All posts by Jim Zellmer

59.9% of Black students in the Madison Metropolitan School District who were enrolled in an AP course in 2017-18 did not take the test.

Wisconsin Policy Forum:

Scott Girard:

That was the fourth-highest percentage among the 10 districts in the state with the most Black students enrolled in AP courses, behind only Beloit (83.7%), Wauwatosa (82%) and Racine (68.9%).

Milwaukee Public Schools, the only Wisconsin district larger than MMSD, saw all student groups have lower rates of opting out of AP exams than the state average.

“This is especially important as MPS serves large numbers of students of color and is the district with the highest AP enrollment for English Learners and students who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic, and is a very close second for students identifying as Asian,” WPF writes in its report.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Improving Conversation

Sasha Chapin

But many conversations can be nudged in the direction of openness, spontaneous complexity, and shared emotionality. And a surprising number of conversations, thus encouraged, can become quite connective. These are the conversations where you’re likely to find yourself laughing, rambling excitedly, engaging in extended weird riffs, crystallizing old knowledge in new patterns, feeling comprehended, feeling loved, and, generally, having the sensation that you’ve temporarily stepped outside the walls around your being.

Good conversations can heal you effortlessly sometimes, too. I think this is at least 50% of the mechanism of action of talk therapy. So you can go around doing that whenever.

I’ve tried hard to figure out how this can be cultivated. It took effort since I’m naturally untalented in this respect. The method of conversation I had for a bunch of my life was babbling about whatever I was interested in until my interlocutor wandered away. That’s how I did things, until I noticed, after a decade, that people don’t like this, and, what’s more, didn’t like it. When, occasionally, I met people who managed to induce me to have a more connective conversation, I enjoyed myself much more than I would have if I’d set the tone. 

Eventually I realized that human connection is one of my favorite things, and thus I’ve tried really hard to override my prior instincts. And I think I’ve done a reasonably good job. I think I’ve gone from “terrible” to “at least better than average,” and my job depends on being able to induce conversational depth with reliability.

Civics: Open Records in King County, Washington

Daniel Beekman:

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall to put together an investigation into the deletion of text messages from the phones of then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city leaders in 2020.

“It wasn’t clear to me that anyone was going to start this investigation without prompting,” Satterberg said Thursday in an emailed statement. “Just like the public’s right to an open courtroom, people have a right to know what is in public documents — including text messages.”

Satterberg’s office requested the investigation July 28, spokesperson Casey McNerthney said.

“We are in the early stages of reviewing the matter,” said Cole-Tindall spokesperson Cynthia Sampson, giving no other information.

Last year, a whistleblower in Durkan’s office revealed that the mayor’s texts from a 10-month period — including tumultuous weeks in early summer 2020 when police deployed tear gas against Black Lives Matter protest crowds and vacated the East Precinct — were missing.

2020 events in Madison.

What’s Actually Being Taught in History Class

By Kassie Bracken, Mark Boyer, Jacey Fortin, Rebecca Lieberman and Noah Throop:

Schools across the country have been caught up in spirited debates over what students should learn about United States history. We talked to social studies teachers about how they run their classrooms, what they teach and why.

In the last two years, dozens of state legislatures have introduced bills that would limit what teachers can say about complicated subjects like race, gender and inequality.

The legislation is part of a larger debate over politics in public school education. Across the United States, parents have demanded more oversight over curriculums, and school board meetings have erupted into fiery discussions.

How have these debates affected the classroom?

In 2020, amid widespread protests over racial inequality, some conservative activists began using critical race theory, or C.R.T., as a catchphrase. They claimed that C.R.T., a decades-old scholarly framework that raised questions about structural racism and inequality, was infiltrating modern-day classrooms.

“They’re trying to rewrite history and redesign the future of the United States,” said Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, who last year signed legislation intended to ban C.R.T. in the state’s public schools. “But also, they’re undermining the very values and core of what America stands for.”

But until it became a headline, some of the teachers we talked to had never heard of critical race theory.

Guessing C For Every Answer Is Now Enough To Pass The New York State Algebra Exam

Ed Knight:

My student, River, spent more time in the courtroom than the classroom last year. One Friday night in September, a drunk friend called and asked for a ride home from a party. River obliged. That’s a problem when you’re 14 years old. On his excellent adventure with his drunk friend, River drove over the landscaping of several local businesses and ended with his car in the woods caught in a web of maple sugaring lines. Things spiralled from there.

All of which is to say that River didn’t learn algebra last year.

I mean it: zero algebra was learned. He wasn’t even present in my classroom for most of three marking periods. At the end of the year, he asked me how he was supposed to pass the state test.

“No problem,” I said. “Just pick all Cs.”


“Try it. I bet it will work.”

It worked.


Did I have special knowledge? No.

Or yes, if you count actually being able to do math. Apparently the whole “actually being able to do math” thing is special now. New York certainly doesn’t require it.

Now look, you’re probably saying Ed, come on, there must be something that you’re not telling me. There must be something you’re missing.

Civics: National news media and federal law enforcement are now as indistinguishable in America as in any autocratic country anywhere

Matt Taibbi:

Watching, I found myself wondering, “What is this?” There was no pretense of separateness between the CNN employees, and the spot’s purpose appeared to be to let a senior CIA/FBI counterintelligence official whine about the reaction to the Trump raid, stoke fear, and compare Americans to al-Qaeda. It felt less like news than something out of a dystopian novel like Fahrenheit 451 or We, and this is essentially on air round the clock. Dollars to doughnuts, if you turn on cable right now, you will find, somewhere, a former intelligence official yammering at you through your telescreen.

We’re a week into one of the biggest stories of our time, and the feds and media have spent most every minute acting as an unembarrassed unified front. One after another, national security “analysts” lined up to give breathless, hyperbolic, and and eerily synchronized commentary about the Mar-a-Lago raid. If the message on day 1 was about how they “must have” probable cause of a crime, that was the word up and down the dial. If by the weekend it was “I’ve never seen this level of threat,” you heard that in more or less the same words from the likes of Mudd, McCabe, and others on multiple channels. What’s the public supposed to see, other than an American analog to China Central TV or Rossiya-1, when they tuned in to all this?

Schoolchildren Are Not ‘Mere Creatures of the State’

Robert Pondisco:

In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon law requiring that parents or guardians send their children to public school in the districts where they lived. The Society of Sisters, which ran private academies, claimed that the law interfered with the right of parents to choose religious instruction for their children. The Court agreed, unanimously. States are permitted to run and regulate schools, even to require that all children receive an adequate education. But the Justices held that the state may not “unreasonably interfere with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”

The decision in Pierce v. the Society of Sisters featured one of the more memorable turns of phrase in Supreme Court history. “The child is not the mere creature of the State,” wrote Justice James C. McReynolds. “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”

Notes on Government financial surveillance

By Jennifer J. Schulp and Norbert Michel

Modern life is full of sharing mundane information with others. Your cellphone company knows where you’ve been, your home security system knows your visitors, and your bank knows your spending habits.

And it’s often not just your service providers that know. Law enforcement has used many of these treasure troves of information without first obtaining a warrant. This warrantless surveillance — which prompted a recent hearing by the House Committee on the Judiciary — may be novel for technology and media companies, but it is nothing new when it comes to the government’s surveillance of Americans’ financial activity.

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) requires financial institutions to assist federal agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering and other crimes. It does this in a number of ways, including by enlisting financial institutions to report certain customer activities to the government.

Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present

James Sweet:

Twenty years ago, in these pages, Lynn Hunt argued “against presentism.” She lamented historians’ declining interest in topics prior to the 20th century, as well as our increasing tendency to interpret the past through the lens of the present. Hunt warned that this rising presentism threatened to “put us out of business as historians.” If history was little more than “short-term . . . identity politics defined by present concerns,” wouldn’t students be better served by taking degrees in sociology, political science, or ethnic studies instead?

The discipline did not heed Hunt’s warning. From 2003 to 2013, the number of PhDs awarded to students working on topics post-1800, across all fields, rose 18 percent. Meanwhile, those working on pre-1800 topics declined by 4 percent. During this time, the Wall Street meltdown was followed by plummeting undergraduate enrollments in history courses and increased professional interest in the history of contemporary socioeconomic topics. Then came Obama, and Twitter, and Trump. As the discipline has become more focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, historical analyses are contained within an increasingly constrained temporality. Our interpretations of the recent past collapse into the familiar terms of contemporary debates, leaving little room for the innovative, counterintuitive interpretations.

This trend toward presentism is not confined to historians of the recent past; the entire discipline is lurching in this direction, including a shrinking minority working in premodern fields. If we don’t read the past through the prism of contemporary social justice issues—race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism—are we doing history that matters? This new history often ignores the values and mores of people in their own times, as well as change over time, neutralizing the expertise that separates historians from those in other disciplines. The allure of political relevance, facilitated by social and other media, encourages a predictable sameness of the present in the past. This sameness is ahistorical, a proposition that might be acceptable if it produced positive political results. But it doesn’t.

Colleges, Parents Fight in Court Over Tuition Charged During Pandemic Closures

Jacob Gershman:

he cases could turn on what specific promises schools made to students about in-person education—and whether students suffered any harm in the switch to remote classes, said Benjamin J. Hinks, a Boston-area employment and higher-education lawyer who has followed the litigation.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend towards plaintiff-friendly rulings at the pretrial stages,” Mr. Hinks said. “However, these are hard-fought cases, and the fight is not over for universities.”

Most of the cases revolve around the academic spring semester of 2020, when emergency quarantine measures in the period before vaccines forced the country’s higher-education industry to suspend in-person classes and close their physical campuses, barring access to laboratories, dormitories, libraries, student centers and athletic facilities.

At many schools, academia’s temporary move to virtual learning didn’t come with any discounts to tuition or student service fees. But it left a trail of hundreds of lawsuits in federal and state courts demanding restitution.

Student Family Climate

Ian Rowe

In 1966, the U.S. Office of Education commissioned the landmark survey “Equality of Educational Opportunity” to study the “lack of availability of equal educational opportunities for individuals by reason of race, color, religion, or national origin in public educational institutions.” James Coleman, who led the study, was a noted sociologist and civil-rights advocate who had been arrested for demonstrating outside an amusement park that refused to admit African Americans.

Known as the Coleman report, the 700-page study drew on data from more than 645,000 students and teachers in 4,000 U.S. public schools. Among its most controversial findings was that family background — not schools, funding, religion, or race — was the only characteristic that showed a consistent relationship with academic performance. The report summarized:

One implication stands out above all: That schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school.

This unexpected takeaway should have changed the education-policy landscape forever. Yet it never gained widespread traction, principally because it received an unwelcome reaction from most educators, who were unwilling to accept that “schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement.” They feared that emphasizing family background (most notably parents’ marital status) as the greatest driver of a student’s academic achievement would lead to victim-blaming, finger-pointing moralizing directed at single mothers. Even worse, it would turn attention away from addressing racism, underfunding, and other, more acceptable theories of the causes of academic underperformance.

Commentary on trust in taxpayer supported “public health authorities”

Aaron Carroll:

Too many messages are still centered on trying to frighten people into compliance by arguing about worst-case scenarios and ‌‌convincing them that things are as dangerous as ever. They amplify every new variant and predict future worsening. They point to charts of the unvaccinated and vaccinated and marvel at the differences in deaths.

Such charts almost always, however, depict outcomes that don’t easily apply to young children. If the goal is to convince parents to take action to prevent harm to their children, this won’t work.

The risk of Covid infection today is not what it was two years ago (or even last year). Hospitals continue to admit people infected with Covid, but many of them are incidentally so, and the intensive care units are relatively empty. Parents have seen many of their children, and their children’s friends, get Covid and do fine, adding to a belief that this isn’t nearly as dangerous as they were led to believe. This perception, when it comes to their children, isn’t necessarily wrong. If public health advocates want to change minds, then they are going to have to change their strategies to accept this safer reality.

Older people ‌‌continue to be at the highest risk of death from Covid. Arguing that they needed to get vaccinated, and more, to save their lives made sense. Saying that childhood deaths from Covid are somewhat more common than influenza may be true, but too many parents don’t think influenza is a problem either. Many ‌‌do not vaccinate their children against that, let alone mask and isolate them.

Some of the information is indeed confusing. Several European countries are not recommending vaccination against Covid in young children because they believe they are not at high enough risk of disease. I disagree with that decision, because even though it’s rare, youngsters do die of it (as they do from influenza). I have no problem recommending we vaccinate them against the flu, too.

What’s more, there are other outcomes from Covid that warrant intervention, and that’s most likely a better argument for childhood immunization. Children who are vaccinated have a lower chance of getting sick at all, and if they do get sick, they are likely to have a lower chance of getting severely ill, developing MIS-C or being hospitalized. They probably have a lower chance of being affected by long Covid, too. Such outcomes are far more common in children than death.

Related: Dane County Madison public health mandates.

Parental rights demand parental responsibilities

Madeline Kearns:

It is no coincidence that states with the greatest respect for parental rights have the least interventionist approaches to sex education. Florida, for instance, has no requirement for sex education but does require its health education in grades six through twelve to emphasize “awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard and the consequences of teenage pregnancy.” In 2021, before the Parental Rights in Education Act, DeSantis signed a law requiring schools to notify parents of their right to have their child opt out of any sex education offered and to inform them of the curriculum and materials on the district’s website homepage.

To say that schools have a role to play in sex education isn’t controversial. But since the 1980s, there have been two competing visions about when and how schools ought to go about it. One view is that schools should play only a supporting role, sticking to the biological and physiological facts. First, what puberty is, later, how babies are made. And that anything beyond that ought to be about sexual risk avoidance, warnings about unintended pregnancy and disease, and the promotion of abstinence in youth as the only certain way of avoiding these outcomes.

Another view is that sex education ought to be more comprehensive. In addition to basic biology and abstinence, topics include contraception, abortion, consent, sexual orientation, pleasure, masturbation, and, most recently, transgender identity. The progressive Guttmacher Institute calls this “a rights-based approach” that “recognizes that information alone is not enough,” asserting that “young people need to be given the opportunity to acquire essential life skills and develop positive attitudes and values.” But whose values are these?

High School Climate: Silicon Valley Edition


At elite high schools in Silicon Valley, the pressure to succeed is intense. And according to Sophia Shao, a senior at Los Altos High School, her proximity to California’s tech capital is a big reason why.

In this special collaboration with KQED’s Youth Takeover, a yearlong project to highlight compelling stories written and produced by local teens, Shao talks with us about going to school in a place where everyone is expected to succeed.

Kids-for-cash judges ordered to pay more than $200M

AP news

In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care.

Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention, many of them first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families.

“Such a blessing”


Elita Williams is the heart of a bustling home in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. She and her husband preside over a household of six children plus extended family, three dogs and a cat. In addition to managing the comings and goings of her active family, she’s a teacher’s assistant at nearby Milwaukee Math and Science Academy. “I’ve been working with the second-graders for about six years now. And I love my job. I love working with the kids,” she says.

The children in her blended family of three boys and three girls are ages 6, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 14. All attend Milwaukee College Prep, a K3-8 public charter school open to all children who live in the city of Milwaukee.

Elita’s oldest child, Brielle King, will be a freshman in the fall at Milwaukee Lutheran High Schoolthrough the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Brielle likes to play volleyball, dance, write and do a little math. She’s a bit uncertain about what high school will be like. “I’ve gone to Milwaukee College Prep from K4 to eighth for my entire life, so switching is going to be something new for me. But hopefully, it’ll be OK,” she says.

Alarming stories about a lack of teachers are nothing new. The current panic is unusual only in its intensity

Mike Antonucci:

But it’s the headline and lede from April 7, 2009.

Alarming stories about teacher shortages are nothing new. I’ve written A LOT about them over the years, going back to at least 2000. But such stories predate me, and I was able to find a warning about impending teacher shortages in The Journal of the National Education Association from October 1921.

The current panic is unusual only in its intensity. Dozens of stories about teacher shortages appear every day in local newspapers and websites. And when reports start showing up on the evening TV news and “Good Morning America,” you know it’s a national media storm.

Another unusual aspect this time is the handful of researchers and reporters fighting the wave. Chad Aldeman of the Edunomics Lab, Christine Pitts of the Center on Reinventing Public Education — both writing in The 74 — Jess Gartner of Allovue, Melissa Kay Diliberti and Heather L. Schwartz of The RAND Corp., Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report and Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat have all questioned the crisis narrative.

Average citizens normally don’t pay too much attention to public education staffing levels. But you don’t need to delve into a lot of numbers to understand what’s happened in the last 20 years. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in fall 2000 there was one teacher for every 16 students. In fall 2019, there was one teacher for every 15.9 students.

Through wars, recessions, changes of political parties in power, changes in enrollment and every other possible variable, America’s schools still managed to provide the same ratio of teachers to students.

Notes on academic freedom and one way streets

Tom Knighton

Academic freedom is the shield many in academia use to protect themselves from criticism. More specifically, they use it to keep their jobs when they endorse some of the evilest ideas in human history, such as communism.

To them, academic freedom means they can hold whatever positions they want to hold, and those of us who aren’t slobbering, drooling Marxists are just going to have to come to terms with that.

However, like in so many other instances, it seems there’s a double standard at play. After all, academic freedom only seems to be a one-way street.

Administrations and faculties at University of California campuses are embroiled in a searing controversy over requirements that applicants for faculty positions and candidates for promotion prove their active support, without reservation, of what’s called “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Candidates must submit “DEI statements” that, under UC’s policies, determine whether they will be considered for employment or promotions, regardless of their academic credentials.

While different campuses use slightly different “rubrics” for judging candidates on their DEI statements, they generally use a 1-to-5 scale to determine whether they should be allowed to advance.

School Board Governance Policy Models

Libby Sobic:

WILL Director of Education Policy, Libby Sobic, is the author of Empower School Board Members With Policy Solutions, a new publication from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The rising tide of parent engagement and activism requires policy thinkers to turn their attention to the local level where school boards can debate and pass reforms that directly impact the classroom and address controversies around curriculum transparency and parental notification.

Sobic highlights a number of the model school board policies WILL released in June 2022, part of the Restoring American Education initiative.

  • The Right to Review Instructional Materials and Related Documents:With so much of the friction between schools and parents deriving from a lack of transparency, school boards should adopt language that makes clear “The District values and encourages transparency between parents and the school, and therefore the District shall make every effort to be as transparent as possible.” Parents deserve access to instructional materials and school district employees should know that material must be made available.
  • Controversial Issues in the Classroom: With examples of controversial subject matter appearing the classrooms, debates have raged over age-appropriateness and parental notification. This policy requires parental notice and the opportunity to opt-out before controversial issues are discussed in the classroom.
  • Parental Notification and Consent on Matters of Student Gender Identity:Parents have an inherent right to direct the education of their child. With controversies swirling around student gender identity, school boards should adopt a presumption that parents have the right to determine the name and gender pronouns of their child. School administrators and teachers should not be diagnosing or treating students for gender dysphoria, and district staff may inform parents about a social transition occurring at school.

Education is fundamentally a local issue. Communities will debate and deliberate the policies that best suit them. But for parents and activists taking on new roles with school boards, the institutions that develop policy at the state and national level must be responsive to the concerns and issues occurring in local school districts.

Police Used a Baby’s DNA to Investigate Its Father for a Crime

Emily Mullin:

IF YOU WERE born in the United States within the last 50 or so years, chances are good that one of the first things you did as a baby was give a DNA sample to the government. By the 1970s, states had established newborn screening programs, in which a nurse takes a few drops of blood from a pinprick on a baby’s heel, then sends the sample to a lab to test for certain diseases. Over the years, the list has grown from just a few conditions to dozens.

The Secret Math Behind Mind-Reading Magic Tricks

Pradeep Mutalik:

In our most recent Insights puzzle, I challenged readers to figure out how certain magic tricks work. The tricks in question were of the sort where the magician somehow divines the identity of your hidden numbers or playing cards. But how does the magician correctly deduce what’s in your mind based on seemingly no information? As we’ll see below, the secret is to extract just enough information to unravel the mystery through the inexorable logic of mathematics.

Puzzle 1

Our first puzzle was an elementary arithmetic trick suitable for captivating a child:

Ask the child to think of a three-digit number without telling you what it is. Then tell them that you will reveal the number by producing two copies of it side by side! First ask the child to multiply their number by 7. Then ask them to multiply the answer by 11. Finally — and at this point you can add feigned concentration and appropriate magical phrases — ask them to multiply the second answer by 13.

If the child has done this right, you might find a smile start to light up their face. The question for you, or for an older child, is — why does this work?

The reason, as many readers correctly pointed out, is that 7 × 11 × 13 = 1,001, which is the number that you are effectively asking the child to multiply by. That this will produce a copy of the original three-digit number (say, 457) is obvious when you write down the multiplication in the conventional way.

The Government Pension Reckoning Cometh

Wall Street Journal:

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System reported a negative 6.1% return for the year, which includes a 21.3% positive return on private equity and 24.1% return on real estate as reported through the second quarter of 2022. What will happen if real-estate prices start to fall and some leveraged private-equity buyouts go south amid rising interest rates?

Collective-bargaining agreements limit how much workers must contribute to their pensions, so taxpayers are required to make up for investment losses. Employer retirement contributions—that is, taxpayers—make up 20% of government worker compensation. That amount has soared over the past decade as pension funds tried to make up for losses during the 2008-2009 financial panic.

A recent report by the Equable Institute found that state and local pension plans now are only 77.9% funded on average, which is about the same as in 2008. But some like Chicago’s are less than 40%. Advice to taxpayers in Illinois: Run.

Kids Catch Up Best With Grade-Level Work — But Keep Getting Easier Assignments

Beth Hawkins:

Mounting evidence supports an academic strategy known as acceleration, in which students who are behind are challenged with grade-level material while getting help with missing skills or knowledge. But new research finds its use in schools “is currently more talk than action.” 

Analyzing data from 3 million students assigned lessons through a widely used literacy program, the nonprofits ReadWorks and TNTP found that during the 2020-21 school year — the first full year after the start of the pandemic — students were assigned work below their grade level a third of the time. Children in high-poverty schools were given less challenging materials more often than their affluent peers — even when they had already mastered grade-level assignments.

“Our analysis reveals a stark disconnect between the extent of students’ unfinished learning during the pandemic and the opportunities they’re getting to engage with the grade-level work they need to catch up,” states a report outlining their findings. “It suggests that while many school systems are talking about learning acceleration, far fewer have implemented a successful learning acceleration strategy.”

Commentary on Higher Education Censorship

Mike Bloomberg:

I’ve criticized both the left and right for failing to uphold the principles of free expression over the years. In New York’s City Hall, I strongly defended a Brooklyn university when it sponsored a speech by an advocate of the BDS movement, which promotes economic war against the state of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. I couldn’t disagree more strongly with those in the BDS movement—but I also couldn’t believe more strongly in their right to free speech. I’ve always found that those whose speech we find most objectionable are those whose rights we’re most responsible for defending.

Every generation faces its own bouts with censorship. In my youth, it was Sen. Joe McCarthy’s hunt for communists. I can still vividly remember his questions (“Are you now or have you ever been . . .?”). Today, censorship is coming from both sides of the political aisle, but only one side is writing it into law.

Professors in Florida have sued to block the Stop Woke Act, and let us hope judges will soon strike it down as an abridgment of the First Amendment. Some professors, however, have also urged students to boycott a new state survey meant to gauge whether colleges are hostile to viewpoint diversity. That’s a mistake. Florida’s censorship law is wrong, but it’s a reaction to the very real problem of campus intolerance. The more that students speak out about it—even if anonymously through surveys—the more pressure it puts on administrators to address it.

Higher education is rooted in intellectual exploration. Colleges that don’t expose students to challenging and uncomfortable ideas fail their pupils. The same applies to governments that attempt to block professors from offering their insights or forcing them to teach material as though all theories—like evolution and creationism—should be given equal weight.

The sad irony is that many of the same people who have accused millennial and Gen Z students of being snowflakes—those unable to handle discomforting ideas—are now acting like the most delicate snowflakes of all.

The solution to political repression isn’t more political repression. It’s freedom. Truth has nothing to fear from free speech—on college campuses, or anywhere else.

K-12 Innovation

Betsy DeVos:

The cost to you for all of this? Not one cent. Your state passed an education-savings-account law five years ago. Instead of sending the dollars allocated to your child’s education to a school building you didn’t select, the new law puts them into an education account you control. Your daughter’s love of learning has exploded since then. Sure, there are still mornings when you have to cajole her out of bed, but once she’s up, she’s learning, and there’s no stopping her.

Or perhaps you’re the parent of a high schooler in a rural area in middle America. He goes to what most consider a pretty good regional public school, and for the most part, he would agree. His teachers care, and the classes he can take are fairly engaging.

But they don’t have any of the courses he really wants. His aim is to become an artificial-intelligence and machine-learning engineer. It’s not a common job in his farming community, but he thinks integrating robotics and sensors could really improve crop yields and reduce the amount of water and pesticides required.

He starts his morning on the farm, helping his dad. He’s enrolled in the “Great Books” program at Columbia University and uses the tractor time to listen to the novels. At 9 a.m., he heads to the John Deere factory, where he’s employed in an apprenticeship, working side by side with some of the best thinkers in the AI field. He’s there through lunch and then heads back home and attends a virtual charter school for his core coursework (which also gives him class credit for the apprenticeship). He’s found that the self-paced lessons help him focus better than he did in the classroom; plus, he can work through the material much faster than the classroom pace. Five p.m. is football practice. They’ve shifted to a community-based team rather than a school-based team. Previously there was only one school, and they excluded non-enrolled students. They realized a couple of years ago that that didn’t really make sense. The team has won a lot more games since then.

“The Madison School District did not respond to requests for information regarding the number of students on individual education plans (IEPs)” a bit of deja vu

Elizabeth Beyer:

The Madison School District did not respond to requests for information regarding the number of students on individual education plans (IEPs) during the 2021-22 school year. Nor did officials respond to a request for information regarding the total or per-pupil cost to serve special-education students in the last school year.

If special-education reimbursement had increased to 50% in the most recent biennium, it would have added $16.1 million to the Madison School District’s budget, Heinritz said. That could have allowed the district to hire more special-education staff and pay them more.

“You’re looking at more people, and you’d have much more support for our students, buildings, and it would contribute to teachers focusing on teaching,” Heinritz said.

Democrat Gov. Tony Evers proposed increasing special-education reimbursement to 50% in his draft 2021-23 biennial budget, but the proposal was scrapped by Republicans, although they did bump reimbursement by 2 percentage points to its current rate of roughly 30%.

The shortfall has made recruiting, retaining and training special-education staff difficult, Siravo said.

“I know they want to do better, but they’re still working with a system that’s funded only at a certain degree,” she said of the Madison School District.

Special education funding along with Madison’s spending and program practices have been a topic of discussion for many years. The taxpayer supported school district served 4,314 special education students in 2007.

“For seven years in a row, Oakland was the fastest-gaining urban district in California for reading,” recalls Weaver. “And we hated it.”

Marginal Revolution:

The teachers felt like curriculum robots—and pushed back. “This seems dehumanizing, this is colonizing, this is the man telling us what to do,” says Weaver, describing their response to the approach. “So we fought tooth and nail as a teacher group to throw that out.”

This is one of the most crazy things I’ve read in a long time. For about 4 or 5 years its been difficult to distinguish satire from genuine liberal politics. I roll my eyes now when someone from the right makes that comment because I see it ever few days and it is just so tired….But this passage here is just so insane. I mean, you have teachers complaining that their kids are learning how to read…. They felt “dehumanized” because their students actually learned how to read because something about “the man” and being “colonized” or whatever…..

If I read this in some sort of dystopian novel I would think it was too over the top but this is real life. Crazy stuff.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?


Emily Schmidt:

About 130 million adults in the U.S. have low literacy skills according to a Gallup analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education. This means more than half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 74 (54%) read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.

Literacy is broadly defined as the ability to read and write, but it more accurately encompasses the comprehension, evaluation and utilization of information, which is why people describe many different types of literacy — such as health, financial, legal, etc. Low literacy skills can profoundly affect the day-to-day success of adults in the real world, and these impacts extend to their families, too.

Dr. Iris Feinberg, associate director of the Adult Literacy Research Center at Georgia State University, said anyone can have low literacy skills.

“It’s not just people who are poor. It’s not just people who are racial minorities. It’s not just people who speak funny because they’re from the South. It literally can be anybody,” she said.

Historically, adult literacy has been underfunded and underrepresented in academic and scientific research, according to Feinberg, a sentiment echoed by Dr. Margaret Patterson, a senior researcher at Research Allies for Lifelong Learning.

In the past, colleges grew their way out of enrollment crises. This time looks different

Karin Fisher:

Nearly 1.3 million students have disappeared from American colleges during the Covid-19 pandemic, raising alarms that the enrollment emergency projected to arrive a few years from now is already here.

High-school seniors uninterested in studying online chose to defer. Working parents strained by the demands of full-time pandemic child care put their studies on hold. International students couldn’t get visas. Those in majors with hands-on practicums or lab work found they couldn’t register for courses required for their degrees.

Phonics, Failure, and the Public Schools

David Boaz:

But increasingly parents and teachers are pushing back against “whole language” and “balanced literacy” theories. They cite decades of research on how children actually learn to read and write. In 1997 Congress instructed the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development to work with the Department of Education to establish a National Reading Panel that would evaluate existing research and evidence to find the best ways of teaching children to read. The panel reviewed more than 100,000 reading studies. In 2000 it reported its conclusion: That the best approach to reading instruction is one that incorporates:

  • Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness
  • Systematic phonics instruction
  • Methods to improve fluency
  • Ways to enhance comprehension

And yet more than a quarter of American school districts use this one particular curriculum that doesn’t reflect those conclusions. Other districts use other curricula built on similar principles. A 2019 investigation by American Public Media revealed “American education’s own little secret about reading: Elementary schools across the country are teaching children to be poor readers — and educators may not even know it.”

It’s not like people were unaware of the problems with such approaches to reading before the 2000 report. In 1995, after state test results showed that the vast majority of California public school students could not read, write, or compute at levels considered proficient, Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin appointed two task forces to investigate reading and math instruction. The reports were clear — and depressing. There had been a wholesale abandonment of the basics — such as phonics and arithmetic drills — in California classrooms. Eastin said there was no one place to lay the blame for the decade‐long disaster. “What we made was an honest mistake,” she said. Or as the Sacramento Bee headline put it, “We Goofed.” Eastin promised to put more emphasis on phonics, spelling, and computation in the classroom. What an excellent idea. But cold comfort for about 4.5 million students who suffered from the system’s decade‐long “honest mistake” of not teaching them to read, write, or compute. The mistake didn’t come cheap for taxpayers, either. California spent about $201.7 billion on public schools during the “mistake” decade.

It is thought-provoking for us Americans to see someone from outside the US describe the harms inflicted upon our children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Tracy Beth Høeg, MD, PhD:

I added a picture frame to the photo from the article because I imagine one day, in the not-too-distant future, a photo like this will be on display in a museum of Covid-19 mistakes and absurdities. Historians, social scientists, ethicists, film-makers, lawyers, economists, great-grandparents and many others will look back on the pandemic and ask “How was it that Sweden, and to a great extent Denmark and Norway, were able to get it right with children?”

Sweden never closed primary schools and Denmark and Norway had brief, transient closures; they never masked children under 12 and free childcare was always available. Children always had a safe place to go throughout the pandemic. Disruptions to normalcy were minimized.

I suspect we will learn Scandinavia’s compassionate decisions about child policies during the pandemic had less to do with science than cultural commitment. It was clear early on that children were mildly affected by covid and were not primary drivers of the pandemic. However, when Sweden chose to keep primary schools open and in Denmark and Norway reopened schools in April 2020, it was unclear exactly how well it would go.

When Little Leaguers Set the Example for Adults

Jason Gay:

The moment happened last week, in Waco, Texas, during regional play of the Little League World Series. The opponents were Pearland, Texas, and Tulsa, Okla. Pearland pitcher Kaiden “Bubs” Shelton threw a pitch that veered dangerously inside and thunnnnnkit smacked right off the protective helmet of Tulsa batter Isaiah “Zay” Jarvis, who dropped to the ground and clutched his head. 

It was scary. It’s scary whenever a pitch flies near a batter’s head, and it’s outright terrifying when the pitch knocks a hitter to the dirt. Jarvis, who was likely spared a more serious injury when the pitch hit the corner of his helmet’s ear flap, eventually rose to his feet, and trotted down to first base.

Upon reaching first, Zay Jarvis noticed something: Shelton, the Pearland pitcher, was still reeling about the beanball and seeing Jarvis on the ground. He was in tears.

“rewire schools for belonging and achievement”

Doug Lemov:

The students who came back to us had spent long periods away from peers, activities, and social interactions. For many young people—and their teachers—the weeks and months of isolation had been difficult emotionally and psychologically. Some had lost loved ones. Many more had endured months in a house or apartment with nearly everything they valued—sports or drama or music, not to mention moments of sitting informally among friends and laughing—having suddenly evaporated from their lives. Even students who had escaped the worst of the pandemic were out of practice when it came to the expectations, courtesies, and give-and-take of everyday life. Perhaps as a result of this, their social skills had declined.

Our students looked the same—or at least we presumed they did behind the masks—but some seemed troubled and distant. Some struggled to concentrate and follow directions. They were easily frustrated and quick to give up. Many students simply didn’t know how to get along. The media was suddenly full of stories of discipline problems, chronic disruptions due to student distractibility, lack of interest, and misbehavior in the classroom, and historic levels of student absences. In schools where no one had ever had to think about how to deal with a fight, they burst into the open like brush fires after a drought. It didn’t help that many schools were short-staffed, with leaders struggling just to get classes covered and buses on the road.

The first post-pandemic year may well have been harder than the radically disrupted 18 months of rolling lockdowns and remote learning that preceded it. The jarring disruptions related to Covid-19 aren’t the whole story, however. What has happened to our students isn’t just the impact of a protracted, once-in-a-generation adverse event, but the combined effects of several large-scale, ground-shifting trends that predate the pandemic and have reshaped the fabric of young people’s lives. As we look forward, their combined effects should cause us to think beyond short-term recovery and to reconsider how we design schools and schooling.

Catholic K–12 education is strong and can become stronger

Kathleen Porter-Magee

One reason we often overlook the American Catholic school “system” is that it isn’t much of a system at all. Rather than being led by a central authority, American Catholic schools are a great example of our country’s commitment to local civic institutions. From the dawn of Catholic education in the United States, schools were created by local communities — largely parishes, but also religious orders — for local communities. This agile, community-centered orientation contributed to the sector’s responsiveness and leadership through the Covid-era crisis.

Indeed, in March 2020, Catholic-school leaders had the autonomy and flexibility to assess the local threat and didn’t need to wait for guidance from a sprawling bureaucracy about how to act. As a result, many Catholic schools were among the first to close. Then, in fall 2020, when it had become clear that children were among those least vulnerable to the virus, and when we had more information about how to mitigate “super spreader” events, Catholic schools found a way to reopen while traditional public and charter schools stayed closed. By September 2020, 92 percent of Catholic schools had reopened for in-person or hybrid learning, compared with just 43 percent of traditional public schools and 34 percent of charter schools. These decisions were driven not by a centralized bureaucracy but rather by the community-focused leadership of principals and pastors who saw how much families needed in-person community and learning.

At the same time, the independent, autonomous spirit that allowed for such transformative leadership during Covid has allowed many Catholic schools to resist the latest curriculum fads and stand firm in favor of a rigorous classical and classically inspired education.

Indeed, it’s that principled leadership that is at the core of the most successful Catholic models. For example, the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education has sparked a renaissance in many parish schools by fostering an embrace of a classical curriculum infused with church teaching. Similarly, the network of Chesterton Academies stands as a telling counter-trend to closing schools and declining enrollment. By combining a classical curriculum with “a focus on truth, goodness, and beauty” and formation in virtues and faith, the network has grown from one school in 2008 to 27 today.

What will it take to keep this renaissance growing?

Florida hopes to recruit veterans to address dire teacher shortage

Shirin Ali:

Florida has unveiled a new plan to address the state’s teacher shortage, with a focus on recruiting veterans to become temporary teachers. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is directing the state’s Department of Education (DOE) to allow veterans to receive a temporary five-year teaching certificate while they earn a bachelor’s degree. The certificate will allow veterans to become mentor teachers for a minimum of two years. 

In order to be eligible, veterans must have served a minimum of four years of military service with an honorable or medical discharge, earned a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average, received a passing score on a Florida subject area exam and cleared a background check. 

“Our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to bear in the classroom and with this innovative approach they will be able to do so for five years with a temporary certification as they work towards their degree,” said DeSantis in a videoannouncing the new initiative.

Florida hopes to recruit veterans to address dire teacher shortage

Shirin Ali:

Florida has unveiled a new plan to address the state’s teacher shortage, with a focus on recruiting veterans to become temporary teachers. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is directing the state’s Department of Education (DOE) to allow veterans to receive a temporary five-year teaching certificate while they earn a bachelor’s degree. The certificate will allow veterans to become mentor teachers for a minimum of two years. 

In order to be eligible, veterans must have served a minimum of four years of military service with an honorable or medical discharge, earned a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average, received a passing score on a Florida subject area exam and cleared a background check. 

“Our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to bear in the classroom and with this innovative approach they will be able to do so for five years with a temporary certification as they work towards their degree,” said DeSantis in a videoannouncing the new initiative.

A Deeper Dive Into the CDC Reversal

Jeffrey Tucker:

In English: everyone can pretty much go back to normal. Focus on illness that is medically significant. Stop worrying about positive cases because nothing is going to stop them. Think about the bigger picture of overall social health. End the compulsion. Thank you. It’s only two and a half years late. 

What about mass testing? 

Forget it: “All persons should seek testing for active infection when they are symptomatic or if they have a known or suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.”


What about the magic of track and trace? 

“CDC now recommends case investigation and contact tracing only in health care settings and certain high-risk congregate settings.”


What about the unvaccinated who were so demonized throughout the last year? 

“CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendationsno longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.”

Remember when 40% of the members of the black community in New York City who refused the jab were not allowed into restaurants, bars, libraries, museums, or theaters? Now, no one wants to talk about that. 

Also, universities, colleges, the military, and so on – which still have mandates in place – do you hear this? Everything you have done to hate on people, dehumanize people, segregate people, humiliate others as unclean, fire people and destroy lives, now stands in disrepute.

“Forgiveness is replaced with punishment”Debate is replaced with dis-invitation and de-platforming

Paul Needham:

All successful revolutions start with local rebellions, and one has been taking place over the last year at Princeton University—the prestigious institution where I have taught mathematics and made my home for the last 35 years, but which is being destroyed from within by an administration committed to the ideology that Weiss accurately identified.

The saga has been well documented in these pages: In July 2020, tenured classics professor Joshua Katz published an article criticizing several illiberal demands made by a large number of Princeton faculty members to correct the university’s alleged “systemic racism,” including the creation of a “committee composed entirely of faculty that would oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty …” For his criticism of these demands, and for referring to a by-then-defunct student organization, the Black Justice League (BJL), as “a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the students (including the many Black students) who did not agree with its members’ demands,” Katz was smeared as a racist by the university in its own freshman orientation program, then fired earlier this year on what is recognized by every sane observer as a pretext: a disputed accusation from a former student with whom Katz had a consensual sexual affair in 2006-07—for which he was already punished in 2018—that Katz had discouraged her from seeking mental health care.

The university maintains that the decision to fire Katz had nothing to do with his criticism of illiberal faculty and students in 2020, nor anything to do with the student affair for which he’d already been suspended without pay for a year. Despite the obvious appearance of cracking down on the protected speech of a tenured faculty member and subjecting him to double jeopardy, Princeton claims that Katz’s firing had only to do with an unproven allegation from a recently aggrieved former lover.

Even the most generous and sympathetic interpretation of the university’s actions can no longer avoid the conclusion that it is, quite simply, lying through its teeth. And so, in the interest of shedding more light on the character of this administration, and of bolstering the principles of free speech, transparency, and academic integrity which have been compromised at Princeton under the watch of President Christopher Eisgruber, I have decided to publish the email correspondence I conducted with him between October 2021 and July 2022. The full exchange, which is too long to reprint here, can be viewed on the website of Princetonians for Free Speech. But I will draw the attention of interested readers to a few key points:

Civics: The ayatollahs have found their accomplices in western “liberals”

Matthew Syed:

Yesterday morning, it was reported that Salman Rushdie — who had been attacked at a literary event on free speech in America— was unable to speak. Many fanatical Muslims will take this as a sign from God. This, after all, was their intention: to censor those who criticise their religion. The assailant kept trying to attack Rushdie even after he was restrained, according to witnesses. “It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” one said.

A fatwa was imposed on Rushdie after the publication of The Satanic Verses, a beautifully written novel that was, in my view, tame in its supposed mockery of Islam. To Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, however, the book was blasphemous. After a bounty was

K-12 Taxpayer Spending Growth observations

Ryan Mills:

Not surprisingly, the district attracted scrutiny earlier this year after it released a spending plan that devoted millions to projects that some see as unrelated to those goals.

The 46-page plan dedicated $12 million to build intimate, multipurpose fine-arts theaters at the district’s three high schools; $4 million to construct educational pods at a city-owned nature sanctuary; $7.7 million for athletics, including new turf fields and gym equipment; and $1.75 million for an e-sports video-game center.

McAllen is not the only school district that has faced pushback for how it plans to spend its Covid-relief dollars. School districts across the country, finding themselves in the unusual position of being flooded with cash they need to spend fast, have found scores of questionable uses for the money.

Sewing machines, batting helmets, security cameras, band risers, T-shirts, and floor polishers are all among the items that school districts around the country plan to purchase with their Covid money, according to news reports. There are lots of proposals for new playgrounds and updated weight rooms. In Whitewater, Wis., the school district used $2 million in pandemic-relief funding to free up local dollars to install synthetic-turf sports fields. Another Wisconsin school district is paying the superintendent’s wife $130,000 to promote an online-learning tool to district parents, according to a local news report. A Michigan school district proposed spending $120,000 on a food truck for its culinary-arts program and $10,000 for a “nutrition room” to make smoothies for student athletes, Chalkbeat Detroit reported in April.

Civics: notes on Governance, circa 2022

Martin Gurri

On April 18, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the federal requirement for wearing surgical masks on airplanes, in airports, and while riding mass transit. Online videos showed passengers and airline staff ripping off their masks and celebrating in mid-flight. Given the accumulated frustration of two years of pandemic travel, the reaction was understandable.

Far more remarkable was the vehemence of those opposed to the ruling. Judge Mizelle was unfit for office, they said. She was too young, at 35; she was unelected; she was a single, unrepresentative voice. Worst of all, she was an “activist Trump judge” and thus branded with the mark of the beast. Rescinding government policy—the kind of thing that American judges engage in with abandon, and usually to progressive cheers—in this instance was condemned as a usurpation of the powers of the executive branch.

Judge Mizelle had crashed an exclusive party reserved for people of higher caste. “The CDC has the capability, through a large number of trained epidemiologists, scientists, to be able to make projections and make recommendations,” said Anthony Fauci, bureaucratic czar of all things Covid-19. “Far more than a judge with no experience in public health.”

That was the heart of the matter. Fauci embodied a bureaucracy and political class that, with the active support of the media, had converted the public’s fear of infection into a principle of elite authority. Under this principle, only trained scientists can make projections and recommendations. The writ of government stretched as far as the boundaries of scientific truth—and those boundaries were, of course, determined by government agencies. It wasn’t just a question of specific policies like lockdowns and vaccine mandates. At stake was the restoration of the public’s habit of obedience that had gone missing during the Trump years.

Civics: Ex-Twitter Manager Convicted of Being Secret Agent for Saudi Arabia + Leaking Private User Information

Eugene Volokh:

From a Justice Department statement released yesterday:

A federal jury yesterday convicted a former Media Partnerships Manager for the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region at Twitter of acting as a foreign agent without notice to the Attorney General, conspiracy, wire fraud, international money laundering, and falsification of records in a federal investigation. The verdict follows a two-week trial before the Honorable Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen for the Northern District of California.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Ahmad Abouammo, 44, formerly of Walnut Creek, California, and currently residing in Seattle, was employed at Twitter as Media Partnerships Manager for the MENA region. The evidence at trial demonstrated that Abouammo took bribes in exchange for accessing, monitoring, and conveying the private information of Twitter users to officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal family. In this position, Abouammo was responsible for protecting Twitter user information and owed Twitter his honest services. Twitter policies also required Abouammo to disclose violations of Twitter’s security policies and report gifts from those with business dealings with the company. When questioned about the accesses of Twitter user information and his receipt of bribes, Abouammo then lied to FBI investigators and falsified a document.

Faculty layoffs

Wyatt Myskow:

Angela Bilia made $18,000 last year as an adjunct at the University of Akron. She once made more — triple, in fact — doing nearly the exact same job.

In the early months of the pandemic, the Ohio university laid off close to 100 faculty members, including Bilia. But the service Bilia had provided to the university — teaching “the bread and butter courses” of the English department for over 15 years — was still needed. So the university hired her back as an adjunct.

“For people like me,” she said, “it was like an assassination of our careers.”

For people like me, it was like an assassination of our careers.

Before the layoffs, Akron had been struggling. From 2011 to 2020, undergraduate enrollment dropped nearly 40 percent. “The sky has been falling,” one professor said. Discussion of faculty cuts over time was already underway. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, in the spring of 2020, everything changed. And layoffs were needed sooner.

When the university announced the cuts, the then president of the faculty union called it a “bloodbath.” Since then, similar cutbacks have followed elsewhere. Henderson State University, in Arkadelphia, Ark., laid off 67 faculty members after it declared a state of financial exigency; Ithaca College, in upstate New York, cut the full-time equivalent of 116 faculty positions.

School shutdowns cost public schools dearly, as enrollment plunged.

Wall Street Journal:

K-12 enrollment nation-wide declined by nearly 3%, or about 1.3 million students, over the past two school years, according to the report by the American Enterprise Institute. Notably, enrollment dropped more in 2020-2021 in districts with the most remote learning (3.2%) than those with the most in-person learning (2.1%). Many parents decided to home-school their children rather than have them stare at screens all day.

Districts that returned to in-person instruction sooner saw enrollments rebound faster, while those that stayed remote longest saw further declines. Those that remained remote longest suffered a net decline of 4.4% since the start of the pandemic, while districts that were most in-person recovered about 1% in the second year and declined only 1.2% overall.

Enrollment also fell more in districts in counties that voted for Joe Biden (3.8%) than in those that favored Donald Trump (2%), perhaps because conservatives put a higher priority on keeping schools open. “Districts’ COVID caution or assertiveness had more to do with communities’ shared ideological priors than COVID case rates in the county,” writes AEI fellow Nat Malkus.

“chooses, boldly if not wisely, to acknowledge a maverick”

Yi-Fu Tuan:

What is it then that I do? My answer is human geography; more precisely, a sub-field within human geography that might be called (albeit inelegantly) systematic humanistic geography. And what is that? I will try to provide an answer, drawing on my own experience and work. A good way to start is to envisage a faculty social gathering. At such a gathering, a historian is unlikely to be asked, “Why are you a historian?” Yet I have been asked repeatedly, “Why are you a geographer, or why do you call yourself one?” My unimposing physical appearance may have prompted the question, for people even now tend to see the geographer as a robust explorer in the mold of Robert Falcon Scott or Indiana Jones. As a matter of fact, when I was an undergraduate, the professors of geography at both Oxford and Cambridge were explorers. The question “Why do you call yourself a geographer?” may also have been prompted by the titles I have given to some of my books. People don’t immediately understand how Morality and Imagination, Passing Strange and Wonderful, Cosmos and Hearth, and Escapism can be the works of a geographer.

To those who have wondered about my vocation, I respond in three ways, each geared to a different level of seriousness. At a social gathering, when people are not at their most attentive, I am likely to say, “As a child, I moved around a great deal with my family, and there is nothing like travel to stimulate one’s appetite for geogra- phy.” Sad to say, this lazy answer nearly always satisfies my inquirer. It is what he or she expects. My second and more thoughtful response is: I have always had an inordinate fear of losing my way. Of course, no one likes to be lost, but my dread of it is excessive. I suspect that more than physical discomfort is at stake. To be lost is to be paralyzed, there being no reason to move one way rather than another. Even back and front cease to be meaningful. Life, with no sense of direction, is drained of purpose. So, even as a child, I concluded that I had to be a geographer so as to ensure that I should never be disoriented. Geographers always know where they are, don’t they? They always have a map somewhere–either in their backpack or in their head.

We barely had enough to eat. The elementary school I attended was a single, ill-equipped room. Yet, astonishingly, we were given a thoughtfully packaged, cosmopolitan education. We read elevating stories from the Chinese, European, and American pasts, stories about great scientists and inventors such as Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, and Benjamin Franklin that were meant to stimulate our intellectual ambition, and moral tales (ones of filial piety, naturally, but also Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”) intended to help us grow into compassionate adults.

Defund the teacher trainers

Frederick Hess:

The debates over critical race theory (CRT) and gender ideology can feel like people on either side are talking past one another. Truth is, they often are.

There’s a lot more agreement than it seems. Parents and teachers tend to think that the Left has a point when it says schools should do a better job teaching about America’s complex racial history, and that kids should feel welcome in school regardless of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Meanwhile, most Americans share concerns about CRT dogma that demonizes hard work or personal responsibility as legacies of “white-supremacy culture” and don’t want teachers discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with eight-year-olds.

Indeed, it’s pretty clear that most Americans reside in both camps — think of it as the “inclusive but sensible” coalition. The American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life has found that, among Republicans and Democrats alike, more than four in five say social-studies textbooks should discuss slave-owning by the Founders, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the maltreatment of Native Americans, and agree that students should read “works by a racially diverse set of authors.”

At the same time, polling by the Economist and YouGov finds that more than half of Americans who are familiar with CRT say they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of it and 55 percent think teaching CRT is “bad for America.” This spring, Public Opinion Strategies found that two-thirds of registered voters deem it “inappropriate for teachers or school personnel to discuss gender identity with children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.”

Given that kind of commonsense agreement, why are schools riven by bitter fights over whether educators should teach that America is a “white supremacist” nation or talk to first-graders about gender identity? Who is responsible for pushing this toxic tripe?

It’s mostly a mistake to blame the nation’s teachers and school leaders. In three decades of working with educators and writing about education, I’ve known precious few kindergarten teachers eager to talk about gender or make kids fill out “privilege worksheets.” Education Week reports that 56 percent of educators oppose teaching their students “about the idea of critical race theory” and that just 29 percent self-identify as liberal (5 percent as “very liberal”).

“What we know for certain is that schools have been lousy at teaching kids how to read”

Dale Chu:

In the 1840s, Horace Mann, known as the “father of American education,” argued that children should be taught to read whole words instead of individual letters, which he described as “skeleton-shaped, bloodless, ghostly apparitions” that make children feel “death-like, when compelled to face them.” This malformed opinion morphed into the broader whole-language theory, whose proponents hold that learning to read is analogous to learning to speak, coming naturally, as if through osmosis. Disciples of whole-language instruction believe that if a word is unfamiliar to a child, it can be skipped, guessed at, or picked up from context. To wit, Kenneth S. Goodman, the founder of whole language, once referred to reading as a “psycholinguistic guessing game.”

Phonics takes exactly the opposite approach. Mastery of a set of symbols is the initial step; an analogy for learning how to read might be learning music notation or Braille. Children should be taught that words are made up of discrete parts and shown how different letters and letter combinations convey the English language’s 44 phonemes. Also dating back to the 1800s, the theory behind phonics is that learning to read requires knowledge and understanding of the relationships between letters and sounds, with the aim of helping early readers develop decoding skills (i.e., sounding out and recognizing words) that will eventually become automatic.

Those with allegiances to either phonics or whole language have ever since fought to determine how reading is taught in America’s classrooms. By the 1980s, the debate had become so intense that people began referring to it as “the reading war.” Things got so hot between the two opposing camps that Congress was pulled into the fray, convening the National Reading Panel in the late 1990s to review all the research on reading in the hopes of facilitating a truce. The upshot from the panel’s report was that phonics lessons help kids become better readers. The same could not be said for whole language.

The myths about the efficacy of whole language / balanced literacy are legion nonetheless. Its proponents assert that children don’t all learn to read in the same way and that a whole-language approach meets their different needs, and they confidently claim that kids learn more when teachers use this method. Research has shown that neither is true. On the contrary, reading researchers have found that, unlike learning to speak, a natural process that occurs by being surrounded by spoken language, learning to read does not come naturally. That’s because the written word is a relatively recent addition in human history, dating back just a few thousand years. To crack the code of how the spoken word connects to the word on a printed page, children need explicit, systematic phonics instruction. This is the premise undergirding the science of reading.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Officials made public-health bets that students will have to pay for

Nat Malkus:

What Weingarten conveniently leaves out is the reason for “two years of disruption.” Time and again, cautious state and school leaders — disproportionately Democrats in concert with teachers’ unions — extended school closures or strict Covid protocols, demonstrated little responsiveness as new evidence on Covid emerged, and minimized the trade-offs. Many red-state leaders did the opposite, damning the torpedoes even when Covid threats skyrocketed. While both parties demonstrated remarkable inflexibility in their Covid responses, it is the most Covid-cautious bets that proved most disastrous for students.

Now, in the third pandemic summer, it’s worth remembering that things didn’t always look so dire, or so politically divided. Back in the first Covid summer, in 2020, prospects for the new school year seemed bright, and blue-state leaders were looking pretty good. In March 2020, all schools — in both red and blue states — closed for the rest of the school year. In the early-pandemic fog — with limited understanding of the virus’s lethality and transmission, of therapeutics or mitigation measures (remember the CDC’s early urging of Americans not to mask up?), and of the relative health threat to students — that was a reasonable decision.

During that spring, blue-state leaders did an admirable job providing the best possible approximation of routine, in-person learning. As I documented, 86 percent of blue-state districts got asynchronous learning platforms such as Google Classroom up and running that spring, compared with 79 percent of red-state districts, and over half of blue-state districts offered synchronous options such as Zoom, compared with less than a third of red-state districts. Blue states also better ensured that students had the devices, Internet access, and direct contact with teachers that made the best of a terrible spring.

By early summer 2020, we looked to be successfully “bending the curve” of Covid cases, and school leaders in both red and blue states were optimistic about plans for reopening and recovery. But then Covid cases began to rise again, and on July 6, President Trump took to Twitter to announce, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” He quickly doubled down, asserting that school closures were “causing death,” and he threatened to strip federal funding from any school that didn’t reopen.

Politics, closed schools and taxpayer supported Dane County Madison Public Health

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The morning rush and parenting

Angela Garbes:

I ponder this relic of my childhood as I gently cajole (then eventually yell at) my child to put on shoes, No, shoes that fit, not her older sister’s shoes. Shoe drama comes after I firmly tell her that she must wear underwear; after I suggest to both of them to maybe not wear black thermal pants on a 90-degree day or a sleeveless dress on a 40-degree day (seasons change, but their aversion to weather-appropriate clothing does not). I walk the nine circles of wardrobe negotiation hell all while fielding my older daughter’s questions about the seven-day weather forecast, if I have any goals for how many books I want to write while I’m alive, why giraffe tongues are black, and enduring yet another explanation of the Dragonette Prophecy from the Wings of Fire graphic novels (not that I asked). I contemplate exactly what percentage of my parenting — 27%? 44%? — is just me nodding and saying “Oh yeah? Cool.”

When they are finally out of the house, I am typically overcome with the desire to get back in bed (or just lie down on the living room carpet). Memories from my TV-addled childhood enter my brain and I think: the Army’s got f*cking nothing on me. Some days I feel I have actually gone to war.

The morning routine is Groundhog Day: every morning a repetitive circle of waking to action — the alarm is a child screaming and what follows is a blur of toothpaste, tears, maple syrup, shoelaces, and mugs of coffee abandoned amid all the tending, gone cold on the counter.

Our society values production, novelty, progress, hustle (and side hustles), and, once we’ve offloaded our children to other people, weary and numb, we are then expected to get to work.

The routine is always the same, even when it’s different. It stultifies the brain, makes it easy to disassociate at the breakfast table, to float away as Cheerios are thrown on the floor and a small person talks endlessly about how Ezra or Rainer or Ada fell off the monkey bars and by the way have you seen my hard bone shin bruise?

There is no hero’s journey in this particular labor of mothering — or maybe there is, but you are definitely not the protagonist. Our society values production, novelty, progress, hustle (and side hustles), and, once we’ve offloaded our children to other people, weary and numb, we are then expected to get to work.

Civics: “The extent of public accounting games played by our political leaders is shameful”

Vivian Darkbloom:

I say *temporary* funding because the corporate AMT is generally an acceleration of regular tax liability. If a corporation pays the AMT, a credit against future corporate regular tax is carried forward. Congress likes to complain about corporations artificially carrying forward financial book income and postponing taxable income. Here, Congress is engaging in the same sort of shenanigan by accelerating current tax revenues at the cost of future revenue. The JCT only estimates additional revenue over a 10-year period. What they don’t report is that the AMT revenue during the first 10 years will reduce tax revenues in the years thereafter. It’s not completely zero sum, but mostly zero sum over a longer period of time.

From 2005:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

Civics: “a self-enclosed Brahmin class”

Ann Althouse:

The self-enclosed Brahmin David Brooks concedes at the outset of “Did the F.B.I. Just Re-Elect Donald Trump?” (NYT).

But the Trumpian propaganda turns what is an unfortunate social chasm into venomous conspiracy theory. It simply assumes, against a lot of evidence, that the leading institutions of society are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.

If only Trump were careful and merely posited a hypothesis.

It simply assumes that the proof of people’s virtue is that they’re getting attacked by the Regime.
Ironically, Brooks is simply assuming that. It doesn’t ring true to me. When does Trump do that? All the time? Everyone the regime attacks he presumes is virtuous? That’s an overbroad assumption about overbroad assumptions.

Trump’s political career has been kept afloat by elite scorn. The more elites scorn him, the more Republicans love him.

Republicans? A lot of Republicans hate him. I don’t think the word you want there is “Republicans.” Maybe: Republicans minus the self-enclosed Brahmin Republicans, plus a lot of untouchables Democrats think are supposed to be Democrats.

The key criterion for leadership in the Republican Party today is having the right enemies.
The only key criterion Trump had was appeal to outsiders. His enemies were people with leadership in the Republican Party.

Commentary on higher education intellectual diversity

Miami herald

Last year, lawmakers passed legislation that requires universities and state colleges to “annually assess the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution” through a survey created by DeSantis-appointed state bureaucrats. One must wonder what his administration will do with the survey results — and we doubt universities won’t pay the price if they are deemed too liberal. The state will compile and publish that information starting on Sept. 1. The new law also allows students to secretly record professors for use in a criminal or civil proceeding.

The point of House Bill 233 is to prevent universities from shielding students from “ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” That sounds great on paper. But what “diverse” points of views will professors be forced to entertain? As a University of Florida computer science professor explained to the Herald, could a geography instructor be challenged by a student who believes the Earth is flat? 

This new law is only one piece in efforts to reshape education according to an ideological mold. House Bill 7 will regulate classroom instructions on race and gender. Universities risk losing funding, for example, over lessons that may be construed as telling college students they bear responsibility and “must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress because of actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex or national origin.” DeSantis dubbed the law the “Stop WOKE Act,” but it might be best described as the “Snowflake act.”

Gen Z happiness, Bible reading and reduced stress

Mark Tapscott:

But when researchers focused specifically on those members of Gen Z with an active Christian faith and regular reading of scripture, a much different picture emerges:

“When Gen Z adults are Scripture Engaged, they overcome the downward trend of their generation. In every domain, their Human Flourishing scores are better than the overall average,” according to the report.

The report authors caution that they “do not want to imply that picking up a Bible will instantly cure a person’s mental health issues and make them thrive in every aspect of existence.

“Scripture engagement is a way of life, in which people meet with God regularly and recast their thoughts and activities in response to God’s guidance. According to our data, this ongoing interaction is associated with mental health and human flourishing.”

The data behind the accompanying chart on how respondents rate themselves on the five measured factors of Human Flourishing is especially revealing because of the three factors on which Gen Zers who regularly engage with Scripture are strongest, compared to all other groups within the Gen Z generation.


Jess Thompson:

The problem with fusion energy at the moment is that we do not have the technical capabilities to harness this power. Scientists from across the world are currently working to solve these issues.

In this latest milestone at the LLNL, researchers recorded an energy yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ) during only a few nanoseconds. For reference, one MJ is the kinetic energy of a one tonne mass moving at 100mph.

“The record shot was a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at NIF,” said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for LLNL’s inertial confinement fusion program, in a statement.


Jess Thompson:

The problem with fusion energy at the moment is that we do not have the technical capabilities to harness this power. Scientists from across the world are currently working to solve these issues.

In this latest milestone at the LLNL, researchers recorded an energy yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ) during only a few nanoseconds. For reference, one MJ is the kinetic energy of a one tonne mass moving at 100mph.

“The record shot was a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at NIF,” said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for LLNL’s inertial confinement fusion program, in a statement.

Taxpayer funded Biden Administration censorship

Alex Berenson:

Biden Administration officials asked Twitter to ban me because of my tweets questioning the Covid vaccines, even as company employees believed I had followed Twitter’s rules, internal Twitter communications reveal.

In a White House meeting in April 2021, four months before Twitter suspended my account, the company faced “one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off from the platform,” a Twitter employee wrote.

The employee recounted the meeting discussion afterwards on Twitter’s internal Slack messaging system. The message, and others, make clear that top federal officials targeted me specifically, potentially violating my basic First Amendment right to free speech.

The First Amendment does not apply to private companies like Twitter. But if the companies are acting on behalf of the federal government they can become “state actors” that must allow free speech and debate, just as the government does.

Previous efforts to file state action lawsuits against the government and social media companies for working together to ban users have failed. Courts have universally held that people who have been banned have not shown the specific demands from government officials that are necessary to support state action claims.

Medical Education Goes Woke

Wall Street Journal:

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that represents and advises medical schools. It also has influence with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national accreditor that sets med-school standards. So when the AAMC tells schools to revise how they teach, America’s future physicians will be obliged to listen.

The AAMC recently released a report describing the new “diversity, equity and inclusion competencies” that medical students and residents will be expected to master. Practicing physicians who work at teaching hospitals may also soon be required to undergo this form of, well, political re-education.

As a starting point, aspiring doctors will have to become fluent in woke concepts such as “intersectionality,” which the AAMC defines as “overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination that communities face based on race, gender, ethnicity, ability, etc.” Med students who managed to avoid learning critical race theory in college will now get an immersive course.

The toxic politics of COVID and education

Vladimir Kogan:

It is impossible to overstate the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the education of America’s children. Over the past year, a growing body of evidence has produced something rare in education research — a consensus. These studies show that the disruption to schooling caused unprecedented learning shortfalls — worse even than the effects of school closures in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina — that have hit lower-income and minority students the hardest, erasing hard-won progress toward closing achievement gaps made in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Tragically, much of this was avoidable. The blame falls squarely on highly politicized decisions made by local school districts, driven to a large extent by school-employee interest groups and partisan calculations (as Nat Malkus explains in greater detail elsewhere in this issue of NR). Most depressingly, the same dysfunctional politics that caused student learning to suffer continues to impede students’ academic recovery.

To understand what went wrong, it’s important to briefly review how we got here. In the early months of the pandemic, in spring 2020, nearly every American school closed. With the benefit of hindsight, many now recognize that was a mistake. But the initial closures were not unreasonable at the time. Policy-makers saw how the emerging pandemic overwhelmed hospitals in Italy and New York City, and a great deal remained unknown about the nature of the virus and the risks faced by different groups.

By the summer, however, much had changed. Emerging data clearly indicated that children themselves remained at very low risk of severe disease, evidence from European countries where many schools remained open showed that teachers similarly did not face dramatically worse health outcomes than did adults in other occupations, and it appeared that schools were not the primary drivers of community spread, as pre-pandemic statistical models based on the seasonal flu had predicted.

West Side Madison Gunshots and families

Captain Beckett:

Last Friday, gun shots rang out in the West District. When this happens, dispatch airs alert tones over our air indicating that something serious has happened. Sometimes it’s a panic alarm, sometimes it is someone armed with a weapon during a fight and sometimes it is someone with a gun. After 17 years on this job and still to this day, my heart skips a beat when I hear these and I wait to hear the address. On Friday, the address aired was on Balsam Rd. Our officers and detectives arrived quickly, put up crime scene tape, talked to witnesses and began their investigation. A short time later, a person showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound, which they said was acquired on Balsam Rd.

We refer to this person who was shot as a victim, and they are, they truly are. But do you know who else is a victim? Everyone that witnessed this, everyone that heard the shots, the kids playing in Meadowood Park, the people who are trying to get into their residence but can’t because the place where they live is now a crime scene. I could go on and on.

After this shooting occurred, I asked one of our analysts to pull some statistics on that area. Our data indicate that to date in 2022, we have had one reported shots fired incident thus far compared to 7 total in 2021 in the Meadowood neighborhood. Our reported violent offenses have dropped as well, from 28 in 2021 to 13 thus far in 2022. I looked at these numbers and thought to myself, that’s great, we are overall trending in a positive direction.

But then my thoughts turn to the mother I met on Wednesday at a community conversation who told me that her kids are afraid to go to the park now. Or another mother who lives in fear that her own children will be collateral damage due to violence they never asked for.

 As a parent, these disclosures shake me to my core. As the Captain of the West District, it makes me want to send all our officers to that area and form a perimeter around it so nothing bad gets through. Except I cannot do that. We are also called to other places.

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended (along with Meadowood Neighborhood Officer Lucas Hale and West Patrol Officer Alyssa Souza) a violence prevention table talk put on by Meadowood Health Partnership. They are doing some great work in the neighborhood and want to start having some honest conversations about how to thwart violence in their community.

It was a productive 2 hours. Productive because it afforded the opportunity for people who live in the Meadowood Neighborhood to articulate what they care about and what they worry about. It’s always good for our police personnel to hear the concerns, but it is also important in turn that the neighborhood knows as much about us as possible, about our processes and our staffing and how we simply cannot be everywhere all the time.

I have used this blotter space to promote community events because strong neighborhoods can counteract violence. They can band together and lean on each other and support each other. It’s actually pretty cool! Opportunities abound in this city for neighbors to congregate and engage with each other.

For example, this Saturday (8/13) the third session of Love Your Neighborhood: Reinvigorating Southwest Madison is happening at Good Shepherd Church from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Register at  

We can’t just want safe neighborhoods. We have to work for them, all of us, together.

Civics: Bribing Meta (Facebook), the “terror watch list” and monopoly tactics

Theo Wayt:

OnlyFans squashed competitors in the online porn industry with the help of a bizarre scheme that bribed Meta employees to throw thousands of porn stars onto a terrorist watchlist, according to a group of explosive lawsuits. 

Adult performers who sold X-rated photos and videos on rival sites saw their Instagram accounts falsely tagged as containing terrorist content — crippling their ability to promote their business and devastating their incomes, according to the suits. 

Sellers of smutty pictures were then “shadowbanned” across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites, the suits allege. Targeted accounts also included businesses, celebrities, influencers and others who “have nothing to do with terrorism,” according to the suits. 

“When I heard that my content may be listed on the terror watch list, I was outraged,” Alana Evans, an adult performer and one of the plaintiffs in the California suit alongside Kelly Pierce and others, told The Post. “I was angry because it affected my income when my social media traffic dropped significantly, and I was angry because I am the daughter of a veteran who fought for this country.”


Why Americans are increasingly dubious about going to college

Jon Marcus:

Even as freshmen nervously arrive on campus for the fall semester, policymakers are grappling with what they say has become an “alarming” decline in the number of high school graduates willing to invest the time and money it takes to go to college.

A little-understood backlash against higher education is driving an unprecedented decline in enrollment that experts now warn is likely to diminish people’s quality of life and the nation’s economic competitiveness, especially in places where the slide is most severe.

“With the exception of wartime, the United States has never been through a period of declining educational attainment like this,” said Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University’s Miller College of Business.

There are 4 million fewer students in college now than there were 10 years ago, a falloff many observers blame on Covid-19, a dip in the number of Americans under 18and a strong labor market that is sucking young people straight into the workforce.

But while the pandemic certainly made things worse, the downturn took hold well before it started. Demographics alone cannot explain the scale of this drop. And statistics belie the argument that recent high school graduates are getting jobs instead of going to college: Workforce participation for 16- to 24-year-oldsis lower than it was before Covid hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports.

American Bar Association Scraps Controversial Diversity Proposal After Blowback

Aaron Sibarium:

The American Bar Association on Monday axed a proposal to require law schools to “diversify” their student bodies after more than a year of warnings from law professors that the plan would force schools to violate federal law.

The proposal, first released in May 2021, would have required law schools to submit annual progress reports on minority enrollment to the American Bar Association. Law schools that failed to boost the enrollment of “underrepresented groups” would have been at risk of losing their accreditation.

The proposal underwent three rounds of revisions before finally being withdrawn by the association’s house of delegates, which did not rule out revisiting the proposal at a later date. An early draft had warned that U.S. anti-discrimination laws were “not a justification” for “non-compliance” with the diversity standard, a line that drew criticism from many in the legal community, including from elite universities.

Ten Yale Law School professors said in a public comment filed in June 2021 that the proposal “instructs schools to risk violating state or federal law in order to retain certification.” As late as February 2022, law professors were raising “legal concerns” about the “use of racial balancing or quotas,” according to a memo from the bar association summarizing the feedback it received.

This 17-Year-Old Designed a Motor That Could Potentially Transform the Electric Car Industry

Margaret Osborne:

Robert Sansone is a natural born engineer. From animatronic hands to high-speed running boots and a go-kart that can reach speeds of more than 70 miles per hour, the Fort Pierce, Florida-based inventor estimates he’s completed at least 60 engineering projects in his spare time. And he’s only 17 years old.

A couple years ago, Sansone came across a video about the advantages and disadvantages of electric cars. The video explained that most electric car motors require magnets made from rare-earth elements, which can be costly, both financially and environmentally, to extract. The rare-earth materials needed can cost hundreds of dollars per kilogram. In comparison, copper is worth $7.83 per kilogram.

“I have a natural interest in electric motors,” says Sansone, who had used them in different robotics projects. “With that sustainability issue, I wanted to tackle it, and try and design a different motor.”

The highschooler had heard of a type of electric motor—the synchronous reluctance motor—that doesn’t use these rare-earth materials. This kind of motor is currently used for pumps and fans, but it isn’t powerful enough by itself to be used in an electric vehicle. So, Sansone started brainstorming ways he could improve its performance.

Chinese Student Visas to U.S. Tumble From Prepandemic Levels

Sha Hua, Karen Hao and Melissa Korn

The number of U.S. student visas issued to Chinese nationals plunged by more than 50% in the first half of 2022 compared with pre-Covid levels, with the U.S. losing ground as the most-coveted place for Chinese students to pursue higher education abroad.

Even before the pandemic, Chinese students were shifting their study-abroad sights elsewhere, driven by doubts about whether they would feel welcome in the U.S. and the emergence of more domestic and international alternatives. Travel restrictions and heightened safety concerns during the pandemic accelerated that decline. 

In the first six months of 2022, the U.S. issued 31,055 F-1 visas to Chinese nationals, down from 64,261 for the same period in 2019, according to data from the U.S. State Department. The drop has hit revenue at big and small colleges and universities around the country, including state flagships.

Meet the scientist with an eye for problematic research papers

Jenny Darmody:

Microbiologist-turned-integrity expert Dr Elisabeth Bik makes it her job to keep an eye on the scientific community, watching out for plagiarism, research misconduct and a lack of proper evidence.

In the early days of Covid-19, it quickly became clear that it was a science communication crisis as well as a public health crisis.

Misinformation was – and still is – everywhere and scientists had to scramble to disprove certain info put out into the public domain. And this was far from a new problem.

From the climate emergency to the danger of harmful chemicals, scientists have had to work at their communication skills for years in order to make people see the truth of the science they were presenting.

But there’s another layer to that, which is the science has to be trustworthy to begin with. That’s where Dutch scientific integrity expert Dr Elisabeth Bik comes in.

Bik is known for her work detecting photo manipulation in scientific publications and identifying more than 4,000 potential cases of improper research conduct.

In 2021, she was awarded the John Maddox Prize for outstanding work exposing widespread threats to research integrity in scientific papers.

How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Americans’ Health for the Worse

Brianna Abbott:

The ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic’s influence on nearly every aspect of health in America are becoming clear.

Covid-19 has killed more than one million people in the U.S., a toll mounting by some 350 people a day. A range of other chronic diseases and acute threats to health also worsened during the pandemic, data show, as people missed screenings, abandoned routines and experienced loss and isolation.

“In addition to just the terrible burden of a million Americans dying, there are other repercussions from the pandemic that we need to address,” said Chrissie Juliano, executive director of Big Cities Health Coalition, an organization of city health officials.

Some setbacks could be reversed relatively quickly, health experts said, while it might take years to recognize the full effects of others. Here are some of the public-health challenges that grew in the pandemic’s shadow:

An update on Madison’s Long Term, Disastrous Reading Results

Administration Slides for the School Board (PDF):

Forward LA Proficiency (3-5)

Participation increased to 87% from 50% in 20-21, nearing pre-pandemic ranges.Overall, 40% of students grades 3-5 scored proficient on Forward ELA

While a decrease from 20-21 (43%), scores that year likely inflated by non-random low participation– trends in ELA scores fairly steady or increasing
As a system, we are preparing our Black students (9%), Hispanic students (17%), and students from low-income backgrounds (14%) to be proficient at lower rates.

Forward ELA Proficiency (grades 6-8)
Participation increased to 84% from 42% in 2020-21, close to pre-pandemic ranges
36% of middle grade students scored Proficient on Forward ELA

Equity concerns, which mirror our historical trends, persist into middle school, with 9% of
Black students, 15% of Hispanic/Latinx students, and 13% of students from low income backgrounds scoring proficient.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Inside the Massive Effort to Change the Way Kids Are Taught to Read

Belinda Luscombe:

As a teacher in Oakland, Calif., Kareem Weaver helped struggling fourth- and fifth-grade kids learn to read by using a very structured, phonics-based reading curriculum called Open Court. It worked for the students, but not so much for the teachers. “For seven years in a row, Oakland was the fastest-gaining urban district in California for reading,” recalls Weaver. “And we hated it.”

The teachers felt like curriculum robots—and pushed back. “This seems dehumanizing, this is colonizing, this is the man telling us what to do,” says Weaver, describing their response to the approach. “So we fought tooth and nail as a teacher group to throw that out.” It was replaced in 2015 by a curriculum that emphasized rich literary experiences. “Those who wanted to fight for social justice, they figured that this new progressive way of teaching reading was the way,” he says.

Now Weaver is heading up a campaign to get his old school district to reinstate many of the methods that teachers resisted so strongly: specifically, systematic and consistent instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics. “In Oakland, when you have 19% of Black kids reading—that can’t be maintained in the society,” says Weaver, who received an early and vivid lesson in the value of literacy in 1984 after his cousin got out of prison and told him the other inmates stopped harassing him when they realized he could read their mail to them. “It has been an unmitigated disaster.” In January 2021, the local branch of the NAACP filed an administrative petition with the Oakland unified school district (OUSD) to ask it to include “explicit instruction for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension” in its curriculum.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Being adopted has shaped their views on abortion — in different ways

Olivia McCormack

Ryan Bomberger comes from a family of 15. He was adopted out of the foster-care system — along with 9 of his 12 siblings. Bomberger is staunchly antiabortion, in part because of the circumstances around his own conception, he said.

“I am 100 percent antiabortion, 100 percent pro-life,” said Bomberger, a 51-year-old living in Virginia. “Being rescued from the violence of abortion … is what compels me to actually be as pro-life as I am.”

Bomberger said his adoptive parents were told by the adoption agency that he was a product of rape, a point that has been an integral aspect of his advocacy, he said: In 2009, he co-founded the Radiance Foundation, a faith-based antiabortion nonprofit organization.

“All the things I’ve been able to become in my life are the result of that singular decision,” Bomberger said.

Bomberger is now a father of four children, two of whom are adopted. Adoption, according to him, is not all “sunshine and rainbows.” But he does believe that it is one of two alternatives to abortion.

“Either you can choose to parent or you can make a powerful parenting decision and say ‘I’m not ready or prepared or able to take care of this child but another family can,’ ” he said.

Notes and links on abortion, choose life.

The State of Education in Wisconsin

Will Flanders & Dylan Palmer:

How does Wisconsin stack up against other states in K-12 education? An eye-popping list from U.S. News and World Report ranked the Badger State K-12 system as the 8th best in the country.i But this rosy picture contradicts other key indicators that Wisconsin students are falling behind. So what’s going on? To get a clear look at public education in the Badger Sate requires a dive into the details.

Key Takeaways
• The academic proficiency data used by U.S. News & World Report to rank Wisconsin 8th is from the 2018-19 school year. Notably, this school year featured a transition in the governor’s mansion and was a full year before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Wisconsin schools.

• A sophisticated analysis of Wisconsin’s academic proficiency from 2018-19 puts Wisconsin in the middle of the pack. An Urban Institute analysis that controls for demographic factors finds Wisconsin falls out of the top ten in both math and reading on the NAEP scores.

• Academic proficiency has fallen significantly in Wisconsin since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020. Forward Exam scores fell by about 4 percentage points in reading and 5 percentage points in math.

• Chronic absenteeism in Wisconsin schools reached new heights in the most recent school year. The share of students not regularly showing up for class rose to 16% in 2020-21 school year—the highest in five years.

The Recent U.S. News & World Report Rankings
The core claim in question, that Wisconsin is ranked 8th for Pre-K-12 public education, refers to Wisconsin’s placement in the U.S. New & World Report Pre-K-12 rankings for 2022.ii In the previous ranking released in 2018, Wisconsin’s schools were ranked 16th , meaning the state shot up 10 places. While this would doubtless be encouraging news if it were credible, there is recent to question where Wisconsin sits on the list.

The biggest issue with the rankings is in the use of raw scores on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). As a national norm-referenced test, the NAEP is arguably the best tool for making interstate comparisons, but one must be careful when simply using the raw numbers, which U.S. News does for eighth grade reading and math. On these metrics, Wisconsin is ranked 6th and 4th respectively. Just as in WILL’s Apples to Apples report,iii where we note that demographic factors must be taken into account in determining how well a school is doing, they must also be taken into account when ranking state performance. Unfortunately, factors like poverty, race, and English Language Learner status (ELL) matter in school performance. Low and minority students, on average, perform worse on exams for any number of reasons. These factors must be controlled for to make serious comparisons.

Fortunately, the Urban Institute has such a ranking.iv After controlling for age, race, disability status, family income and ELL, Wisconsin falls to 14th from 4th in math and from 6th to 21st in reading. The Urban Institute also provides a chart of the overall trend in ranking for each state. The unadjusted ranking is in yellow, while the demographically-adjusted ranking is in blue. The chart shows that there isn’t much of a discernible trend in performance—if anything, it’s the opposite of improvement.

The status quo solution for public school education has been to simply provide more money, which research has found bears little relationship to student performance. In order for Wisconsin school districts to actually be some of the best in the nation, Wisconsin needs to sever the connection to the preferred policies of teacher unions and the public-school establishment, who fight competition from every alternative option. Instead, Wisconsin education policies must empower parents to make the best choice for their son or daughter, which may include a traditional public school.

Wisconsin needs robust alternative options that enable every student in the state to attend the school that best meets their needs. This includes opening up private-school choice to middle- class families who can’t afford private-school options, and a more open charter school sector that ensures public-school options exist in every corner of the state. Achieving these goals won’t be easy, but the information here shows that the state can ill afford complacency when it comes to education policy.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“For Black and Native American students and for faculty from all underrepresented populations, there was effectively no progress from 2013 to 2020,” the analysis found.

Diana Ellsworth, Erin Harding, Jonathan Law, and Duwain Pinder

Despite ongoing efforts, our analysis suggests that historically marginalized racial and ethnic populations—Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American and Pacific Islander—are still underrepresented in higher education among undergraduates and faculty and in leadership. Students from these groups also have worse academic outcomes as measured by graduation rates. Only 8 percent of institutions have at least equitable student representation while also helping students from underrepresented populations graduate at the same rate as the general US undergraduate population.4

These finding are not novel, but what is significant is the slow rate of progress. Current rates of change suggest that it would take about 70 years for all not-for-profit institutions to reflect underrepresented students fully in their incoming student population, primarily driven by recent increases in Hispanic and Latino student attendance. For Black and Native American students and for faculty from all underrepresented populations, there was effectively no progress from 2013 to 2020.5

Intensified calls for racial and ethnic equity in every part of society have made the issue particularly salient. In this article, we outline some of the key insights from our report on racial and ethnic equity in higher education in the United States. We report our analysis of racial and ethnic representation in student and faculty bodies and of outcomes for underrepresented populations. Then we discuss how institutions can meet goals around racial and ethnic equity. A mirror of wider systemic inequities

Texas Republicans are trying to sell school choice measures, but rural conservatives aren’t buying

Brian Lopez:

But in the northeastern corner of the state, Rep. Gary VanDeaver, a Republican whose district includes 30 rural school districts, is still unconvinced. He was one of several lawmakers who helped kill school choice legislation in 2017. He said one of the concerns he’s hearing from parents is that they’re paying property taxes, which fund public schools, but have opted for either home schooling or sending their kids to private school.

“I prefer to reduce their property taxes, so they have the option of spending that money any way they choose, whether it be alternative education choices, saving for college or purchasing a new car,” VanDeaver said.

Texas has passed some school choice measures. VanDeaver points to the approval of the state’s charter school system in the 1990s and giving students in low-performing schools the ability to transfer out of a district.

“Proponents of expanding school choice options often say the money should follow the student,” VanDeaver said. “Current Texas law already does that if a student transfers to another public school, including a charter school.”

‘We can sell your body parts’: the poverty lurking behind a tourist paradise

Harriet Barber and Simon Townsley

One nine-year-old girl looks down at her bare feet. “My family can’t pay for the shoes,” she told the Telegraph. “You need shoes to go to school.”

A thirty-minute drive away, Lusaka is bustling with businessmen and international tourists arriving for safari tours and sights like Victoria Falls. 

Zambia has one of the highest inequality rates in the world. An estimated 58 per cent of 18 million Zambians live below the poverty line, compared to 41 per cent across Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Thirty-five per cent of children are stunted as a result of inadequate nutrition, and 29 per cent of 20-24 year old women were married as children – one of the highest child marriage rates in Africa, according to Unicef.

“There’s essentially an emerging middle class that is able to access good, formal jobs – probably 10 per cent of the population – and the rest of the country survives on agriculture,” said Twivwe Siwale, a policy economist for the International Growth Centre. “The difference in living standards are quite stark, it’s quite grim.”

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

Antonio Regalado:

In a search for novel forms of longevity medicine, a biotech company based in Israel says it intends to create embryo-stage versions of people in order to harvest tissues for use in transplant treatments.

The company, Renewal Bio, is pursuing recent advances in stem-cell technology and artificial wombs demonstrated by Jacob Hanna, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Earlier this week, Hanna showed that starting with mouse stem cells, his lab could form highly realistic-looking mouse embryos and keep them growing in a mechanical womb for several days until they developed beating hearts, flowing blood, and cranial folds. 

It’s the first time such an advanced embryo has been mimicked without sperm, eggs, or even a uterus. Hanna’s report was published in the journal Cell on Monday.

“This experiment has huge implications,” says Bernard Siegel, a patient advocate and founder of the World Stem Cell Summit. “One wonders what mammal could be next in line.”  

The answer is humans. Hanna tells MIT Technology Review he is already working to replicate the technology starting with human cells and hopes to eventually produce artificial models of human embryos that are the equivalent of a 40- to 50-day-old pregnancy. At that stage basic organs are formed, as well as tiny limbs and fingers. 

“We view the embryo as the best 3D bio printer,” says Hanna. “It’s the best entity to make organs and proper tissue.”

Ronald Graham, Donald Knuth and Oren Patashnik:

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a course of the same name that has been taught annually at Stanford University since 1970. About 􏰍fty students have taken it each year | juniors and seniors, but mostly graduate students | and alumni of these classes have begun to spawn similar courses elsewhere. Thus the time seems ripe to present the material to a wider audience (including sophomores).
It was a dark and stormy decade when Concrete Mathematics was born. Long-held values were constantly being questioned during those turbulent years; college campuses were hotbeds of controversy. The college curriculum itself was challenged, and mathematics did not escape scrutiny. John Ham- mersley had just written a thought-provoking article \On the enfeeblement of mathematical skills by `Modern Mathematics’ and by similar soft intellectual trash in schools and universities”[176]; other worried mathematicians [332] even asked, \Can mathematics be saved?” One of the present authors had embarked on a series of books called The Art of Computer Programming, and in writing the 􏰍rst volume he (DEK) had found that there were mathematical tools missing from his repertoire; the mathematics he needed for a thorough, well-grounded understanding of computer programs was quite di􏰌erent from what he’d learned as a mathematics major in college. So he introduced a new course, teaching what he wished somebody had taught him.

Civics: where the IRS audits are

Humphreys County, Mississippi, seems like an odd place for the IRS to go hunting for tax cheats. It’s a rural county in the Mississippi Delta known for its catfish farms, and more than a third of its mostly African American residents are below the poverty line. But according to a new study, it is the most heavily audited county in America. Via Propublica.

Mathematicians Crack a Simple but Stubborn Class of Equations


Smith had been trying to understand properties of solutions to equations called elliptic curves. In doing so, he worked out a specific part of the Cohen-Lenstra heuristics. Not only was it the first major step in cementing those broader conjectures as mathematical fact, but it involved precisely the piece of the class group that Koymans and Pagano needed to understand in their work on Stevenhagen’s conjecture. (This piece included the elements that Fouvry and Klüners had studied in their partial result, but it also went far beyond them.)

However, Koymans and Pagano couldn’t simply use Smith’s methods right away. (If that had been possible, Smith himself would probably have done so.) Smith’s proof was about class groups associated to the right number rings (ones in which d−−√ gets adjoined to the integers) — but he considered all integer values of d. Koymans and Pagano, on the other hand, were only thinking about a tiny subset of those values of d. As a result, they needed to assess the average behavior among a much smaller fraction of class groups.

Those class groups essentially constituted 0% of Smith’s class groups — meaning that Smith could throw them away when he was writing his proof. They didn’t contribute to the average behavior that he was studying at all.

Notes on media veracity

Lulu Cheng Meservey

The correction was appreciated and felt like a small victory for truth and fairness, but I would have been happy with the outcome even if Wired had never acquiesced. The real goal was to do what I described above: reveal the bad faith of people who are attacking you, in order to strengthen employee resolve, rally your supporters, and win the hearts and minds of moderate observers.

As I mentioned, going public is not always the right approach, but I believe it was in this case. First, the facts were on our side; we had a strong case and he had none. Second, what he did was shoddy at best and deserved to be challenged both on principle and on substance, especially before innuendo could ossify into perceived fact. Third, this was the kind of blatant overreach that showed how unreasonable and unfounded some of the criticism of Substack could be.

Commentary on K-12 Governance

Scott Girard:

“Remember, parents are not entitled to know their kids’ identities. That knowledge must be earned,” states a slide in the presentation. “Teachers are often straddling this complex situation. In (the Eau Claire Area School District), our priority is supporting the student.”

The presentation included further context, Nordin said, about how teachers should talk with students if a student comes out to them, including asking them if they’ve told their parents and possibly offering advice on how to have that conversation if they haven’t.

But the slide text spread, including on national right-wing news, and is still well-known enough that it was specifically mentioned in a question during the July 27 Republican gubernatorial radio forum. Nordin believes it likely contributed to the threat he received in his inbox in March.

“I am going to kill you and shoot up your next school board meeting for promoting the horrific, radical transgender agenda,” the email stated. “It’s now time to declare war on you pedos. I am going to kill you and your entire family.”

From the April 2019 spring election through March 2020, roughly 224 seats changed hands out of the approximately 2,800 board seats statewide. The following year, the first of the pandemic, the number jumped to 298.

But from April 2021 through March 2022, it ballooned to 426. And already this year, including the spring election, there have been 409.


Will Flanders & Dylan Palmer:

Using funding from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), the City of Racine purchased a mobile voting unit for use in the 2022 elections. The unit (see pictured vehicle) visits various designated locations around the city for the purpose of early voting (called “in-person absentee voting” in Wisconsin). However, concerns have been raised about the extent to which the mobile unit complies with Wisconsin state law, including a law which prohibits an absentee balloting location which “affords an advantage to any political party.” In this report, we analyze several issues and provide a statistical analysis as to whether Racine’s designated locations provide one party an advantage over the other. We find that the Democratic Party is advantaged by the locations designated by Racine.

Among the key findings of this report:

• State law forbids absentee ballot locations that confer a partisan advantage.

• The City of Racine assigned more potential mobile voting locations to wards that
vote at the highest percentage for Democrats. Based on the selection method used by Racine, a hypothetical ward with 100% Democratic voters could be expected to have 2.2 more possible locations per 100 registered voters than a ward with 0% Democratic voters.

• Similarly, the number of mobile unit locations selected for the 2022 Primary in a ward is correlated with the percentage of votes for Democrats in that ward.

• State law also requires that alternative voting sites be as close as practicable to City Hall, but Racine has not done that in their selection of locations. We have identified a number of locations closer to City Hall that were approved as potential sites for the mobile voting unit, but were not selected for actual use during the primary election.

• The mobile voting unit is likely in violation of other requirements for absentee voting in Wisconsin. This includes the requirement that voting take place in a fixed structure—a building—and not a vehicle that allows for in-person absentee voting for a short period of time in a variety of places. It also makes Wisconsin’s ban on electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place extremely difficult to enforce.

It is vital that policymakers craft election practices that ensure every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. Whether intentional or not, the City of Racine has exhibited a bias towards one political party in the selection of locations for their mobile voting unit. Because ensuring fairness in the use of a mobile voting unit would be extremely difficult for any municipality, our recommendation is that Racine refrain from utilizing the unit, and that such mobile voting units not be used by any municipality in the future unless specifically authorized by the legislature.
Wisconsin Institute f

A new index of state regulations on political expression has them both near the bottom—and Wisconsin on top.

Wall Street Journal:

But fewer skeptical eyes are on the 50 states, which is why it’s worth spending a few minutes to read a new report from the Institute for Free Speech. It’s an index of how state laws and regulations treat political committees, grass-roots advocacy, independent expenditures, and the like. The results aren’t partisan, and they’re probably not what you expect.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa finish on top of the ranking. No surprise that New York is dead last. Other states near the bottom are California (No. 44) and Connecticut (49), but also Alaska (42) and Florida (43).

What’s so cloudy about speech in the Sunshine State? The report says a mere $500.01 in spending triggers a registration rule for political committees, and that figure isn’t adjusted for inflation. Florida also has other low reporting thresholds, as well as long disclaimers and unclear legal definitions.

Forty-five states, according to the institute, “have statutes that are of questionable constitutionality and would likely not survive, if challenged in court.” These include low registration thresholds (under $1,000) for political committees: “As one court put it, ‘the informational interest’ of reports from such small groups ‘is outweighed by the substantial and serious burdens’ that such reports entail.”

Civics: Normalization of Censorship: Evidence from China

Tony Zirui Yang:

Previous research claims that public awareness of censorship will lead to backlash against the regime. However, surveys consistently find that Chinese citizens are apathetic toward or even supportive of government censorship. To explain this puzzle, I argue that citizens are subject to a process of normalization. Specifically, individuals become desensitized to censorship when the range of censored content expands beyond politically threatening topics like government criticism and collective action to other seemingly harmless non-political issues. Using a dataset of 15,872 censored articles on WeChat and two original survey experiments in China, I show that (1) a majority of censored articles are unrelated to politically threatening topics, and (2) respondents exposed to the censorship of non-political content display less backlash toward the regime and its censorship apparatus. My findings highlight how normalization of repressive policies contributes to authoritarian control.

UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees pass free speech and student fees resolutions

AP Dillon:

 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (BOT) unanimously passed two resolutions at its July 27 meeting. 

The Freedom of Speech resolution was introduced and read by BOT member Dr. Perrin Jones. 

“The Board of Trustees reaffirms its commitment to academic freedom as embodied in the Chicago principles and the Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action, which is attached hereto as Attachment A,” the Resolution on the Affirmation of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech reads in part.  

The University of Chicago Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action outlines how colleges and universities should stay neutral and abstain from political or social commentary in their official capacities.  

In an interview with North State Journal, Jones said the Kalven Report was added because “we felt like institutional neutrality was of paramount importance for academic freedom to exist on campus.” 

“The reason we passed the resolution is we felt it was important for the board to show that the principles of academic freedom are of paramount importance to us and to the university,” Jones told NSJ.

Themes in Academic Literature: Prejudice and Social Justice

David Rozadous

Previous scholarly literature has documented a marked increase of words denoting prejudice and social justice themes in news media content.1 This work investigates the prevalence dynamics of such terms in academic papers published in all fields of knowledge. We use the Semantic Scholar Open Research Corpus (SSORC) containing, as of 2020, over 175 million published scholarly articles and associated metadata.2 We quantify the prevalence of words denoting prejudice against ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, minority religious sentiment, age, body weight and disability in SSORC abstracts over the period 1970-2020. We then examine the relationship between the prevalence of such terms in the academic literature and their concomitant prevalence in news media content. Finally, we also analyze the temporal dynamics of an additional set of terms associated with social justice discourse in both the scholarly literature and in news media content. Taken together, these analyses allow us to illuminate the chronological dynamics of prejudice and social justice themes in academic discourse as well as their relationship with news media content.

Commentary on the Reduction in K-12 Tax & Spending Increases; Mission vs. Organization

Danielle DuClos:

Meanwhile, public school enrollment is declining across the state, further eroding district revenue under a funding formula that is largely dictated by the number of students enrolled in district schools.

Add in inflation and districts are in a pickle, according to Sara Shaw, a senior researcher with the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a nonpartisan policy research group.

“What districts find now is that not only do they have those greater needs that they want to be able to put more resources towards, they also have their normal operating costs — from salaries to transportation to supplies — all of the usual costs of doing business are skyrocketing,” Shaw said.

‘I didn’t really learn anything’: COVID grads face college

Collin Binkley:

Angel Hope looked at the math test and felt lost. He had just graduated near the top of his high school class, winning scholarships from prestigious colleges. But on this test — a UW-Madison exam that measures what new students learned in high school — all he could do was guess.

It was like the disruption of the pandemic was catching up to him all at once.

Nearly a third of Hope’s high school career was spent at home, in virtual classes that were hard to follow and easy to brush aside. Some days he skipped school to work extra hours at his job. Some days he played games with his brother and sister. Other days he just stayed in bed.

Algebra got little of his attention, but his teachers kept giving him good grades amid a schoolwide push for leniency.

“It was like school was optional. It wasn’t a mandatory thing,” said Hope, 18, of Milwaukee. “I feel like I didn’t really learn anything.”

Salary increase discussions in the Madison School District

Scott Girard:

Jones’ questions included specific suggestions for using available funding for further increasing the salary schedule instead of what’s currently planned, including new positions like the Village Builders initiative, and cutting district and administrative staff positions that were “difficult to fill for the 2021-22 school year.”

District leaders have continually blamed a challenging state budget that offered no increase in the revenue limits, which provide a maximum amount the district can take in through the combination of local property taxes and state aid.

“We certainly are not getting everything we need to do in recurring resources to do everything we want,” MacPherson said. “What we’re putting forward tonight represents the best of what we have to date.”

He pushed against suggestions of using one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses like salary increases, noting uncertainty around the next state biennial budget, set to be approved next summer, and declining enrollment. One question Monday focused on using fund balance, which serves basically as the district’s emergency fund, toward further increasing the salary schedule.

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”

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.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our 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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Covid face masks ‘devastating’ bird populations all over the world

Lizzie Roberts:

Face masks are entangling birds across the world, with plastic pollution is now affecting avian populations across every continent, new research shows.

The online citizen science project, Birds and Debris, is collecting photographs from around the world of birds nesting or entangled in waste.

Nearly a quarter of the photos taken show birds caught up in personal protective equipment (PPE), with the majority being disposable face masks, the researchers said.

The project, run by researchers at the Environmental Research Institute, part of both the North Highland College UHI, and the University of the Highlands and Islands, has been running for four years.

Recent reports to the project include a Herring Gull flying near John o’Groats with a black plastic bag hanging from its foot, a bird nest near Bogota, Columbia containing plastic string, and a dead Grey Heron in Mauritania with fish netting wrapped around its beak

The ends of education

Charlie Stross:

What evolved was essentially a Ponzi scheme. Workers needed a certificate of obedience to show they were suitable employees. The universities that issued such certificates were private institutions: the more certificates they could issue, the more money they could make. At the same time, the finance sector boomed—not so much through student loans at first (the Student Loan Company was thoroughly regulated initially) but through side-projects like the highly profitable student housing construction boom. Also, once a worker-unit was certified and in employment, paying off their student debt, they could be trained to accept other debts. Credit card debt, mortgage debt, anything at all that could be monetized. And the universities that could recruit and certify the most students made the most money.

Knoxville schools won’t report COVID-19 cases or send exposure notifications for upcoming school year


“At this time, Knox County Schools will not be reporting cases or sending notifications,” spokesperson Carly Harrington said. “We do encourage students and staff to stay home if they are sick and to follow the advice of their healthcare provider.”

On Monday, the Knox County Board of Education talked about reports and possible new policies during its monthly work session. One of the discussions was whether to re-implement Knox County Schools’ COVID-19 isolation leave policy.

The power of a good question

Enuma Okoro

I have thought about that quote off and on for most of my adult life but it has only been in the past few years that I have really come to recognise the power of certain types of question in and of themselves, even when we can’t readily find answers. We can learn much about ourselves, about one another and about how we inhabit the world by considering not only the types of questions we ask, and the questions we allow ourselves to be asked, but also the varied places from which our questions arise and to whom they are addressed.

Civics: Laughing in the grave

Ann Althouse:

Harris is obviously relying on that statement Ginsburg once made that we’d have been better off if the abortion question had been dealt with through the political process.* So why would she be laughing at him? The views are basically the same. Of course, when she got on the Court, she upheld the abortion rights precedents, but that difference between her and Alito could not be the basis of post-death laughing. She lost that one.

But is she getting the “last laugh,” because now that the issue has finally entered the political process, people are voting for abortion rights? The Alito majority professed not to care what happened in that process, so what’s the basis of the laughter coming from inside the tomb? You have to attribute an unstated opinion to Alito before you have a basis for laughter.

And let’s say you get that far. It’s unseemly to laugh about abortion. If the dead can laugh, can they also cry? If we’re going to ventriloquize the dead, your laughing Ginsburg is drowned out by 60 million crying babies.