Yes, the pandemic-era school closures were a disaster

James Pethokoukis:

A brief reminder: Back in the summer of 2020, I tried to hammer home the point that preventing kids from going to school full-time and in-person during the coming school year would be a terrible idea with serious consequences for the kids and the country. School is more than just a place where younger students stay while their parents work, or a way for older students to get a certificate that helps them find better jobs. Deep economic research has shown that education really matters in helping kids grow into productive adults, including as workers in a complex, globalized economy. Those findings are seen to be as true today as when they were first identified in the 1950s. Indeed, a 2018 World Bank analysis shows the benefits increasing since 2000.

We now have a pretty good, albeit unsurprising, idea of the impact of the move to online learning and hybrid schedules. Here are some key takeaways from the Richmond Fed review:

  • “Learning progress slowed substantially in the U.S. during the pandemic.” According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test of U.S. eight graders, the average score of students rose by 20 points in the 30 years before the pandemic. But between 2019 and 2022, the average score went down by 8 points, which means that they lost almost half of what they had gained before. 

Related: Dane County Madison Public Health mandates: cost & benefit?

America’s highest-achieving students are disproportionately Asian. Let’s not be afraid to investigate why.

Michael J. Petrilli and Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.

A revealing 2022 study of Harvard admissions found a “substantial penalty against Asian American applicants relative to their white counterparts.” Scholars estimated that, given that the overall admissions rate for Asian American applicants at Harvard was around 5 percent, removing what amounted to a handicap would increase their admissions chances by at least 19 percent.

What’s more, the researchers took on a surprisingly candid tone when noting the differences between the Asian and White applicant pool:

While it is widely understood that Asian American applicants are academically stronger than whites, it is startling just how much stronger they are. During the period we analyze, there were 42 percent more white applicants than Asian American applicants overall. Yet, among those who were in the top 10 percent of applicants based on grades and test scores, Asian American applicants outnumbered white applicants by more than 45 percent.

Startling indeed.

Findings from Fordham’s new study, Excellence Gaps by Race and Socioeconomic Status, reminded us of this eye-popping imbalance. Authored by Fordham’s Meredith Coffey and Adam Tyner, the report digs into how race and socioeconomic status (SES) interact to shape academic “excellence gaps”—disparities in performance among groups of students achieving at the highest levels.

Sweden during the Pandemic: Pariah or Paragon?

Johan Norberg:

Sweden was different during the pandemic, stubbornly staying open as other countries shut down borders, schools, restaurants, and workplaces. This choice created a massive interest in Sweden, and never before have the foreign media reported so much about the country. Many outsiders saw it as a reckless experiment with people’s lives. In April 2020 President Donald Trump declared that “Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown.”1 In the New York Times, Sweden’s laissez faire approach was described as “the world’s cautionary tale” and in the same pages Sweden was described as a “pariah state.”2

There remains a popular perception in the rest of the world that Sweden’s strategy resulted in a human disaster, and many people think that Swedish decisionmakers came to regret the strategy and, in the end, adopted lockdown policies similar to those in other countries. This paper dispels those unwarranted assumptions, describes Sweden’s actual pandemic policy, explains why the country followed that course, and presents what we know about the results so far.

Related: Waiting for a deep dive into the costs and benefits of taxpayer supported Dane County Madison Public Health mandates.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

K-12 tax & spending climate: It’s hard to grow your way out of debt


Julien Acalin and Laurence M. Ball write,

The fall in the U.S. public debt/GDP ratio from 106% in 1946 to 23% in 1974 is often attributed to high rates of economic growth. This paper examines the roles of three other factors: primary budget surpluses, surprise inflation, and pegged interest rates before the Fed-Treasury Accord of 1951. Our central result is a simulation of the path that the debt/GDP ratio would have followed with primary budget balance and without the distortions in real interest rates caused by surprise inflation and the pre-Accord peg. In this counterfactual, debt/GDP declines only to 74% in 1974, not 23% as in actual history. Moreover, the ratio starts rising again in 1980 and in 2022 it is 84%. These findings imply that, over the last 76 years, only a small amount of debt reduction has been achieved through growth rates that exceed undistorted interest rates.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen.

Oy. Their conclusion is correct, but nobody needed to use an opaque simulation model to get there. Thirteen years ago, I explained it using a simple table.

One point that stands out is that the years of dramatic reductions in the ratio of debt to GDP were years in which the United States ran primary surpluses. The only other chapter in history where the debt to GDP was reduced was the Inflation Shock. Even then, it was not reduced by much, and this chapter was followed by the Bond Market Vigilantes chapter, in which investors punished the government for its prior inflationary transgressions.

In short, there is no precedent for reducing the ratio of debt to GDP by simply growing our way out of it. Instead, policy choices must be made in order to restore a primary surplus.

Some of my essays have stood the test of time, but only I remember them. That is one example.

Reducing admission standards at CalTech

Teresa Watanabe:

Kimberly Miranda is the brainy daughter of Guatemalan immigrants and the first in her family to attend college. But she almost didn’t make it to the California Institute of Technology.

Her Redwood City school didn’t offer algebra in eighth grade, which threw her off the progression of high school math classes leading to calculus — a long-standing Caltech admission requirement. Miranda managed to double up on math courses in sophomore year to reach calculus as a senior, but not all students have the wherewithal — or support — to take that path. 

And scores of students don’t even have that chance, because more than one-third of the nation’s high schools don’t offer calculus, and many also lack physics and chemistry classes, two other Caltech admission requirements. For years, the institute, a global powerhouse of science, technology, engineering and math education, fielded hundreds of calls each year from distraught students and parents about the issue. But Caltech held firm, making no exceptions, even for “absolutely astounding” applicants, as one faculty member put it. 

Now Caltech, in the name of equity, is shifting gears. In a groundbreaking step, the campus announced Thursday that it will drop admission requirements for calculus, physics and chemistry courses for students who don’t have access to them and offer alternative paths to prove mastery of the material. 

“Brilliant students exist in every single part of this world and in every single community, and this idea that families have to choose the future of their kids and where they’re going to go for college based on their ZIP Code seemed so unfair,” said Ashley Pallie, Caltech’s executive director of undergraduate admissions. “We need to continue opening this door of opportunity.”

Notes on declining law school demand

Michael Simkovich:

[L]aw school deans’ discussions about ways of continuing affirmative action after the ban are providing fodder to conservative media organizations who are attempting to depict academic institutions as lawless, duplicitous, and hostile to poor whites (and Asians).  Most law professors and most deans probably don’t regularly read such publications, and so are unaware of them. I only became aware of the criticism after a friend sent the information to me.

But many people apparently do read these sites, and their talking points often spread to mainstream media organizations with a broader reach.  That’s what happened in the 2010s, when the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson’s “School for Misrule” depicted law schools as far left organizations that emphasized ideological indoctrination over nuts-and-bolts legal education and left their students heavily indebted and unprepared to practice law.  Olson’s criticisms, and similar criticisms from others—though wildly underestimating the economic benefits of legal education, both in ordinary times and during recessions—set off a flurry of mainstream media criticism of law schools that went on for years.

Media attacks, and law schools’ belated, at times clumsy, and often uncoordinated responses to them, ultimately led law school applications to fall off a cliff from which they have never recovered.

In 2004, 105,000 prospective JD’s applied to law school. By 2010, it was 91,000, and by 2016 it had fallen to 57,000.  As of 2022, it has recovered only slightly to 64,000, still down 42 percent since 2010. …

While it’s hard to know precisely what is driving the decline in interest in law school, it seems plausible that the criticism—that law schools place too much of an emphasis on political indoctrination and not enough on preparing all of their students for professional and financial success—has resonated with prospective students. …


Civics: Why establishment knives are out for Elon Musk

Glenn Reynolds:

More establishment-connected companies, like Boeing and United Launch Alliance, have suffered various technical issues that leave them essentially incapable of doing half what SpaceX does, despite much higher prices.

I can’t help but feel that Musk’s sheer effectiveness, in comparison to establishment failures on everything from COVID to Afghanistan to China, serves as a constant reproach.

Even the bid to “rein him in” is failing. 

The effort to end-run his ownership of Twitter with Threads, a product of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, has been a flop.

And as an exposé, so is the Farrow piece.

Through it we learn that although Musk was happy to make his Starlink satellite Internet service available to Ukraine when that country was invaded, he was uncomfortable seeing it turned into a backbone of the war effort.

He also had the temerity to ask to be paid, though other suppliers to Ukraine — Raytheon, say — were not providing product gratis.

Now it’s lawyer time, with the Justice Department suing SpaceX for not hiring immigrants and refugees, though US law bans disclosing technical information relating to rockets and space to non-US citizens.

Musk tweeted: “SpaceX was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offense. We couldn’t even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD!”

Nobody’s perfect.

‘It is my job to be a voice for everyone who is too afraid,’ lacrosse coach says

Micaiah Bilger:

A head coach investigated by her liberal college for questioning transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ victories spoke out in a new short documentary.

“It is my job to be a voice for everyone who is too afraid, who needs to keep their job,” Oberlin College lacrosse coach Kim Russell said in the eight-minute video produced by the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative policy institute.

🆕BREAKING: Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach at Oberlin College is breaking her silence in an @IWF documentary after being “burned at the stake” for her support of single-sex sports & speaking out against allowing men in women’s sports.

— Independent Women’s Forum (@IWF) August 29, 2023

“It is scientific that biologically males and females are different,” Russell said in the documentary. “I don’t believe biological males should be in women’s locker rooms. Where is the MeToo movement? What happened to that?” she continued.

Commentary on Covid mandates and learning loss

Douglas Harris

Contrary to popular belief, COVID-19 has only caused a 2% drop in public school enrollments nationally. Some of the latest evidence also suggests no drop at all in cities like Detroit and New York City that were heavily criticized for staying remote so long. By comparison, there was a 15% decline during the mid-1970s-1980s without a pandemic (due mainly to demographic shifts). That’s a real seismic shift—seven times larger than the COVID-19 drop.

Projected enrollments will likely drop by more than two percent in the coming years due to declining birth rates and immigration. Looking at the trend line in district enrollments ten years from now, we may barely notice the COVID-19 years.

In fact, what’s most remarkable is how little COVID-19 altered public school enrollments. Every child in the country was forced out of their school buildings for a time. Parents became more familiar and experienced with the many online tools that allow students to learn from home, and some shopped around for alternatives. If ever there was a chance to reconsider, this was it. Yet, the best analyses suggest only 372,000 students switched to homeschooling or private schools—out of 50 million nationally.

Critics might argue that few switched schools due to a lack of good alternatives, but polls show high satisfaction with public schools during the pandemic. One poll showed 78% of families were satisfied with how public schools handled the pandemic; in another, the figure was 80%.

No, the public school enrollment drop was not seismic. The real concern ought to be that some students might have left, never to return to any form of schooling.

Visualize Algorithms


In VisuAlgo, you can use your own input for any algorithm instead of using only the provided sample inputs. This is one of the key feature of VisuAlgo. Try the graph drawing feature in these 9 graph-related visualizations: Graph DS, DFS/BFS, MST, SSSP, Max Flow, Matching, MVC, Steiner Tree, and TSP. You can also click tag ‘graph’ in any of these 9 graph-related visualization boxes or type in ‘graph’ in the search box.

A Sperm Donor Chases a Role in the Lives of the 96 Children He Fathered

Amy Dockser Marcus:

Dylan Stone-Miller took a 9,000-mile road trip this summer to see some of his 96 children.

Emotionally, logistically, in all ways, it is complicated for the kids, their families and for Stone-Miller, a prolific 32-year-old sperm donor. His road trip is part of a larger odyssey—to figure out how he fits in the lives of the boys and girls he fathered in absentia. It began three years ago, when he first saw a photo of one of his biological children, a toddler named Harper who had his blue eyes and his sister’s blond curls. He got tears, he recalled, and unexpected feelings of kinship.

“I think of her as my first child,” Stone-Miller said. He met Harper when she was 3 and decided he wanted to foster relationships with as many of the children as possible. He quit his job as a software engineer and has funded his quest with savings. So far, Stone-Miller has met 25 of his biological children. Because tracking progeny from a donor isn’t always reliable, “I will never know for sure how many children I have,” he said.

Stone-Miller’s mission is itself an accident of birth, springing from the unforeseen union of in vitro fertilization, the internet and low-cost DNA testing. Together, these disparate advances have made it possible to find biological fathers who in the past were kept largely anonymous by sperm banks.

Months after Stone-Miller and his wife split up in 2020, a stranger messaged him. “I really hope you don’t feel violated in any way, but it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and I wanted to tell you how grateful my family is to you,” wrote Alicia Bowes, one of Harper’s two mothers. She had tracked Stone-Miller through social media and clues from his donor file, including his first name and his father’s occupation as a forensic psychologist.

Biden Rewrites the History of Covid School Closings

Wall Street Journal:

President Biden welcomed students at Eliot-Hine Middle School in Washington, D.C., back to class on Monday. He also gave them a lesson in irony as he lamented pandemic learning loss caused by his teachers union allies.

“The hardest thing is to come back after three months of not doing any work, not doing any homework, and all of a sudden you got a lot to make—everybody has a lot to catch up on from the end of the last year,” Mr. Biden told students. Imagine how much harder it is for them to catch up after “learning”—i.e., staring at screens—at home for a year.

Perhaps sensing parents’ continued anger over the Covid school shutdowns, the Administration is trying to claim credit for reopening them. “When President Biden took office, less than half of K-12 students were going to school in person,” the White House said. “Today, thanks to the President’s swift actions and historic investments, every school in America is open safely for in-person instruction.”

What an achievement—three and a half years after the start of the pandemic, all schools are open. The Administration omits that its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took dictation from union chief Randi Weingarten for its reopening guidelines. Those guidelines gave unions in urban school districts like Chicago cover to delay the return to full in-person learning.

Kansas City schools rent homes to teachers starting at $400 a month to recruit more amid a national shortage

Christian Robles:

Alexandria Millet found a way to sharply cut her rent this year and move closer to her job at Central High School in Kansas City, Mo.—live in a duplex built to house teachers.

A 10th-grade English and journalism instructor, Millet, 24 years old, now pays $400 a month to live with two other teachers in a home provided through a partnership between Kansas City Public Schools and Teachers Like Me, a nonprofit building housing to help recruit Black teachers.

KCPS is one of several school districts across the country—in urban and rural areas from California to West Virginia and Florida—that are trying to use affordable housing to hire and retain teachers amid a nationwide shortage of both. The efforts join state and federal programs that have for years provided teachers grants and down payment assistance to purchase homes.

“Not having to pay high rent and having a program that supports you specifically in terms of housing” made it easier to stay in Kansas City, Millet said, as she wanted to do after working there a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

The low-cost housing “made it come together,” said Millet, who is from Milwaukee. She earns about $48,000 a year in a metropolitan area with a typical monthly apartment rent of $1,437 in July, according to Zillow estimates.

Teachers Like Me opened its first duplex in February and has plans to house up to 25 teachers, said Trinity Davis, the organization’s founder and a former Kansas City school administrator.

K-12 Tax + Spending climate: Goodbye Bathtub and Living Room. America’s Homes Are Shrinking.


The share of new home projects priced below $400,000 has declined in nearly every major home-building metro since 2018, according to Livabl by Zonda. For entry-level buyers across the nation, the cost of owning a home increased 72% from February 2020 to May 2023, according to an analysis by John Burns Research and Consulting that estimates monthly payments, maintenance and other costs of ownership.

And the smaller floor plans usually mean that buyers are getting less space for their dollar. Lower list prices might make the overall price cheaper, but buyers are still paying more a square foot, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Inflation-adjusted cost a square foot increased about 2.5% on average between 2012 and 2020. In both 2021 and 2022, it increased nearly 4%, according to John Burns Research and Consulting.

Notes on “Math Circles”


After about 7 months of math circles with a group of 7- turning 8-year-old boys and girls, I decided to take a break to breathe and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

It’s interesting how big a gulf there is between what math topic you think will be interesting to a 7-year-old and what actually captures their attention. Let me start by giving some examples of things I thoughtwould catch their interest but flopped.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Leaving High Tax States

Andria Cheng:

The recent departures of some major investment firms from New York have resulted in nearly $1 trillion in combined assets under management that are no longer based in the largest U.S. city, according to a new report.

And New York isn’t alone. California investment firms decamping to other states over the past several years, with Texas as the top destination, also managed nearly $1 trillion in combined assets.

Around 158 companies managing $993 billion in assets, including AllianceBernstein and Elliott Management, moved their headquarters out of New York to states including Florida and Tennessee from the first quarter of 2020 to early 2023, according to a Bloomberg study of corporate filings from more than 17,000 firms since the end of 2019. New York alone accounted for 56 of the 104 financial services firms that moved to Florida in that time, the study found.

“the government long ago realized it can abuse the barely regulated info-hoovering user tracking system we’ve built to avoid having to get warrants”

Karl Bode:

There’s simply no meaningful incentive for reform. 

None of this is helped by the fact that an ad-based, wealth-obsessed tech press is financially incentivized to prioritize engagement clickbait (billionaire cage matches! Poorly-made blockchain-based ape art will change the world!), over nuance and deeper analysis. A media ecosystem owned by billionaires that seems to have an ever-dwindling interest in meaningfully challenging money, power, or the status quo. 

The result of our collective superficiality isn’t hard to find when looking at the tech knowledge of the broader public. A recent Pew survey of 5,101 U.S. adults found that 80 percent of Americans know that Elon Musk now owns Tesla and Twitter, but just 23 percent were aware that the United States lacks a meaningful privacy law addressing how companies can use the data they collect:

Google Removes ‘Pirate’ URLs from Users’ Privately Saved Links

Ernesto Van der Sar

Search Takedowns Affect Saved URLs

A few hours ago, Eddie Roosenmaallen shared an email from Google, notifying him that a link had been removed from his Google Saved collection because it violates Google’s policy. 

The reason cited for the removal is the “downstream impact”, as the URL in question is “blocked by Google Search”.

“The following saved item in one of your collections was determined to violate Google’s policy. As a result, the item will be moderated..,” Google writes, pointing out a defunct KickassTorrents domain as the problem.

Reflecting on 17 years leading UW-La Crosse

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Joe Gow, the longest-serving current chancellor in the University of Wisconsin System, announced plans Wednesday to step down as leader of UW-La Crosse at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Gow, 62, will transition to a faculty role after more than 17 years leading the 9,400-student campus.

Enrollment at UW-La Crosse last fall was slightly larger than when Gow started in 2007, a remarkable feat for the chancellor of a regional campus at a time when fewer students are available to recruit and an increasing share of them are opting out of four-year college degrees.

The university’s finances are also stronger than most other regional UW campuses, finishing the 2023 fiscal year without a deficit.

“It’s a team effort, of course,” Gow told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If I’ve been successful at anything, the main thing I’ve done is getting the right people into the right leadership positions to make things happen.”

Civics: Taxpayer funded “censorship industrial complex”

Pete McGinnis

Welcome to the Censorship Industrial Complex. It’s rather like the old “military industrial complex,” which was shorthand for the military, private companies, and academia working together to achieve U.S. battlefield dominance, with the R&D funded by the government that buys the final product.

But the censorship industrial complex builds algorithms, not bombers. The players aren’t Raytheon and Boeing, but social media companies, tech startups, and universities and their institutes. The foes to be dominated are American citizens whose opinions diverge from government narratives on issues ranging from COVID-19 responses to electoral fraud to transgenderism.

When first exposed a few months ago, many of the actors and their media defenders perversely claimed that they, as private entities, were acting out of concern for “democracy” and exercising their own First Amendment rights.

However, the records and correspondence of an advisory committee to an obscure government agency tell a different story. The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) has obtained through a public records request documents of the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee of the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The committee was composed of academics and tech company officials working with government personnel in a much closer relationship than either they or the media want to admit. Several advisory committee members who appear throughout the documents as quasi-federal actors are among those loudly protesting that they were private actors when censoring lawful American speech (e.g., Kate Starbird, Vijaya Gadde, Alex Stamos).

China and the U.S. are collecting the same proportion of their populations’ DNA profiles — and the FBI wants to double its budget to get even more.

Ken Klippenstein

The FBI has amassed 21.7 million DNA profiles — equivalent to about 7 percent of the U.S. population — according to Bureau data reviewed by The Intercept.

The FBI aims to nearly double its current $56.7 million budget for dealing with its DNA catalog with an additional $53.1 million, according to its budget request for fiscal year 2024. “The requested resources will allow the FBI to process the rapidly increasing number of DNA samples collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” the appeal for an increase says.

“When we’re talking about rapid expansion like this, it’s getting us ever closer to a universal DNA database.”

In an April 2023 statement submitted to Congress to explain the budget request, FBI Director Christopher Wray cited several factors that had “significantly expanded the DNA processing requirements of the FBI.” He said the FBI collected around 90,000 samples a month — “over 10 times the historical sample volume” — and expected that number to swell to about 120,000 a month, totaling about 1.5 million new DNA samples a year. (The FBI declined to comment.)

The staggering increases are raising questions among civil liberties advocates.

Screens, Lack of Sun Are Causing an Epidemic of Myopia

Julie Jargon:

Kids aren’t spending enough time outside. It’s fueling an epidemic of nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness develops in childhood, typically between ages 5 and 16, and it’s closely linked to a lack of exposure to sunlight. Eye doctors say more kids are developing the condition and at earlier ages. Half the global population is expected to be nearsighted by 2050, up from 30% now, according to the World Health Organization.

Sure, kids choosing screens over outdoor fun is a long-running—potentially overplayed—theme. And as annoying as it is to parents, it’s been hard to quantify the damage. In the case of eyesight, however, the research is clear. Our vision is getting worse because of our relationship with our devices.

While there’s no consensus on how much time kids spend outside, doctors like to cite one stat, from a 2015 University of Michigan study: Kids spent just seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play time. If anything, that figure has shrunk in recent years.

Schools and child-care centers still have recess, and many kids play outdoor sports, so they’re likely getting more outdoor time than that. But they aren’t wandering the streets or riding bikes like they did in past decades.

People with myopia, the condition’s formal name, have a hard time seeing things clearly in the distance. It’s referred to as nearsightedness or shortsightedness because people can see things up close more easily. When eyes don’t get enough natural light, they grow longer, say researchers. The longer shape makes it harder to focus, so objects in the distance appear blurry.

Chromebooks Were Once a Good Deal for Schools. Now They’re Becoming E-Waste.

Nicole Nguyen:

Low-price, easy-to-use Chromebooks were once a boon to cost-conscious schools. Educators say the simple laptops are no longer a good deal.

Models have shot up in price in the past four years. Constant repairs add to the cost. Google imposes expiration dates, even if the hardware still works. This year, Google ceases support for 13 models. Next year, 51 models will expire.

These surging costs are presenting a predicament for anyone who runs a school and wants to educate children. Some administrators say they are throwing precious funding at a product that just doesn’t last long enough. Doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could save public schools—and taxpayers—an estimated $1.8 billion, according to U.S. PIRG, a public-interest research group that analyzed Chromebook data.

Chromebooks have no second life. When they expire, they become e-waste. By contrast, Macs and PCs can run apps even after their native software is no longer supported. They can even be repurposed into Chromebook-like devices.

Death dates

During the pandemic, schools rushed to buy Chromebooks and other devices for remote learning. Chromebook sales slumped after in-person classes resumed.

University is more than just a springboard to a job

Emma Jacobs:

As school leavers around the world get ready to pack saucepans and pencil cases for their first term at university, the perennial debate about the value of a degree has been sharpened by a number of employers announcing their jobs no longer require a degree. The cereal and snacks group Kellogg made its move in June. This summer, Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, announced a crackdown on “rip-off degrees”. “Too many students,” he said, “are being sold a university education that won’t get them a decent job at the end of it.”

Yet degrees do tend to boost earnings. According to the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank, male graduates will be £130,000 better off over their careers (after subtracting taxes and student loan repayments) — women will be £100,000 wealthier.

Universities can be a powerful driver of social mobility. Another study by the IFS found that those on free school meals who went to university were almost four times more likely to be in the highest 20 per cent of earners at 30 than those who did not. Sarah Atkinson, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, says: “Beyond the financial stability this can bring, a university can open access to important networks that can provide a life-long career advantage.”

Salaries are a crude metric, says Charlie Ball, senior consultant in labour market intelligence at Jisc, a UK-based non-profit technology provider. “It is effectively an external arbiter imposing its own value on workers.” When graduates were asked about satisfaction, the overwhelming majority felt they were in a meaningful job.

Grade Inflation: What Goes Up Must Come Down

Aden Barton:

Here’s a quotation from one of Harvard’s many committees. Try to guess the year it was written.

“Grades A and B are sometimes given too readily — Grade A for work of no very high merit, and Grade B for work not far above mediocrity … One of the chief obstacles to raising the standards of the degree is the readiness with which insincere students gain passable grades by sham work.”

This is from the “Committee on Raising the Standard” in 1894. Ever since letter grades at Harvard were established, perhaps as early as 1883 according to school archives, there’s been concern around the way they’re distributed.

There’s still a lot of talk around Harvard’s grade inflation problem today. It’s hardly a surprise to anyone who studies or teaches here that grades have risen over time. But grade inflation is inextricably linked to a worse problem, one that is seldom discussed: grade compression, where GPAs stop increasing and instead stabilize in the 3.8 to 4.0 range.

To understand grade compression, we first need to understand grade inflation. Looking at a graph of student GPAs since 1889 is sort of like looking at a graph of Harvard’s endowment: It only goes up. In 1950, when Harvey Mansfield was but a freshman at Harvard, the average GPA was estimated at 2.55. Now, it’s much closer to 3.80. Keep in mind these numbers are estimated from Crimson surveys that represent only a part of the student body, combined with third-party analyses of Harvard records, so try to focus on the long-term trend rather than specific GPA averages at any point in time.

Mores on legacy school media coverage

Alexander Russo:

As for the quality of the coverage, I’m not going to Monday-morning quarterback other people’s coverage of what they did in the moment. There were lots of times I thought, “This is this is so short. I want to know more about what happened here.” But there has been a real effort to write about Shaker and race over the years. Sure, with the benefit of time, we can all look back and­­­ say, “Well, maybe you missed this piece, or you missed that piece,” but I’m not going do that. I am grateful for what we have in terms of the historic record.

I’m not going to Monday-morning quarterback other people’s coverage… I am grateful for what we have.

Part of what you were doing with this book was going back and re-reporting your own reporting —

LM: I would say building on it. I wouldn’t necessarily say re-reporting it.

Ok, building on. Was there anything that you learned that was new or different from what you found in 2019?

LM: I think the 2019 story holds up very well. I don’t think there’s anything that is substantively different. I think that I just go much deeper. The story was centered on a particular controversy around a teacher and a Black student in her AP English class. I was able to tell a much fuller story — learning more about how and why things unfolded as they did, and frankly including more of what I already knew but didn’t have space for even in what was by any measure a long newspaper story.

Safety concerns prompt removal of outdoor education structures at Lake View Elementary

Pamela Cotant:

We recognize that when we are talking about outdoor education there is already a risk that is embedded in that. We want to honor that, but at the same time, it was not about taking risk, it was more so about safety issues that we are talking about,” he said.

He said certain procedures can be followed, such as sanding down tree stumps and applying polyurethane before students sit on them.

“We are committed to doing that to support schools when they have outdoor spaces,” McCray said. “You just cut the tree, and they have these splinters and all of that.”

Work also can be done with the Leopold-style benches to make them safe. “They weren’t anchored down and they could provide a safety hazard for students,” McCray said.

McCray said the district needs to have an orderly audit and have conversations with those involved.

Notes on taxpayer K-12 funding disclosure

Corrine Hess:

Wisconsin’s private schools are receiving more taxpayer funds than ever before, but a coalition of groups is objecting to that public money being included in an online dashboard about school district finances.  

Last week, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee rejected a proposal by the state Department of Public Instruction to include private schools in the dashboard during its 14-day passive review process. 

A GOP bill signed by Gov. Tony Evers in 2021 created an 11-member advisory committee and called for a “financial information portal.” The dashboard is designed to give taxpayers easy access to financial information about individual school and school district spending. It must include the total amount of local, state and federal funding received; cost per pupil; and how funds are distributed.

During the 2022-23 school year, private school choice programs received $444 million in taxpayer money according to state data.    

But the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom sent a letter to Joint Finance Committee members on Aug. 21 objecting to the private school spending being included. The letter stated the DPI process for creating the dashboard has been “shrouded in secrecy, delayed, and expanded into areas not included in the legislation.” 

The group said DPI is attempting to “make law,” violating democratic principles.

‘How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement’ Review: Left Against Itself

Barton Swaim:

Excellent diagnosis, bewildering prescription. But if you want to understand the most salient development in American politics in the past half century—the Democratic Party’s slow transformation from a coalition of working-class whites, racial minorities and disaffected hippies into a party of hypereducated urbanites, well-paid activists and expert-class virtue-signalers—Mr. deBoer’s “How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement” is a fine primary source.

Mr. deBoer describes the “elite capture” of the American left as a “drift from the material and the concrete to the immaterial and symbolic.” As he writes in a nice summation of his complaint, “if you’re a Black child living in poverty and neglect in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, you might very well wonder how the annual controversy over the number of Black artists winning Oscars impacts your life.”

Why, asks this latter-day Bolshevik, did so few significant police reforms emerge from the white-hot revolutionary rage of the George Floyd protests and riots? His answer: Affluent activists and commentators, black and white, co-opted the issue and turned it into a choice between defending the men in blue (bad) and defunding police departments (good). “In statistical terms,” he writes, “the status of Black people in twenty-first-century America stands as a national disgrace,” but the left’s activist class found it impossible to acknowledge some concomitant realities: that the average black American faces little danger of being killed by a cop; that more policing reduces crime; and—I have to quote his words here, so rare are they from the pen of a leftist—that “things are getting better regarding race and racism.”

Google’s Surveillance

Simplified Privacy:

1) Saving all your Google searches, tied to your identity across devices [1] [2] [30]

2) Reading all your emails.  Even if you don’t use Gmail directly, but you’re sending email to someone who does.  [5] [6]

3) Saving all your web traffic if the website uses Google Ads, Captchas, or Analytics (and over 85% of all websites use some of their services).  Even if you aren’t signed in to a Google account, and you’re using a VPN, they can still use past cookies and browser fingerprinting to identify you.  [35] [1] [25] [26]

Google’s reCaptcha fingerprinting includes mouse movements, response time, timezone, screen dimensions, IP address, and any cookies. ReCAPTCHA uses the domain instead of one specific to ReCAPTCHA, which allows Google to receive any cookies you have directly, instead of the website you’re visiting. [35] This concentrates the vast majority of all traffic data in the hands of a single company, which can then be used to de-anonymize users.

AP course participation commentary

Corrine Hess:

After a lull following the pandemic, more Wisconsin high school students are starting to take Advanced Placement courses and exams again.   

But data shows students of color and lower socioeconomic backgrounds continue to fall behind in enrolling in the courses and taking the exams, which give kids the chance to earn college credits in high school.   

During the 2021-22 school year, Wisconsin students in ninth through 12th grade took 67,320 AP exams. In many cases, students took exams for multiple AP courses.  

About three-fourths of Wisconsin school districts offer advanced placement classes to high school students. Created by the national non-profit College Board, the university-level classes offer students the chance to earn credits in courses like calculus, psychology and world history. Students who pass an exam on completion of the course can earn college credits.

Of the AP exams taken last year, nearly 80 percent of the tests — 53,584 — were taken by white students. Asian students took about 5,000 tests and Hispanic students took about 4,500 tests.  

Just 2.4 percent of the tests — 1,600 — were taken by Black students.

The number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) in Wisconsin schools has grown by 2.67% over this time frame, even as statewide enrollment declined by 3.6%.

Will Flanders:

Total staff in schools has increased since 2017. The number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) in Wisconsin schools has grown by 2.67% over this time frame, even as statewide enrollment declined by 3.6%.

Student-teacher ratios have declined across the state. Despite staffing shortages, the dramatic decline in student enrollment over the past five years resulted in student-teacher ratios declining from 14.60 to 13.67 over the past five years.

Teachers with Master’s Degrees do not improve student performance. Although teachers who have earned a Master’s degree receive higher pay, student proficiency is not higher in districts that have more teachers with Master’s degrees.

“Woke” positions are among the largest areas of growth.
While the absolute number of FTEs in these areas remains relatively low, the number of FTEs employed in connection with buzzwords like “Social-Emotional Behavioral Interventions/Support” and “Multicultural Education/Equity” are among the five fastest growing areas over the past five years.

Administrative staff varies extensively by district.
It is difficult to assess whether a district is investing taxpayer dollars wisely in staffing when administrative staff percentages vary drastically across the state. For example, about 47% of FTEs in Gibraltar School District were administrative—compared with about 8% in Shawano School District.

Smiles by Gender

Robin Hanson:

So, we are a factor of 17-81 more inclined to respond with a smile than to initiate a smile, females are a factor of 2.7-10.8 more inclined than males to be targets of a smile, and men smile more often, except that men are a bit less inclined to initiate a smile to a woman than is a woman to another woman.

Anyone in mood to do field observations, to check if actual behavior matches these poll response claims?

Sharing crime statistics with incoming Yale students

Ashley Williams:

As new students arrived on campus for the fall semester at Yale University, they were given flyers containing “misleading … disturbing and inflammatory rhetoric” about the school’s safety, according to university officials.

The flyers, titled “Welcome to Yale: A survival guide for first-year students of Yale University,” were distributed by the Yale Police Benevolent Association, a union representing Yale police officers, and featured a cloaked skull.

The flyers claimed New Haven’s crime and violence rates were “shockingly high” and “getting worse,” according to the Yale Police Benevolent Association’s pamphlet.

The flyers also stated rates of murders, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts had gone up this year.

“Nevertheless, some Yalies do manage to survive New Haven and even retain their personal property,” the flyers stated, followed by advice for students including staying off the streets after 8 p.m. and avoiding public transportation.

French Students will no longer be allowed to wear the long, flowing dress known as the abaya in classrooms

Clea Calcutt:

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced on Sunday that France will ban the Islamic garment known as the abaya in schools.

“The school of the Republic was built around strong values, secularism is one of them. … When you enter a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the religion of pupils,” Attal said in an interview with French TV channel TF1.

“I announce that [pupils] will no longer be able to wear abaya at school,” he said.

The abaya is a long, flowing dress commonly worn by Muslim women as it complies with Islamic beliefs on modest dress — but it’s also worn by other communities in North Africa and the Middle East. In 2004, France banned religious symbols in schools, including large crosses, Jewish kippahs and Islamic headscarves. But the abaya occupies a gray zone and hasn’t specifically been banned.

Attal, who was appointed in July, announced that he would lead talks in the coming weeks before issuing new “clear nationwide rules” for schools.

Transforming K–12 education for the better


K–12 schools have dealt with many challenges over the past few years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic put many existing problems into much sharper focus. Even so, there are many bright spots to point to as children head back into the classroom this fall. Some districts are rolling out new mental health interventions to support their students’ needs and others are seeing accelerated rates of learning recovery after adopting new instructional materials, according to McKinsey senior partner Jimmy Sarakatsannis, partner Jake Bryant, and colleagues. Read the full report to see how these combined interventions can create better learning experiences for all, and explore the rest of our recent education insights about how schools can transform for the better.

Web Scraping for Me, But Not for Thee

Kieran McCarthy:

There are few, if any, legal domains where hypocrisy is as baked into the ecosystem as it is with web scraping.

Some of the biggest companies on earth—including Meta and Microsoft—take aggressive, litigious approaches to prohibiting web scraping on their own properties, while taking liberal approaches to scraping data on other companies’ properties.

When we talk about web scraping, what we’re really talking about is data access. All the world’s knowledge is available for the taking on the Internet, and web scraping is how companies acquire it at scale. But the question of who can access and use that data, and for what purposes, is a tricky legal question, which gets trickier the deeper you dig.

Some forms of data are protected by copyright, trademark, or another cognizable forms of intellectual property. But most of the data on the Internet isn’t easily protectible as intellectual property by those who might have an incentive to protect it.

I just want your immune system to work the way that it’s supposed to. Why does TED think that message is dangerous?

Sandra Palma:

It was March 2022, and with my best friend’s baby shower approaching, I knew the gift I wanted to make: a stuffed whale or two.

My friend loves whales and I love sewing. The mother-to-be received the plush cetaceans with delight, but as I’d worked, my own satisfaction waned. 

Most children’s toys have a limited lifespan. Kids grow up; toys get lost. Yet the polyester and spandex fibers in the whales’ fabric and stuffing would last for decades, centuries, even millennia. Polyester is spun from polyethylene plastic, the same stuff used in water and soda bottles; while spandex is made, in part, of polyurethane, the main ingredient in memory foam mattresses. Petroleum-based textiles don’t readily biodegrade like wool or cotton — instead, they break down into ever-smaller bits of plastic. Textiles are a major source of microplastic pollution. According to a June study, we inhale about a credit card’s worth of floating plastic fibers each week. 

I imagined polyester filaments wafting into the newborn’s lungs or washing down the drain and making their way to the ocean, where they’d wind up ingested by creatures as small as krill and as huge as humpbacks. 

I resolved to make a new, better, improved set of plush whales — ones that would be plastic-free, and entirely home compostable. All I had to do was source 100% cotton fabric, stuff it with cotton and kapok — a natural fiber from the seedpod of a rainforest tree — and embroider baby-safe eyes with cotton thread. All the scraps would be sent to my backyard compost pile, and slowly transform into soil for my organic garden. 

It sounded simple.

Court finds parent’s right to comment on their interactions with their child’s coaches or teachers is cleartly established.

Jonathan Adler:

Qualified immunity is not reserved for police officers. Other government officials invoke QI as well. A reasonable number of QI cases actually arise in the educational context. A recent example is McElhaney v. Williams from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth CIrcuit, in which school officials allegedly retaliated against a parent who criticized his daughter’s softball coach.

Judge Readler summarized the issues as follows:

Youth sports are as much about instilling life lessons as they are winning and losing. Child athletes can be forgiven for occasionally losing sight of this bigger picture. But we expect more from their parents.

As this case demonstrates, those expectations are not always met. Randall McElhaney is an enthusiastic supporter of his daughter, who, when this dispute arose, was an infielder on her high school softball team. His passion, however, sometimes gets the best of him. When his daughter was benched, McElhaney sent text messages to her coach criticizing his managerial decisions. In response, school officials banned McElhaney from attending games for the next week.

A dispute over the team’s starting infield soon became much more. McElhaney filed this suit, alleging that school officials retaliated against him for criticizing his daughter’s coach, speech that McElhaney believed was shielded by the First Amendment. Defendants moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. In their minds, McElhaney was not denied a constitutional right, let alone one that was clearly established. Reaching only the clearly established prong of qualified immunity, the district court granted defendants’ motion and entered judgment in their favor.

As we see things, it is clearly established at a low level of generality that when a school employee interacts with a student, speech by the student’s parent about those interactions enjoys First Amendment protection. On that basis, we must reverse the district court. We remand the case to resolve whether retaliation occurred in the first instance.

And from later in the opinion:

Harvard & Olive Garden

Tyler Cowen:

One lesson is that it’s harder to convince poorer individuals to mingle with wealthier individuals in settings where the culture is shaped to align with a higher socioeconomic status. Churches, for instance, are usually free and open to all — but the poor do not seem so keen on attending religious services in wealthier neighborhoods. Maybe that’s because they don’t view the wealthier church as a “better service” (however that might be defined) but rather as an environment where they do not feel entirely comfortable or welcome.

In other words: Wealthier institutions or establishments attract a mixed customer or user base only when they give up cultural control. Taller stained-glass windows and more comfortable pews can do only so much to attract lower-income churchgoers. (An aside: One nice feature of marketing “culture” — for lack of a better word — on the internet is that it can be broadly appealing. Classical music on YouTube, for example, is not only free but also free of snob appeal.)

Fifth Circuit Says Law Enforcement Doesn’t Need Warrants To Search Phones At The Border

Tim Cushing:

In 2014, the Supreme Court made it clear: phone searches require warrants. While it did note the case involved a search “incident to an arrest,” the precedent was undeniable. If a phone search attached to an arrest requires a warrant, it would logically follow that any phone search by law enforcement — even those not subsequent to an arrest — requires a warrant. 

Since then, multiple federal courts have come to the opposite conclusion in cases involving searches of phones at borders or international airports. According to these judges, the Rileydecision simply doesn’t apply when border security is in play. And it doesn’t matter whether the searched device belongs to an American citizen or a resident of a foreign country.

The law shouldn’t be unsettled, but it is. There’s no consensus at the appellate level. Nor is there one at the lower levels. All we have is a lack of clarity to work with. One federal judge (Jed Rakoff) said warrants are needed for “some” border phone searches — specifically “forensic” searches in which the government makes itself a copy of all data on a person’s phone. 

The Fourth Circuit Appeals Court also made a limited finding in favor of Riley’s warrant requirement, stating that border law enforcement officers must have at least articulable suspicion to engage in forensic searches. That’s still a long way from probable cause, but it’s more than the “nothing at all” standard CBP and Border Patrol officers have been held to.

Enrollment grows in the Sunshine State, thanks to school choice.

Wall Street Journal:

One goal of robust school choice programs is to broaden quality education alternatives. A new report brings evidence that this is happening in Florida, where Catholic PreK-12 schools are defying national trends.

Of the 10 states with the highest Catholic school enrollment, Florida is the only one where Catholic school enrollment has grown over the past decade. It’s a modest 4.4%, or 3,644 students, but compare that to New York and New Jersey, where enrollment dropped by more than 30%. Pennsylvania saw a 25% loss. The report comes from Step Up for Students, a nonprofit that administers Florida’s K-12 scholarships.

The Sunshine State’s population growth may have something to do with it, the report acknowledges. But other states showed larger declines in Catholic school enrollment than in the number of school-age children, so other factors seem to be at play. A big one is the state’s private school scholarships.

Florida has offered publicly funded scholarships since 2001 and has expanded eligibility over the years. “As a share of total enrollment, the percentage of choice scholarship students in Florida Catholic schools has risen from 16.3 percent to 46.6 percent” from 2012-13 to 2022-23, says the report.

This year the Legislature passed a bill to open the scholarships to all students regardless of income, so this percentage will likely grow as parents take advantage of the program to afford tuition at Catholic school.

Civics: The Rock and the Egg – A Useful Guide for Telling One from the Other

Librarian of Celano:

It is important to understand the dynamic between these three forces. The managerial state is not itself leftist; it is not committed to a project of equality or the amelioration of social problems arising from capitalism. It is a neoliberal oligarchy focused on globalization, creating homogenous populations managed through the creation and provision of material desire, corporatist, statist, and bureaucratic, but above all committed to progressive ends through the benign rule of credentialed elites. Leftism figures into this as both a safety valve and system of control. Leftists amenable to the elite are parked in sinecures in universities, NGOs, and corporate HR departments, where they can do the hard work of destroying what remains of traditional culture, thereby serving the interests of neoliberals, for whom such is a hindrance to the creation of the mass-man they need to consume the new product. The other leftists, those too deranged, mentally ill, or violent for life in an office, are allowed to form militias that operate in territories given over to leftist rule, Portland, Oakland, etc. This is Antifa and its hangers-on, the black bloc of Nazgul who show up whenever the regime needs to remind the normies what happens when its protections are withdrawn. The media, for its part, has the task of packaging and contextualizing the violence and destruction as both legitimate and part of the bigger project of removing regime enemies in the name of keeping everyone safe. That’s a nice store you have there . . . be a shame if it got burned down because of racism. Best to let the nice people at GAE get back to running things. So remember, show up and vote D. You wouldn’t want us to have to come back.

The Democrat governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, denounced the police shooting, making sure to include phrases like “racism” and “merciless killing” in between meaningless caveats.  The plan was clearly to give Kenosha up to the sack and the left got the message loud and clear.  All summer, Black Lives Matter, an amorphous group/movement that was equal parts grift and instrument of leftist radicalism, had organized protests which devolved (or developed) into violence, often featuring Antifa, more anonymous, more violent, and more purely ideological.  Now that fury was set to descend on Kenosha.  The system called out the National Guard, people boarded up windows, but it was obvious that nothing meaningful was going to be done to protect lives and property should the left decide to attack either.  The people of Kenosha were to be made an example of; their role was to cry in front of their burned-out donut shops while Joy Reid mocked their impotent white tears

Into this situation stepped Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse, as noted, was in town due to his work and familial connections. After the first night of destruction Rittenhouse and some friends volunteered to clean up graffiti; he then stayed on in town to help protect businesses the next night. One of his friends loaned him an AR-15 for this purpose. Guarding a used car lot, which the police and National Guard were content to let be razed, Rittenhouse was attacked by two protestors, Joshua Ziminski and Joseph Rosenbaum. Both men were violent criminals; the former was carrying a stolen handgun while engaging in multiple acts of arson, while the latter was a mentally-ill, drug-addicted pedophile recently released from both prison and a mental hospital. Ziminski seems to have been the more calculating of the two, with Rosenbaum simply possessed of a perverse urge to destroy. In any case, they were but part of a larger mob making its way down the main strip, being driven there by riot control elsewhere. It seems that it was Ziminski who initially pointed Rittenhouse out to Rosenbaum, and Rosenbaum charged at him, daring him to shoot him while inexplicably screaming anti-black racial slurs at the white Rittenhouse. At nearly the exact moment Rosenbaum caught up to Rittenhouse, hurling a plastic bag containing all of his worldly possessions at the teen, Ziminski fired a shot in the air. Rittenhouse turned on Rosenbaum at the sound, whereupon the latter grabbed at the AR-15 Rittenhouse was carrying. Tucker Carlson described what happened next better than I ever could:

Notes on Home Schooling

Laura Mechler:

Her program is part of a company called Prenda, which last year served about 2,000 students across several states. It connects home-school families with microschool leaders who host students, often in their homes. It’s like Airbnb for education, says Prenda’s CEO, because its website allows customers — in this case, parents — to enter their criteria, search and make a match.

An explosion of new options, including Prenda, has transformed home schooling in America. Demand is surging: Hundreds of thousands of children have begun home schooling in the last three years, an unprecedented spike that generated a huge new market. In New Hampshire, for instance, the number of home-schoolers doubled during the pandemic, and even today it remains 40 percent above pre-covid totals.

For many years, home schooling has conjured images of parents and children working together at the kitchen table. The new world of home schooling often looks very different: pods, co-ops, microschools and hybrid schools, often outside the home, as well as real-time and recorded virtual instruction. For a growing number of students, education now exists somewhere on a continuum between school and home, in person and online, professional and amateur.

ChatGPT Outperforms University Students in Writing

Scitech Daily:

ChatGPT scored similarly or better than university students in 9 out of 32 courses when answering assessment questions, according to a study involving NYUAD. Although 74% of surveyed students across five countries would use ChatGPT, 70% of educators view its use as plagiarism.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports suggests that ChatGPT’s performance in responding to examination questions in various disciplines such as computer science, politics, engineering, and psychology, may be comparable to, or even surpass, the average university student’s performance. Additionally, the study revealed that nearly 75% of the students surveyed expressed willingness to use ChatGPT for assistance with their assignments, notwithstanding the perception of many educators that utilizing ChatGPT amounts to plagiarism.

To investigate how ChatGPT performed when writing university assessments compared to students, Talal Rahwan and Yasir Zaki invited faculty members who taught different courses at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) to provide three student submissions each for ten assessment questions that they had set.

ChatGPT was then asked to produce three sets of answers to the ten questions, which were then assessed alongside student-written answers by three graders (who were unaware of the source of the answers). The ChatGPT-generated answers achieved a similar or higher average grade than students in 9 of 32 courses. Only mathematics and economics courses saw students consistently outperform ChatGPT. ChatGPT outperformed students most markedly in the ‘Introduction to Public Policy’ course, where its average grade was 9.56 compared to 4.39 for students.

Obsessing Over Elite College Admissions Is the Opposite of Progressive

Francisco Toro:

Imagine the entire cohort of U.S. graduating high school students this year as a group of one thousand bright-eyed 18-year-olds: kids of every class and race, spanning the whole spectrum of talent, wealth and oppression. What should the goal of progressive politics be for them? Where should attention be focused?

Let’s look at our thousand more closely. 380 of them—overwhelmingly poorer and disproportionatelyblack, Latino, and male—will stop their school careers here. They’ll go directly into the workforce, where they’ll earn less and live worse than most of the rest of the group.

Another 190 of our original thousand will enroll in a two-year college. Just 55 of them will actually complete a two-year degree within six years. The other 135 will fail to get any qualification, and they will be at a particular disadvantage in the workforce.

You might think the left would focus their energy like a laser beam on the 570 out of every thousand graduating seniors who never enroll in a 4-year university in the first place. Racial minorities dominate this group, and their socio-economic results are terrible. If you’re actually concerned about social and racial justice, this is where you need to look.

16 Fertility Scenarios

Robin Hanson:

World population is widely projected to peak around 2050-90 at roughly 9-11B, with ~40% living in Africa. World population would then decline. But how long, and how far? The median respondent in my Twitter polls expects a population revival ~2150, and only 15% see population falling below 2B. So most expect this to be a mild and temporary problem. But I’m not so sure. In this post, I’ll review some possible scenarios.

First, let’s set some context. Starting in France ~250 years ago, the number of children born to each woman in her lifetime, her “fertility”, consistently fell as incomes rose. Though some say this “demographic transition” is most closely connected to female education and access to contraception/abortion than to income. The most proximate causes I see are the high status of career success requiring high youthful efforts, a preference for fewer higher status kids, and an increasing taste for leisure.

Why fewer university students are studying Mandarin

The Economist:

Ten years ago Mandarin, the mother tongue of most Chinese, was being hyped as the language of the future. In 2015 the administration of Barack Obama called for 1m primary- and secondary-school students in America to learn it by 2020. In 2016 Britain followed suit, encouraging kids to study “one of the most important languages for the ’s future prosperity”. Elsewhere, too, there seemed to be a growing interest in Mandarin, as China’s influence and economic heft increased. So why, a decade later, does Mandarin-learning appear to have declined in many places?

Good numbers are tough to come by in some countries, but the trend is clear among university students in the English-speaking world. In America, for example, the number taking Mandarin courses peaked around 2013. From 2016 to 2020 enrolment in such courses fell by 21%, according to the Modern Language Association, which promotes language study. In Britain the number of students admitted to Chinese-studies programmes dropped by 31% between 2012 and 2021, according to the Higher Education Statistics Association, which counts such things (though it does not count those who take Mandarin as part of other degrees).

How the Student-Loan Payment Pause Hurt Borrowers

Allysia Finley:

Student-loan borrowers have enjoyed a nearly four-year spring break from making payments. They have used their savings to splurge on vacations, home renovations and other personal indulgences. According to a June UBS survey, 62% of student-loan borrowers agreed with the spending philosophy of “live for today because tomorrow is so uncertain.” In fairness to them, it was uncertain whether they’d have to repay their student loans—and most probably won’t.

The payment pause, which President Biden prolonged, enabled college grads to spend beyond their means while his promises of loan forgiveness encouraged them to pile on the debt—not only for expensive advanced degrees but also homes, cars and travel. As a result, borrowers are in a worse position financially than before the pandemic.

A Fidelity survey this month reported that two-thirds of borrowers say they don’t know how they will resume making payments once the pause ends next month. Some in the media call the restart a “student loan cliff.” This is overdramatic, but nobody should be surprised if borrowers, lured by government promises of loan forgiveness, sleepwalk over the proverbial ledge.

The College Board Tells TikTok and Facebook Your SAT Scores

Thomas Germain:

Many students have no choice about working with the College Board, the company that administers the SAT test and Advanced Placement exams. Part of that relationship involves a long history of privacy issues. Tests by Gizmodo found if you use some of the handy tools promoted by College Board’s website, the organization sends details about your SAT scores, GPA, and other data to Facebook, TikTok, and a variety of companies.

Gizmodo observed the College Board’s website sharing data with Facebook and TikTok when a user fills in information about their GPA and SAT scores. When this reporter used the College Board’s search filtering tools to find colleges that might accept a student with a C+ grade-point average and a SAT score of 420 out of 1600, the site let the social media companies know. Whether a student is acing their tests or struggling, Facebook and TikTok get the details.

School bans ‘only 2 genders’ T shirt: There’s only 1 acceptable opinion

Joanne Jacobs:

Liam Morrison, 12, was sent home from Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, Massachusetts, was sent home for wearing the “two genders” shirt and again for wearing an altered shirt saying “There are only censored genders.” 

The family has appealed.

“This isn’t about a T-shirt; this is about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from the school’s orthodoxy,” said Logan Spena, council for the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a press release. “Public school officials can’t force Liam to remove a shirt that states his position when the school lets every other student wear clothing that speaks on the same issue.”

The Scott Gerber case at Ohio Northern University is a new low for campus politicization.

Richard Vedder:

Observers of the American collegiate scene are likely well aware of the academic jihad against University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and the disgraceful shouting down of federal judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford, led by a woke DEI apparatchik. But in terms of outrageous violations of American norms of academic conduct, due process, and civility, nothing compares with the treatment of Professor Scott Gerber of Ohio Northern University (ONU).

Unlike elite coastal schools like Penn or Stanford, ONU is a Midwestern private school of so-so reputation, not on lists of the 10 best colleges in Ohio, much less the nation. The university is located in the sleepy town of Ada, an hour’s drive from any metropolis, whose 2021 estimated population of 5,256 was lower than in 1970. Its greatest claim to fame is possibly not ONU but the fact that it is the home of the manufacturer of NFL footballs.

Professor Gerber teaches in the ONU law school. U.S. News ranks ONU in the bottom one-third of Ohio’s law schools and as 146th best in the nation (Stanford is #1, Penn #4). The program is a back-up choice for students unable to get into Ohio State, Case Western Reserve, or the University of Cincinnati. It has almost nothing to brag about.

But there is one important legal scholar on the ONU law faculty—Gerber—and he is also a fine teacher. His book First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas is a highly praised assessment of an important Supreme Court justice. He has authored eight other booksand has given presentations at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia.

A flurry of companies and entrepreneurs aim to fill the demand for mental-health help

Julie Wernau & Andrea Peterson:

A search for “anxiety relief” on Google pulls up links for supplements in the form of pills, patches, gummies and mouth sprays. There are vibrating devices that hang around your neck and “tone your vagus nerve,” weighted stuffed animals, bead-filled stress balls and coloring books that claim to bring calm. Ads for online talk therapy apps pop up on social-media sites.

Americans are anxious—and a flurry of old-line companies, upstarts and opportunistic entrepreneurs aim to fill the demand for relief.

Anxiety has come into focus across the country in part due to the stress of the pandemic, increased awareness about mental health and more screening in schools and at doctors’ offices. In a recent federal survey, 27% of respondents reported they had symptoms of an anxiety disorder. That’s up from 8% in 2019, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Americans looking for help have found that the supply of available and qualified therapists hasn’t kept up with demand. Some can’t afford the fees. That has left a growing industry geared toward anxiety outside the medical and traditional mental-health professions, including supplements, products and mental-health coaches.

The science behind much of the industry is unclear and in some cases questioned by scientists and researchers. The antianxiety claims of most products have no federal or regulatory oversight. The role of the Food and Drug Administration is to ensure that supplements meet safety standards, are well manufactured and accurately labeled, but the agency doesn’t need to approve supplements before they can be sold or marketed. Supplements might interact with other medications.

Commentary on Milwaukee College Prep Programs

Corrine Hess:

Milwaukee’s college prep programs have shown improvement in growing academic achievement for Hispanic children, but not Black students. And access to programs are often too limited to create institutional change across the city.

Those findings are part of a recent report by the Black and Latino Ecosystem and Support Transition, or BLEST, Hub at Marquette University which highlights the Black and brown college student perspective.  

The group began in 2019 as a collaboration of Marquette, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Public Schools to build a greater understanding of the needs of Black and brown students in Milwaukee. 

As Milwaukee’s Hispanic population has grown over the last 20 years, there have been increasing efforts by many charter and choice high schools and the city’s universities to intentionally interact with Latino students.  

Over the last decade, Cristo Rey, two of the Carmen Schools and St. Augustine Preparatory Academy opened on the city’s south side. During that same time, Hispanic enrollment increased 114 percent at Marquette University and 76 percent at UW-Milwaukee, the report found.  

Walter Lanier, CEO of the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee and one of the founders of the BLEST Hub, said the strides made for Hispanic students are good. But Black students continue to need support.

State school bureaucracy brings in high-profile leftists to teach Wisconsin teachers about ‘equity’

Patrick Mcilheran:

DPI series has history of speakers peddling ‘critical’ view of race in America

As part of a training program, an initiative of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is bringing in high-profile left-wing speakers, including Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, to speak to potentially thousands of Wisconsin teachers about “educational equity.”

Earlier training sessions in the series, meanwhile, have featured authors such as one who called school reform an example of “white rage” that requires $2 trillion in reparations. 

The series of online talks, run by the DPI under its “Educational Equity Leadership Series” this week announced that Kendi, known for advocating racial discrimination as a form of reparation, will be among the speakers in the upcoming school year.  

The talks carry weight because they are a program of the DPI. That agency not only holds regulatory sway over Wisconsin’s schools, public and private, it controls professional licensing for teachers and school administrators.

Meanwhile: Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004 –

Notes on Censorship and social media

Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison

An aggressive legal battle over claims that the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference. (More)

And X CEO Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on the site formerly known as Twitter. In a sign of Musk’s influence, Meta briefly considered a plan last year to ban all political advertising on Facebook. The company shelved it after Musk announced plans to transform rival Twitter into a haven for free speech, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

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The retrenchment comes just months ahead of the 2024 primaries, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump continues to rally supporters with false claims that election fraud drove his 2020 loss to Joe Biden. Multiple investigations into the election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump now faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Still, YouTube, X and Meta have stopped labelingor removing posts that repeat Trump’s claims, even as voters increasingly get their news on social media.

Trump capitalized on those relaxed standards in his recent interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, hosted by X. The former president punctuated the conversation, which streamed Wednesday night during the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 campaign, with false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and that the Democrats had “cheated” to elect Biden.

On Thursday night, Trump posted on X for the first time since he was kicked off the site, then known as Twitter, following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Musk reinstated his account in November. The former president posted his mug shot from Fulton County, Ga., where he was booked Thursday on charges connected to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “NEVER SURRENDER!” read the caption.

Civics: Litigation and a small media site

Sarah Lehr:

A nonprofit news site in central Wisconsin is raising money to help cover its legal fees after being sued by a politician. 

Earlier this year, a Marathon County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in 2021 by Mosinee businessman CoryTomczyk.

Tomczyk, who’s now a Republican state senator representing the 29th District, accused the Wausau Pilot & Review of defamation after it reported that he was overheard using an anti-gay slur against a teenager while in the audience at a Marathon County Executive Committee meeting.

Despite the publication’s victory in circuit court, Pilot & Review Publisher Shereen Siewert said it’s racked up between $150,000 and $200,000 in legal bills. Those expenses were enough to put the small news outlet in danger of shutting down, Siewert said.

“When the judge dismissed the (complaint), his reasoning that was outlined in his ruling was very clear,” said Siewert, “It was very sound reasoning, and we were so relieved. But then we realized that even if we win, we lose.”

Siewert also is employed by Wisconsin Public Radio as part-time host of the regional news and culture talk show, Route 51. WPR staff members who interact regularly with Siewert were not involved with the reporting or editing of this article.

The early history of counting

Keith Houston:

In 1973, while excavating a cave in the Lebombo Mountains, near South Africa’s border with Swaziland, Peter Beaumont found a small, broken bone with twenty-​nine notches carved across it. The so-​called Border Cave had been known to archaeologists since 1934, but the discovery during World War II of skeletal remains dating to the Middle Stone Age heralded a site of rare importance. It was not until Beaumont’s dig in the 1970s, however, that the cave gave up its most significant treasure: the earliest known tally stick, in the form of a notched, three-​inch long baboon fibula.

On the face of it, the numerical instrument known as the tally stick is exceedingly mundane. Used since before recorded history—still used, in fact, by some cultures—to mark the passing days, or to account for goods or monies given or received, most tally sticks are no more than wooden rods incised with notches along their length. They help their users to count, to remember, and to transfer ownership. All of which is reminiscent of writing, except that writing did not arrive until a scant 5,000 years ago—and so, when the Lebombo bone was determined to be some 42,000 years old, it instantly became one of the most intriguing archaeological artifacts ever found. Not only does it put a date on when Homo sapiens started counting, it also marks the point at which we began to delegate our memories to external devices, thereby unburdening our minds so that they might be used for something else instead. Writing in 1776, the German historian Justus Möser knew nothing of the Lebombo bone, but his musings on tally sticks in general are strikingly apposite:

One goal of her South American trip was to learn how to succeed in censorship.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady:

AOC and friends met with leftist politicians to offer their support for collectivist causes in the name of nonintervention. “Extractive” U.S. policies are on AOC’s list of gripes. In Chile this presumably means copper mining, which happens to have been the engine of the country’s economic growth going back decades. If it means lithium mining, perhaps Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should have had a word with President Gabriel Boric. He recently nationalized the industry so he could grab more wealth for the state.

A central talking point was the group’s outrage over U.S. Cold War policies, which kept Soviet and Cuban hands off the continent in the 20th century. The defense of the Kremlin’s Western Hemisphere puppets, 50 years after the fact, is a head-scratcher. One wonders why the gaggle of American anticapitalists, spouting facile economics, didn’t instead visit Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia—where communism has taken hold. They would have been greeted as heroes by any of those governments.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s vanity tour underwhelmed the locals. Brazil’s President Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva didn’t make time to meet with them. Press coverage overall was scant, though there was much posing.

Some special interests, such as Chile’s anti-American Communist Party, used the visit to show themselves close to American politicians, which seemed, well, weird. With a huge corruption scandal swirling around Mr. Boric, a meeting with members of the minority party of the U.S. House and some Hill staffers may have been a welcome distraction. For most Chileans the visit was background noise.

Teeny, Tiny Schools

Megan Tagami:

Amanda Ray’s son attended public school from prekindergarten to fifth grade. But when he qualified for West Virginia’s school voucher program for the 2023-24 school year, Ray jumped at the opportunity to enroll her son in Eyes and Brains STEM Center, a small private school serving a total of six students in kindergarten to seventh grade.

Ray’s son had struggled with reading and writing, but the smaller setting allows him to develop a close relationship with his teacher, who is able to tailor lessons to his interests, such as a writing assignment about his favorite characters in the game Dungeons & Dragons.

“It’s the perfect fit for him,” Ray said.

Eyes and Brains STEM Center is one of a fast-growing number of so-called microschools in the U.S., which often serve between five and 25 students and operate as tuition-based private schools or learning centers for home-schoolers. Currently approximately 125,000 microschools exist across the country, reflecting an increase since the pandemic, according to Don Soifer, chief executive of the National Microschooling Center.

Across the U.S., microschools likely serve between one to two million students, said Michael McShane, director of national research at EdChoice, an organization advocating for school choice policies.

In some states, new voucher laws that provide more families with state funds for private-school tuition or home schooling and other academic expenses are helping to finance the growth in microschool enrollment. Those opposed to vouchers say the funding siphons money from traditional public schools to private schools that aren’t accountable to rigorous state oversight.

Teachers and Content

Joseph De Avila:

“I really resent being forced into a position where my role as an educator is all of a sudden somebody who is in charge of censorship,” said Cleaver, who teaches at Ferry Pass Middle School. “That’s not my role as an educator.”

Teachers in Florida said a wave of recent educational-policy changes has sown confusion and chaos, creating fresh concerns for educators struggling to navigate through a new academic year. Disputes over new African-American history standards, Advanced Placement Psychology and new restrictions on calling a student by their preferred name also have many teachers on edge.

Many of the issues confronting teachers this academic school year are byproducts of laws passed in 2022. Florida has been at the forefront of a group of conservative-led states that have made sweeping changes to the way teachers can discuss race, gender and sexuality in the classroom.

One change is Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act passed in 2022—called the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation by opponents—which restricts instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. It originally applied to grades kindergarten to third grade with bans in later grades if not age-appropriate. The state Board of Education expanded it in April to apply through the 12th grade.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis championed the Parental Rights in Education Act, saying it gives parents more control over children’s education and prohibits inappropriate classroom instruction.

Penn gave ex-president Amy Gutmann a $3.7 million home loan as she prepared to depart the university

Susan Snyder and Ryan Briggs:

The university’s trustee compensation committee in late 2020 quietly authorized a $3.7 million, 0.38% interest home loan to Gutmann, according to tax records and financial disclosure forms. The loan was to help with her “presidential transition,” said Scott Bok, chairman of Penn’s board of trustees.

Specifically, Gutmann, 73, had lived in the president’s house on campus during her tenure, and she wanted to purchase a home to stay in Philadelphia. She left the presidency in February 2022 to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany.

“While I won’t be living there while I’m ambassador, we have a place to come back to,” Gutmann said in a 2022 Inquirer interview, noting that she is on unpaid leave from the faculty. “Philly is our home.”

Civics: Truthiness and the legacy media

John Lucas:

Tapper teed up the segment by noting that Zeleny was reporting that anonymous White House staff had leaked that “President Biden might have a blind spot, according to people around him when it comes to his son Hunter Biden’s legal troubles.” Zeleny says it is now “verboten” for anyone on the White House or campaign staff to “talk about Hunter Biden.”

Tapper then noted that in the 2020 presidential debates Joe Biden had denied Trump’s allegations that his son had made “a fortune” from China, but that, in fact, Hunter had reported over $4 million in income in 2017 and 2018, “most of which came from Chinese or Ukrainian interests.” The CNN excerpts of the debates showed these exchanges:

Biden: “My son has not made money in terms of this thing about what are you talking about, what are you talking about, China.”

Trump: “He made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow –”

Biden angrily denied it: “That is simply not true.”

The video snippets of the debates that Tapper showed are here (beginning at 1:40).

Tapper concluded by saying what Biden and the Democrats in Congress have tried to deny and hide for years: “Trump was right … and Joe Biden was wrong.”

Accountability and the Wisconsin DPI

Corrine Hess

According to DPI, Holy Redeemer did not submit its September 2021 enrollment audit in a timely manner. The school also failed to timely submit its 2021-22 Fiscal & Internal Control Practices Report, which determines if the school has sound fiscal and internal control practices.  

These practices include paying vendors and employees on time, completing employee background checks and other practices required for participation in the choice program.  

Instead of withholding payment, DPI and Holy Redeemer entered into a settlement agreement and the school agreed it would provide all required reports in the future.  

But, in 2022 and in 2023, the school failed to meet due dates and provided incomplete reports, according to DPI.  

Holy Redeemer Christian Academy has participated in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since the 1998-99 school year.  

In the latest state school district report card for academic year 2021-22, Holy Redeemer failed to meet expectations, receiving an overall score of 28.4 percent.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

“For some parents, it was a reminder that school policies didn’t reflect their values.”

Rachel Hale:

Since it started in January 2021 Moms for Liberty says it has expanded to 285 chapters in 46 states with over 125,000 members. In Wisconsin, chapters in Kenosha, Marathon, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Polk, Rock, St. Croix, Vilas, Washington, Winnebago and Wood County have popped up over the past two years.

It’s hard to pinpoint how many members are active in Wisconsin — the Wood County and Ozaukee County chapters estimated that there are 400 and 6,000 members in their groups, respectively. A national spokesperson said they do not have updated state membership numbers.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

School Choice Expansion in Milwaukee

Rory Linnane

St. Augustine Preparatory Academy unveiled a new $49 million elementary school on Milwaukee’s south side Tuesday, showcasing a major expansion as school leaders also discussed plans for a new north-side branch on the former Cardinal Stritch campus.

About 730 students in kindergarten through fourth grade are expected to start school this week in the new building, which can eventually hold up to 900 students as the school plans to admit more students. Across the street in the older building, about 1,100 students are expected to attend middle and high school.

With the capacity to eventually serve a combined total of about 2,400 students at both buildings on the south side, school leaders said it has become the largest single-campus school in Milwaukee.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

School Discipline Event 24 August


During President Obama’s second term, the U.S. Education Department began sharing studies indicating that black students were disciplined at higher rates than their white peers. These data were viewed as evidence of racial bias, and, in 2014, the Education and Justice Departments jointly published a resource package to help American schools “…promote fair and effective disciplinary practices that will make schools safe, supportive, and inclusive for all students,” (DOJ). Supporters applauded these steps from the federal government saying they reduced schools’ racial disparities in disciplinary decisions thereby curtailing the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Critics countered that the guidance misstated federal civil rights law, encouraged racial discrimination in the allocation of school discipline to produce demographic parity, and left classrooms less functional.

Notes on the “science of Reading”

Matt Barnum:

In the long-running reading wars, proponents of phonics have won.

States across the country, both liberal and conservative, are passing laws designed to change the way students are taught to read in a way that is more aligned with the science of reading.

Statesschools of educationdistricts, and — ultimately, the hope is — teachers, are placing a greater emphasis on phonics. Meanwhile, the “three-cueing” method, which encourages students to guess words based on context, has been marginalized. It’s been a striking and swift change.

But there has been much less attention paid to another critical component of reading: background knowledge. A significant body of research suggests students are better able to comprehend what they read when they start with some understanding of the topic they’re reading about. This has led some academicseducators, and journalists to call for intentional efforts to build young children’s knowledge in important areas like science and social studies. Some school districts and teachers have begun integrating this into reading instruction.

Yet new state reading laws have almost entirely omitted attention to this issue, according to a recent review. In other words, building background knowledge is an idea supported by science that has not fully caught on to the science of reading movement. That suggests that while new reading laws might have real benefits, they may fall short of their potential to improve how children are taught to read. 

“It’s an underutilized component,” said Dan Trujillo, an administrator and former teacher in the San Marcos Unified School District in California. “There’s a lot of research about that: The more a reader brings into a text, the more advanced their comprehension will be.”

The Feds Asked TikTok for Lots of Domestic Spying Features

Mack Degeurin:

US government regulators reportedly tried to come to an agreement with TikTok to prevent banning the app that would have granted the federal government vast powers over the app. That’s according to a draft of a deal between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) obtained by Forbes, a contract that would have given multiple US agencies unprecedented access into the app’s records and operations. Many of the concessions the government asked of TikTok look eerily similar to the surveillance tactics critics have accused Chinese officials of abusing. To allay fears the short-form video app could be used as a Chinese surveillance tool, the federal government nearly transformed it into an American one instead.

Forbes reports that the draft agreement, dated Summer 2022, would have given the US government agencies like the Department of Justice and Department of Defense far more access to TikTok’s operations than that of any other social media company. The agreement would let agencies examine TikTok’s US facilities, records, and servers with minimal prior notice and veto the hiring of any executive involved with leading TikTok US data security organization. It would also let US agencies block changes to the app’s terms of service in the US and order the company to subject itself to various audits, all on TikTok’s dime, per Forbes. In extreme cases, the agreement would allow government organizations to demand TikTok temporarily shut off functioning in the US.

YouTube (Google) is Still Tracking Kids Through its Ads, Study Says

Roger Cheng:

YouTube is still tracking children through ads served to video marked as “made for kids,” according Adalytics, a research firm that looks at ad campaigns for brands. 

The study found that ads from Fortune 500 advertisers and major media agencies are still being attached to children’s content, including popular channels such as Cocomelon Nursery Rhymes & Kids and ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs. As a result, data brokers and ad tech companies are receiving data from those viewers and could be tracking them, Adalytics said. 

YouTube, its parent Alphabet, and these firms may be violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires services to get a parent’s permission before collecting data from users that are younger than 13 for the purposes of ads. In addition, this would be the second time YouTube was caught violating COPPA. In 2019, Alphabet, representing Google and YouTube, had to pay $170 million to settle COPPA violations, and agreed to a consent decree forbidding them from serving ads that tracked children.

New study measures grammatical complexity of 1,314 languages

Max Planck

Languages around the world differ greatly in how many grammatical distinctions they make. This variation is observable even between closely related languages. The speakers of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian, for example, use the same word hunden, meaning “the dog,” to communicate that the dog is in the house or that someone found the dog or gave food to the dog. In Icelandic, on the other hand, three different word forms would be used in these situations, corresponding to the nominative, accusative, and dative case respectively: hundurinn, hundinn, and hundinum.

This grammatical distinction in the case system, along with many others, sets Icelandic apart from its closely related sister languages. “One prominent hypothesis about why some languages show more complex grammar than others links grammatical complexity to the social environments in which these languages are used,” says first author Olena Shcherbakova from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

For example, Icelandic is primarily learned and used by the local population of over 350,000 people. Such relatively small isolated communities are also called “societies of intimates.” In contrast, the other Scandinavian countries, located in close proximity to their neighbors, have larger populations with substantial proportions of non-native speakers.

Kansas State U Racially-Discriminatory “Multicultural” Scholarship Challenged By Equal Protection Project

William Jacobson:

The Equal Protection Project (EPP)( of the Legal Insurrection Foundation has challenged numerous racially discriminatory programs done in the name of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This discrimination comes in a variety of ways, but the overarching theme is to exclude or diminish some people, and promote others, based on race, color, or ethnicity.

The latest iteration is the “Joey Lee Garmon Undergraduate Multicultural Student Scholarship” at Kansas State University (K-State). To be eligible, applicants “must be of an ethnic group that has been historically and traditionally oppressed in the achievement of academic and leadership endeavors,” with special preference given to “applicants of African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Latinx American heritage”.

EPP has filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. As full copy is at the bottom of this post, and reads in part:

Notes on legacy media and veracity

Without Belief in a God, But Never Without Belief in a Devil

Rob Henderson:

Personally, I saw this when I first arrived at Yale. I recall being stunned at how status anxiety pervaded elite college campuses. Internally, I thought, “You’ve already made it, what are you so stressed out about?” Hoffer, though, would say these students believed they had almost made it. That is why they were so aggravated. The closer they got to realizing their ambitions, the more frustrated they became about not already achieving them.

Hoffer’s conceptions of frustration highlight how if your conditions improve, but not as much or as quickly as you’d like, you will be vulnerable to recruitment by mass movements that promise to make your dreams come true.  

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “When inequality is the general law of society, the most blatant inequalities escape notice. When everything is virtually on a level, the slightest variations cause distress. That is why the desire for equality becomes more insatiable as equality extends to all.” For Hoffer, this insatiability cultivates frustration—a nebulous, simmering emotional state that can be harnessed by any ideology.

He describes what has now become known as the “Tocqueville effect”: A revolution is most likely to occur after an improvement in social conditions. As circumstances improve, people raise their expectations. Societal reforms raise reference points to a level that is usually not matched, eliciting rage and frustration.

Which Groups Have Received Racial Preferences in Higher Education Over the Years?

David Bernstein:

(UPDATE: I have been rightly taken to task for not noting the earlier court cases in which either whites or non-black Americans were the group getting preferences. I of course am aware of that phenomenon and its significance. I happen to be working on an article about how courts dealt with (or ignored) the issue of racial classification in affirmative action cases, i.e., whether they addressed whether the classifications themselves were ‘narrowly tailored’ as opposed to other legal and constitutional objections to affirmative action preferences, and my post was created in that context. But my bad for not specifying. Also, to be clear, my point is not to criticize African Americans or any other group that received the preferences. Rather, just to show how the groups deemed entitled to such preferences has changed over time, because I think few people are aware of it and it’s interesting.)

Looking at the underlying facts in major cases in the Supreme Court and circuit court cases, we see that Black Americans have always been eligible, the Mexican American classification expanded into all Hispanics, Asian Americans and subgroups thereof were initially eligible but later were considered “over-represented” and therefore at best ineligible for preferences, if not subject to higher standards than white applicants.

Wisconsin preschoolers are 5 times more likely to be expelled than K-12 students, but why?

Natalie Eilbert
Madison Lammert

When Rachael Van Domelen answers calls from her son’s child care center, she braces herself for uncomfortable conversations: apologies to another child’s parents, a sit-down with her 4-year-old or both.

One time, her son split open a teacher’s lip with a block. He hits other children or calls them names when he disagrees. His father, Mason Beaudry, called these episodes “explosive” and unpredictable.

“He’s so smart, it hurts. It makes things harder to navigate,” Van Domelen said. “If he’s upset and wants to upset someone else around him, it does not take him very long to figure out how to do that.”

Hope and change outcomes

Our pandemic outcome would have been better with more debate, less censorship.

Holman Jenkins:

Our steps did not significantly impede its spread even as our efforts miraculously quashed the annual flu. In year two, despite vaccination, as many Americans died as in year one. Yet further healthcare meltdowns were avoided. Vaccines clearly saved lives; if lockdowns and masking mandates contributed by keeping people alive until they could be vaccinated, though, the effect is hard to sort out from the voluntary measures an informed public would have taken anyway.

Meanwhile, bans on elective medical procedures, forced unemployment, school closures and other extreme measures produced their own toll. Among the 1.1 million Americans who died of Covid, their average age was 74 and they lost 12 years of life. Nobody yet knows the total years lost to younger people due to “excess deaths” from substance abuse, suicide, homicide, accidents, lack of cancer screening and other non-Covid causes. Only with the arrival of the Biden administration did it become expedient to acknowledge a truth known from the start: The virus was something we would have to “live with,” not defeat with indiscriminate social and economic curbs.

This is where the decision of U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty sheds light. His detailed recounting shows a Washington energetic in protecting Americans from Covid opinions, expertise and claims that conflicted with its own, at a time when it served politicians to show they were trying to save Americans from encountering a virus that couldn’t be avoided. When government has a message to deliver, especially when the political stakes are high, it won’t be content just to push its own message, it will try to silence others. Fighting back will always be necessary. The only surprise in our age is how thoroughly the “liberal” position has become the pro-censorship position.

Related: Taxpayer funded Dane County Madison Public Health mandates

Modernity and Allergies

Theresa Macphail

Elizabeth, an engineer in her late-30s, has three children, all with some form of allergy. Her eldest daughter, Viola, 12, had eczema as a baby; has environmental allergies to pollen; and allergies to corn, tree nuts and peanuts.

Her youngest son, Brian, 3, also had eczema as a baby and subsequently developed allergies to peanuts and barley, though Elizabeth fears there could be more. Her middle daughter, five-year-old Amelia, had a dairy allergy as an infant, but is now just lactose intolerant. She’s the easiest of the three, at least in terms of allergy.

By the time I hear her story, Elizabeth is already a veteran at dealing with her children’s irritated immune systems. She began a support group for parents of children with corn allergies and is heavily involved in trying to educate other parents about food allergies.

The parents share their theories about why their children have allergies. Her own is that Viola and Brian both went to the emergency room with high fevers as babies and were given precautionary antibiotics. She blames the antibiotics for altering her children’s gut microbiome and herself for agreeing to the treatment in the first place.

Part of Elizabeth’s rationale is that no one else in her family has allergies. In fact, it’s so rare that her parents initially didn’t believe the diagnoses. They argued that “back in their day,” everyone ate everything and was fine; food allergy was made-up nonsense. But when both Viola and Brian landed in the ER repeatedly for food-related anaphylaxis, her parents realized these allergies were indeed “real.”

An educational entrepreneur creates a school for kids with reading difficulties.

Danyela Souza Egorov:

Tim Castanza admits that he was “triggered.” The year was 2016, and Castanza, then working for the New York City Department of Education, attended a Community Education Council meeting in Staten Island, where several mothers of kids with dyslexia spoke. The public schools didn’t have any programs for their children, they said, describing how long schools took to offer proper evaluations and how the district failed to provide adequate services, even after children received diagnoses. Along with Rose Kerr, a retired DOE principal and director of education for Staten Island’s borough president, Castanza wanted to do something. “I know what good phonics instruction looks like because of my elementary school teacher,” Castanza, who received an ADHD diagnosis in college, said. “Still, I had a lot of needs that were not met at that school.”

Three years later, Castanza opened the school that he wished he could have attended himself: Bridge Prep Charter School. Designed according to scientific reading instruction, the school offers all the necessary support for children with dyslexia and other language-based learning difficulties. City leaders should learn from its impressive results.

Bridge Prep’s advantage consists not just of a different curriculum but of a different way of training teachers and an expansive capacity to meet students’ needs. Nearly two-thirds of students at Bridge Prep have an Individual Education Plan, and nearly all of these receive multiple services. Seven in ten Bridge Prep students also hail from low-income families, which often cannot afford extracurricular phonics coaching (a common but expensive practice among high-income students who struggle to read). The school, therefore, offers 60 minutes of daily instruction based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach. Phonics instruction gets delivered to students grouped by grade and ability. This is “equity,” Castanza says. A school is “not prepared to teach every kid” unless it has a structured literacy program, he adds.

Georgia Orosz’s son has benefited. When he came to Bridge Prep to repeat second grade, he was reading at kindergarten level, had a dyslexia diagnosis, and was writing in reverse. And his struggles at school had become a behavioral issue. His mother was so frustrated with the Staten Island public school he attended that she planned to homeschool him—until a therapist referred her to Bridge Prep. Her son enrolled in the school right before the pandemic. By the beginning of fifth grade, he was reading at grade level.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

Students blocked from campus when COVID hit want money back. Some are getting refunds.

Elaine Povich

Thousands of college students will get hundreds of dollars in compensation as colleges and universities move this summer to settle multimillion-dollar lawsuits stemming from canceled classes and activities during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

While some of the class-action suits against the colleges and universities are still in litigation, and still others dismissed, several major cases have been settled in recent weeks.

The settlements mean students who were charged tuition and fees but weren’t able to use in-person services during the pandemic shutdowns will receive some compensation, though they won’t be refunded for all the on-campus amenities they lost.

The amounts depend on the total settlement figure, minus legal fees and other court expenses. Each case has a different timeline.

Deja Vu: The FBI Proves Again It Can’t be Trusted with Section 702

Matthew Guariglia:

We all deserve privacy in our communications, and part of that is trusting that the government will only access them within the limits of the law. But at this point, it’s crystal clear that the FBI doesn’t believe that either our rights nor the limitations that Congress has placed upon the bureau matter when it comes to the vast amount of information about us collected under FISA Section 702.  

The latest exhibit in this is in yet another newly declassified opinion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). This opinion further reiterates what we already know, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation simply cannot be trusted with conducting foreign intelligence queries on American persons.  Regardless of the rules, or consistent FISC disapprovals, the FBI continues to act in a way that shows no regard for privacy and civil liberties. 

According to the declassified FISC ruling, despite paper reforms which the FBI has touted that it put into place to respond to the last time it was caught violating U.S. law, the Bureau conducted four queries for the communications of a state senator and a U.S. senator. And they did so without even meeting their own already-inadequate standards for these kinds of searches.

Lawfare and Wisconsin School Choice: Minocqua Brewing Edition

notes and links on Minocqua Brewing.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

Civics: Influence and “media”

Proposed ABA free speech standard

Stephanie Francis Ward:

It’s important for schools to clearly state that the disruption of speakers is not tolerated, and if students do that, they will face academic discipline,” says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law and an ABA Journal contributor. Image from Shutterstock.

Following various controversies around campus speech and a U.S. House of Representatives committee request to investigate a Stanford Law School incident, the Strategic Review Committee of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has proposed a new accreditation standard focused on guidance for academic freedom policies.

Outlined in an Aug. 2 memo, the proposal also addresses freedom of expression. Currently, Standard 405(b) requires law schools to have an “established and announced policy” about academic freedom. The memo suggests creating a new standard, which would include language saying it applies to full- and part-time faculty, affords due process to people who claim their academic freedom has been violated and condemns disruptive behavior that hinders free expression.

The memo marks the first step of the proposed revision, and its authors suggest it go out for notice and comment if approved, as is customary with standards changes. The Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar council is scheduled to vote on the matter Friday when it meets in Chicago.

China’s Defeated Youth

The Economist:

In the southern city of Huizhou an electronics factory is hiring. The monthly salary on offer is between 4,500 and 6,000 yuan (or $620 and $830), enough to pay for food and essentials, but not much else. The advertisement says new employees are expected to “work hard and endure hardship”. The message might have resonated with Chinese of an older generation, many of whom worked long hours in poor conditions to give their children a brighter future. But many of those children now face similar drudgery—and are unwilling to endure it. “I can’t sit on an assembly line,” says Zhang, a 20-something barista with dyed-red hair at a local tea shop. He scoffs at the idea of making such sacrifices for so little gain. The job at the tea shop pays just 4,000 yuan a month, but he enjoys chatting up customers.

Mister Rogers Had a Point: Routinely Greeting Six Neighbors Maximizes Wellbeing Outcomes

Andy Corbley:

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, haven’t you heard? Mister Rogers said so—and now his simple advice on how to be a good person has been backed by sophisticated polling data.

As part of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, saying hello to more than 1 neighbor was shown to correlate with greater self-perception of well-being.

Averaged across five dimensions that included career, communal, physical, financial, and social well-being, the increase which greeting a neighbor had led to around a 2-point increase on a scale of 0-100 up until the sixth neighbor, at which point further greetings had no measured impact.

Civics: influence and government

Princeton Companion to Mathematics

Timothy Gowers

Bertrand Russell, in his book The Principles of Mathematics, proposes the following as a definition of pure mathematics.

Pure Mathematics is the class of all propositions of the form “ p implies q ,” where p and q are propositions containing one or more variables, the same in the two propositions, and neither p nor q contains any constants except logical constants. And logical constants are all notions definable in terms of the following: Implication, the relation of a term to a class of which it is a member, the notion of such that, the notion of relation, and such further notions as may be involved in the general notion of propositions of the above form. In addition to these, mathematics uses a notion which is not a constituent of the propositions which it considers, namely the notion of truth.

The Princeton Companion to Mathematics could be said to be about everything that Russell’s definition leaves out.

Russell’s book was published in 1903, and many mathematicians at that time were preoccupied with the logical foundations of the subject. Now, just over a century later, it is no longer a new idea that mathematics can be regarded as a formal system of the kind that Russell describes, and today’s mathematician is more likely to have other concerns. In particular, in an era where so much mathematics is being published that no individual can understand more than a tiny fraction of it, it is useful to know not just which arrangements of symbols form grammatically correct mathematical statements, but also which of these statements deserve our attention.

Civics: Warmongering

Matt Taibbi:

The Harpers piece doesn’t blame the United States for war in Ukraine, but does tell a story about a foreign policy establishment that wriggled free of our more conflict-averse late seventies and eighties, and created a new expansionism that eschews diplomacy and generates military confrontation almost by design. “Far from making the world safer by setting it in order,” the authors write, “we have made it all the more dangerous.”

There was a time when avoiding war was a chief priority of American liberalism, which would have taken a story like the Harpers piece as a rallying cry. The issue containing the Layne-Schwarz story reportedly did brisk sales, but generated little discussion in media, beyond a tweet from Ann Coulter:

Lawyers and elections

Larry Lessig

I certainly did have a view about what the Constitution required. Though I am not a conservative, I share the view of Michael Rappaport that the Constitution did vest discretion in electors, and that no state law could take that discretion away. (The only other place the Constitution uses the word “Electors” is to refer to the people who vote for Members of the House: So could the Commonwealth of Massachusetts say that all such “Electors” must vote for a Democrat?)

But whether or not I (and Rappaport and many others) were right about what the Constitution required, I thought it important to resolve the question before it created a constitutional crisis. So many pro bono hours of my life (and the life of many at EqualCitizens.US, including our lead lawyer Jason Harrow) were devoted to getting the Supreme Court to resolve this question outside of the context of an election. In July 2020, the Court did indeed resolve it. In an 8–1 opinion (by a friend, Elena Kagan, who had started teaching with me in the same year at Chicago), the Court held that states were free to direct the vote of presidential electors. Thomas was the only one to write separately. But he agreed with the result.

A poll on k-12 sentiments