

With about $350 billion in assets—down from about $400 billion at the market’s height, earlier this year—CalPERS is the nation’s largest public-employee pension fund. It took a battering in the last recession, when its funding shrank from 87 percent of the money needed to meet future obligations in 2007 to just 68 percent a few years later. After an 11-year market expansion, though, CalPERS is barely more than 70 percent funded, as of last June. Taxpayers have paid the price. The state and its local governments funnel $15.6 billion into the fund, up from $6.4 billion in 2007.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


David Wahlberg:

Even with the changes, UW Health expects to lose $100-200 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, CEO Dr. Alan Kaplan said in a message to employees.

“No one is responsible for the coronavirus,” UW Health in its statement. “But it is here and we must deal with the financial reality of responding to it.”

At SSM Health, revenues in Wisconsin “are down significantly since the start of this pandemic,” Sveum said. “While we are receiving some financial assistance from federal and state stimulus packages and disaster programs, in many cases these assistance funds are significantly less than the losses we have faced and will continue to face.”

Iowa-based UnityPoint Health said in a statement its hospitals and clinics “are facing unprecedented challenges and volume declines as a result of the global pandemic.”

‘A’s for all’ is the most Seattle thing ever — and cover for the school district’s own poor marks

Danny Westneat:

The email to students from a Seattle high-school teacher Monday summed up the aimless mood in the city’s public schools.

“Hello All, I hope you had a good spring break! (I’m not sure what we were breaking from),” the teacher wrote, sardonically.

Also Monday — and maybe not coincidentally — the Seattle School Board did the most Seattle thing ever: It voted that every grade this spring would be an ‘A.’

High-schoolers could also theoretically get an I, for incomplete. But district officials said those wouldn’t be handed out much, if at all, and wouldn’t count in grade-point averages in any case.

“Grading has historically rewarded those students who experience privilege, and penalized others,” said Seattle schools Superintendent Denise Juneau — signaling that a more permanent relaxing of grading scales may be in Seattle’s future.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“As a Teacher, I Was Complicit in Grade Inflation. Our Low Expectations Hurt Students We Were Supposed to Help”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Why are Soviet mathematics/physics textbooks so insanely hardcore in comparison to US textbooks?

Scott Miller:

There are a lot of good points being made in this thread. I have had a theory that it is in part related to the funding available for lab equipment and computers. During the latter half of the 20th century, in Russia you were very lucky to get access to a “real” computer.

I spent some time in 1992 in Protvino, RU, a science city of (at the time) some 20,000 scientists and engineers. The city hadn’t been listed on any official map from the USSR, even though it had existed since 1958; it was devoted to a large synchrotron. I was really struck by the contrast between the super-abundance of material resources to get the job done in the US and EU, vs. the creativity and thought by the Russians. At the risk of oversimplifying, I noticed that because of the traditional scarcity of equipment, Russian students and scientists had to think rather than experiment, whether with computers or accelerators; it was often all that was available to them.

For instance, there was much more of an effort in Protvino to repurpose equipment than to have new equipment machined as I had seen at FermiLab or CERN. The rank and file Russian engineers that I saw in the ’90s were using a home-grown knockoff of the Intel 8088 series. The managers got imported IBM XTs. At the same time in the US working on the SSC, on my desk I had a SuperSPARC minicomputer, a Mac, and an HP 80486 Windows machine, as well as access to a twin Hypercube.

As a result, “computer experiments” like Monte Carlo simulation were not used very often in Protvino except by those for whom it was essential (and often not even then – such experiments were usually pushed down so far in the queue that they never got executed). Rather, there was much more emphasis on closed-form or approximate analytical solutions. Coding up a simulation and having a computer torture it until it confessed the results you wanted certainly takes talent, but it is arguably a different kind of talent than thinking deeply about the problem itself. Thinking about the simulation often leads to thinking that improves the computing methods and hardware used. Thinking about the problem itself gives insight into the nature of the problem itself and its connections with other areas of study.

Related: Connected Mathd Singapore Math

1965 Madison School District Math 9 Textbook Committee

Madison’s most recent Math Task Force

Remedial Math at the UW-Madison.

Google/YouTube Censorship

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services (Google owns YouTube), including Madison.

Related: the First Amendment.

Google is not what it seems. Funded, in part by In-Q-Tel.

Facebook agreed to censor posts after Vietnam slowed traffic – sources

James Pearson:

The restrictions, which the sources said were carried out by state-owned telecommunications companies, knocked the servers offline for around seven weeks, meaning the website became unusable at times.

“We believe the action was taken to place significant pressure on us to increase our compliance with legal takedown orders when it comes to content that our users in Vietnam see,” the first of the two Facebook sources told Reuters.

In an emailed statement, Facebook confirmed it had reluctantly complied with the government’s request to “restrict access to content which it has deemed to be illegal”.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry, which handles requests from foreign journalists for comment from the government, did not respond to a Reuters request. State telecoms firms Viettel and Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) also did not respond to requests for comment.

Facebook has faced pressure to take down anti-government content in many countries over the years.

China’s Limitations on Distance Education

Joyce Lau:

Many popular online platforms — including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and some Google functions — are largely inaccessible to teachers and students on the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, domestic Chinese platforms have built-in filters to block politically sensitive materials and are often monitored.

Some foreign universities now find themselves unable to engage fully with students who have returned to mainland China during the coronavirus pandemic. Educators are scrambling to upload materials to whatever platforms they find handy and usable, and many lack experience dealing with Chinese internet restrictions, widely described as the great firewall of China.

The most common workaround is to have students in mainland China use virtual private networks, or VPNs, which redirect data away from users’ physical geographical locations. But even VPNs are not always reliable.

A staff member at a British university who coordinates between teachers in Britain and overseas students told Times Higher Education that the VPN provided by the institution for use in online classes was “not very effective in China.” Speaking anonymously, she said that many mainland Chinese students could not access materials via the VPN, although other international students could.

“Teaching online is quite difficult now,” she said. “Many [mainland Chinese] students need to search for paid and more advanced VPN services.”

While some companies and institutions have approved VPN usage rights in China, members of the public are generally barred from using the networks.

Civics: Facebook limits (protest) free speech

Steven Overly:

The spokesperson said Facebook had been instructed by those state governments that the events are prohibited under the lockdown and social distancing orders that authorities have issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We reached out to state officials to understand the scope of their orders, not about removing specific protests on Facebook,” a company spokesperson said. “We remove the posts when gatherings do not follow the health parameters established by the government and are therefore unlawful.”

The statement followed confusion over whether states had instructed Facebook to remove the protests from its platform. Earlier Monday, a spokesperson said that “events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook” and had been removed following guidance from individual states.

The office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told POLITICO it consulted with the company but did not advise it to remove the protests. A spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Facebook reached out last week regarding the state’s social distancing policies and was provided with publicly available information.

“The [Nebraska] governor’s office is not aware of any Facebook events regarding COVID-19 protests, and has not requested Facebook to pull any events down,” said spokesman Justin Pinkerman.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Lockdown Socialism will collapse

Arnold Kling:

I’ve seen headlines about polls showing that people are afraid of restrictions being lifted too soon. To me, it sounds as if they prefer what I call Lockdown Socialism. 

Under Lockdown Socialism:

–you can stay in your residence, but paying rent or paying your mortgage is optional.

–you can obtain groceries and shop on line, but having a job is optional.

–other people work at farms, factories, and distribution services to make sure that you have food on the table, but you can sit at home waiting for a vaccine.

–people still work in nursing homes that have lost so many patients that they no longer have enough revenue to make payroll.

–professors and teachers are paid even though schools are shut down.

–police protect your property even though they are at risk for catching the virus and criminals are being set free.

–state and local governments will continue paying employees even though sales tax revenue has collapsed.

Beloit College moves from traditional semesters to two-course modules to allow for flexibility next fall in case of continued closures.

Elizabeth Redden:

Leaders of Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, obviously are not alone in trying to plan for the upcoming academic year in a period of great uncertainty. As at almost every other college and university across the country, administrators are having to prepare for various scenarios. Can in-person learning resume in time for the fall, or will students need to start their fall coursework online? If in-person learning does resume, will it need to be suspended again if COVID-19 cases begin to increase?

“We’re making all these weighty decisions about the future and what to do with refunds for room and board, and at the height of all that decision making, it felt a lot like triage, a lot like a defensive posture,” said Eric Boynton, Beloit’s provost. He asked himself, “What is the decisive step that we can take at this moment” to inspire confidence and hope in what the fall will look like?

To that end, Beloit has announced that it is breaking the semester into two modules in which students take two courses each.

A Tangled Tale of Training and Talent: PhDs in Institutional Asset Management

Ranadeb Chaudhuri , Zoran Ivković , Joshua Pollet , Charles Trzcinka:

Performance of investment products managed by firms in which PhDs play a key role is superior to the performance of products managed by otherwise similar firms. This relation is not a result of endogenous matching between firms and PhDs. Performance is related to training (the field of study) because economics or finance PhDs outperform other PhDs. Performance is also related to talent because PhDs who published in top outlets outperform other PhDs. Field-specific training is not relevant among the most talented PhDs because the performance gap between economics or finance PhDs and other PhDs disappears among published PhDs.

Asian American Discrimination in Harvard Admissions∗

Peter Arcidiacono & Josh Kinsler & Tyler Ransom:

Detecting racial discrimination using observational data is challenging because of the presence of unobservables that may be correlated with race. Using data made public in the SFFA v. Harvard case, we estimate discrimination in a setting where this concern is mitigated. Namely, we show that there is a substantial penalty against Asian Americans in admissions with limited scope for omitted variables to overturn the result. This is because (i) Asian Americans are substantially stronger than whites on the observables associated with admissions and (ii) the richness of the data yields a model that predicts admissions extremely well. Our preferred model shows that Asian Americans would be admitted at a rate 19% higher absent this penalty. Controlling for one of the primary channels through which Asian American applicants are discrim- inated against—the personal rating—cuts the Asian American penalty by less than half, still leaving a substantial penalty.

NCBE Opposes States Granting Diploma Privileges To 2020 Law Grads Due To COVID-19

National Conference of Bar Examiners:

Allowing this year’s law graduates to skip the bar exam amid the coronavirus pandemic risks unleashing unqualified new lawyers on the public and hobbling law school accreditation efforts, according to the group that designs the test.

Jurisdictions across the country are grappling with the July bar exam and whether it will be possible to administer the test safely. Licensing exams for doctors and nurses are not being waived due to COVID-19, the national conference’s paper notes, although those exams are being delayed or delivered in alternative ways. “There are good reasons the jurisdictions have relied upon the bar exam for decades as a fair, objective, valid, and efficient method for making licensing decisions, rather than relying upon diploma privilege,” reads the white paper. …

K-12 “Equity Spending Test”; Difference in spending between public or charter school cannot exceed 25%…. (Madison exceeds that)

Chris Stewart:

Public schools in New Mexico aren’t funding students equitably, so says the U.S. Department Education who accuse the state’s leaders of “diverting [$63 million] in federal Impact Aid grants” intended to help school districts that are disadvantaged by their low tax bases. 

The feds found that New Mexico wasn’t passing the “equity test,” which by law requires “the difference in per-student spending between the public district or charter school with the highest rate in the state and the one with the lowest must not exceed 25 percent.” 

As is, the state’s difference between its highest and lowest is 30%. Not only does that put them out of compliance, it also illustrates the equity-killing effects of business as usual.

Dylan Mullan from the Sante Fe New Mexican reporting includes a nugget that reveals a massive rip in the public education seam:

Madison spends roughly 19k/student annually, while some districts are far less. Charter and voucher schools cannot touch substantial local property taxes and therefore spend less than half of Madison.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Harvard under fire for accepting more than $8M in coronavirus relief package

Rick Sobey:

Harvard University, backed by a $40 billion endowment, is facing criticism for taking in nearly $9 million from the coronavirus relief package.

All of the money is helping Harvard students with financial assistance, but some politicians are urging the Cambridge university to return the money to the federal government.

Harvard “now adds insult to injury by siphoning millions in taxpayer dollars away from desperate small businesses and workers,” U.S. Senate candidate Kevin O’Connor said in a statement on Monday.

The Republican is urging Harvard to “reject these funds so they can help people that actually need assistance to survive and have no other recourse.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said in a statement that Secretary Betsy DeVos “shares the concern that sending millions to schools with significant endowments is a poor use of taxpayer money.”

“In her letter to college and university presidents, Secretary DeVos asked them to determine if their institutions actually need the money and, if not, to send unneeded CARES Act funds to schools in need in their state or region,” the spokesman said.

When asked about Harvard and major institutions receiving money from the CARES Act, President Trump on Monday said, “We’ll look at individual things, and some people will have to return it if we think it’s inappropriate … . If somebody got something that we think is inappropriate, we’ll get it back.”

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.

Gov. Evers Budget: EV charging stations > $10m For school Buses…

Riley Vetterkind:

The first case argues Evers violated the state Constitution by fundamentally altering the Legislature’s policies in the state budget, usurping a power not given to the governor in the Constitution. WILL contends Evers, in approving the state budget passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature with several partial vetoes, stripped the appropriation bill of integral language and therefore violated the principle in the state Constitution that “legislative power shall be vested in the Senate and Assembly.”

The four vetoes

WILL is targeting four of the 78 partial vetoes Evers made to the state budget when he signed it in early July. The vetoes:

Second case

The second case challenges two of Walker’s partial vetoes in the 2017-19 budget. The first was one that effectively suspended a law until 1,000 years later, in 3018, that would have allowed school districts to raise the legally imposed ceiling on how much revenue they can collect for spending on projects to increase energy efficiency. The budget bill the Legislature signed placed a one-year moratorium on the project until Dec. 31, 2018. Walker struck the “1” in December 31 and the comma and “2” following it and connected the remaining language together to arrive at “December 3018.”

Related: Volkswagen agrees to build massive US charging station network as part of the “dieselgate” settlement.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Schools and parents prepare for campus reopening

Yang MeipingTang Dafei:

The Shanghai Education Commission has announced that graduating students at middle and high schools can return to campuses on April 27, and local schools are preparing to resume campus education under strict epidemic control measures.

At the Chunshen Campus of Xinsong Middle School in Minhang District, a drill has been carried out to test its primary plan for reopening, which was also attended and observed by officials from other schools that are making similar plans. Over 100 faculty members from the schools and 10 parent volunteers participated in the event.

“Please wear masks, keep 1 meter from each other and go through the infrared thermographic camera one by one,” a loudspeaker at the gate of the school repeated again and again as “students,” played by faculty from the schools, lined up on the sidewalk in front of the gate.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois seeks federal taxpayer pension bailout

Mitchell Armentrout:

A letter from Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, addressed to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, went out Tuesday to Illinois’ entire congressional delegation — a day before Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the economic shutdown would result in an estimated $2.7 billion revenue shortfall in the state’s current budget.

“I realize I’ve asked for a lot, but this is an unprecedented situation, and we face the reality that there likely will be additional, unanticipated costs that could result in future requests for assistance,” Harmon wrote on behalf of the state senate Democratic caucus.

Harmon’s federal wish list for the second phase of federal coronavirus relief includes $15 billion in block grant funding to shore up the state’s spending plans for this fiscal year and the next two.

How Covid-19 changed our world

Gerd Leonhard:

Last week, I was greatly  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>inspired by a postpublished by fellow German Futurist  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>Matthias Horx, describing a possible post-corona world, looking backwards from the future.

I often use a very similar approach (sometimes referred to as  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>backcasting) — the idea of using one’s insights and intuition about what is certain to happen, in order to deal with the realities at hand, and be better equipped to create one’s desirable future.

This reminded me of an often-used  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>Milton Friedman quote:

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”

Goodbye Meritocracy, Hello…What?

Shannon Watkins:

Is meritocracy just? Just a short time ago, it was commonly accepted that it is the fairest way to determine who wins and who loses in the competition of college admissions. Now, it is one of the most hotly debated questions in higher education. Some believe it is just, as it encapsulates the American dream of “work hard and achieve your educational goals.” Others, however, believe meritocracy is inherently unjust and view it as a cut-throat system rigged against the lower and middle classes.

So, how much should innate intelligence and academic performance factor into who gains admittance into college? Some answer that it should have everything—or at least almost everything—to do with getting into college. After all, it seems highly intuitive that colleges should admit only those students who are the most likely to flourish on their campuses while maintaining high standards.

But a growing number of people wonder whether other non-cognitive factors such as students’ extracurricular activities, life experiences, and ethnic backgrounds should be given greater weight. Others reject the concept of merit-based admissions altogether.

These issues and more were discussed and examined at a February 19 panel event at UNC-Chapel Hill,  organized by the university’s new Program in Public Discourse.

The Era of Coddling is over

David Brooks:

Over the past decades, a tide of “safetyism” has crept over American society. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it in their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this is the mentality that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The goal is to eliminate any stress or hardship a child might encounter, so he or she won’t be wounded by it.

So we’ve seen a wave of overprotective parenting. Parents have cut back on their children’s unsupervised outdoor play because their kids might do something unsafe. As Kate Julian reports in “The Anxious Child and the Crisis of Modern Parenting” in The Atlantic, parents are now more likely to accommodate their child’s fears: accompanying a 9-year-old to the toilet because he’s afraid to be alone, preparing different food for a child because she won’t eat what everyone else eats.

Meanwhile schools ban dodge ball and inflate grades. Since 2005 the average G.P.A. in affluent high schools has risen from about 2.75 to 3.0 so everybody can feel affirmed.

It’s been a disaster. This overprotective impulse doesn’t shelter people from fear; it makes them unprepared to deal with the fear that inevitably comes. Suicide rates are way up, depression rates have skyrocketed, especially for girls. As Julian notes, a staggering number of doctor visits now end with a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, like Xanax or Valium.

But there has been one sector of American society that has been relatively immune from this culture of overprotection — medical training. It starts on the undergraduate level. While most academic departments slather students with A’s, science departments insist on mastery of the materials. According to one study, the average English class G.P.A. is above 3.3 and the average chemistry class G.P.A. is 2.78.

While most academic departments have become more forgiving, science departments remain rigorous (to a fault). As much as 60 percent of pre-meds never make it through their major.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

A twenty-year professor on starting college this fall: Don’t.

Diane Klein:

1. No school will be “back to normal” in fall 2020.

No one knows whether colleges and universities will offer face-to-face instruction in the fall, or whether they will stay open if they do. No one knows whether dorms and cafeterias will reopen, or whether team sports will practice and play.

It’s that simple. No one knows. Schools that decide to reopen may not be able to stay that way. A  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>few may decide, soon, not even to try. Others may put off the decision for as long as possible — but you can make your decision now.

Even if some face-to-face instruction resumes, no one knows if it will last for the whole semester or all year. If there’s anything worse than resigning yourself to a freshman year spent online, it would be moving across country or across town, into a dorm room or an apartment — only to have to move out weeks or months later, with no guarantee of any refund, with further disruption and dislocation. Or worse yet — going back to school, only to have a family member fall ill, or to get sick yourself, when COVID-19 makes a  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>resurgence, as it almost certainly will until there is a vaccine — which in turn is unlikely before January 2021 at the  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>soonest.

Visualizing technological inventions using text mining


This post describes how to use text mining to visualize technological inventions.

The basis for visualizing technological inventionsis to visualize the invention’s functions. Functions are sentences that follow this format: Action-Object (SAO). The action is a verb and describes what the technology does. The object describes to what this action is applied to, i. e. to what the technology does what it does.

How Covid-19 is changing the definition of ‘home-schooling’ – we are all doing it now

Lisa Lim:

“How to home-school” is trending in search engines, and parents’ rants about remote learning are going viral. A significant readjustment in many families’ lives this year has been the dive – in the deep end – into online learning at home as concerns over Covid-19’s spread have led to school closures.

Teaching one’s children at home has been around since antiquity, when school as we know it did not exist and education, the preserve of the rich elite, was through personal lessons from fathers or private tutors.

However, the term “home school” – a school in a private home, or educating one’s own children at home – sees its earliest documentation in a 1770 advertisement, and through the 1800s in school constitutions and accounts of the 19th century American frontier experience. In the 1850 novel Margaret Percival in America, for example, “Margaret saw that she had interrupted a sort of home school. She begged them to go on, saying that she was used to that duty herself, at home.”

Such practice was fairly common in many countries until the passage of compulsory school attendance laws, which, in the United States and Britain, began in the mid- to late 19th century.

The Anxious Child and the Crisis of Modern Parenting

Kate Julian:

You may already know that an increasing number of our kids are not all right. But to recap: After remaining more or less flat in the 1970s and ’80s, rates of adolescent depression declined slightly from the early ’90s through the mid-aughts. Shortly thereafter, though, they started climbing, and they haven’t stopped. Many studies, drawing on multiple data sources, confirm this; one of the more recent analyses, by Pew, shows that from 2007 to 2017, the percentage of 12-to-17-year-olds who had experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year shot up from 8 percent to 13 percent—meaning that, in the span of a decade, the number of severely depressed teenagers went from 2 million to 3.2 million. Among girls, the rate was even higher; in 2017, one in five reported experiencing major depression.

An even more wrenching manifestation of this trend can be seen in the suicide numbers. From 2007 to 2017, suicides among 10-to-24-year-olds rose 56 percent, overtaking homicide as the second leading cause of death in this age group (after accidents). The increase among preadolescents and younger teens is particularly startling. Suicides by children ages 5 to 11 have almost doubled in recent years. Children’s emergency-room visits for suicide attempts or suicidal ideation rose from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.1 million in 2015; 43 percent of those visits were by children younger than 11. Trying to understand why the sort of emotional distress that once started in adolescence now seems to be leaching into younger age groups, I called Laura Prager, a child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-author of Suicide by Security Blanket, and Other Stories From the Child Psychiatry Emergency Service. Could she explain what was going on? “There are many theories, but I don’t understand it fully,” she replied. “I don’t know that anyone does.”

How Brain’s Expectations Affect Learning

Janice Wood:

When we are learning something new, our brains are continually making predictions about our environment, then registering whether those assumptions are true.

A new study has found that our expectations during these predictions affects the activity of various brain networks.

Neuroscientists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany recently reported their findings in two articles in the journals Cerebral Cortex and Journal of Neuroscience.

The neuroscientists say they identified two key regions in the brain involved in this process. The thalamus plays a central role in decision-making. The insular cortex, on the other hand, is particularly active when it is clear whether the right or wrong decision has been made.

As a Facebook or Google engineer, do you consider your company evil?

Hacker News:

Amid the severe backlash that tech companies currently face (Google and FB amongst others), how do you consider your own company from a moral POV? Do you think the current backlash is justified?

No judgement, just curious.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts use Google and Facebook services, including Madison.

Millenarianism & Preferred Pandemic Utopias


Millenarianism is is defined as “the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming fundamental transformation of society, after which “all things will be changed”.

I ran across this concept in a fascinating book by John Gray called “Black Mass” where he explored how humans have consistently been drawn toward millenarianist movements. He goes through the history and characteristics of these movements and also applies it to the then current movement to go to war against Iraq during the GW Bush presidency. He showed how their campaign and the associated propaganda embodied many of the traits of these kind of movements.

If you read the book, you can probably skim the parts about the early 2000s, but the broader perspective on these movements and how they continue to occur throughout history was eye opening. Once you become aware of these tendencies you see them everywhere.

Gray highlights many historical examples of religions, social movements and political regimes that embrace a certain way of thinking. Over the last ten years, it is easy to see how many of these same tendencies have become supercharged and A/B tested through social media.

A look at the 2020 Milwaukee Public Schools Referendum

Annysa Johnson:

Voter support for the Milwaukee Public Schools’ $87 million referendum was so widespread in the April 7 election, it passed in every ward but two, regardless of racial and socioeconomic makeup.

That’s a dramatic and profound shift from 1993 when older, white voters overwhelmingly rejected the district’s last plea for additional funding.

Any number of factors may have played a role, advocates and observers said: changes in the political and demographic makeup of the city; the size of the request; the proposed uses for the money — for people, not buildings; and the well-financed and organized messaging campaign.

And while there were variations in the level of support, the referendum drew a majority of yes votes even in neighborhoods with relatively fewer children and where a significant number of voters cast ballots in the Republican primary.

“To me, the big story is how overwhelmingly popular the referendum was in almost every part of the city, particularly when we saw striking divisions on the ballot, including the mayor’s race, the county executive and the Democratic primary,” said John Johnson, a research fellow with the Marquette University Law School’s Lubar Center, who analyzed the election results for the Journal Sentinel.

“To have an issue that unites voters across all those other political divides is really quite significant.”

Is the MPS Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Good for Milwaukee?

After Repeated Failures, It’s Time To Permanently Dump Epidemic Models

Michael Fumento:

One reason Italy had so many “coronavirus deaths” seems to be coding, even though it’s still far more strict than the new CDC guidelines. Re-evaluation of death certificates by the country’s National Institute of Health showed only “12% with direct causality from coronavirus, while 88% of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity – many had two or three.”

Then Fauci finally said it. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything.” A few days later CDC Director Robert Redfield also turned on the computer crystal balls. “Models are only as good as their assumptions, obviously there are a lot of unknowns about the virus” he said. “A model should never be used to assume that we have a number.”

Which, of course, is exactly how both a number of public health officials and the media have used the them.

Only one significant model appears to have been correct. But wasn’t. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has actually been dramatically reduced and reduced.

Model defenders declare the plummets were based on the success of severe restrictions of civil liberties. “It just means we won,” declared an article in The Atlantic. Wrong. The bottom range of the models presumes the best-case scenario. If the low end is 100,000, that’s the low end.

Statistical process control after W. Edwards Deming

Thomas Huhn:

Sometimes called “The Father of Quality Management”, Walter Edwards Deming shaped the field during the twentieth century.

His work is strongly focussed on production processes, shop floors in automobile or other traditional industries, but I believe that a lot of it carries over to other fields, even software development. Fields like medicine have taken notice of Deming’s work, after all.

But even if you do not see an immediate application to your daily work, I think that knowing a little bit about Deming and his work contributes to your cultural enrichment. Deming had large influence on the world’s economy, albeit indirect in some instances.

A statistics professor at business school and a freelancing consultant, he advocated for statistical quality management in the industry, and in educating the managerial class in those statistical methods, as opposed to ad-hoc ones.

Deming wrote several books, the best known ones may be “The New Economics of Industry, Government, and Education” and “Out of the Crisis”. You can see from the titles that they are wide-ranged in topic, not textbooks on statistical methods.

Anti-Homeschooling Rhetoric; “we know best”

Erin O’Donnell:

RAPIDLY INCREASING number of American families are opting out of sending their children to school, choosing instead to educate them at home. Homeschooled kids now account for roughly 3 percent to 4 percent of school-age children in the United States, a number equivalent to those attending charter schools, and larger than the number currently in parochial schools.

Yet Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, sees risks for children—and society—in homeschooling, and recommends a presumptive ban on the practice. Homeschooling, she says, not only violates children’s right to a “meaningful education” and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.

“We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling,” Bartholet asserts. All 50 states have laws that make education compulsory, and state constitutions ensure a right to education, “but if you look at the legal regime governing homeschooling, there are very few requirements that parents do anything.” Even apparent requirements such as submitting curricula, or providing evidence that teaching and learning are taking place, she says, aren’t necessarily enforced. Only about a dozen states have rules about the level of education needed by parents who homeschool, she adds. “That means, effectively, that people can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves.” In another handful of states, parents are not required to register their children as homeschooled; they can simply keep their kids at home.

This practice, Bartholet says, can isolate children. She argues that one benefit of sending children to school at age four or five is that teachers are “mandated reporters,” required to alert authorities to evidence of child abuse or neglect. “Teachers and other school personnel constitute the largest percentage of people who report to Child Protective Services,” she explains, whereas not one of the 50 states requires that homeschooling parents be checked for prior reports of child abuse. Even those convicted of child abuse, she adds, could “still just decide, ‘I’m going to take my kids out of school and keep them at home.’”

As an example, she points to the memoir Educated, by Tara Westover, the daughter of Idaho survivalists who never sent their children to school. Although Westover learned to read, she writes that she received no other formal education at home, but instead spent her teenage years working in her father’s scrap business, where severe injuries were common, and endured abuse by an older brother. Bartholet doesn’t see the book as an isolated case of a family that slipped through the cracks: “That’s what can happen under the system in effect in most of the nation.”

In a paper published recently in the Arizona Law Review, she notes that parents choose homeschooling for an array of reasons. Some find local schools lacking or want to protect their child from bullying. Others do it to give their children the flexibility to pursue sports or other activities at a high level. But surveys of homeschoolers show that a majority of such families (by some estimates, up to 90 percent) are driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture. Bartholet notes that some of these parents are “extreme religious ideologues” who question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy.

She views the absence of regulations ensuring that homeschooled children receive a meaningful education equivalent to that required in public schools as a threat to U.S. democracy. “From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” she says. This involves in part giving children the knowledge to eventually get jobs and support themselves. “But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” she says, noting that European countries such as Germany ban homeschooling entirely and that countries such as France require home visits and annual tests.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Harvard’s Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform – June 18-19, 2020.


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.

Alex J. Harris:

And yet these imperfections and heartbreaking realities are not unique to homeschooling. Should there be oversight? Yes. Can we have productive conversations about how best to realize the power and flexibility of homeschooling for certain students while guarding against abuse for others? Absolutely. But there are risks to sending your child to public school, private school, or parochial school. As a parent, the fact that children are vulnerable to abuse by any authority figure in their life is a danger I am ever mindful of. (I’m not aware of any research suggesting that abuse by homeschool parents is more prevalent than abuse by other parents, relatives, teachers, or coaches.)

So why single out homeschooling? For Professor Bartholet the critical fact seems to be that “a majority of such families … are driven by conservative Christian beliefs” and that some are “extreme religious ideologues” who are

“ideologically committed to isolating their children from the majority culture” and who “don’t believe in the scientific method, looking to the Bible instead.” She highlights the story of Tara Westover and her incredible memoir Educated, suggesting that Tara’s remarkable experience—as the daughter of a mentally unstable, off-the-grid survivalist in rural Idaho—demonstrates why a permissive homeschool regime is untenable. Unstated but implied is that any child in a family with “conservative Christian beliefs” is just a few short steps from Tara’s nightmare. Unexplained is how any law would have made a difference in a case like Tara’s.

Ironically, like so many missives from the ivory tower,

Professor Bartholet’s argument and unacknowledged biases may accomplish the exact opposite of what she intends: highlighting the virtues of alternative education options in a world full of “experts” ready to teach our children what is good and true and beautiful.

As for this homeschool graduate, I can only express my gratitude that the educational choices that were made for me were made by the two people in this world who knew me best, who loved me most, and who sincerely wished the very best for me and my siblings.

Thanks for the sacrifices, Mom & Dad. They were worth it.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: UArizona announces pay cuts, furloughs for all faculty, staff

Sam Radwany:

The University of Arizona announced temporary pay cuts and furloughs to its 15,000 employees Friday morning as its campus remains shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an email to all staff and faculty, UArizona President Robert Robbins announced the changes, which vary in effect depending on employees’ salary.

Here are the graded pay cuts, taken verbatim from Robbins’s email:

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The first wave of furlough announcements for Wisconsin’s public universities came Friday with hundreds of employees ordered to take unpaid time off as a way for campuses to address the growing financial fallout associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Wisconsin System will furlough its nearly 600 administrative employees one day each month through June 2021 to save about $3 million.

Chancellors of UW campuses, where the bulk of the System’s 39,000 employees work, are making their own decisions on whether to furlough employees. UW-Milwaukee became the first to say it will “most likely” impose a campus-wide furlough for its roughly 3,700 employees. UW-Madison, which is bracing for the largest loss among the campuses with an estimated $100 million shortfall, expects to announce details by the end of the month.

Suddenly homeschooling? Khan is here to help

Chris Stewart:

COVID-19-related school closures have left many parents suddenly homeschooling their youngins. More than half of the nations kids are our of school. 

That’s a lot of kids. When will they go back to school? Can’t say. How will we keep them on track? Dunno. Are there tools to help parents support their students at home?

Yes. Here it is. Our friends at Khan Academy are doing an amazing job of providing usable information to educators, students, and parents.

The Diversity–Innovation Paradox in Science

Bas Hofstra, Vivek V. Kulkarni, Sebastian Munoz-Najar Galvez, Bryan He, Dan Jurafsky, and Daniel A. McFarland:

By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions. The discounting of minorities’ innovations may partly explain their underrepresentation in influential positions of academia.

If colleges owe students refunds, it’s not because of the pandemic

Cooper Conway:

In light of the recent coronavirus pandemic, there is a debate on whether universities should hand out refunds to their students who are now taking courses online. I believe that universities would be wise to hold on to every penny they can right now. As students learn online from home, for the first time many parents will see what their children are really learning—and conclude that sending them to overpriced universities is not worth the crushing debt.

To be fair, the standard science, arithmetic and writing classes are still offered at my school and many others. But mixed in with those courses, at every turn, is a suffocating blend of identity politics and left-leaning pedagogy. This curriculum is promoted by my university, Boise State, for example, with programs for staff on how they “unknowingly support racism and white supremacy.”

K-12 tax & spending climate: We’ve Built Cities We Can’t Afford

Strong towns:

In this sense, Kansas City, Missouri is no different than most communities in the United States and Canada. In the last 70 years, the physical size of Kansas City has quadrupled while the population has remained relatively stable. (Put another way, every resident of Kansas City is on the hook for maintaining four times as much of the city as his or her predecessors.) In Kansas City, there are 6,500 linear miles of lanes just in the city street system—so not including county, state and federal roadways. This is the equivalent of driving from New York to San Francisco and back, with a bonus trip to Portland, Maine. According to the Kansas City public works department, to maintain and replace existing roads it needs ten times more money each year than it can ask for. 

While these stats are specific to Kansas City, Missouri, the story is familiar to anyone who has come to recognize the effects of the suburban development pattern: we’ve built cities we can’t afford.

Yet there are two assets that set Kansas City apart from many other communities. One is that the city has “great bones.” As Dennis Strait, managing principle of Gould Evans Kansas City, describes in the video above, Kansas City grew quickly from a village to a city following many of the best lessons humans have gleaned from 5,000 years of city-building. The positive effects of this ancient wisdom can still be felt today, and Kansas City’s most productive neighborhoods are often its oldest. The negative effects of bad policies—such as racist redlining—can still be felt too, Strait says.

Notes, links and commentary on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum plans.

“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”.

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


Civics: On Whose Authority? An Analysis of the Powers and Limits of the WI Governor and DHS Secretary

Rick Esenberg:

As we complete the fourth week of lockdown, many Wisconsinites are wondering how long this extraordinary state of affairs can continue and how it might end. And what happens if the Governor and Legislature cannot agree on what happens next?

These questions were given fresh urgency today after DHS Secretary-designee Angela Palm unilaterally determined that the “Safer at Home” order would continue through May 26, 2020, beyond the expiration of the Governor’s emergency declaration. But does the Evers administration really have the authority to order the widespread closure of churches, schools and businesses for another month without legislative input?

The following is an analysis of whether the Governor has that authority. While a stay-at-home order is subject to various constitutional limitations, it does not address what particular combination of legally permissible social-distancing provisions would be best.

We Mapped How the Coronavirus Is Driving New Surveillance Programs Around the World

Dave Gershgorn:

In an attempt to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic, at least 30 governments around the world have instituted temporary or indefinite efforts to single out infected individuals or maintain quarantines. Many of these efforts, in turn, undermine personal privacy.

It’s a complex trade-off: Governments need information to create containment strategies and know where to focus resources. At the same time, governments have a way of holding onto tools that undermine citizens’ privacy long after the moment of crisis has passed. Take, for example, the United States’ 2001 Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Patriot Act gave the government broad surveillance powers with little oversight, including demanding customer data from telecoms without court approval. Twenty years later, it’s still around.

To document global surveillance measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, OneZero compiled press reports from more than 25 countries where potential privacy issues are occurring.

The most common form of surveillance implemented to battle the pandemic is the use of smartphone location data, which can track population-level movement down to enforcing individual quarantines. Some governments are making apps that offer coronavirus health information, while also sharing location information with authorities for a period of time. For instance, in early March, the Iranian government released an app that it pitched as a self-diagnostic tool. While the tool’s efficacy was likely low, given reports of asymptomatic carriers of the virus, the app saved location data of millions of Iranians, according to a Vice report.

Civics: Who Will Prosper After the Plague?

Joel Kotkin:

What might such “revolutionary” changes look like in our post-plague society? In the immediate future the monied classes in America will take a big hit, as their stock portfolios shrink, both acquisitions and new IPOs get sidetracked and the value of their properties drop. But vast opportunities for tremendous profit available to those with the financial wherewithal to absorb the initial shocks and capitalize on the disruption they cause. As in 2016, politicians in both parties have worked hard in the new stimulus to get breaks for their wealthy constituents, whether they are big retail chains, rich California taxpayers, or, in some cases, themselves.

Over time, the crisis is likely to further bolster the global oligarchal class. The wealthiest 1% already own as much as 50%of the world’s assets, and according to a recent British parliamentary study, by 2030, will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated at the top 0.01%.

In an era defined by “social distancing,” with digital technology replacing the analog world, the tech companies and their financial backers will prove the obvious winners. In a sign of what’s to come, tech stocks have already soared.

The biggest long-term winner of the stay-at-home trend may well be Amazon, which is hiring 100,000 new workers. But other digital industries will profit as well, including food delivery services, streaming entertainment services, telemedicine, biomedicine, cloud computing, and online education. The shift to remote work has created an enormous market for applications, which facilitate video conferencing and digital collaboration like Slack—the fastest growing business application on record—as well as GoogleHangouts, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Other tech firms, such as Facebook, game makers like Activision Blizzard and online retailers like Chewy, suggests Morgan Stanley, also can expect to see their stock prices soar as the pandemic fades and public acceptance of online commerce and at-home entertainment grows with enforced familiarity.

Growing corporate concentration in the technology sector, both in the United States and Europe, will enhance the power of these companies to dominate commerce and information flows. As we stare at our screens, we are evermore subject to manipulation by a handful of “platforms” that increasingly control the means of communication. Zoom, whose daily traffic has boomed 535% over the past month, has been caught sharing data from its users with its clients widely, and without approval. Not surprisingly these platforms are most widely deployed in tech centers like the Bay Area, Seattle, and Salt Lake City as opposed to areas like Las Vegas , Tucson, or Miami where more jobs require close physical proximity.

Vaccine fears brought measles back to New York


More than 600 people in New York City contracted measles between October 2018 and July 2019, and 49 had to be hospitalized. The outbreak started after one unvaccinated child fell sick with the disease after returning home from Israel in September 2018. Although no deaths were reported, complications among those infected included diarrhoea, ear infections and pneumonia.

Jane Zucker at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and her colleagues interviewed people who showed symptoms of measles and reviewed the immunization records of affected children.

The authors found that reduced vaccination rates in some neighbourhoods facilitated the spread of the disease. Among 37 children hospitalized with the virus, 35 had not received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Most of those infected belonged to New York City’s orthodox Jewish community, which had been targeted by anti-vaccination groups — leading parents to shun immunization for their children, the researchers say. The outbreak cost New York City at least US$8.4 million.