All posts by Jim Zellmer

The founder of Teenage Engineering opens up to his creative space

Ilenia Martini

In the centre of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, surprisingly close to the Royal Palace, between charming narrow cobbled streets, stands a beautiful 18th-century building echoing the vision of a classic, elegant Scandinavian architecture. Stepping in Jesper Kouthoofd’s glorious four-metre ceiling height, light-filled apartment, housing large-scale original affresco paintings covering wall after wall, I see a luscious universe with an eclectic colour palette filled with artworks, books, iconic references to the masters of industrial design and, gently taking over like a statement centrepiece, instruments and audio equipment growing into the space in the form of a home studio. Between the apartment’s original features, blending in unpretentiously, some awe-inspiring design objects from Joe ­Colombo, Virgil Abloh and Arne Jacobsen. Overall, this vast space resembles a symphony produced by an orchestra rather than a flat note. Observing the contrast of bold colours, I think, ”how fitting geometry and organic shapes blend into a recurring home theme.”

Today, living there with his wife and two children, Jesper Kouthoofd, who is not only the co-founder and CEO of Teenage Engineering, the leading Swedish consumer electronics brand, internationally renowned for beautifully designed audio products, but also an exceptionally creative individual brilliant at recognizing the vibrancy of the ebbs and flow of life, turning them into unexpected connections between ordinary things and creative ideas. I had met Jesper a few years back in 2017 at a presentation in Älmhult for IKEA introducing their upcoming collaboration and already back then, the fascination began with this creative entrepreneur who is able to design electronic instruments in such an effortless way that feels everything but intimidating. You know you’re onto something interesting when you are knee-deep in the research process and there’s minimal information about the founders, yet there are millions of likes and a growing number of international artists raving about Teenage Engineering’s first product — the op-1. Fans include Bon Iver, Swedish House Mafia, Thom Yorke, St. Vincent, Bonobo, Reggie Watts — believe me, the list goes on. Although Jesper has had plenty of experience being the spokesperson for the brand, you can understand that I felt intimidated yet extremely curious about his personality and professional background — thankfully we share a love for Italian design which broke the ice as we sat down in his kitchen and started talking. I immediately felt as if for Jesper it’s less about doing more than about doing things more creatively.

Job Candidates Punished for “Microaggressions,” Rewarded for “Land Acknowledgement”

John Sailor:

Texas Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences passed a resolution titled “Prioritizing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University.” The motion mandated that faculty search committees require diversity statements and heavily value them in the hiring process. It also called for every faculty search committee to provide “a report on the evaluation of the required diversity statements.” Through a Freedom of Information Act Request, I have acquired these DEI evaluation reports from eight separate faculty searches.

In my latest article for the Wall Street Journal, “How ‘Diversity’ Policing Fails Science,” I unpack these documents and their implications. Simply put, they perfectly illustrate the case against diversity statements. These documents show how the biology department penalizes some job candidates for not adopting the language of identity politics. They also reveal horribly misplaced priorities.

The evaluations are embedded below. Readers are encouraged to peruse the documents for themselves, but a few of the DEI “strengths” and “weaknesses” that the search committees named are worth highlighting here.

Candidates’ weaknesses included:

  • “Mentioned that DEI is not an issue because he respects his students and treats them equally. This indicates a lack of understanding of equity and inclusion issues.”
  • “Poor understanding of the difference between equity and equality, even on re-direct, which suggested rather superficial understanding of DEI more generally.”
  • “Wasn’t a lot of discussion of the nuances between D, E, and I and how they (inter)related.”
  • “Didn’t distinguish well between international and domestic students and their DEI needs.”
  • “Conflation of international with diversity without explaining any subtlety.”
  • “Diversity was only defined as country of origin and notably never mentioned women.”
  • “Not during DEI meeting but observed multiple examples of microaggressions towards women faculty, including assuming one junior faculty was a graduate student and minimizing the difficulties of women in the US by comparing to worse situations elsewhere.”

Their strengths, meanwhile, include:

More, here.

Albany’s war on charter schools is a war on kids

Glenn Reynolds:

Can graft and racial politics save public schools? Just maybe. Let me explain.

Public schools face an exodus of students. Even before COVID, parents were pulling their kids out of failing (and often unsafe) public schools in favor of private schools that cost more money but offered better and safer educations. Other parents were pulling their kids out for homeschooling, which is more work for parents but also can offer better — and certainly safer — education.

This trend put public schools at risk. The parents pulling their kids out were, on average, the parents most interested in their kids’ educations, the parents who’d been most likely to support school funding, to volunteer, to donate and to be voices for public education. With them, the schools not only lost student bodies — a blow in itself since funding depends in part on enrollment — but also vital political and financial support.

Those losses, naturally enough, encourage other parents to pull their kids. As schools lost the kids with the most involved parents — kids who tend to be the better students — even “good” schools faced a reputation hit. The result was a self-reinforcing spiral that in a book a few years back I called a “K-12 implosion.”

As I noted at the time, public schools’ potential salvation lay in charter schools. They’re publicly funded and part of the public-school system, but they have many of private schools’ virtues. To the extent that public schools could attract students to charters over private schools or homeschooling, they were keeping those students in the system and thus preserving funding and parental support.

Socrates and term papers

Jeremy Tate:

The es­say hasn’t been ban­ished from clas­si­cally minded in­sti­tu­tions. Rather, the more per­son­al­ized, dis­cus­sion-cen­tric model of in­struc­tion by its na­ture ren­ders es­says a sec­ondary tool. Stu­dents that skip their home­work won’t be able to hide for long when asked to of­fer an opin­ion on last night’s read­ing.

For cen­turies, the clas­si­cal cur­ricu­lum was the norm, rather than the ex­cep­tion. In the mod­ern era, how­ever, the march to­ward fac­tory-style ed­u­ca­tion re­placed the old ways with more spe­cial­ized stud­ies de­liv­ered in lec­ture form. Per­haps it’s time to re­think this change. The clas­si­cal method sur­vived as long as it did be­cause it fos­tered crit­i­cal-think­ing skills that can then be ap­plied to any cat­e­gory of spe­cial­ized study.

2022 Taxpayer Funded Madison School District Reading Program Spending

I requested copies of the contracts related to Madison’s latest reading program on May 19, 2022. Curiously, I just received a response to this simple request yesterday – after numerous email and phone followup attempts.

The April, 2022 Madison School Board presentation on the latest reading program – an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results.

The school district’s response follows. Note that the numbers are far from the totals reflected in the Board presentation. I’ve sent a followup requesting the missing information.

PDF document

PDF document

PDF Document

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

Commentary on recent literacy reporting

Shanahan on literacy:

I admire Emily Hanford and her work. I’ve been interviewed several times by her over the years. She always has treated me respectfully. She asks probing questions and relies on relevant research for the most part. In my experience, her quotes are accurate and fitting.

That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with all her views or even how she frames some of her arguments. Nevertheless, in my opinion, she usually gets things right, and I’m sympathetic with most of her conclusions since I believe they’re more in tune with what research reveals about reading instruction than the positions of her supposedly expert critics.

The major thrust of her work (not just the documentaries you note, but also earlier productions) has been that readers must translate print (orthography) into pronunciation (phonology) and that explicit teaching of phonics helps kids learn to do this. She also emphasizes that many schools are not providing such instruction and that many teachers aren’t prepared to teach it. Finally, she’s revealed that the currently most popular commercial reading programs ignore or minimize phonics instruction, and teach approaches to word reading that science has rejected (like 3-cueing, in which students are taught to read words by looking at the pictures or guessing from context).

Those positions are sound; well supported by lots of high-quality research. My disagreements with Ms. Hanford’s work are more around the edges. I think she puts too much emphasis on the motivations of those who’ve advanced theories that don’t stand the test of evidence. Also, her reports tend to imply greater consequences of the problems identified than is prudent (something I might write about soon).

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

We come to bury ChatGPT, not to praise it.

Dan Mcquillan:

Large language models (LLMs) like the GPT family learn the statistical structure of language by optimising their ability to predict missing words in sentences (as in ‘The cat sat on the [BLANK]’). Despite the impressive technical ju-jitsu of transformer models and the billions of parameters they learn, it’s still a computational guessing game. ChatGPT is, in technical terms, a ‘bullshit generator’. If a generated sentence makes sense to you, the reader, it means the mathematical model has made sufficiently good guess to pass your sense-making filter. The language model has no idea what it’s talking about because it has no idea about anything at all. It’s more of a bullshitter than the most egregious egoist you’ll ever meet, producing baseless assertions with unfailing confidence because that’s what it’s designed to do. It’s a bonus for the parent corporation when journalists and academics respond by generating acres of breathless coverage, which works as PR even when expressing concerns about the end of human creativity. 

Unsuspecting users who’ve been conditioned on Siri and Alexa assume that the smooth talking ChatGPT is somehow tapping into reliable sources of knowledge, but it can only draw on the (admittedly vast) proportion of the internet it ingested at training time. Try asking Google’s BERT model about Covid or ChatGPT about the latest developments in the Ukraine conflict. Ironically, these models are unable to cite their own sources, even in instances where it’s obvious they’re plagiarising their training data. The nature of ChatGPT as a bullshit generator makes it harmful, and it becomes more harmful the more optimised it becomes. If it produces plausible articles or computer code it means the inevitable hallucinations are becoming harder to spot. If a language model suckers us into trusting it then it has succeeded in becoming the industry’s holy grail of ‘trustworthy AI’; the problem is, trusting any form of machine learning is what leads to a single mother having their front door kicked open by social security officialsbecause a predictive algorithm has fingered them as a probable fraudster, alongside many other instances of algorithmic violence. 

Of course, the makers of GPT learned by experience that an untended LLM will tend to spew Islamophobia or other hatespeech in addition to talking nonsense. The technical addition in ChatGPT is known as Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RHLF). While the whole point of an LLM is that the training data set is too huge for human labelling, a small subset of curated data is used to build a monitoring system which attempts to constrain output against criteria for relevance and non-toxicity. It can’t change the fact that the underlying language patterns were learned from the raw internet, including all the ravings and conspiracy theories. While RLHF makes for a better brand of bullshit, it doesn’t take too much ingenuity in user prompting to reveal the bile that can lie beneath. The more plausible ChatGPT becomes, the more it recapitulates the pseudo-authoritative rationalisations of race science. It also shows that despite the boast that LLMs are largely self-training, any real world system will require precaritised ‘ghost work’ to maintain its plausibility. It turns out that AI is not sci-fi but a techologised intensification of existing relations of labour and power. The $2/hour paid to outsourced workers in Kenya so they could be “tortured” by having to tag obscene material for removal is figurative of the invisible and gendered labour of care that always already holds up our existing systems of business and government.

Charter Schools, Teacher Unions and Politics: New York Edition

Wall Street Journal:

In her debate during last year’s race for Governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul answered “yes” when asked if she supported lifting New York’s cap on charter schools. Last week she followed through with a proposal that would allow more charters to open, mostly in New York City. But she’ll have to spend political capital to get it through the state Legislature where unions hold sway.

In her budget proposal released last week, Ms. Hochul didn’t touch the overall cap of 460 charters statewide. But she did propose eliminating the regional charter caps. The bottom line is that New York City—which hit its cap of 275 charters in 2019—would have as many as 85 slots for new schools. Ms. Hochul would also reallocate slots now held by “zombie” charters that have closed, which would allow roughly two dozen other new charter openings.

These steps are modest but badly needed. They would also be popular. Last week Democrats for Education Reform released a poll showing that New York City Democrats favor lifting the cap by 51% to 27%. The margins for Hispanics (53% to 26%) and African-American New Yorkers (48% to 23%) are more than 2 to 1 in favor. Nearly two-thirds of parents (64%) support raising the cap.

The polling is a bitter reminder that the only reason there is a cap is because of the teachers unions. In January New York City parents were sold out by Mayor Eric Adams, when the city at the last minute killed plans to co-locate three Success Academy charters in vacant public-school building space in Queens and the Bronx.

Is a ‘DARPA for education’ finally happening?

Javeria Salman:

Hidden in more than 4,000 pages of the omnibus appropriations bill that President Biden signed in December is funding for a key education initiative that advocates have been pushing for decades.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Department of Education’s statistics, research and evaluation arm, received $40 million in new money for research and development, a portion of which must be used to “support a new funding opportunity for quick-turnaround, high-reward scalable solutions.”

While the language may be vague, many advocates see it as a major step toward developing, for education, the federally-funded research and development capabilities that have long existed in other fields.

Going back several administrations, there’s been interest in creating an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-Ed), akin to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that supports innovations for the military. But the initiative kept getting lost in politics, said Mark Schneider, director of IES.

That changed when the pandemic put schools to the test — one that many failed — and demonstrated how essential education R&D funding is, he said. Covid “shined an incredibly bright light on the systemic failures that education has had,” said Schneider. “The normal processes of education research and teaching and learning were not up to the crisis.”

Disney has cut an episode of The Simpsons cartoon that refers to “forced labour camps” in China from its streaming platform in Hong Kong.

Chan Ho-him:

The episode, which first aired in October last year during the show’s latest season, was unavailable on the Disney Plus streaming platform in Hong Kong, the Financial Times has learned.

This appears to be the second time an episode from the show, which is produced by the Disney-owned 20th Television Animation, has been omitted from the streaming platform.

“A better approach, I believe, is for journalists to seek a hypothesis and assemble evidence to test it”

Julia Angwin:

At The Markup we pioneered an array of scientifically inspired methods that used automation and computational power to supercharge our journalism. Reflecting on our work, I came up with 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned using this approach.

1) Important ≠ secret

In a resource-constrained world, choosing a topic to investigate is the most important decision a newsroom makes. 

At The Markup, we developed an investigative checklist that reporters filled out before embarking on a project. Top of the checklist was not novelty, but scale—how many people were affected by the problem we were investigating. In other words, we chose to tackle things that were important but not secret. 

For instance, anyone using Google has probably noticed that Google takes up a lot of the search result page for its own properties. Nevertheless, we decided to invest nearly a year into quantifying how much Google was boosting its own products over direct links to source material because the quality of Google search results affects nearly everyone in the world. 

This type of work has an impact. The European Union has now passed a law banning tech platforms from this type of self-preferencing, and there is legislation pending in Congress to do the same.

Politics, Money, Harvard and “truth”: and that journalists and academics often tag politics they don’t like as “misinformation.”

Ben Smith & Louise Matsakis:

The move comes as the Kennedy School has sought various ways to find a safe space in a difficult political landscape. In January of 2021, Elmendorf asked New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to resign from an advisory committee because she had made false statements about voter fraud. Elmendorf more recently blocked the appointment of the human rights advocate Kenneth Roth to a fellowship over, Roth said, criticism of Israel. Elmendorf last month reversed that decision.

While there’s no formal indication that Donovan’s lightning-rod status played a role in her dismissal from Harvard, an email Elmendorf sent her this January 6, 2023 hints at that concern. In the email, he cites “my earlier decision about not raising the profile of your projects.”

Commentary.

“New Florida College” Triumph Is the Blueprint for Recapturing “Woke” Institutions Across the Country

revólver:

We won’t test you with more historical minutiae, but the key principle is easily deduced, and it applies to far more than just warfare: in any battle, whether military or political, speed, surprise, and decisiveness matter far more than mere strength.And at this very moment, Ron DeSantis and Chris Rufo in Florida are putting on a masterclass of this principle in action.

The domain of battle is education.

A month ago, nobody had ever heard of the New College of Florida, a tiny, “progressive” public college in Sarasota. Of the roughly 340,000 people in the State University System of Florida, the New College has fewer than 700 of them.

Now, the school is a national news story, because DeSantis’s administration is demonstrating that zombie left-wing institutions do not have to live forever. They can be torn down and remade, or defunded, if only there is sufficient will to act.

Despite its name, the New College isn’t new. It was founded in the 1960s, and until this month was a premier example of a taxpayer-funded university that was institutionally far-left down to its core. Like many such schools, it has a novel structure: instead of grades, students get written evaluations, and every semester students sign a “contract” to pass a certain number of classes. Students also have to complete an undergraduate thesis. Of course, the school puts a ridiculous emphasis on the buzzwords you’d expect these days: diversity, inclusion, equity, and so on. The New York Times itself bluntly described New College as Florida’s “most progressive” public college… a funny label to affix to a taxpayer-backed institution that is supposed to be politically neutral.

But the label won’t be around for long. In early January, out of nowhere, DeSantis announced a sweeping series of appointments to the New College’s board. In one day, six new trustees were named. Among them were Rufo, who should need no introduction, as well as Hillsdale government professor Matthew Spalding, and Claremont Review of Books editor Charles Kesler.

Mere days after his appointment, Rufo published a piece for City Journal laying out sweeping planned changes for the school:

Estimating Square Roots in Your Head

Gregory Gundersen

Imagine we want to compute the square root of a number n. The basic idea of Heron’s method, named after the mathematician and engineer, Heron of Alexandria, is to find a number g that is close to n​and to then average that with the number n/g, which corrects for the fact that g either over- or underestimates n​.

I like this algorithm because it is simple and works surprisingly well. However, I first learned about it in (Benjamin & Shermer, 2006), which did not provide a particularly deep explanation or analysis for whythis method works. The goal of this post is to better understand Heron’s method. How does it work? Why does it work? And how good are the estimates?

The algorithm

Let’s demonstrate the method with an example. Consider computing the square root of n=33. We start by finding a number that forms a perfect square that is close to 33. Here, let’s pick g=6, since 62=36. Then we compute a second number, b=n/g. In practice, computing b in your head may require an approximation. Here, we can compute it exactly as 33/6=5.5. Then our final guess is the average of these two numbers or

Notes on special education staffing

Monica Sager and Susanti Sarkar Medill News Service:

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced children to stay at home for months on end, students lagged in social development. This was especially seen in kindergartners entering school for the first time, and it put an extra strain on teachers. One of the reasons students with disabilities fell behind is because it was harder to meet their needs online, educators say. Platforms like Zoom, Google Classrooms and Google Meet are not always suited for people with hearing or visual impairments.

Pandemic effects

Some exhausted parents see Individualized Education Programs as a way to fix the effects of the last two years, Kling said.

“Our only concern is that people are doing that out of a knee jerk reaction because of the pandemic where kids might be behind in their learning or might have exhibited some behavioral issues, but it might not be indicative of a disability,” said Eisenberg.

Before the pandemic, about 12% to 13% of students across the country were in special education, Eisenberg said. Now, more children are frequently evaluated for consideration.

I did not see geographic differences mentioned vis a vis taxpayer funded mandates.

The plateauing of cognitive ability among top earners

Marc Keuschnigg, Arnout van de Rijt, Thijs Bol

Are the best-paying jobs with the highest prestige done by individuals of great intelligence? Past studies find job success to increase with cognitive ability, but do not examine how, conversely, ability varies with job success. Stratification theories suggest that social background and cumulative advantage dominate cognitive ability as determinants of high occupational success. This leads us to hypothesize that among the relatively successful, average ability is concave in income and prestige. We draw on Swedish register data containing measures of cognitive ability and labour-market success for 59,000 men who took a compulsory military conscription test. Strikingly, we find that the relationship between ability and wage is strong overall, yet above €60,000 per year ability plateaus at a modest level of +1 standard deviation. The top 1 per cent even score slightly worse on cognitive ability than those in the income strata right below them. We observe a similar but less pronounced plateauing of ability at high occupational prestige.

A Great Books Curriculum

St Johns:

St. John’s College is best known for its reading list and the Great Books curriculum that was adopted in 1937. While the list of books has evolved over the last century, the tradition of all students reading foundational texts of Western civilization remains. The reading list at St. John’s includes classic works in philosophy, literature, political science, psychology, history, religion, economics, math, chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, music, language, and more. Learn more about classes at St. John’s and the subjects students study.

Deloitte Improves Humans

Tessa Lena:

Enable technology to work on the worker (and the team). The traditional view of technology as a substitute or supplement for human labor is too narrow. Moving forward, you need to harness technologies that help your people and teams become the best possible versions of themselves. This means nudging them to learn new behaviors, correct old behaviors, and sharpen skills. For example, successful and error-free surgeries in the operating room (OR) require finesse, but determining the exact amount of pressure to apply on the instrument is challenging for surgeons. Technology provides surgeons with smart scalpels and forceps that allow them to gauge and adjust pressure in real time, subsequently improving precision and patient outcomes.

Notes on the higher education act

Victoria Ludwin:

The federal government’s investment in higher education is now more than $115 billion per year. Today, students owe $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt. The student loan system has become more complicated, rising tuition has far outpaced increases in the cost of living, and the schools that enroll federally aided students too often leave students without a credential of value. Yet, the Higher Education Act has not adapted to address these problems. 

With the start of the new Congress, a host of new and returning committee members and hardworking staffers are back on Capitol Hill. With their return comes the possibility of bipartisan progress on one of the largest, most comprehensive pieces of legislation in higher education — and Arnold Ventures is excited to engage in those discussions. 

At Arnold Ventures, we see the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as a moment to shore up measures that create value for students — through more transparency about the outcomes colleges provide to their students, greater accountability for institutions, a better and more efficient student loan system, and the broader use of evidence-based practices to support students as they work to complete their degrees. 

“With huge challenges facing higher education, the need for reform is greater than ever before,” says Vice President of Higher Education Kelly McManus. ​“These priorities for improvements to the Higher Education Act offer common-sense, straightforward solutions to hold institutions accountable for ensuring that students’ and taxpayers’ investments are in high-value programs.”

Here is a look at our biggest priorities as well as our policy agenda.

New group wants to help teachers across Kentucky teach Black history

Krista Johnson:

Established in December 2022, the association was formed through a partnership between the Muhammad Ali Center, Berea College, Kentucky State University and the Thomas D. Clark Foundation. On Wednesday, Cummings plans to celebrate the start of Black History Month at the Ali Center, meeting with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio to share more about the association’s mission.

The association’s formation comes at a time when teaching Black history has been opposed in some communities. Last month Florida’s Department of Education blocked an Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in its public schools, saying it is “inexplicably contrary” to Florida law and “significantly lacks educational value.”

“Continuing to improve education in the Commonwealth to reflect the complexities of current events and their historical context is critical and should include awareness of the Black experience in Kentucky,” a release from the Ali Center about Wednesday’s event stated.

The association has launched a website where teachers can find lesson plans focused on Black history that align with the state’s mandated standards, and it is forming an advisory committee of educators to build upon the association’s collaboration with Kentucky teachers.

Self Censorship on University of Wisconsin Campuses

Kayla Huyhn:

A majority of University of Wisconsin System students don’t feel free to share their opinions about controversial topics or are unwilling to consider views they disagree with, according to results released Wednesday from a survey that has stirred controversy across the 13 campuses.

Initial pushback led the System to postpone the first iteration of the survey last spring, though it was later sent to over 83,000 UW System students in November. Nearly 10,500 students completed the survey, a 12.5% response rate. 

The survey asked students their perceptions of viewpoint diversity, self-censorship and freedom of expression on campus. It also included questions about how likely students are to consider viewpoints they disagree with, including on abortion, COVID-19 vaccines, racial inequity and transgender issues. 

The results showed that most students hadn’t learned about the First Amendment in any of their courses, and that some believed it was acceptable for their university to ban speakers who’ve made offensive and harmful statements.

Notes on governance reform

Mark Bauerlien:

On Tuesday, we trustees of the New College of Florida removed the college’s leadership, recommended a figure close to the governor as the next president, and called for a comprehensive review of diversity, equity, and inclusion activities on campus. I believe the latter should be scrapped, particularly in areas of personnel (New College faculty job openings contain a diversity statement that applicants must complete, a kind of loyalty oath to progressive doctrine), and I expect the Florida legislature will act to ban them in the coming months.

The votes we took weren’t very close, and the message is clear that the board intends sweeping change. New College is tiny, with only 700 students, but more than 30 media outlets attended the meeting, and the implications of the vote are reverberating widely. Our actions sound to many like a top-down, hostile takeover, a hasty imposition of political control over what should remain an independent body run by locals.

Leftists think it’s straight-out tyranny flowing from Tallahassee, but they aren’t the only ones concerned. South Carolina philosophy professor Jennifer Frey, a liberal conservative, issued a warning in a tweet: “I guess some people think Florida will be in Republican hands forever. I’m gonna go out on a limb and question that. People who cheer on state control of universities might be singing a different tune when power switches hands unexpectedly.”

It’s a good point. What if leftists were to take over the universities, purge conservatives, and use the institutions to promote their ideology? In a follow-up tweet, Frey proposed a better way: “A different model is not one of ‘vanquishing’ anyone, but dialogue, accountability, and transparency. You can guess which model I prefer.”

It’s Time for the Scientific Community to Admit We Were Wrong About COVID and It Cost Lives

Kevin Bass:

I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.

I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on naturalvs. artificial immunityschool closures and disease transmissionaerosol spreadmask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness andsafety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.

But perhaps more important than any individual error was how inherently flawed the overall approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in a way that undermined its efficacy and resulted in thousands if not millions of preventable deaths.

Is a ‘DARPA for education’ finally happening?

Javier’s Salman:

Epstein said that one of the biggest problems in education is a “misalignment” between how student learning is assessed and “what we actually care about.” An expanded R&D unit, he said, could help develop better ways to conduct assessments, like testing students on the skills and capabilities they need in today’s society.

A new research division would also help schools overcome the “collective action problem” they currently face when deciding which technology or product to invest in, Epstein said.

Why People Stopped Reading Books

Mike Cernovich:

Fewer people are reading books (or any long form content) today than ever. Why? As someone who sold a lot of books and buys even more books, here are my top theories:

  • Publishing houses, which are controlled by alcoholic CNN watchers, discriminate against men. This leads to fewer great books making it to bookstores, which has a secondary effect of reducing foot traffic into bookstores.
  • Podcast are 3x easier to do and 10x-100x more lucrative.
  • Why write a book for $5 royalty per copy sold when you can Substack? (My current situation.)

We will go into detail on all of the above. But first, some numbers on Big Book.

Social-Justice Restrictions on Research Harm All of Us

Alexander Riley:

Recently, one of the departments on my campus invited an academic “expert,” who, among other specializations, “advise[s] on the ethical aspects of telescope siting,” to give a talk entitled “How Research Harms.”

The advertisements for the event summarized the speaker’s perspective with the declaration, “We ought to be restricting research based on a number of unique and underacknowledged harms … [which] are poorly understood and lack clear definitions.” Prominent among these “harms” are unspecified “psychological, social and moral hazards.”

This is but one example of a growing phenomenon in higher education. The perspective in question—that some sizable quantity of scientific research is causing undefined harms and must therefore be prevented on ethical grounds—has become widespread. It marks a significant departure from an earlier academic culture that celebrated the open-ended pursuit of truth as the fundamental value of higher education.

The creation of the IRB system marked the first stage of the effort to exert overarching ethical control over scientific and academic inquiry.

What President Biden’s New Student-Loan Payment Plans Mean for You

Julia Carpenter:

An income-driven repayment (IDR) plan calculates your monthly student loan payment based on your income and family size. Currently, any debt remaining on many of the existing IDR plans can be wiped out after 20 years of payment. Under the new plan, the term would be reduced to 10 years for borrowers with balances under $12,000.

Currently, the Education Department offers four income-driven repayment plans: the Revised Pay as You Earn Plan, which the proposed rule would effect, and three others: the Pay as You Earn, Income-Contingent Repayment and Income-Based Repayment plans. The new regulations would phase out those latter three plans and put most borrowers into the Revised Pay as You Earn plan, or the Repaye plan.

How will my repayment terms change?

Previously, the Repaye plan required borrowers to make payments equivalent to at least 10% of their discretionary income. The new rule proposes cutting that number in half, allowing borrowers to pay 5% of their discretionary income on undergraduate loans.

Additionally, those with incomes below 225% of the federal poverty guidelines—or around the annual equivalent of a $30,600 income for a single borrower or about $60,000 for a family of four, according to U.S. Department of Education—wouldn’t have to make monthly payments on their loans at all. The months of $0 payments would count toward the 10- or 20-year threshold for forgiveness.

Verifying Sweden’s Impressive Covid Performance

Maxim Lott:

Why would the OECD dataset show such different numbers from the OWID and WHO datasets? 

(Note: WHO’s dataset hasn’t been updated for 2022, so I’ll focus on OWID from here on out.)

OECD fails to consider all Swedish deaths 

After a lot of cross-checking, I noticed one straightforward issue with the OECD data. While they correctly and precisely copy weekly deaths as reportedby the Swedish government, they fail to consider deaths which were not classified with any week. 

As OWID notes in their methodology

“Sweden has a significant number of deaths which occurred in an “unknown” date (and thus week) in all years. However, 95% these have a known month of death.”

So OWID reasonably assigns those deaths to weeks within the month that they happened. It’s not perfect (it can’t be, since the exact date isn’t known) but it seems much better than ignoring such deaths.

I applied that change to OECD’s dataset, and doing so causes their estimate to rise — eliminating about half of the gap between excess mortality predictions.

In the below graph, the dark blue OCED line would rise to the light-blue line:

DIE and taxpayer supported K-12 schools

David Catron:

During the last few years, most conservatives have become at least dimly aware that leftist ideology, in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has infected public education. It’s unlikely, however, that many Americans realize just how far the disease has advanced. It has long since spread beyond a few courses embedded into the social studies curricula of secondary schools and elite colleges. Public school students as young as 9 and 10 years of age effortlessly recite leftist shibboleths even as they descend into functional illiteracy in reading, writing, math, and science.

If this sounds like “right-wing extremism,” consider this: Last fall, hundreds of Philadelphia-area fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in an essay contest, sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, in which they were asked to outline proposals for a hypothetical new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their amendment proposals included abolishing the Electoral College, providing everyone with free health care, limiting gun possession to individuals who need them for military and hunting uses, guaranteeing a living wage to everyone, and imposing term limits on U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Sound familiar?

The winners of the contest were announced on the website of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent post titled, “What Should Be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution? These Students Have Some Ideas.” But the ideas are obviously not those of the students. These kids simply regurgitated items from a leftist wish list that “educators” fed them instead of teaching critical skills that students need to know and parents want them to learn. But the public-education establishment doesn’t see its mission in such terms, as the following Facebook meme posted by a school board member from Iowa’s Linn-Mar district illustrates:

An Astonishing Regularity in Student Learning Rate

Kenneth R. Koedinger, Paulo Carvalho, Ran Liu, Elizabeth A. McLaughlin

Leveraging a scientific infrastructure for exploring how students learn, we have developed cognitive and statistical models of skill acquisition and used them to understand fundamental similarities and differences across learners. Our primary question was why do some students learn faster than others? Or do they? We model data from student performance on groups of tasks that assess the same skill component and that provide follow-up instruction on student errors. Our models estimate, for both students and skills, initial correctness and learning rate, that is, the increase in correctness after each practice opportunity. We applied our models to 1.3 million observations across 27 datasets of student interactions with online practice systems in the context of elementary to college courses in math, science, and language. Despite the availability of up-front verbal instruction, like lectures and readings, students demonstrate modest initial pre-practice performance, at about 65% accuracy. Despite being in the same course, students’ initial performance varies substantially from about 55% correct for those in the lower half to 75% for those in the upper half. In contrast, and much to our surprise, we found students to be astonishingly similar in estimated learning rate, typically increasing by about 0.1 log odds or 2.5% in accuracy per opportunity. These findings pose a challenge for theories of learning to explain the odd combination of large variation in student initial performance and striking regularity in student learning rate.

Survey: Most UW students afraid to express views in class

Associated Press:

Most students who responded to a survey about free speech on University of Wisconsin campuses said they’re afraid to express their views on controversial topics in class because they fear other students won’t agree or it could hurt their grades, according to key findings released Wednesday.

A third of respondents, meanwhile, said they’ve felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a certain viewpoint. Almost half said they don’t agree or only agree a little that administrators should bar controversial speakers if some students find the message offensive.

Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.”

Matt Taibbi:

The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.”

So, nobody looked at the list. 

The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’

Sounds solid. 

Yes? No?

UChicago’s Casey Mulligan Highlights ‘Tragic and Knowable’ Lockdown Consequences, Warns Against the Seduction of Central Planning

Jack Pfefferkorn:

University of Chicago Professor Casey Mulligan, formerly the chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers, has spent the past several years highlighting the predictable damage of COVID-19 lockdowns. He recently participated in a moving Committee to Unleash Prosperity panel discussionon lessons learned from the pandemic and published a Wall Street Journal op-ed detailing the deadly consequences of the “draconian steps taken to mitigate” COVID.

In their early January Journal op-ed, Mulligan and Rob Arnott note that “CDC data show the rate of non-Covid excess deaths in the first half of 2022 was even higher than 2020 or 2021. These deaths therefore likely already exceed 250,000, disproportionately among young adults.”

“Non-Covid excess deaths have shown no signs of diminishing, at least through mid-2022,” Mulligan and Arnott ominously observe.

Months earlier, in late October 2022, Mulligan joined Scott Atlas, a radiologist and former advisor on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University, for a Committee to Unleash Prosperity discussion on the long-term impacts of COVID and politicians’ response to the virus.

The Predictable Damage of COVID Lockdowns

According to Dr. Atlas, the panel’s public health expert, U.S. lockdown policy bucked existing pandemic response literature. He highlighted a 2006 paper by epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Inglesby, who evaluated several potential disease mitigation measures in the event of an influenza-like pandemic and concluded that travel restrictions were “historically ineffective” and that communitywide cancelation of public events is “inadvisable.” 

Moreover, the Inglesby paper ruled that extended school closures are “not only impracticable but carry the possibility of a serious adverse outcome.”

Civics: “Newsrooms that move beyond ‘objectivity’ can build trust”

Leonard Downie Jr.:

PmAmong the news leaders who told Heyward and me that they had rejected objectivity as a coverage standard was Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor of the Associated Press. “It’s objective by whose standard?” she asked. “That standard seems to be White, educated, fairly wealthy. … And when people don’t feel like they find themselves in news coverage, it’s because they don’t fit that definition.”

More and more journalists of color and younger White reporters, including LGBTQ+ people, in increasingly diverse newsrooms believe that the concept of objectivity has prevented truly accurate reporting informed by their own backgrounds, experiences and points of view.

Teaching at home: Not if buy how

Rev. David Buchs:

It has never been a question of if, but how.

The last several years, many parents have found themselves wondering if they should homeschool their children. Whether it was on account of Covid policies or Marxism or mere inefficiency, lots of folks who had never considered homeschooling started to wonder: should we? If we were to homeschool, how would we know if we succeeded? If we were to take full responsibility for the formation of our children into well-adjusted adults, would we be up for it?

Buried in all those questions is a faulty premise extraordinarily common in our day, which is hard to shake. The premise is that there’s some question of if, when, in fact, it’s only a question of how.

The idea that the home is not the primary place for child-rearing is strange and senseless. This is true even when children spend the majority of their time outside the home. When dad and mom choose to bus their kids to the neighborhood elementary school or to the local Lutheran school or to the classical academy in the next town over, that choice is made in the home. And it’s a choice that teaches. It is that choice which sets the stage for everything that follows. That choice comes first, long before any instruction takes place in a classroom or any homework gets discussed around the dinner table. From the outset parents are teaching their children at home. That is why there’s never been a question of if families should homeschool, but rather of how.

To be clear, this is not an article about homeschooling. It is an article about home catechesis. Entertain a thought experiment with me. Consider a typical Lutheran parish in the Midwest. Worship is followed by Sunday School for the kids and Bible class for the adults. Maybe there’s a weekday Bible Study, and on Wednesday afternoon during the school year there’s Confirmation. Attendance is fairly dutiful, at least for Sunday School and Confirmation. In fact, even when families miss Sunday worship or don’t stick around for Bible Class, they’ll drop their kids off for Sunday School and consider Confirmation attendance non-negotiable.

“When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”

Douglas Belkin:

On Wednesday, the College Board said its revisions had been completed in December in consultation with more than 300 professors of African-American Studies from 200 colleges.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it,” the College Board said. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and longstanding AP principles and practices.”

The curriculum was released on the first day of Black History month and one day after Mr. DeSantis proposed a legislative agenda that would ensure higher education would eliminate any hint of critical race theory and diversity efforts while mandating teachings based on Western civilization, which is rooted in European history.

Democrat Politician Agrees with DeSantis, Calls Rejected AP Course “Trash”

Zac Howard:

 One of Governor Ron DeSantis’ most vocal critics supports the state’s decision to reject the College Board’s AP African American Studies course for high schoolers. When asked his thoughts on the recent controversy, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor blasted the course as “trash,” according to Tallahassee Reports.

“There is grave concern about the tone and the tenor of leadership’s voice from the highest spaces in our state being hostile to teaching of African American history. Well frankly I’m against the College Board’s curriculum,” Proctor said.

“I think it’s trash. It’s not African American history. It is ideology,” he continued. “I’ve taught African American history, I’ve structured syllabuses for African American history. I am African American history. And talking about ‘queer’ and ‘feminism’ and all of that for the struggle for freedom and equality and justice has not been no tension with queerness and feminist thought at all.”

Proctor has been an ardent opponent of the governor and believes that serious racial problems still plague America. Last April, he penned an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat where he called DeSantis a “clear warrior against the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

US still has the worst, most expensive health care of any high-income country

Beth Mole:

Americans spend an exorbitant amount of money on health care and have for years. As a country, the US spends more on health care than any other high-income country in the world—on the basis of both per-person costs and a share of gross domestic product. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from looking at major health metrics in years past; the US has relatively abysmal health. And, if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the US health care system’s failures relative to its peers, according to a new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.

It’s not just conservative parents who think they have a right to know if “Hannah” has become “Hank” at school, reports Katie J.M. Baker in the New York Times. Liberal parents think they know best about their children’s psychological and emotional needs.

Joanne Jacobs:

Jessica Bradshaw’s daughter — now a son — was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, as well as with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, PTSD and anxiety, the California mother told Baker. Her teenager “had struggled with loneliness during the pandemic” and “repeatedly changed his name and sexual orientation.” School officials had put her child “on a path the school wasn’t qualified to oversee,” rather than let the family decide what was best, Bradshaw said. She resents being made to feel like a bad parent.

. . . dozens of parents whose children have socially transitioned at school told The Times they felt villainized by educators who seemed to think that they — not the parents — knew what was best for their children. They insisted that educators should not intervene without notifying parents unless there is evidence of physical abuse at home. Although some didn’t want their children to transition at all, others said they were open to it, but felt schools forced the process to move too quickly, and that they couldn’t raise concerns without being cut out completely or having their home labeled “unsafe.”

Congress gave $1.49 billion in taxpayer and borrowed funds to Wisconsin schools. Are they investing wisely?

Quinton Klabon:

The coronavirus pandemic was a 2-year catastrophe for children. Students suffered through virtual schooling, quarantined teachers, and emotional misery. Academic results, the lowest this century, still have not recovered.

After sending $860 million to help Wisconsin public schools manage through spring 2021, Congress sent a final $1.49 billion to get students back on track.

The goal? Do whatever it takes to catch kids up by September 2024.

The problem? No one knows how schools have directed it or not directed it…until now.

Madison’s $42M? Have a look.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

“But I also think that if we just do more of the same, we’re going to get more of the same, which is mediocre test results and kids who can’t read. That’s dumb. So I want reform.”

Scott Girard and Jessie Opoien:

The results, as Vos mentioned, have been poor. Reading and math scores on what’s known as the Nation’s Report Card dropped across the country last year, including in Wisconsin, where the gap in scores between Wisconsin’s Black and white students is the highest of any state, with only Washington, D.C. having a wider “opportunity gap.”

“When you look at the scores in Wisconsin, especially the gap between the races, it’s just unacceptable,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who will lead the Assembly education committee during this legislative session. “We have to do better, and we started to try to address it (in the last session). The governor vetoed that bill.

“But we really, really need to be able to work together, because I don’t see how we can address it if we don’t know that the governor is going to agree to what we do. So, I’m really hopeful we can for once work together on that.”

Kitchens was referring to a bill that would have significantly increased the number of literacy tests students must take and required the development of personalized reading plans for students deemed an “at-risk” reader. In his veto message, Evers said the bill didn’t provide adequate funding for its mandates.

“I want to go back and rehash that and say, ‘Why’d you veto this? What was the tweak that you need, right, or how can we make it better?’” Vos said of the proposal.

Republicans and those pushing for “reform” often focus on school choice, whether that’s voucher funding, charter schools or open enrollment opportunities. Public school advocates contend those options siphon money out of the public schools that need it.

To those advocates, the focus should be on making up for the past 14 years in which school spending increases were not tied to inflation — like they had been previously. If they had been, districts around Wisconsin would have been able to spend an additional $3,000 per student this school year.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

The Governor offers teachers a pay raise with protection from coerced union dues.

Wall Street Journal:

ov. DeSantis announced a plan Monday to pass a Teachers’ Bill of Rights and spend an extra $200 million on teacher pay in the coming school year. The funds will bring the total the state has spent on teacher salaries to more than $3 billion from 2020 to 2024. They’ll also lift the minimum salary to more than $48,000, eighth-highest among states according to the National Education Association.

Addressing a classroom in a Jacksonville school, the Governor said the money would help ward off a teacher shortage. “The nationwide average is three vacancies for every school,” he said, while Florida has kept average openings to about half that level.

Yet the plan devotes as much attention to making sure teachers get the full benefit of the their pay raise. It proposes a policy known as paycheck protection, which blocks schools from extracting member dues on unions’ behalf. Teachers would still be free to join or decline the union, but they would get a clearer sense of what they’re paying if they do.

The change would make a difference since Florida teachers can pay as much as $700 in annual dues, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “If you want to do it, send money—that’s fine,” as Gov. DeSantis put it. But the Florida Education Association (FEA) spends millions of dollars on political causes and candidates that many teachers don’t support, such as its unsuccessful 2020 lawsuit to block school reopenings.

The Governor also wants to ensure that teachers get their raises on time. “Not every school district has raised the teacher salaries like they’re required to,” he said of his previous expansions of school budgets. It’s common for schools to leave such funds undisbursed during internal budgeting squabbles, but boosting recruitment and retention requires making the pay available fast.

Abolish DEI Bureaucracies and Restore Colorblind Equality in Public Universities

Christopher F. Rufo Ilya Shapiro Matt Beienburg:

There is a lot that state legislatures can do to reverse the illiberal takeover of higher education through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) offices that, ironically, stifle intellectual diversity, prevent equal opportunity, and exclude anyone who dissents from a rigid orthodoxy. Here are four proposals for reforming public universities:

  1. 1. Abolish DEI bureaucracies.
     
  2. 2. End mandatory diversity training.
     
  3. 3. Curtail political coercion.
     
  4. 4. End identity-based preferences.

These rather straightforward reforms would go far in pushing back on some of the negative trends that have afflicted higher education.[1]

Civics: But outside of the Times’ own bubble, the damage to the credibility of the Times and its peers persists, three years on,

Jeff Gerth:

They both grew out of stories in the first weeks of 2017 about Trump and Russia that wound up being significantly flawed or based on uncorroborated or debunked information, according to FBI documents that later became public. Both relied on anonymous sources.

Before the 2016 election, most Americans trusted the traditional media and the trend was positive, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. The phrase “fake news” was limited to a few reporters and a newly organized social media watchdog. The idea that the media were “enemies of the American people” was voiced only once, just before the election on an obscure podcast, and not by Trump, according to a Nexis search.

Today, the US media has the lowest credibility—26 percent—among forty-six nations, according to a 2022 study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. In 2021, 83 percent of Americans saw “fake news” as a “problem,” and 56 percent—mostly Republicans and independents—agreed that the media were “truly the enemy of the American people,” according to Rasmussen Reports.

Trump, years later, can’t stop looking back. In two interviews with CJR, he made it clear he remains furious over what he calls the “witch hunt” or “hoax” and remains obsessed with Mueller. His staff has compiled a short video, made up of what he sees as Mueller’s worst moments from his appearance before Congress, and he played it for me when I first went to interview him, just after Labor Day in 2021, at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

During my interview with Trump, he appeared tired as he sat behind his desk. He wore golf attire and his signature red MAGA hat, having just finished eighteen holes. But his energy and level of engagement kicked in when it came to questions about perceived enemies, mainly Mueller and the media.

He made clear that in the early weeks of 2017, after initially hoping to “get along” with the press, he found himself inundated by a wave of Russia-related stories. He then realized that surviving, if not combating, the media was an integral part of his job.

“I realized early on I had two jobs,” he said. “The first was to run the country, and the second was survival. I had to survive: the stories were unbelievably fake.”

The Clinton campaign put out a statement on Twitter, linking to what it called the “bombshell report” on Yahoo, but did not disclose that the campaign secretly paid the researchers who pitched it to Isikoff. In essence, the campaign was boosting, through the press, a story line it had itself engineered.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: taxpayer redistribution tactics

Indira Dammu and Bonnie O’Keefe


In Making Change: A State Advocacy Playbook for Equitable Education Finance, we share lessons from advocacy leaders in six states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, and Nevada — on the conditions that paved the way for positive changes in their education finance systems. We identified five common conditions across these states:

  • Coalitions: A strong, diverse coalition in support of change
  • Champions: Political leadership that champions funding changes
  • Research: A shared body of evidence demonstrating problems in the current finance system
  • Economics: Economic factors that necessitate state action
  • Lawsuits: Pressure or judicial mandates from funding lawsuits

This playbook can help advocates learn from successful efforts across the country so that they too can pursue funding reform in their communities.

Rebellion Over U.S. News Rankings Seems Likely To Fail

Wall Street Journal:

Harvard, Stanford and Columbia universities, the University of Pennsylvania and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said they would stop cooperatingwith U.S. News & World Report’s medical-school rankings.

That followed the decision last year by universities including YaleGeorgetownHarvardStanfordColumbiaand California, Berkeley to quit cooperating on the publication’s law-school rankings.

Critics are cheering the exodus from a process they say leads students to focus on external prestige rather than education quality and encourages schools to game rankings at the expense of students. The schools that are withdrawing say the rankings are elitist, and penalize institutions that admit strong candidates without high test scores.

“In the 40 years of rankings, this is the biggest shock to the system—that gives me hope,” said Colin Diver, a former president of Reed College, which has long abstained from the U.S. News ranking. Mr. Diver is the author of “Breaking Ranks: How the Rankings Industry Rules Higher Education and What to Do About It.”

But hopes that this marks the death knell for college rankings are likely to be in vain. The reality is that what the schools themselves contribute to the rankings is relatively small: The data includes test scores, alumni giving, financial information and so on. But most of the data used to determine the rankings can be derived from publicly available information, or surveys conducted by U.S. News itself. Indeed, U.S. News has revised the survey over the years in response to criticism. There is a case to be made that the less the schools contribute, the more objective the rankings might become, in some respects. …

Tik-Tok CEO Shou Zi Chew will ap­pear be­fore the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee

John McKinnon

The Har­vard-ed­u­cated Mr. Chew, who once in­terned at Meta Plat­forms Inc.’s Face­book, agreed to tes­tify vol­un­tar­ily and will be the sole wit­ness at the hear­ing, the spokesman said.

“Tik­Tok has know­ingly al­lowed the abil­ity for the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party to ac­cess Amer­i­can user data,” Rep. Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who chairs the com­mit­tee, said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Amer­i­cans de­serve to know how these ac­tions im­pact their pri­vacy and data se­cu­rity, as well as what ac­tions Tik­Tok is tak­ing to keep our kids safe from on­line and off­line harms.”

K-12 Tax and $pending Growth: Arizona Edition

Laurie Roberts:

Charter schools would be exempt from the cuts. They didn’t exist in 1980 and so they aren’t subject to the spending cap. Ditto for the state’s universal voucher program. The kids who are getting public money to attend private schools would see no decline in state support.

Only the children who attend traditional public schools would be penalized.

Horne told legislators that would be a “travesty,” but some of the Legislature’s most conservative members aren’t likely to see it that way.

“Eliminating and/or lifting the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) is a betrayal of our duty to every taxpayer in the state,” Rep. Jacque Parker, R-Mesa, tweeted last month. “Lifting taxpayer protections so government schools can spend endlessly without transparency is unacceptable.”

Sure, penalize the children.

Some Republican leaders say not to worry. (It’s worth noting that Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, was among the 20 Republicans who opposed waiving the spending cap last year.)

“Hear us now: Schools will not lose out on the money we have allocated for them,” House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, said on Jan. 11. “We will address this. But we will not rush the process.”

Deepfakes for scrawl: With handwriting synthesis, no pen is necessary

Beni Edwards:

Thanks to a free web app called calligrapher.ai, anyone can simulate handwriting with a neural network that runs in a browser via JavaScript. After typing a sentence, the site renders it as handwriting in nine different styles, each of which is adjustable with properties such as speed, legibility, and stroke width. It also allows downloading the resulting faux handwriting sample in an SVG vector file.

The demo is particularly interesting because it doesn’t use a font. Typefaces that look like handwriting have been around for over 80 years, but each letter comes out as a duplicate no matter how many times you use it.

During the past decade, computer scientists have relaxed those restrictions by discovering new ways to simulate the dynamic variety of human handwriting using neural networks.

Child-Driven Parenting: Differential Early Childhood Investment by Offspring Genotype

Asta Breinholt, Dalton Conley:

A growing literature points to children’s influence on parents’ behavior, including parental investments in children. Further, previous research has shown differential parental response by socioeconomic status to children’s birth weight, cognitive ability, and school outcomes—all early life predictors of later socioeconomic success. This study considers an even earlier, more exogenous predictor of parental investments: offspring genotype. Specifically, we analyze (1) whether children’s genetic propensity toward educational success affects parenting during early childhood and (2) whether parenting in response to children’s genetic propensity toward educational success is socially stratified. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children (N = 6,247), we construct polygenic indexes (PGIs) for educational attainment (EA) and regress cognitively stimulating parenting behavior during early childhood on these PGIs. We apply Mendelian imputation to construct the missing parental genotype. This approach allows us to control for both parents’ PGIs for EA and thereby achieve a natural experiment: Conditional on parental genotype, the offspring genotype is randomly assigned. In this way, we eliminate the possibility that child’s genotype may be proxying unmeasured parent characteristics. Results differ by parenting behavior: (1) parents’ singing to the child is not affected by the child’s EA PGI, (2) parents play more with children with higher EA PGIs, and (3) non-college-educated parents read more to children with higher education PGIs, while college-educated parents respond less to children’s EA PGI.

The National Science Foundation’s “Convergence Accelerator Track F” Is Funding Domestic Censorship Superweapons

Mike Benz:

SUMMARY

  • The US government is giving millions to university labs and private firms to stop domestic US citizen opinions on social media. 
  • The National Science Foundation is taking a program set up to solve “grand challenges” like quantum technology and using it for the science of censorship.
  • Government-funded projects are sorting massive databases of American political and social communities into categories like “misinformation tweeters” and “misinformation followers.”

Commentary:

California politics and k-12 $pending

Susannah Luthi:

“First Partner” Jennifer Siebel Newsom has raised nearly $1.5 million from film licenses and nearly $1.7 million from sales since 2012, according to the watchdog group Open the Books. Her nonprofit, the Representation Project, charges schools an average $270 to license documentaries like The Great American Lie, which says sexism causes economic inequality, and Fair Play, about women who want to do less housework. While the group does not specify how much it earned from schools, Open the Books says it could easily account for all or nearly all her $1.5 million in streaming revenue.

Siebel Newsom’s nonprofit could pose an ethical problem for her husband as he considers a presidential run. The Representation Project drew criticism in 2019 for accepting $358,000 in donations from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the utility company responsible for some of the state’s worst wildfires. PG&E is listed as an associate producer on two of Siebel Newsom’s films and hosted a screening of her first movieMiss Representation, in 2011, when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco.

PG&E isn’t the only Newsom donor with ties to the Representation Project. The governor and his wife for years have raised money from the same donors and corporations—he for his political campaigns and she for her nonprofit.

Shared donors include AT&T, Comcast, Planned Parenthood, and Kaiser Permanente. AT&T, a powerful lobbying force in Sacramento and a Newsom campaign contributor, sponsored a glitzy Siebel Newsom screening at San Francisco’s Castro Theater in 2015, when Gavin Newsom was lieutenant governor. Oil heiress Aileen Getty, who bankrolls “climate actions” such as throwing soup at priceless van Gogh paintings, is also a major donor to both Newsoms.

Scientists-For-Hire Synthesize Artificial Research to Protect Astroturf

Paul Thacker:

Back in the late 1960s, the Houston Astros created the first domed stadium, a marvel of architecture and space technology, and then carpeted the indoor baseball field with an advanced new product from Monsanto called “ChemGrass”. Capitalizing on this new, high-profile sports venue, fake grass was then rebranded as “AstroTurf”.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, AstroTurf improved in both aesthetic look and feel, evolving from trailer park chic to middle-class, suburban presentable. Today over 12,000 fake grass fields dot the American landscape, with close to 1,500 new synthetic fields installed annually. But as concerns have grown about the harmful chemicals in fake grass, industry has synthesized a crop of AstroTurf scientists to protect artificial turf—researchers who resemble independent scientists just as much as nonflammable, UV-stabilized, TrafficMASTER (with a ten-year warranty!) mimics real fescue.

College Credit via YouTube (google)

Katie Kurtz:

One of the many things that makes learning on YouTube so special is how much users love to do it! Every day, people around the world choose to spend time on the platform learning to improve their lives. And we want to empower learners even further by providing a direct path to formal education.

We’re thrilled to share that we’ve partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) and Crash Course to create Study Hall. It’s a new approach that demystifies the college process while creating an affordable and accessible onramp to earning college credit. A postsecondary education drives economic and social mobility in powerful ways, yet the path to higher education can be riddled with barriers, including high cost and accessibility. We’re hoping to change that with Study Hall.

Indoor Air Quality and Learning: Evidence from A Large Field Study in Primary Schools

Juan Palacios, Piet Eichholtz,Nils Kok, Nicolas Duran

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair, and modernize school facilities. However, evidence on whether investments in the physical state of schools translate into better student outcomes is scant. In this study, we report the results of a large field study on the implications of poor air quality inside classrooms − a key performance measure of school mechanical ventilation systems. We continuously monitor the air quality (i.e., CO2), together with a rich set of indoor environmental parameters in 216 classrooms in the Netherlands. We link indoor air quality conditions to the outcomes on semi-annual nationally standardized tests of 5,500 children, during a period of five school terms (from 2018 to 2020). Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions and test results, we document that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding a test is associated with significantly lower test results: a one standard deviation increase in the school-term average daily peak of CO2 leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in subsequent test scores. The estimates based on plausibly exogenous variation driven by mechanical ventilation system breakdown events confirm the robustness of the results. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of school infrastructure in shaping learning outcomes.

Advocating teacher reform & outcomes

The Economist:

For all that it lacks, Ms Bika’s school has one advantage. At the start of last year the state education ministry gave each of her teachers a small tablet with a black-and-white touch screen. Every two weeks they use it to download detailed scripts that guide each lesson they deliver. These scripts tell the teachers what to say, what to write on the blackboard, and even when to walk around the classroom. Ms Bika says this new way of working is saving teachers time that they used to spend scribbling their own lesson plans—and her pupils are reading better, too.

2023 Wisconsin Civics Games!

Eve Galanter, via email:

Yes, it’s time for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation’s 2023 WISCONSIN CIVICS GAMES!!

Please help us spread the word to high school students, their families and teachers!!

Wisconsin Civics Games registration open through Feb. 20

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation is excited to announce that registration for the Wisconsin Civics Games, which aims to promote civics education and encourage Wisconsin high school students to develop an interest in public service, is now open.

The 2023 Civics Games’ regional competitions will be held virtually on Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14. The top-performing teams will advance to the finals on Friday, May 12, at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

The deadline to sign up to participate in the regional competitions is Feb. 20.

Members of the winning team will each be awarded $2,000 toward tuition to a Wisconsin college or university of their choice. The scholarships are funded in part by the generous support of the University of Wisconsin System.

SIGN UP NOW

Additional support for the Wisconsin Civics Games has been provided by the Evjue Foundation, Wisconsin Counties Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, WisconsinEye, Wisconsin Senate Scholars Program, Wisconsin News Tracker, Godfrey & Kahn, Local Government Institute of Wisconsin, MG&E Foundation, Polco.us, Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership and Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies.

CIVICS GAMES GUIDE

Learn more about previous Games, how to prepare, rules and requirements and supporting the competition by downloading the 2023 Civics Games Guide.

Curious Legacy Media school “letter to the editor” policy

David Blaska:

Blaska’s Bottom Line asks a bunch of questions: The Wisconsin State Journal refuses to publish Blaska’s letter asking Madison school officials whether, after eight years, is Restorative Justice working?Especially considering we have another school board election on the April 4 ballot. Editorial page editor Scott Milfred complained: “It was long …” [It was 245 words — exact number as a letter fit to publish Sunday 01-29-23: “Our public schools deserve support.”] “and asked a bunch of questions, which was awkward for a letter to the editor.” Blaska responded that those are questions the newspaper should be asking and the school district won’t. Here is that letter.

restorative-justice-op-ed-1Download

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

“While that’s still more than five substitutes per MMSD building, Lyne explained that not every substitute is equal as far as filling the daily needs”

Scott Girard:

“A lot of these subs don’t work every day,” he said. “Or they will only work at certain schools or certain parts of town or certain grades; sometimes the retired teachers will only go back to their school or they’ll sub for their old colleagues.”

In a worker-friendly job market over the past two years, many have found more consistent work that either pays better or offers benefits, shrinking the pool and diminishing the availability of some of those who remain.

Hannah Bennett, who began substitute teaching in MMSD in 2019 because the job provided flexibility, is now part of that group.

After not working in the role during the pandemic, she started back in spring 2022 with a long-term substitute role at West High School. She subbed again this year, but recently got a new, non-education job that will provide benefits.

“It’s really hard to earn benefits (as a sub),” she said. “The job that I have now, I have really good benefits. I think the pay that I get is probably about the same but because I get benefits, it’s a lot more.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

Notes on the “stop woke act”

The Economist:

Despite being weakened, the Stop woke Act has had an effect on campuses. Twenty-eight presidents of public colleges signed a letter on January 18th promising to defend “Florida values”. “Our institutions will not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical-race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analysed and/or improved upon,” the letter says.

Usually when people want to prevent an idea they dislike, they limit who can speak on campus, says Adam Steinbaugh, a lawyer at fire. (Liberals have been accused of using this practice against their conservative enemies recently.) But the Stop Woke Act is different. “Florida is skipping the pretext,” Mr Steinbaugh says. “They’re skipping the middleman and just limiting ideas themselves.”

The law has created a culture of fear on campus, says a faculty member at the University of Florida, who wishes to remain anonymous. His university inbox is filled with emails about the act. Academics worry about accidentally breaking the law and being reported, he says. The University of South Florida, a different public university in Florida, has a website for students to report discrimination which specifically asks for “violations of House Bill 7.” The consequences could be steep for public universities, which stand to lose millions of dollars in state funding.

“So, nobody looked at the list”

Matt Taibbi:

Translating: individual accounts were chosen through a method developed by J.M. Berger, a writerand think-tanker whose usual specialty is extremism(he’s written about ISIS and domestic white nationalism in the U.S.). Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.” The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.”

So, nobody looked at the list. 

The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’

Sounds solid. 

Yes? No?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Zoom based Federal Government

Philip Greenspun:

I spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C. My white friend who earns $200,000 in total compensation as a government worker was enjoying a holiday while the Black service/retail industry workers who get $15/hr had to come in for their regular shifts. Over a leisurely holiday lunch, she explained the current structure of a typical federal agency. “Nobody has to come in,” she said, “and most of the people who work for me haven’t come into the office for months. I go in two or three days a week just to get out of the house, but it is not required.” Why wouldn’t the young people she manages want to come in and get out of their crummy apartments? “A junior programmer wouldn’t get paid more than $90,000 per year, so he couldn’t afford to the live in the city anyway. One guy lives out in Gaithersburg with his brother and it is too much effort to come in. The rest of the Millennials aren’t interested even if they do live, with parental support, reasonably close to our office.”

A reader recently sent me “D.C. Mayor to Biden: Your Teleworking Employees Are Killing My City”(Politico, January 20, 2023):

This is an odd position for Mayor Bowser. She was an enthusiastic proponent of Science, i.e., lockdowns, school closure, forced masking, and vaccine papers checks. Given that SARS-CoV-2 is live and kicking, she’s the last person one would expect to advocate mass gatherings in office buildings, on the Metro, etc. The virus didn’t change; why did she?

BuzzFeed will start using AI to write quizzes and other content

Sarah Scire:

Nothing like a spokesperson issuing assurances that BuzzFeed “remains focused on human-generated journalism” to make you feel good about the future of the news industry, right?The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on a staff memo at BuzzFeed that laid out plans for the digital media company to use OpenAI — creator of ChatGPT — to help write quizzes and other content. In the memo, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote AI will play a role in both editorial and business operations at BuzzFeed within the next year.

“For example, a quiz to create a personal romantic comedy movie pitch might ask questions like, ‘Pick a trope for your rom-com,’ and ‘Tell us an endearing flaw you have,’” the Journal’s Alexandra Bruellreported. “The quiz would produce a unique, shareable write-up based on the individual’s responses, BuzzFeed said.”But, hey! Humans will still provide “cultural currency” and “inspired prompts,” according to Peretti’s memo.

Why Did Schools Stop Teaching Kids How To Read?

Zach Weissmueller and Nick Gillespie

Public schools have failed to teach kids to read and write because they use approaches that aren’t based on proven techniques based on phonics. Many schools have been influenced by the work of Columbia University’s Lucy Calkins, who is the subject of a new podcast series from American Public Media, Sold a Story, “an exposé of how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences—children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended.”

“The South Bronx elementary school where I taught 5th grade for several years was a proponent of Calkins’ approach,” Pondiscio wrote in a 2022 New York Post op-ed. “We adopted her teaching methods and employed her literacy coaches for years, to very little effect. Her greatest sin against literacy comes after kids learn to ‘decode’ the written word, whether or not they are taught with phonics, which is just the starting line for reading.”

How did this happen? Is the solution school choice—a system in which parents can opt out of traditional public schools and their flawed approaches to teaching reading? As Pondiscio argues, is withdrawing “concern for traditional public schools” equivalent to withdrawing “concern for our republic”?

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

The Passive in English

Geoffrey K. Pullum

Numerous Language Log posts by me, Mark Liberman, and Arnold Zwicky among others have been devoted to mocking people who denigrate the passive without being able to identify it (see this comprehensive list of Language Log posts about the passive). It is clear that some people think The bus blew up is in the passive; that The case took on racial overtones is in the passive; that Dr. Reuben deeply regrets that this happened is in the passive; and so on.

Our grumbling about how these people don’t know their passive from a hole in the ground has inspired many people to send us email asking for a clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is. In this post I respond to those many requests. I’ll make it as clear and simple as I can, but it will be a 2500-word essay; I can’t make things simpler than they are. There is no hope of figuring out the meaning of grammatical terms from common sense, or by looking in a dictionary. Passive (like its opposite, active) is a technical term. Its use in syntax has nothing to do with lacking energy or initiative, or assuming a receptive and non-directive role. And the dictionary definitions are often utterly inadequate (Webster’s, for example, is simply hopeless on the grammatical sense of the word). I will try to explain things accurately, and also simply (though this is not for kids; I am writing this for grownups). If I fail, then of course the whole of your money will be refunded.

I won’t be talking about passive sentences or passive verbs: sentences are too big and verbs are too small. I’ll talk in terms of passive clauses. A clause consists, very roughly, of a verb plus all the appropriate things that go with that verb to complete a unit that can express a proposition, including all its optional extra modifiers. Sentences can contain numerous clauses, some passive and some not, some embedded inside others, so talking about passive sentences doesn’t make any sense. Nor does “passive construction” if you define it, as Webster’s does, as a type of expression “containing a passive verb form”. That would be far too vague even if English had passive verb forms (in reality, it doesn’t).

More on the surprisingly large effects of air pollution on cognition

Palacios, Eichholtz, Kok and Duran:

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair, and modernize school facilities. However, evidence on whether investments in the physical state of schools translate into better student outcomes is scant. In this study, we report the results of a large field study on the implications of poor air quality inside classrooms − a key performance measure of school mechanical ventilation systems. We continuously monitor the air quality (i.e., CO2), together with a rich set of indoor environmental parameters in 216 classrooms in the Netherlands. We link indoor air quality conditions to the outcomes on semi-annual nationally standardized tests of 5,500 children, during a period of five school terms (from 2018 to 2020). Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions and test results, we document that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding a test is associated with significantly lower test results: a one standard deviation increase in the school-term average daily peak of CO2 leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in subsequent test scores. The estimates based on plausibly exogenous variation driven by mechanical ventilation system breakdown events confirm the robustness of the results. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of school infrastructure in shaping learning outcomes.

The Arizona Legislature will exempt itself from state public records law and destroy all email correspondence sent or received by lawmakers or staff after 90 days

Bob Christie:

The Senate also completely exempted text messages on their personal phones, which lawmakers frequently use for legislative business, from release at any time. The House policy is not as expansive.

If in place after the 2020 presidential election, these rules would have prevented the public from learning about many of the efforts to persuade Arizona lawmakers to throw out President Joe Biden’s win.

One of the most well-known of those efforts was a series of emails that Virginia Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent to a host of state Republican House and Senate members just days after Biden won the election. She urged members to throw out Biden’s delegates to the Electoral College and replace them with a GOP slate.

Big Tech Layoffs Are Hitting Diversity and Inclusion Jobs Hard

Kelsey Butler

Bloomberg News identified DEI professionals who lost their jobs in recent weeks at Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter Inc. and Redfin Corp. Many said they expect their responsibilities will go to former colleagues who remain or to employee resource groups, which often don’t get compensated for that work.

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company’s DEI priorities haven’t changed and the company remains committed to its goals. A Redfin spokesperson said the company has invested in growing its DEI team since 2021, and despite a recent layoff the group is larger than it was at the start of 2022. A representative for Meta declined to comment. 

“I’m cautiously concerned — not that these roles will go to zero but that there will be a spike in ‘Swiss army knife’ type roles,” meaning more DEI professionals will be spread thin as they take on additional job functions, said Textio Chief Executive Officer Kieran Snyder. The phenomenon isn’t likely limited to tech, either, as layoffs hit other parts of the economy. Last year, companies announced plans to cut over 363,000 jobs, up 13% from 2021.

“The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,”

Hillsdale

“What happened to my country?”

That is the question on the minds of many Americans over the last few years as they’ve seen large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America embracing the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

American politics has been transformed in recent years as large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America have embraced the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

This transformation has brought ideas like transgenderism, identity politics, and global government—which were formerly relegated to the fringes of academia—into the mainstream of American public life. The result of this turn can be seen in the radical gender ideology pushed in our nation’s classrooms, the lawlessness at our border and in many of our cities, and the economic policies that continue to hollow out the American middle class.

Our new free online course, “The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,” aims to explain the source of these radical movements and charts how they have overtaken America’s institutions. 

In this course, you’ll discover:

Civics: Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud

Matt Taibbi:

Ambitious media frauds Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair crippled the reputations of the New Republic and New York Times, respectively, by slipping years of invented news stories into their pages. Thanks to the Twitter Files, we can welcome a new member to their infamous club: Hamilton 68

If one goes by volume alone, this oft-cited neoliberal think-tank that spawned hundreds of fraudulent headlines and TV news segments may go down as the single greatest case of media fabulism in American history. Virtually every major news organization in America is implicated, including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Mother Jones alone did at least 14 stories pegged to the group’s “research.” Even fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes cited Hamilton 68 as a source.

Sandburg Elementary students get free books, visit from local officials

Scott Girard:

When the students found out about the plan on Wednesday, one teacher said, one of them asked if it was the “mayor of the United States” visiting. All of the officials proved popular, with students taking selfies and asking for autographs in their new books.

“When we talk about partnering with the city and our educational partners, this is an example of that,” Madison said between looking through the books around the tables. “It doesn’t take a lot; a couple of phone calls, the kids feel cared about — these kids are going to go home with those books at night and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got this book for free at the book fair!’”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

New College of Florida trustees Christopher Rufo, Jason ‘Eddie’ Speir…

Jack Stripling

“We’re going to liberate the campus,” he told reporters. “We’re going to liberate administrators. Were’ going to liberate faculty from the cultural hostage-takers.”

The two forums held Wednesday were the first public opportunities for people at New College to hear directly from Rufo, a conservative firebrand who is known for his deep skepticism of the kinds of diversity and inclusion programs that are popular at New College and across higher education. Rufo was joined on the dais by Jason “Eddie” Speir, another incoming trustee and co-founder of a Christian school in Bradenton, Fla.

[Will a small, quirky Florida college become ‘DeSantis U’?]

Tensions have been running high since the trustee appointments were announced. That feeling was exacerbated before the proceedings, when Rufo told attendees that the college had received a death threat against Speir. Rufo assigned without evidence probable blame for the threat to the board’s liberal critics.

Catherine Helean, a spokeswoman for the college, confirmed in an email that the college had “received what were perceived to be credible threats.” The campus police are investigating, she said.

The threat, which Speir said came in an email to the college, appeared to set off a disagreement between the trustees and the college’s administration about whether it was safe to proceed with the forums. In an email to campus on Wednesday morning, Suzanne Sherman, the college’s provost, told students, faculty and staff to “refrain from attending” the events. “We prioritize keeping your community safe,” she wrote.

Rufo described the administration’s position as “cowardice” and said it should factor into the board’s decisions about whether the college needs new leadership.

Barriers to School Choice

WILL:

Did you know that statewide choice students outperform their public-school peers by 3.2% in ELA and 2.1% in math? It is no wonder that their enrollment continues to increase compared to traditional public schools. However, it can be a lengthy and complicated process for parents to enroll their children in a choice program. That’s largely due to the many bureaucratic obstacles that are currently in place such as income limits, restrictive enrollment periods, grade-level entry points and regulatory requirements. 

Income Limits  

Not all families in Wisconsin have access to a parental choice program because of income limits that determine eligibility. Not only are the income limits restrictive (as a family of four in the statewide program cannot earn more than $58,300), but they are inconsistent. For instance, family incomes must be within 300% of the federal poverty limit in order to participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Racine Parental Choice Program. But for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, also known as the statewide program, family incomes must be within 220% of the federal poverty limit.

The ultimate weapon of mass distraction

Gurwinder:

Advances in the understanding of positive reinforcement, driven mostly by people trying to get us to click on links, have now made it possible to consistently give people on the other side of the world dopamine hits at scale.

As such, pleasure is now a weapon; a way to incapacitate an enemy as surely as does pain. And the first pleasure-weapon of mass destruction may just be a little app on your phone called TikTok.


I. The Smiling TigerTikTok is the most successful app in history. It emerged in 2017 out of the Chinese video-sharing app Douyin and within three years it had become the most downloaded app in the world, later surpassing Google as the world’s most visited web domain. TikTok’s conquest of human attention was facilitated by the covid lockdowns of 2020, but its success wasn’t mere luck. There’s something about the design of the app that makes it unusually irresistible.Other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, use recommendation algorithms as features to enhance the core product. With TikTok, the recommendation algorithm is the core product. You don’t need to form a social network or list your interests for the platform to begin tailoring content to your desires, you just start watching, skipping any videos that don’t immediately draw your interest. Tiktok uses a proprietary algorithm, known simply as the For You algorithm, that uses machine learning to build a personality profile of you by training itself on your watch habits (and possibly your facial expressions.) Since a TikTok video is generally much shorter than, say, a YouTube video, the algorithm acquires training data from you at a much faster rate, allowing it to quickly zero in on you.The result is a system that’s unsurpassed at figuring you out. And once it’s figured you out, it can then show you what it needs to in order to addict you.Since the For You algorithm favors only the most instantly mesmerizing content, its constructive videos—such as “how to” guides and field journalism—tend to be relegated to the fringes in favor of tasty but malignant junk info. Many of the most popular TikTokers, such as Charli D’Amelio, Bella Poarch, and Addison Rae, do little more than vapidly dance and lip-sync.

What I know about ‘woke’ schools

Anonymous:

“How are your homelessness workshops going?” I asked my 15-year-old son recently after he said he’d signed up for an “exciting new project” touted in his school’s weekly email. “I’ve stopped going,” he said. “There was a load of stuff on ‘preconceptions of homeless people’ that were kind of obvious. And anyway I had to go to the library as I had eight pieces of homework this week.”

A snapshot, I know, but as a private school parent this rather sums up my response to an essay by Katharine Birbalsingh, the superhead and former chairwoman of the Social Mobility Commission, saying that elite private schools have become obsessed with embracing woke issues and pupil-centric learning. Birbalsingh’s view is that private schools are empowering pupils to assuage the guilt they feel for their privilege by embracing woke campaigns on topics such as race, gender and sexuality, and this then gives them a “green pass” to feeling like a good person. The implication is that pupils may learn to be people who are very vocal on Twitter, but they will be less likely to choose a career or vocation that would involve them giving back in any meaningful way.

Growing student absenteeism

Scott Girard:

Wisconsin K-12 students had a significantly higher rate of chronic absenteeism following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The report, published Friday, shows there was an increase from a 12.4% chronic absenteeism rate in the 2016-17 school year to 16.1% in in 2020-21, the first full school year after the pandemic began.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student missing more than 10% of possible school days, through excused or unexcused absences.

“Research has tied high rates of chronic absenteeism to lower student achievement, decreased student mental health, higher dropout rates, and more challenges in adulthood,” the report states.

While the report notes that absenteeism rose in all types of schools around the state, the five largest districts by enrollment — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine — had an absenteeism rate of 31.8% among them, while all other districts had a rate of 12.6%.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

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

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

Why Johnny might finally learn to read

Mona Charen:

If you’re a parent with kids in public school, you are doubtless aware of the roiling controversies about the teaching of critical race theory and about policies governing the participation of trans athletes in sports. Those things are not trivial, but you’re probably not hearing much about a far more consequential matter: how schools are failing to teach kids to read.

That’s right — failing badly. Even before the dramatic learning loss caused by COVID, only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders were reading at grade level. How is that not a massive scandal? If only one-third of traffic lights were working properly, or one-third of army tanks could fulfill their mission, or one-third of firefighters knew how to use a firehose, we’d properly call that a government failure. And yet the failure to teach kids the basics of reading — despite widespread scientific and scholarly consensus about the best way — has dragged on year after year and decade after decade.

It was 1955 when “Why Johnny Can’t Read” became a bestseller. It argued that a retreat from phonics instruction — teaching kids to sound out words based on the sounds letters make — was handicapping American students. It was 1983 when a blue ribbon commission issued “A Nation at Risk,” the most often quoted section of which warned:

US plummets in annual freedom ranking for one big reason

Brad Polumbo:

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Or so Americans think. We actually rank 23nd in the world, under one new ranking of the freest countries.

The Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute just released their 2022 Human Freedom Index. Their annual analysis ranks how free countries are based on a variety of factors, including personal liberties, economic freedom, and civil liberties. It used data from 2000 to 2020.

The results are jarring. The US dropped seven spots from 2019 to 2020, going from 16th to 23rd—and saw a precipitous decline in its raw score as well. It saw declines in both economic and personal freedom. And, while we fared worse than some other nations, it wasn’t just us: overall, “94% of the world’s population saw a fall in human freedomfrom 2019 to 2020.”

“Bias reporting systems”

Graham Piro Alex Morey

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday. 

The Stanford Daily said over the weekend that administrators were working “swiftly” with the students involved to “address” the incident. Two campus rabbis emailed Jewish students saying administrators “are in ongoing conversation with the individuals involved, who are committed to and actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair.”

Stanford was reportedly alerted to the book-reading via its Protected Identity Harm reporting system. Effectively a bias response system, Stanford says PIH reports help the university “address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

K-12 Governance climate: Kiel edition

Mario Koran: (finding notes)

Tri-County Citizens ratcheted up most of the pressure on Ebert. Seeking to block “woke ideology” and lessons on racial justice, the group helped elect like-minded school board challengers last April by canvassing, producing campaign videos and creating a political action committee to raise funds.

Matt Piper, a Tri-County Citizens leader who plans to run for a school board seat in April’s election, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“As exemplified by your writings regarding Kiel, you sir have shown yourself to be an intentional promoter of partisan lies and deception,” he told a Wisconsin Watch reporter. “I pray daily for the conversion of all hearts in your ilk.”

In a previous interview, Piper described Tri-County Citizens as “just concerned citizens reaching out to our neighbors.”

Whistleblower Teacher Ramona Bessinger Targeted For Viewpoint Discrimination At Providence High School Even Before Arrived, Records Reveal

William Jacobson:

Before that, we spotlighted Providence (RI) teacher Ramona Bessinger. Our most recent post on October 8, 2022, gives the history of Bessinger’s struggles ever since she blew the whistle in a post at Legal Insurrection about the corrupting influences of a new radicalized and racialized curriculum at her middle school, Providence (RI) Schools Bow To Radical Mob, Remove Whistleblower Ramona Bessinger From Teaching Position.

Here’s a brief excerpt for those of you who are not familiar with Bessinger:

…We have covered Bessinger’s story from inception. In July 2021, then a middle school teacher, Bessinger blew the whistle at Legal Insurrection on a new radicalized and racialized curriculum that was creating racial tension in school, including turning students and staff against her because she is white….

Bessinger received national and international media attention:

Commentary on Columbia University leadership climate

Armin Rosen::

Columbia becomes a status vector almost by force of gravity, regardless of individual intentions: I wasn’t one of the undergraduates making tens of thousands of dollars working in finance each summer, but I did successfully wheedle my way into the once-fascinating lower rungs of the city’s cultural journalism scene (RIP L MagazineImpose, and New York Press) and had a habit of venturing deep into Bushwick on weeknights. At the time I thought this made me cool, but it really made me a product of Morningside Heights, where everyone harbors dreams of trading up.

Read more on higher education

The university has little psychic or spiritual significance beyond itself. It has no Skull and Bones-type secret societies, no final clubs, no recent history of high-profile athletic success. Nobody has time for that crap in New York. Career and student services in general were notably thin 15 years ago, as if the institution wanted you to leave the neighborhood and make your own way as quickly as you possibly could, or else decamp for some other environment you could actually handle. The greatest fictional Columbian of the 21st century, Meadow Soprano, got stuck with a mentally ill roommate, dated an unbearably pretentious film student, and quickly moved off-campus, proof that the show’s producers knew a little something about life there. The greatest non-Alexander Hamilton, real-life alumnus in the school’s history, Barack Obama, almost never talks about the place.

On the other hand, it is very hard to hide the existence of an Ivy League institution in New York City, however quickly its students and alumni move on from it. It’s even harder to acquire and then raze 17 acres of Manhattan, especially when it’s part of an impoverished, historically Black and Hispanic neighborhood where several of the incumbent landowners don’t want to sell to you. Bollinger’s masterpiece as Columbia president, clinched in the years after the Ahmadinejad fiasco, was the construction of a second campus in the Manhattanville section of west Harlem, a dour enclave of Renzo Piano-designed monstrosities built through hardball negotiating tactics and the threat of eminent domain. The estimated price tag for the eventually 6.8 million-square-foot campus was $6.5 billion as of 2019, much of it raised on Bollinger’s watch. Purchase of the land started in 2004, early in Bollinger’s reign. In 1968, the construction of a gym in Morningside Park was enough to set off riots on campus.

Notes on taxpayer funded DIE $pending

Maggie Kelly:

The University of Florida, the state’s flagship university, listed 43 staff positions connected to DEI and reported expenditures totaling $5.3 million on “diversity-related programs and expenses,” the news service reported. The state provided close to $3.4 million of those funds.

The university’s Office of the Chief Diversity Officer alone included four staff jobs and cost $1,085,485, of which approximately $785,000 came from the state, according to the New Service of Florida.

The University of South Florida reported about $1.2 million in diversity and inclusion office expenditures and credited state funds with over half that amount.

Why Zimbabwe’s schools sell chickens

The Economist:

he job of a head teacher involves hiring teachers, disciplining pupils and placating parents. It does not normally include selling chickens. But that was one of several side-hustles run by Evermore Chakwizira, who until last year was the head of Chinyika High School in Goromonzi, 40km (25 miles) east of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Since 2019 his school has sold hundreds of chicks a week at the local market. During the covid-19 pandemic, when children were at home, fluffy poults took up residence in the classrooms.