All posts by Jim Zellmer

Teacher Union seeks to abolish Massachusetts Student Tests…

CBS4 Boston:

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is speaking out against MCAS, saying the state’s standardized test “has allowed white supremacy to flourish in public schools.” The teachers union is endorsing a bill that would eliminate the MCAS graduation requirement in the state.

The bill scheduled for a committee hearing Monday on Beacon Hill would offer “multiple pathways” for students to demonstrate educational competency, outside of standardized testing.

MTA President Merrie Najimy said the MCAS has been “alienating students who have diverse backgrounds and differentiated learning styles.”

“The implementation of the MCAS and other standardized tests has had the exact opposite effect of what was supposed to occur when the system was introduced more than 20 years ago,” Najimy said in a statement. “Public schools in predominantly Black and brown communities have been taken over by state bureaucrats who have been using standardized testing as a tool not to improve opportunities for students but instead as one to pry public education from the hands of the families and educators who know best what their students need.”

The MTA shared a Twitter video earlier in the week saying, “It’s time to cancel MCAS.”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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

Civics: The Indictment of Hillary Clinton’s Lawyer is an Indictment of the Russiagate Wing of U.S. Media

Glenn Greenwald:

A lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was indicted on Wednesday with one felony count of lying to the FBI about a fraudulent Russiagate story he helped propagate. Michael Sussman was charged with the crime by Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed by Trump Attorney General William Barr to investigate possible crimes committed as part of the Russiagate investigation and whose work is now overseen and approved by Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Sussman’s indictment, approved by Garland, is the second allegation of criminal impropriety regarding Russiagate’s origins. In January, Durham secured a guilty plea from an FBI agent, Kevin Clinesmith, for lying to the FISA court and submitting an altered email in order to spy on former Trump campaign official Carter Page.

The law firm where Sussman is a partner, Perkins Coie, is a major player in Democratic Party politics. One of its partners at the time of the alleged crime, Marc Elias, has become a liberal social media star after having served as General Counsel to the Clinton 2016 campaign. Elias abruptly announcedthat he was leaving the firm three weeks ago, and thus far no charges have been filed against him.

The lie that Sussman allegedly told the FBI occurred in the context of his mid-2016 attempt to spread a completely fictitious story: that there was a “secret server” discovered by unnamed internet experts that allowed the Trump organization to communicate with Russia-based Alfa Bank. In the context of the 2016 election, in which the Clinton campaign had elevated Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin to center stage, this secret communication channel was peddled by Sussman — both to the FBI and to Clinton-friendly journalists — as smoking-gun proof of nefarious activities between Trump and the Russians. Less than two months prior to the 2016 election, Sussman secured a meeting at the FBI’s headquarters with the Bureau’s top lawyer, James Baker, and provided him data which he claimed proved this communication channel.

Civics: Rules are for the little people.

Robby Soave:

Yet another politician was caught violating her own mask mandate. This time it’s San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who partied maskless at a jazz club on Wednesday despite the city’s requirements.

Breed was spotted at the Black Cat nightclub by Mariecar Mendoza, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was an exciting evening: According to Mendoza, “Oakland’s Raphael Saadiq and D’Wayne Wiggins—two of the three original members of the chart-topping group Tony! Toni! Toné!—did an impromptu late-night performance of ‘Let’s Get Down,’ the hit single from the East Bay trio’s platinum-selling fourth studio album, 1996’s ‘House of Music.'” Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, was also in attendance.

The notion that it’s an unfair burden on the black students of Madison to attend a school with the name Madison on it.

Ann Althouse:

I would add the 22 and the 21 together, which would put Memorial High School in first place. But really, I think 750 comments on what to name that high school is insufficient to justify ousting James Madison from a place of honor in the city of Madison. I am afraid this will begin an unstoppable momentum that will end up depriving us of the traditional name of our city.

Where will this end? With a state capital named Vel Phillipsville? If we must go that way, may I suggest the more sprightly Phillipvelphia?

Opinion: I’m a doctor. Here’s why we should avoid COVID-19 mandates of any kind.

Garrick Stride:

I am an emergency physician and father of three young children. Last month, public health authorities suddenly imposed a two-week at-home quarantine order on two dozen kids from my son’s preschool class due to a COVID-19 exposure. Like all parents of those kids, I lost over $800 in unreimbursed preschool tuition and was forced to rearrange my work schedule. Ironically, these children were probably exposed to more people in those two weeks from attending different day-care and social events than if they had simply remained in their classroom cohort, but, unfortunately, public health orders don’t seem to account for actual human behavior.

Health authorities have two justifications for imposing these kinds of afflictions on the public. Originally, the goal was “to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.” In other words, to prevent suffering and death from lack of access to health care, we discouraged people from going to hospitals, shut down medical clinics to in-person visits, and suspended all non-emergency procedures. The implementation was clearly illogical, but at least the goal was rational.

Now that the vast majority of the country has natural or vaccine-mediated immunity to COVID-19 and our health care systems have improved surge capacity, our hospitals are no longer at risk of being truly overwhelmed. Busy? Sure. Systemically overwhelmed and unable to compensate? No chance.

High School History Classroom: Los Angeles Example

Spencer Brown:

When students at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, returned to class this fall, one teacher’s woke decor went beyond the typical liberal bias that’s become commonplace in public schools.

Photos sent by a concerned parent to national grassroots group Parents Defending Educationshow one wall covered with hanging LGBTQIA+, Palestine, Transgender, and Black Lives Matter flags while an American flag can be seen tossed over a piece of furniture in the corner.

Another photo shows anti-police and anti-American posters on the wall reading “F*** THE POLICE” and “F*** AMERIKKKA. THIS IS NATIVE LAND.”

Color Map Advice for Scientific Visualization

Kenneth Moreland:

This page provides advice for using colors in scientific visualization. More specifically, this page provides color maps that you can use while using pseudocoloring of a scalar field. The color maps are organized by how and where they are best used. Each color map shows some example usage and provides color tables in CSV format so that they can readily be used in rendering system textures or entered into visualization software. For simplicity, the color tables are provided in many different lengths and with colors expressed in both bytes (integers between 0 and 255) and floats (decimals between 0.0 and 1.0). Each color map also has instructions on getting these colors in the ParaView visualization application. Where applicable, Jupyter Python notebooks containing details about how each color map is generated. You can either run the code directly with the appropriate software or copy/paste scripts into your own interpreter. Each color map below is demonstrated on a 2D heat map and 3D surface. The data for both can be downloaded here.

This work originates from the paper “Why We Use Bad Color Maps and What You Can Do About It.” Details about this paper are given below. Another related publication is “Diverging Color Maps for Scientific Visualization,” which describes specifics about one particular type of color map. Details of this paper and the techniques used can be found on its companion page.

The University of Wisconsin Smears a Once-Treasured Alum

John McWhorter:

What is it about the University of Wisconsin and race? The administration’s recent decision to move a rock from view because a journalist referred to it with the N-word almost 100 years ago was goofy enough. But there has been more at the school in this vein.

This week a group including alumni, faith leaders, actors, and the N.A.A.C.P. wrote to University of Wisconsin officials asking them to repeal the tarring and feathering of an alumnus of the school, the renowned actor Fredric March. The letter, which was also sent to the Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, and shared with me, decried the decisions to strip March’s name from theaters on the Madison and Oshkosh campuses, which the writers blamed on “social-media rumor and grievously fact-free, mistaken conclusions” about March.

March has been done a resounding wrong. I have no animus against the University of Wisconsin, but what we are seeing in these two sad episodes — the removal of the rock and the defenestration of March — is how antiracist “reckoning” can, if done without proper caution, detour into mere posturing, even at the cost of justice itself.

Fredric March is not the most famous of names among long-ago movie stars. But he attended the University of Wisconsin more than 100 years ago and went on to become as central in the old Hollywood firmament as Tom Hanks is today.

Despite the conclusion of a report — commissioned by Madison’s chancellor — that there was no evidence linking the Ku Klux Klan organization March belonged to with its more widely known namesake, the student-driven campaign resulted in the removal of the actor’s name from that theater building. Throughout, there was apparently little or no investigation of what the man actually stood for.

But March was, to use our current term of art, a lifelong ally of Black people par excellence.

A Good Statement on Faculty Speech from Syracuse

Keith Whittington:

I’m a believer in positive reinforcement, and when university leaders do the right thing they should get credit for doing so. Kent Syverud, the president of Syracuse University and a former law professor, did the right thing. Other university presidents should take notes.

An assistant professor of political science at Syracuse chose to use the anniversary of September 11th to make a point about “heteropatriarchal capitalist systems.” Her tweet generated some backlash. The university responded as universities should in such cases—by defending free speech and avoiding any temptation to praise or condemn the professorial speech in question. The full statement:

Reading and Economic Expansion: German Edition & Copyright Law

Frank Thadeusz

Höffner has researched that early heyday of printed material in Germany and reached a surprising conclusion — unlike neighboring England and France, Germany experienced an unparalleled explosion of knowledge in the 19th century.

German authors during this period wrote ceaselessly. Around 14,000 new publications appeared in a single year in 1843. Measured against population numbers at the time, this reaches nearly today’s level. And although novels were published as well, the majority of the works were academic papers.

The situation in England was very different. “For the period of the Enlightenment and bourgeois emancipation, we see deplorable progress in Great Britain,” Höffner states.

Equally Developed Industrial Nation

Indeed, only 1,000 new works appeared annually in England at that time — 10 times fewer than in Germany — and this was not without consequences. Höffner believes it was the chronically weak book market that caused England, the colonial power, to fritter away its head start within the span of a century, while the underdeveloped agrarian state of Germany caught up rapidly, becoming an equally developed industrial nation by 1900.

Even more startling is the factor Höffner believes caused this development — in his view, it was none other than copyright law, which was established early in Great Britain, in 1710, that crippled the world of knowledge in the United Kingdom.

Germany, on the other hand, didn’t bother with the concept of copyright for a long time. Prussia, then by far Germany’s biggest state, introduced a copyright law in 1837, but Germany’s continued division into small states meant that it was hardly possible to enforce the law throughout the empire.

Höffner’s diligent research is the first academic work to examine the effects of the copyright over a comparatively long period of time and based on a direct comparison between two countries, and his findings have caused a stir among academics. Until now, copyright was seen as a great achievement and a guarantee for a flourishing book market. Authors are only motivated to write, runs the conventional belief, if they know their rights will be protected.

remove a quote they described as “harmful for some readers.”

Adam Sabes and Robert Schmad:

The Emory University student newspaper edited an article written by the now-U.S. Solicitor General nominee to remove a quote they described as “harmful for some readers.”

Editors at The Emory Wheel, the student newspaper of Emory University, removed a quote given to then-student editor Elizabeth Barchas, whom President Joe Biden nominatedto be the U.S. Solicitor General in August. 

Elizabeth Barchas now goes by Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar.

“It’s really disappointing because we think we live in such a modern culture but there’s still so many primitive people out there who think violence is an effective way to show anger or prove a point,” then-freshman Justin Karp originally told the Emory Wheel in a now-archived version of their story after the September 11, 2001 attacks. “Were better than that.”

CAUT Calls for Pause on U. of Toronto Censure

Hank Reichman

The following is the text of a statement issued today, September 17, by the Council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).  For background on this case see this previous post and CAUT’s statement imposing censure.

On April 22, the Council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) took the unusual measure of censuring the Administration of the University of Toronto over a hiring scandal in the Faculty of Law.  Upon reviewing the matter extensively, Council delegates concluded that the decision not to proceed with the hiring of Dr. Valentina Azarova as Director of the International Human Rights Program, following an intervention by a prominent donor and sitting judge, violated widely recognized principles of academic freedom.  Unless universities and colleges are actively protected from outside interference and intrusion, their integrity and mission are imperiled.

In discussions and correspondence with the University Administration, CAUT has conveyed that the principal condition for the lifting of censure would be for the University to re-offer the position to Dr. Azarova.  It is our understanding that this key condition has now been met.

The University presented Dr. Azarova with an offer of employment.  After careful consideration, however, Dr. Azarova has declined the offer.  Her decision, while unfortunate, is understandable given the University’s initial reaction to the unfounded and scurrilous attacks on her reputation and her research.

Considering this development, the CAUT Executive Committee is advising that the censure of the Administration of the University of Toronto be suspended pending a final decision by CAUT Council at its meeting of November 25 and 26. Until then, the Executive Committee is calling for a pause in all actions related to censure.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans spent more on taxes than food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined

Terrence Jeffrey:

Americans spent more on taxes in 2020 than they did on food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined, according to newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

American “consumer units,” as BLS calls them, spent a net total of $17,211.12 on taxes last year while spending only $16,839.89 on food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment combined, according to Table R-1 of the BLS Consumer Expenditures Survey.

“Consumer units,” BLS explains, “include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share major expenses.”

COVID-19 and School Closures

UNICEF, via a kind reader:

We are facing a COVID-19 education crisis. As this report finds, schools for more than 168 million children globally have been closed for almost a full year. With every day that goes by, these children will fall further behind and the most vulnerable will pay the heaviest price.

The unique findings presented in this report provide an overview of school closures from March 11, 2020 to February 2, 2021 in more than 200 countries and territories, relying primarily on the data from the UNESCO tracker of school closures and UIS database on school enrolment.

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans. Children cannot afford another year of school closures.

More, here.

“Education is going to be disrupted like music”

Danny in the Valley Podcast:

The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Andy Bird, chief executive of Pearson, to talk about transforming the education giant (5:40), creating textbook “playlists” (8:30), growing up in Manchester (14:45), getting into the entertainment industry (16:10), being recruited by Bob Iger (21:30), remaking Disney’s foreign operations (23:05), cutting ties with Netflix (27:40), failing at Disney’s first streaming attempt (29:10), retiring (34:25), un-retiring and join Pearson {38:00), the backlash over his ‘golden hello’ (41:00), the breakdown of the higher education business model (43:40), the future of Pearson (49:40), overhauling a 177-year-old company (52:40), and learning from failure (57:40).

Curiously, Pearson is lobbying against Wisconsin Assembly Bill 446.

Rhode Island Parent Union

Parents United:

In Rhode Island, they have united to form a group of plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against Governor McKee for executive overreach regarding his unconstitutional and non-science-based state-of-emergency declaration and school mask mandate.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Hudson mayor: School board should resign over material suggesting kids write about sex, drinking

Phil Keren:

The Hudson mayor is asking all five school board members to resign or face possible criminal charges over high school course material that he said a judge called “child pornography.”

Mayor Craig Shubert made the statement during Monday night’s board of education meeting after multiple parents complained about the content of some writing prompts contained in a book called “642 Things to Write About” provided to high school students who are taking a college credit course called Writing in the Liberal Arts II.

Parents said there was a prompt that asked students to “write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom,” and another which said “rewrite the sex scene from above into one that you’d let your mom read.”

Another prompt asked students to drink a beer and describe how it tastes. Parents said they felt these writing prompts and others were not appropriate for high school students.

A new study suggests that almost half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have mild or asymptomatic cases.

David Zweig:

At least 12,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 this month, as the country inches through its latest surge in cases. But another worrying statistic is often cited to depict the dangers of this moment: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States right now is as high as it has been since the beginning of February. It’s even worse in certain places: Some states, including Arkansas and Oregon, recently saw their COVID hospitalizations rise to higher levels than at any prior stage of the pandemic. But how much do those latter figures really tell us?

From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.

If you want to make sense of the number of COVID hospitalizations at any given time, you need to know how sick each patient actually is. Until now, that’s been almost impossible to suss out. The federal government requires hospitals to report every patient who tests positive for COVID, yet the overall tallies of COVID hospitalizations, made available on various state and federal dashboards and widely reported on by the media, do not differentiate based on severity of illness. Some patients need extensive medical intervention, such as getting intubated. Others require supplemental oxygen or administration of the steroid dexamethasone. But there are many COVID patients in the hospital with fairly mild symptoms, too, who have been admitted for further observation on account of their comorbidities, or because they reported feeling short of breath. Another portion of the patients in this tally are in the hospital for something unrelated to COVID, and discovered that they were infected only because they were tested upon admission. How many patients fall into each category has been a topic of much speculation. In August, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical Center, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System decided to find out.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and commentary from Scott Girard: 

“While Heinrich allowed schools to use their premises for child care and youth recreational activities, the government barred students from attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion at weekly Masses with their classmates and teachers, receiving the sacrament of Confession at school, participating in communal prayer with their peers, and going on retreats and service missions throughout the area.”

Additional commentary:

“Reasonable” should mean that the public health authorities followed their own internal guidelines for evaluating regulations. These include posting the scientific evidence leading to the regulation, receiving community input, and studying the effectiveness and sustainability of the regulation. In the case of Covid and the schools all this was ignored in Dane County. There was no evidence of transmission in children of school age at the start, the community’s wish to have the schools open was ignored and, over time, it was seen that surrounding counties kept their schools open without increasing Covid transmission – and this last point was completely ignored by Dane County. But the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue of irresponsible public health officials. Perhaps it cannot as Owen pointed out. Perhaps dereliction of duty must be addressed by criminal courts. Instead the Supreme Court answered a different question which might be put as follows: suppose a majority of children in a given community refused the regular vaccines – or refuse the covid vaccine – can the public health authorities close the school? The answer was no. This is significant because racism has been defined as a public health issue. Suppose a majority of parents refused to allow their children to attend a CRT seminar defined as immunization against racism and required for admittance to school. Could the public health authorities close that school. No. In the past certain religious tests have been required before attendance at universities was allowed and non-conforming universites have been closed. If racism is a public health issue the Test Acts may return as public health tests and if that happened we may be sure Dane County would adopt Test Regulations closing non-conforming public schools if it could. Then this Court decision, barring such Test Regulations, would seem far-sighted.

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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

Few say that local schools are doing a good job, and most support school choice and charters. Additionally, just over half of those in America’s fastest-growing metros are wary of critical race theory (CRT) in school curriculum.

Michael Hendrix:

Six out of ten say that crime is increasing in their area—including a majority of all racial and ethnic groups. Among those who live in urban cores but who express an interest in moving to a less dense area, crime rates are a top-three motivator. More than two in five respondents also see a lack of police presence as a problem in their area. Community policing and other reforms that would empower police are broadly supported.
Few say that local schools are doing a good job, and most support school choice and charters. Additionally, just over half of those in America’s fastest-growing metros are wary of critical race theory (CRT) in school curriculum.
Still, slightly more than half of respondents think that things in their metro are generally headed in the right direction, with roughly two in three agreeing in Boston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Tampa metros. Similarly, many say that the quality of life in their metro area is good or very good (46%), and somewhat smaller shares say so about local economic conditions and the quality of public schools. But there is little sign of enthusiasm behind these votes of confidence: more than a third still chose “average” across these categories. Public safety, the quality of roads and bridges, and public transportation receive similarly tepid ratings (Figure 2). Though Americans in the fastest-growing metro areas are generally happy with their city’s quality of life, they worry about the costs to live there.
The spread of Covid-19 infections also remains a concern for some 60% of respondents, but nearly equal shares are worried about traffic, public safety and crime rates, and high taxes.
In all, nearly a third said that their local area is on the wrong track, and another 17% are unsure. Minneapolis and Seattle have the highest shares believing that their city is on the wrong track, with some 48% and 46% saying so, respectively. On quality of life, responses varied considerably by metro. Coastal areas such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle were all more likely to have local respondents rating their quality of life as poor, while residents of Sunbelt and Mountain West hubs such as Tampa, Orlando, Charlotte, and Denver were much more likely to have a positive outlook.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Notes on Open scientific discourse at Stanford

Carl Heneghan and Martin Kulldorff:

Open scientific discourse is especially critical during a public health crisis such as a pandemic. Academics should be free to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead, without undue or unreasonable interference. It is deeply troubling when scientists try to limit rather than engage in scientific debate.

Last week, anonymous posters with the portrait of Stanford University Professor of Medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya were plastered on kiosks around the Stanford campus, linking him to COVID deaths in Florida. Even though cumulative age-adjusted COVID mortality is lower in Florida than in most other large states, these smears appeared.

Taking it one step further, the chair of Stanford’s epidemiology department, Professor Melissa Bondy, circulated a petition among faculty members demanding that the university president exercise his obligation “to clarify for the faculty the limits of public pronouncements when proclaiming on public health policy.”

The petitioners are upset that “several Stanford faculty members have publicly advocated for policies for others that are contrary to those the university has adopted” and that “these recommendations are disturbing and contrary to public health standards; they foster uncertainty and anxiety and put lives at risk.”

While insidiously not naming anyone, the petition explicitly targets Bhattacharya by quoting his answer to a question from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about masks on children. He responded that “there is no high-quality evidence to support the assertion that masks stop the disease from spreading.” To deserve trust, scientists must be honest about what is and what is not known, and we agree with Bhattacharya.

Randomized trials provide the best available research evidence to inform health-care decisions and are considered the gold standard for determining intervention effects. But no randomized studies have shown that masks in children are effective. Instead, there are observational studies of uneven quality that reach conflicting conclusions.

Student test scores drop as predicted during pandemic year in Missouri

Blythe Bernhard:

Fewer than half of Missouri students performed at grade level or above in English (45%), math (35%) and science (37%) in the Missouri Assessment Program of standardized tests. In spring of 2019, the last time students were tested before the start of the pandemic, 49% of students scored proficient or advanced in English, 42% in math and 42% in science.

Students who primarily attended school in person far outperformed those in virtual (with online instruction) or distance (limited online instruction) learning. For example, 39% of in-person students scored at grade level in math, compared to 18% of students in distance learning.

“The MAP scores reinforce what we already knew — teaching in person makes a difference,” said Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, in a statement. “And when you can’t teach in person, access to the internet and adequate bandwidth make a difference. Our teachers and students did a fantastic job under the circumstances during this pandemic — we can’t lose sight of that.”

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

From Teacher Pay to School Budgets, Ed Policy Is Often Based on Public Perception. But How Much Do People Really Know?

Mike Antonucci:

These and other commonly held beliefs are part of the conventional wisdom of American public life. If you don’t think so, experiment by arguing the opposite on social media. But that’s not what I want to do here.

The question isn’t whether any of these statements is right or wrong, but what people actually know about those issues.

Americans are continually polled on all sorts of matters, but rarely are they asked to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic upon which they are being asked their opinion. On the occasions when it happens, we learn something important about how new knowledge sways opinions.

Like many organizations and media outlets, Education Next conducts an annual survey of public opinion on school-related issues. Unlike most organizations and media outlets, the publication includes one unique and laudable twist to a couple of questions.

On queries regarding teacher salaries and school spending in its 2021 survey, respondents were split into two equally sized, randomly selected groups. One half was told the current levels of teacher pay and school spending in their area; the other was not.

Fifty-seven percent of the uninformed group wanted increased school spending, and 67 percent wanted higher teacher salaries.

Support in the informed group was 39 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Looking Back and Forward on Substantial Government Budget (and debt) growth

Amity Shlaes:

Still, a review of the record of Roosevelt’s New Deal suggests that a sentient voter, slimed or not, might pause before signing up for the newest new deal.

When Roosevelt ran for office in 1932, a shocking one in four workers was unemployed. Roosevelt promised to get employment back to usual levels, which then as now meant one in 20 out of work, or 5 percent joblessness. He blamed the downturn in part on “obeisance to Mammon” — an unwillingness of wealthy Americans to share. To recover, the president suggested, America needed the federal government to provide “more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth.” The gravity of the crisis, Roosevelt argued, warranted emergency authority for the chief executive — license to play around, applying even conflicting theories seriatim through “bold persistent experimentation.”

Once elected, Roosevelt hiked taxes on the rich and kept them high, even pushing an “undistributed profits tax” to eat at business savings. He ramped up tax authorities’ investigations and urged the authorities into punitive audits. The “green” component of the New Deal was reforestation: Roosevelt promised to employ 1 million men in restoring forests, parks and fields. To create additional jobs, Roosevelt poured hundreds of millions of dollars, then a large sum, into infrastructure: bridges, schools, power plants, and the establishment of new institutions such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the name of helping the working man, the New Deal instituted minimum wages. Roosevelt’s 1935 Wagner Act, a tiger of a law, gave the labor movement such power that unions were able to force large companies such as automakers to accept collective bargaining, willy nilly.

Wisconsin Legislators (some) attempt to address Our disastrous reading results

Mitchell Schmidt:

However, committee chair Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, challenged critics of the bill, including DPI, to come forward with a proposal to address reading readiness.

“I’ve got to tell you, I’m getting tired of this. The current way we teach reading in the state of Wisconsin, almost across the entire board, that castle has been ruling the kingdom for 30-some years and the castle walls have been breached in other states and it’s about to happen here,” he said. “It’s time to join up or get out of the way or at least go neutral.”

The numbers

Statewide testing released in September 2019 by DPI found that for students in grades 3-8 and grade 11, 39.3% of students tested proficient or better in English/language arts in 2018-19, down from 40.6% in 2017-18.

The round of testing found that the state’s persistent racial academic achievement gap had narrowed due to a drop in performance among white students. For example, white students in fifth grade dropped 4.6 percentage points in English/language arts proficiency compared to a 1.6 percentage-point decrease for Black students in fifth grade.

In the eighth grade, the percentage of Black students scoring proficient or advanced in English/language arts rose 2 percentage points to 12.1%, while the percentage of white students in that group dropped 1.1 percentage points. But the proficiency difference is still separated by a 30-point gap.

“For too long, Wisconsin’s K-12 system has churned out too many students who are not proficient in reading, causing a workforce crisis,” CJ Szafir, president of the conservative Institute for Reforming Government, said in an email. “The ‘Roadmap to Reading Success’ bill transforms our childhood literacy policies by equipping parents and teachers with the information they need in order to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed.”

Lobbying information on Assembly Bill 446. Curiously, the League of Women Voters is against this legislation.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Notes and Commentary on a 2021 NEA President’s Madison Visit

Elizabeth Beyer:

Jenkins said he strongly encourages vaccination for adults, citing a plan to require the vaccine for teachers and staff that will be presented to the Madison School Board on Monday. For now, he said he prefers to leave the decision on vaccination for children up to parents.

“I do think that we have to take the utmost sense of urgency around the fact that our children under 12 cannot be vaccinated,” he said.

Jones said he personally would support a vaccine requirement for eligible students but he was unable to speak on behalf of MTI without first polling members.

The Milwaukee School Board last week approved a vaccination requirement for all Milwaukee Public Schools employees and a $100 incentive for eligible students to get vaccinated. The deadline for both is Nov. 1.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Civics: the masking of the servant class

Glenn Greenwald;

From the start of the pandemic, political elites have been repeatedly caught exempting themselves from the restrictive rules they impose on the lives of those over whom they rule. Governors, mayors, ministers and Speakers of the House have been filmed violating their own COVID protocols in order to dine with their closest lobbyist-friends, enjoy a coddled hair styling in chic salons, or unwind after signing new lockdown and quarantine orders by sneaking away for a weekend getaway with the family. The trend became so widespread that ABC News gathered all the examples under the headline “Elected officials slammed for hypocrisy for not following own COVID-19 advice,” while Business Insider in May updated the reporting with this: “14 prominent Democrats stand accused of hypocrisy for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions they’re urging their constituents to obey.”

Most of those transgressions were too flagrant to ignore and thus produced some degree of scandal and resentment for the political officials granting themselves such license. Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. Photos released last November of California Governor Gavin Newsom giggling maskless as he sat with other maskless state health officials celebrating the birthday of a powerful lobbyist — just one month after he told the public to “to keep your mask on in between bites” and while severe state-imposed restrictions were in place regarding leaving one’s home — caused a drop in popularity and helped fueled a recall initiative against him. Newsom and these other officials broke their own rules, and even among liberals who venerate their leaders as celebrities, rule-breaking is frowned upon.

Sentence Diagramming

Ann Althouse:

And now there is a movie, not entirely about sentence diagramming, but with some vivid sentence diagramming in it. I don’t think there’s a film documentary about sentence diagramming. I wish there were. But that’s okay. I am hoping that because of the great love so many people have for Wes Anderson, this movie will inspire a renaissance of sentence diagramming!

It might go nicely with the expanding home school movement.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Civics: U.S. top general secretly called China over fears Trump could spark war -report

Reuters:

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called on President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to immediately fire Milley.

“I do not need to tell of you the dangers posed by senior military officers leaking classified information on U.S. military operations, but I will underscore that such subversion undermines the President’s ability to negotiate and leverage one of this nation’s instruments of national power in his interactions with foreign nations,” Rubio said in a letter to Biden.

Asked about the Washington Post report, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment and referred questions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department.

Trump, a Republican, named Milley to the top military post in 2018 but began criticizing him, as well as other appointees and former staffers, after losing the presidential election to Biden in November 2020.

The Washington Post reported that Milley was motivated to contact Beijing the second time in part due to a Jan. 8 call with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent an “unstable president” from launching a nuclear strike.

Technological Change and Obsolete Skills: Evidence from Men’s Professional Tennis

Ian Fillmore and Jonathan Hall:

Technological innovation can raise the returns to some skills while making others less valuable or even obsolete. We study the effects of such skill-altering technological change in the context of men’s professional tennis, which was unexpectedly transformed by the invention of composite racquets during the late 1970s. We explore the consequences of this innovation on player productivity, entry, and exit. We find that young players benefited at the expense of older players and that the disruptive effects of the new racquets persisted over two to four generations.

Genetic and environmental contributions to IQ in adoptive and biological families with 30-year-old offspring

Emily A.Willough and James J.Lee:

Highlights
Genetic and environmental sources of variance in IQ were estimated from 486 adoptive and biological families

Families include 419 mothers, 201 fathers, 415 adopted and 347 biological fully-adult offspring (M age = 31.8 years; SD = 2.7)

Proportion of variance in IQ attributable to environmentally mediated effects of parental IQs was estimated at .01 [95% CI 0.00, 0.02]

Heritability was estimated to be 0.42 [95% CI 0.21, 0.64]

Parent-offspring correlations for educational attainment polygenic scores show no evidence of adoption placement effect

Seedless blackberries with a year-round growing season? Gene editing opens up new doors for radical improvements in the long-stagnant berry market

John Clark:

Genetic variation plus environmental effects are what make us, and the berries we grow, what we are. The interaction of these two factors continues to be exciting and challenging in berry breeding and production.

One of the biggest challenges with existing genetic variation occurs when a trait is desired but there is no known source for it. This means traditional breeding cannot make progress with the desired trait. Gene editing, often using Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology, offers a new way to create genetic variation by precisely changing the DNA of an organism without introducing unrelated DNA such as occurs in transformation or GMO technology.

Pairwise, an innovative company based in Durham, NC, has undertaken the improvement of caneberries, specifically blackberries, using gene-editing techniques.

Hearing Tuesday/Wednesday on Wisconsin’s Literacy Disaster

Public hearing is Tuesday at 10am, with the bill likely to be up around 10:30. Catch it on Wisconsin Eye.

Lobbying information on Assembly Bill 446. Curiously, the League of Women Voters is against this legislation.

Documents:

Co-Sponsorship of LRB-1294 & 3781, Relating to: Reading Readiness Assessments and Granting Rule-Making Authority.

Current Law vs. Roadmap to Reading Success Act.

Roadmap to Reading Success Flow Chart: Kindergarten – 2nd Grade

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Notes on Leadership: Merkel Retires

Meanwhile:

Meanwhile.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Experts vs Elites

Robin Hanson

Consider a typical firm or other small organization, run via a typical management hierarchy. At the bottom are specialists, who do very particular tasks. At the top are generalists, who supposedly consider it all in the context of a bigger picture. In the middle are people who specialize to some degree, but who also are supposed to consider somewhat bigger pictures.

On any particular issue, people at the bottom can usually claim the most expertise; they know their job best. And when someone at the top has to make a difficult decision, they usually prefer to justify it via reference to recommendations from below. They are just following the advice of their experts, they say. But of course they lie; people at the top often overrule subordinates. And while leaders often like to pretend that they select people for promotion on the basis of doing lower jobs well, that is also often a lie.

Our larger society has a similar structure. We have elites who are far more influential than most of us about what happens in our society. As we saw early in the pandemic, the elites are always visibly chattering among themselves about the topics of the day, and when they form a new opinion, the experts usually quickly cave to agree with them, and try to pretend they agreed all along.

As a book I recently reviewed explains in great detail, elites are selected primarily for their prestige and status, which has many contributions, including money, looks, fame, charm, wit, positions of power, etc. Elites like to pretend they were selected for being experts at something, and they like to pretend their opinions are just reflecting what experts have said (“we believe the science!”). But they often lie; elite opinion often overrules expert opinion, especially on topics with strong moral colors. And elites are selected far more for prestige than expertise.

The Same Law California NIMBYs Use To Block Housing Is Now Freezing College Enrollments and Halting Hospital Expansions

Christian Britschigi:

California’s landmark environmental law can stop more than just housing projects, the University of California Board of Regents discovered this week.

The governing body of the state’s second-largest public university system suffered successive adverse rulings in two separate lawsuits. It is now being required to freeze student enrollment at one campus and stop the expansion of a hospital at another.

On Monday, the Superior Court of Alameda ruled that the University of California, Berkeley must keep its student population flat for the coming academic year while a more thorough study is done of the environmental impacts of bringing more young scholars onto campus.

A few days earlier, the same court ruled that construction activity will have to stop on a hospital expansion at the University of California San Francisco’s (UCSF) Parnassus Heights campus while a separate lawsuit questioning that project’s environmental impacts plays out.

Both lawsuits have been brought by neighborhood groups under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that requires government agencies to study the environmental impacts of projects they carry out.

The list of impacts that have to be studied under CEQA is long, including everything from traffic and air quality to the effects on historic resources. What counts as a project subject to CEQA has also expanded over the years to include almost any discretionary decision made by a government official, whether that’s the approval of a zoning variance or the closing of a school.

What high-school history books teach about 9/11

Peter Wood:

Have you ever wondered what American schools teach about 9/11? Here is a partial answer. I’ve reviewed five of the most popular American history textbooks for high school. They are:

  • American History, 2018 edition, HMH Social Studies (no author listed, but Colon is the first name on the “Educational Advisory Panel)
  • United States History and Geography, 2018 edition, McGraw Hill (by Appleby, Brinkley, Broussard, McPherson, and Ritchie)
  • United States History, 2016 edition, Pearson (Lapsansky-Warner, Levy, Roberts, and Taylor)

Plus these two intended for advanced placement American history classes:

  • America’s History, Ninth Edition, Bedford St Martin’s (by Edwards, Hinderaker, Self, and Henretta)
  • The Unfinished Nation, Ninth Edition, McGraw Hill (by Brinkley, Huebner, and Giggie)

The titles are so similar as to be in some cases indistinguishable that it will be better if I refer to them by the bolded names: Colon, Appleby, Warner, Edwards, Brinkley, or collectively as CA-WEB. The names I’m using shouldn’t necessarily be taken as representing the actual authors. All five books are vastly collaborative products assembled by teams of writers and editors under the supervision of other more senior editors, and homogenized by still more senior editors. This isn’t history through the eyes of a latter-day Herodotus or Thucydides, or a Francis Parkman or a Samuel Eliot Morison, or even for that matter a Howard Zinn. History books like that have a definite personality and you get to know the author. The most you can say about CA-WEB is that you get to know the corporate slant.

And if you are of a certain age, you would find these books don’t look much like history books of yore. Colon, which weighs 6.6 pounds (shipping weigh per Amazon) could be used to stop a bullet. And given the conditions surrounding some of our schools, perhaps it has. All of these books are elaborately illustrated and printed in kaleidoscopic colors. They are generally available, of course, online for the COVID confined generation.

What of 9/11?

Notes and Comments on the San Francisco School Board Recall

Heather Knight:

About a dozen smiling people in matching yellow T-shirts wheeled 45 heavy boxes through the City Hall basement to the Department of Elections the other morning.

Inside those boxes sat six months of effort and nearly a quarter million signatures of San Francisco voters that are almost certain to qualify school board members Gabriela López, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga for a recall.

Get ready for a special election, probably in January or February, that would be the first local recall to qualify for a San Francisco ballot since 1983. Already, supporters of the internationally ridiculed school board have bashed the recall for supposedly being fueled by Republicans, conservatives and dark money, but is it?

Unlike with Tuesday’s recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the answer is no. Everyday San Franciscans with real concerns about the school board — and who believe the city’s kids deserve better — launched the effort and worked tirelessly to gather signatures. And their beefs are far more significant than Newsom’s unwise, unmasked dinner at the French Laundry.

Academic Questions: Testing the Tests for Racism

Wilfred Reilly:

Against the claim of decreased American racism over the past twenty years have come the audit studies. Throughout much of the modern era, a large number of empirically-minded social scientists have pointed out that racism seems by any objective standard to be declining.1 However, other scholars argue that anonymous tests show considerable modern-era bias against blacks and other racial minorities.2 How can both of these results co-exist, across dozens of well-designed studies? A review of the audit studies might help.

The fact that racism has declined in the United States in the modern era, following the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act, would seem objectively obvious to most people. Eric Kaufmann points out that approval of black/white interracial marriage—often presented in the context of a close relative marrying a black person—rose from 4 percent among whites in 1958 to 84 percent in 2013.3 In 2017, “fewer than 10 percent of whites” surveyed by Pew agreed with a somewhat differently worded question asking whether inter-racial marriage was “a bad thing.” No doubt as a direct consequence of such changing attitudes, the percentage of newlyweds in multi-race marriages rose from 3 percent in the mid-1960s to 17 percent today.4 Most other anonymous polls focused on key issues of race find results similar to those dealing with marriage, with Gallup finding in 2015 that only 8 percent of whites would not vote for a qualified black same-party candidate for President—as vs. 7 percent who would not vote for a Catholic, 9 percent who would not vote for a Hispanic or Jew, and 19 percent who would not vote for a Mormon.5

An especially interesting sub-category of research on the prevalence and effects of modern racism has focused on examining what happens to the performance gaps between groups (in incomes, SAT scores, etc.) that are often attributed to racism—or to genetic factors by the fringe right—when adjustments are made for non-racial characteristics which vary between groups. The economist June O’Neill (1990; 2005), for example, has pointed out that gaps in income between blacks and whites vanish almost entirely following adjustments for such obvious traits as years of education, median age, region of residence, and any aptitude test score. To quote the earlier of her two papers on this subject at some length: “Overall, black men earn 82.9 percent of the white wage. Adjusting for black-white differences in geographic region, schooling, and age raises the ratio to 87.7 percent; adding differences in (standardized) test scores raises the ratio to 95.5 percent, and adding differences in years of work experience raises the ratio to 99.1 percent.”6

Notes on academic illiberalism

Peter Boghossian:

I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.

I noticed signs of the illiberalism that has now fully swallowed the academy quite early during my time at Portland State. I witnessed students refusing to engage with different points of view. Questions from faculty at diversity trainings that challenged approved narratives were instantly dismissed. Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions. And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male.

At first, I didn’t realize how systemic this was and I believed I could question this new culture. So I began asking questions. What is the evidence that trigger warnings and safe spaces contribute to student learning? Why should racial consciousness be the lens through which we view our role as educators? How did we decide that “cultural appropriation” is immoral?

Unlike my colleagues, I asked these questions out loud and in public.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Economic Development

Ekkehard A. Köhler, John G. Matsusaka, and Yanhui Wu:

This paper presents evidence from parallel field experiments in China, Germany, and the United States. We contacted the mayor’s office in over 6,000 cities asking for information about procedures for starting a new business. Chinese and German cities responded to 36-37 percent requests; American cities responded to only 22 percent of requests.

Civics: Sky News Australia barred for week by YouTube over Covid misinformation

BBC:

YouTube has barred Sky News Australia from uploading new content for a week, saying it had breached rules on spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

It issued a “strike” under its three-strike policy, the last of which means permanent removal.
YouTube did not point to specific items but said it opposed material that “could cause real-world harm”.

The TV channel’s digital editor said the decision was a disturbing attack on the ability to think freely.

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

Mayor suggests Helsinki declare itself an English-language city

Jon Henley:

Helsinki should consider declaring itself an English-language city, its mayor has suggested, arguing that too many highly skilled international workers are shunning the Finnish capital partly because of exacting language requirements.

Finland’s two main official languages are Finnish, which has 15 grammatical cases and is notoriously difficult for foreigners to learn, and Swedish. Many companies require Finnish and public sector employees must master both.

An increasingly serious shortage of technology and other professionals last year prompted the country to try offering foreign workers and their families the chance to relocate to Finland for 90 days to see if they want to make the move permanent.

But more than 36% of foreign students in Finland leave within a year of graduation, according to government figures, with most citing immigration bureaucracy, high taxation and language difficulties as their main reasons for quitting.

“Helsinki could call itself an English-speaking city, where people who speak English wouldn’t need to speak Finnish or Swedish,” the capital’s mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

Civics: on Displacement

Freddie deBoer:

DisplacementDisplacement is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient. A classic example of the defense is displaced aggression. If a person is angry but cannot direct their anger toward the source without consequences, they might “take out” their anger on a person or thing that poses less of a risk.

Civics: Commentary on Taxpayer funded Government Mandates and the ACLU

Glenn Greenwald:

In a New York Times op-ed this week, the group completely reversed its views, arguing vaccine mandates help civil liberties and bodily autonomy “is not absolute.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surprised even many of its harshest critics this week when it strongly defended coercive programs and other mandates from the state in the name of fighting COVID. “Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,” its Twitter account announced, adding that “vaccine requirements also safeguard those whose work involves regular exposure to the public.”

If you were surprised to see the ACLU heralding the civil liberties imperatives of “vaccine mandates” and “vaccine requirements” — whereby the government coerces adults to inject medicine into their own bodies that they do not want — the New York Timesop-ed which the group promoted, written by two of its senior lawyers, was even more extreme. The article begins with this rhetorical question: “Do vaccine mandates violate civil liberties?” Noting that “some who have refused vaccination claim as much,” the ACLU lawyers say: “we disagree.” The op-ed then examines various civil liberties objections to mandates and state coercion — little things like, you know, bodily autonomy and freedom to choose — and the ACLU officials then invoke one authoritarian cliche after the next (“these rights are not absolute”) to sweep aside such civil liberties concerns:

[W]hen it comes to Covid-19, all considerations point in the same direction. . . . In fact, far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties. . . . . 

[Many claim that] vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others. . . . While vaccine mandates are not always permissible, they rarely run afoul of civil liberties when they involve highly infectious and devastating diseases like Covid-19. . . . 

While limited exceptions are necessary, most people can be required to be vaccinated. . . . . Where a vaccine is not medically contraindicated, however, avoiding a deadly threat to the public health typically outweighs personal autonomy and individual freedom.

The op-ed sounds like it was written by an NSA official justifying the need for mass surveillance (yes, fine, your privacy is important but it is not absolute; your privacy rights are outweighed by public safety; we are spying on you for your own good). And the op-ed appropriately ends with this perfect Orwellian flourish: “We care deeply about civil liberties and civil rights for all — which is precisely why we support vaccine mandates.”

Homeschooling vs the legacy K-12 model

JD Tuccille:

It’s too early to know whether the pandemic-fueled surge in homeschooling will continue in the coming year, but the early indicators are that do-it-yourself education is here to stay as a popular choice for families from all sorts of backgrounds. Escalating public school battles over masks, in-person teaching, and curriculum content continue to push families to seek options that meet their needs without a fight. That choice is made easier by the proliferation of resources for learning, in many cases at little or no cost.

“With Texas public schools now restarting for the fall semester, interest in homeschooling is already outpacing the all-time records set by the enormous homeschool increase from 2020,” the Texas Homeschool Coalition [THSC] announced last month. “Last week, THSC’s weekly call and email volume reached 4699, nearly five times the weekly record set by 2020. Before being upset by 2021 numbers, the records set by 2020 had been all-time-highs.”

The percentage of students homeschooled in Texas rose to 12.3 percent last year, up from 4.5 percent of students in Spring 2020, the organization pointed out. Nationally, 11.1 percent of students were homeschooled last year, up from 3.3 percent before the pandemic, according to the Census Bureau. (African-American families seem particularly done with schoolroom chaos; 16.1 percent of their kids joined the ranks of the homeschooled).

“It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children,” Census Bureau researchers Casey Eggleston and Jason Fields noted in March. “From the much-discussed ‘pandemic pods,’ (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”

Notes and Commentary on US Education Climate

Jack Cashill:

In reading the “overview” of Dr. Jill Biden’s 2006 doctoral dissertation from the University of Delaware, I am reminded just how rotten, from top to bottom, are America’s schools of graduate education.  That a doctor of anything could write a sentence like the one that follows speaks to the historic worthlessness of most graduate programs in education:

Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian; one quarter of the class will be African American; one seat will hold a Latino; and the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens.

An advisory committee had to approve this mumbo-jumbo. Apparently, none of the committee members noticed that when you add three fourths to one fourth, you’ve pretty much exhausted all the “fourths” available — all the seats as well.  Although the temptation is to write Dr. Jill’s dissertation off to the power of political pull, her dissertation, from my experience, represents something of a norm in the illiteracy, innumeracy, and race obsession of grad-level education.

My oldest brother, an exceptional high school principal, refused to pursue a doctorate in education — the key to becoming a school superintendent — because he thought the courses he took to get his Master’s a waste of everyone’s time. My middle brother became a very good high school math teacher without getting any education degrees. He simply retooled through a special quickie program after retiring as an engineer from Exxon.

Advocating Financial Literacy

Patrick Jenkins:

Fixing economic deprivation is a mammoth task, but assisting with basic financial education — to boost budgeting skills, debt knowhow and investment nous — need not be. And yet basic financial understanding can make a vast difference — not just to poorer communities such as North Ormesby, but to anyone in virtually any circumstance.

“Improving financial capability can be transformative for individuals and families,” says Diane Maxwell, former lead of New Zealand’s state-backed financial capability drive. “People report better sleep, feeling more in control, greater family cohesion, and are more likely to think long term. In that sense it has a powerful upward momentum to it.”

Wealth generation over time

Jeremy Horpedahl:

Looking at the exact same data (from the Fed Distributional Financial Accounts) from a different perspective gives us a much different picture of recent history. In this version, Gen X is now richer (30% richer!) than Boomers were at the same age (late 40s). Millennials don’t yet have a year of overlap with Boomers, but they are tracking Gen X almost exactly. There is no reason they won’t continue to track Gen X, and therefore exceed Boomers as well when they are in their late 40s (which will happen in about 2037 for Millennials).

My prediction is that by the time Millennials are in their late 40s, they will even surpass Gen X in wealth. Why? The reason is counterintuitive: student debt.

Huh? Isn’t student debt what is holding Millennials back? In some sense, yes. But in the long run, no. Right now, many Millennials (and some Gen Xers!) hold a lot of student debt. That goes on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. But there is no corresponding asset showing up the balance sheet, but there is an asset: their human capital! Over their lifetime, that human capital will give them even greater earning potential in later life. Much like Gen X basically tracked Boomers until their mid-40s, until their student loans were paid off, and their degrees (and graduate degrees!) really started to pay off in the labor market.

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: “the fading family”

Joel Kotkin:

For millennia the family has stood as the central institution of society—often changing, but always essential. But across the world, from China to North America, and particularly in Europe, family ties are weakening, with the potential to undermine one of the last few precious bits of privacy and intimacy.

Margaret Mead once said, “no matter how many communes anyone invents, the family always creeps back.” But today’s trajectory is not promising. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, family formation and birth rateswere declining throughout much of the world, not just in most of the West and East Asia, but also in parts of South American and the Middle East.

The ongoing pandemic appears to be driving birth rates globally down even further, and the longer it lasts, the greater possibility that familial implosion will get far worse, and perhaps intractable. Brookings predicts that COVID will result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer U.S. births in 2021. Marriage rates have dropped significantly to 35 year lows.

The Surprising Demographic Crisis

It’s been a half century since Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb(1968) prophesied a surge of population that would foster Malthusian mass starvation, which echoed the premise of lurid book called Famine 1975! Ehrlich and his acolytes urged extreme measures to stave off disaster, including adding sterilantinto the water supply. Similar conclusions were drawn four years later in the corporate-sponsored Club of Rome report, which embraced an agenda of austerity and retrenchment to stave off population-driven mass starvation and social chaos.

These predictions turned out to be vastly exaggerated, with a rapid decline in global hunger. The anticipated population explosion is morphing into something more like an implosion, with much of the world now facing population stagnation, and even contraction. As birth rates have dropped, the only thing holding up population figures in many places is longer lifespans, though recent data suggests these may be getting shorter again .

These trends can be felt in the United States, where the birthrate is sinking. U.S. population growth among the cohort aged between 16 and 64 has dropped from 20 percent in the 1980s to less than 5 percent in the last decade. This is particularly bad for the future of an economy dependent on new workers and consumers.

This demographic transition is even more marked in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and much of Europe, where finding younger workers is becoming a major problem for employers and could result in higher costs or increased movement of jobs to more fecund countries. As the employment base shrinks, some countries, such as Germany, have raised taxes on the existing labor force to pay for the swelling ranks of retirees.

Choose life. Commentary on the Roe effect.

Federal Education School Safety Notes

Hans Bader:

The highlighted passages were highlighted by Professor Russell Skiba, in an attachment to his May 28, 2021 2:25 AM email to Carolyn Seugling of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and James Eichner of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Education Department sought out Skiba’s advice.

Skiba notes that the School Safety Commission report is “highlighted with a corresponding comment” from Skiba at various places. But the Education Department failed to turn over Skiba’s comments along with the highlighted text it corresponds to, so what Skiba said in response to these passages of the School Safety Commission report is an enigma. (In withholding these comments, the Education Department violated FOIA, perhaps inadvertently. Yesterday, I asked it to turn over the comments, but have gotten no response yet.).

Skiba does not appear to have taken issue with the passage saying that “research studies reveal that black youth, in comparison with their white counterparts, are … disproportionately involved in delinquency and crime … and are more likely to behave in ways that interfere with classroom and school functioning.” Skiba has taken issue with the idea that the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted” for by racial differences in behavior.

But Skiba himself does not claim that “students of color as a whole” have the exact same rate of misbehavior as whites, in the emails produced by the Education Department. Indeed, in his remarks at a May 11 Education Department event, Skiba admitted that rates of student misbehavior play a role in racial disparities in school discipline rates (although he argued that rates of student misbehavior were not among the top two factors driving such disparities. He argued on May 11 that racial disparities in discipline rates are caused more by other factors, such as school-to-school differences in discipline policy (such as harsher discipline at high-poverty, heavily non-white schools), and racial bias.

Moreover, Skiba’s email approvingly encloses an academic article that undercuts the idea that “students of color as a whole” have exactly the same misconduct rate as their white peers. (See Welsh & Little, The School Discipline Dilemma, 88 Review of Educational Research 752 (2018)).

That article states:

Social Promotion Notes from Baltimore

Chris Papst:

What the statement does not address, is why France’s son was promoted despite failing classes. It doesn’t discuss his class rank, or the 58 other students with a GPA of 0.13 or lower. But it does say North Avenue is “reviewing actions that impacted student outcomes” at the school prior to this year.

“It took a lot for me to just build the courage to do this,” France told Project Baltimore.

Corruption in University Admissions and the Administrative Allocation of Scarce Goods

L. Burke Files, Roger E. Meiners and Andrew P. Morriss:

The Varsity Blues investigation uncovered a seamy side of university admissions. Multiple wealthy parents were indicted for securing their children’s admission to selective institutions through bribery. Despite the publicity the indictments and guilty pleas received, and the public schadenfreude over the sight of celebrities being arrested, the investigation is most notable for what it did not do: it did not deploy the federal government’s arsenal of anti-money laundering and anti-corruption tools against the universities involved. This represents a significant missed opportunity to address the serious problems that arise from rationing access to selective institutions via opaque, easily manipulated admissions processes designed to benefit university constituencies. Without deploying the same tools used routinely against other for- and non-profit organizations, the chances for real reform are significantly reduced. We call for universities and their boards to be held to the standards applied to other institutions with respect to corruption and money-laundering in their oversight of admissions programs.

Notes on School Board Governance

Edmund DeMarche:

Heated school board meetings on topics that include critical race theory have prompted some school board members to look for the exit due to the clashes that some say lead to threats and harassment, according to a report.

Critical race theory has been the center of debate in D.C. and local school districts. It is seen as a way of considering America’s history through the lens of racism. The theory has been discussed at various meetings across the country and have often led to tense exchanges.

“I find critical race theory to be just an absolutely disgustingly racist ideology that has been developed with the intention of really driving a wedge between various groups in America, various ethnic groups, and to use that to absolutely ruin our nation,” Paso Robles, Calif., school board president Chris Arend told Fox News earlier this month after his board blocked it from being taught in classrooms. “Very simple.”

The Associated Press reported that there has been agrowing number of school board members who are “resigning or questioning their willingness to serve as meetings have devolved into shouting contests” focused on critical race theory, masks inside schools and other politically charged topics.

Civics: Tech company installed a flawed NSA algorithm that became ‘a perfect example of the danger of government backdoors.’

Jordan Robertson:

The Juniper product that was targeted, a popular firewall device called NetScreen, included an algorithm written by the National Security Agency. Security researchers have suggested that the algorithm contained an intentional flaw — otherwise known as a backdoor — that American spies could have used to eavesdrop on the communications of Juniper’s overseas customers. NSA declined to address allegations about the algorithm.

Notes and Commentary on Google Racial HR programs

Christopher Rufo:

Technology giant Google has launched an “antiracism” initiative that presents speakers and materials claiming that America is a “system of white supremacy” and that all Americans are “raised to be racist.”

I have obtained a trove of whistleblower documents from inside Google that reveal the company’s extensive racial-reeducation program, based on the core tenets of critical race theory—including “intersectionality,” “white privilege,” and “systemic racism.” In a foundational training module called “Allyship in Action,” Google’s head of systemic allyship Randy Reyes and a team of consultants from The Ladipo Group train employees to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and then rank themselves on a hierarchy of “power [and] privilege.” The trainers then instruct the employees to “manage [their] reactions to privilege”—which are likely to include feelings of “embarrassment, shame, fear, [and] anger”—through “body movement,” “deep breathing,” “accessing [their] ‘happy place,’” and “cry[ing].”

The program presents a series of video conversations promoting the idea that the United States was founded on white supremacy. In one video, Google’s former global lead for diversity strategy, Kamau Bobb—who was later reassigned to a non-diversity-related role at the company after being exposed for writing that Jews have “an insatiable appetite for war and killing”—discussed America’s founding with 1619 Project editor Nikole Hannah-Jones. Jones claimed that “the first Africans being sold on the White Lion [slave ship in 1619] is more foundational to the American story” than “the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.” She claimed that she led the New York Times’s 1619 Project—a revisionist historical account of the American founding—to verify her “lifelong theory” that everything in the modern-day United States can be traced back to slavery. “If you name anything in America, I can relate it back to slavery,” Jones said in the video. At the end of the conversation, Jones concluded that all white Americans benefit from the system of white supremacy. “If you’re white in this country, then you have to understand that whether you personally are racist or not, whether you personally engage in racist behavior or not, you are the beneficiary of a 350-year system of white supremacy and racial hierarchy,” she said.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts use Google (YouTube) services, including Madison.

The number of men enrolled at two- and four-year colleges has fallen behind women by record levels, in a widening education gap across the U.S.

Douglas Belkin:

At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline.

This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years. The divergence increases at graduation: After six years of college, 65% of women in the U.S. who started a four-year university in 2012 received diplomas by 2018 compared with 59% of men during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In the next few years, two women will earn a college degree for every man, if the trend continues, said Douglas Shapiro, executive director of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse.

No reversal is in sight. Women increased their lead over men in college applications for the 2021-22 school year—3,805,978 to 2,815,810—by nearly a percentage point compared with the previous academic year, according to Common Application, a nonprofit that transmits applications to more than 900 schools. Women make up 49% of the college-age population in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.

Censorship: social media and taxpayer funded government

NY Post:

The lawsuit contends that the federal government is “colluding with social media companies to monitor, flag, suspend and delete social media posts it deems ‘misinformation.’”

It can point to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s July remarks that senior White House staff are “in regular touch” with Big Tech platforms regarding posts about COVID. She also said the surgeon general’s office is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread.”

“It’s clear to Americans that what is said at the White House podium isn’t always true, so why do we think it’s acceptable for the government to direct social media companies to censor people on critical issues such as COVID?” Hart asks.

This doesn’t mean he hasn’t posted some dubious stuff on this or any other topic. For sure, the ‘Net is full of loons promoting utter idiocy as supposed fact. But the way to counter misinformation isn’t censorship — and it’s certainly not having the feds lean on social-media firms to do the censoring.

The Post has been targeted repeatedly by social media for solid, factual reporting. We can only think such outrages would get worse if Facebook & Co. start trying to enforce some government version of “the truth.”

Why and how to use RSS for consuming knowledge

Bluprince13:

Consuming knowledge is the first step towards getting good at anything. Today, the primary way I consume knowledge is via the Internet. As a software developer, keeping up to date with developments in my industry is something I used to find particularly challenging. I used to rely on social media, but I became tired of the noise and advertisements. Today, I use a technology called RSS which allows me to subscribe to new content from blogs and other websites. Every time my favourite websites publish a new article, it shows up on my phone/laptop waiting for me to read it. I love it! In this article, I introduce you to RSS and how to make the best use of it. Hopefully, this article will help you decide whether it’s worth a shot.

Colorado University-Boulder Conference: “Decolonize” Yourself But Not With a “Sense of Urgency”

Jonathan Turley:

The university’s Equitable Teaching Conference, hosted by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning included a session titled “Anti-racist pedagogy and decolonizing the classroom,” taught by Dr. Becca Ciancanelli. One of the slides reportedly warned against “perfectionism,” “sense of urgency,” “quantity over quality,” and “individualism” as “Cultural norms of White Supremacy.”

Individualism is not a new matter of debate. When I discuss different legal theories in my class (including feminism, Critical Legal Studies (CLS), and Critical Race Theory (CRT)), a common point of criticism of these scholars is the elevation of the individual over the collective. It can also be part of a dichotomy of rights versus responsibilities in the law. However, these are writings that address the focus or purpose of legal rules or structures in society. The presentation at Boulder suggests that faculty and students should avoid individualism as a trapping of white supremacy in their own lives.

Scientists not backing Covid jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds

Philippa Roxby and Nick Triggle:

The UK’s vaccine advisory body has refused to give the green light to vaccinating healthy children aged 12-15 years on health grounds alone.

The JCVI said children were at such a low risk from the virus that jabs would offer only a marginal benefit.

The UK’s four chief medical officers have now been asked to have the final say, and to consider the wider impact on schools and society.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said a decision would be made shortly.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation did advise widening the existing vaccine programme to include an extra 200,000 teenagers with specific underlying conditions.

Doctors identified that children with chronic heart, lung and liver conditions were at much higher risk of Covid than healthy children.

The pandemic’s true death toll

The Economist:

How many people have died because of the covid-19 pandemic? The answer depends both on the data available, and on how you define “because”. Many people who die while infected with SARS-CoV-2 are never tested for it, and do not enter the official totals. Conversely, some people whose deaths have been attributed to covid-19 had other ailments that might have ended their lives on a similar timeframe anyway. And what about people who died of preventable causes during the pandemic, because hospitals full of covid-19 patients could not treat them? If such cases count, they must be offset by deaths that did not occur but would have in normal times, such as those caused by flu or air pollution.

Notes on Teacher vs School District Policies

Alex Nester:

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of an elementary school teacher who was suspended for criticizing the district’s proposed transgender policies.

The commonwealth’s highest court on Monday rejected Loudoun County Public Schools’ appeal to suspend Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher who was placed on administrative leave in May for criticizing the district’s proposed policies for transgender students. Cross won a temporary injunction in the state’s 12th circuit court in June and subsequently was allowed to return to the classroom.

The district did not make an adequate case for reversing the lower court’s June decision, reaffirming Cross’s win, the Virginia Supreme Court said Monday.

Notes and Commentary: Activist Academia Destroyed Scholarly Peer Review

Phillip Magness:

The reputation of academic publishing depends upon peer review – the practice by which other experts vet submissions to scholarly journals. A properly functioning peer review process flags potential problems before they appear in print. An anonymous referee might notice complications to a thesis that an author failed to account for, prompting another round of revisions to improve the piece. If an author misrepresents evidence for a claim, an anonymous referee might alert the journal editor to the problem. Usually, the author will be asked to address the issue in a revision. If the problem is severe or intentional, the piece might be rejected outright.

But what happens when academic peer review breaks down? What if an anonymous referee flags serious problems in an article such as misrepresented evidence or basic errors of fact, but the journal’s editor chooses to run the piece anyway? What happens when the same problems are then noticed by other scholars after the article appears in print? Surely a formal correction of some sort would be in order.

Factual corrections used to be a regular practice of most scholarly journals, whether in the form of a short comment or a longer point/counterpoint exchange over the disputed claim. In the hyper-politicized state of academia today, a growing number of scholarly venues no longer see a need to attend to basic standards of factual accuracy in their pages. Factual errors – even egregious ones such as misrepresented evidence and manipulated quotations – are now apparently allowed to stand unchallenged, provided that the error aligns with a politically fashionable viewpoint. This was my own experience after a frustrating year and a half long effort to seek basic factual corrections to an unambiguous error in an article in a journal published by Cambridge University Press.

The Wreckage of Endowed Chairs

Daniel Pipes:

For some years, select historians have bemoaned the direction of their discipline. They regret the turn away from war, diplomacy, economics, and ideas in favor of gender, environment, race, and sexuality as they bemoan the decline in student interest. Niall Ferguson titled his critique “The Decline and Fall of History.” Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin wrote “The Historical Profession Is Committing Slow-Motion Suicide.” The Economistannounced “The study of history is in decline in Britain.”

While the glittery allure of fashionable topics and social-justice group-hugs drive this trend, a less visible economic factor enables it: many university-based historians have no need to attract students or readers. Assured funding from endowed chairs liberates them from having to address anyone other than fellow professional historians. Deans do not demand they fill classrooms; spouses do not clamor for royalties.

The Department of History at Harvard University serves as my example, partly because of its exceptional affluence, partly because of a long association with it (Richard Pipes, my father, first studied there in 1946 and taught there for half a century; I followed in 1967).

Civics: Russia; Google told to clamp down on Navalny’s ‘Smart Voting’

DW:

Russian authorities are trying to restrict a project run by the opposition party by stopping Google from showing certain search terms, allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalnysaid on Sunday.

Navalny’s project, an app which promotes his Smart Voting strategy, can help users vote for specific candidates in order to harm the chances of the contenders backed by the ruling United Russia party. His team hopes to use the strategy to gain new ground against the allies of President Vladimir Putin in the parliamentary election set for September 17-19.

However, the Moscow Arbitration Court has now ordered Google and Russian search engine Yandex from displaying the phrase “smart voting” in search results, Russian language news site Meduza reported.

Professor Defend Thyself: The Failure Of Universities To Defend And Indemnify Their Faculty

Kevin Oates:

University professors going about their daily activities of teaching, researching, and writing rarely consider the possibility of being sued. To the extent that the concept of potential liability does cross their minds, educational professionals undoubtedly comfort themselves in the realization that since their activities are job-related, the school that employs them is obligated to provide a defense and indemnity in any suit stemming from those activities.

Given the ever-increasing litigious nature of American society, the instances of college faculty members being sued are likely to increase. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has recognized this trend. With an increase in suits against faculty members comes the corresponding question of who will ultimately bear the financial burden of attorneys’ fees and monetary judgments? The belief that universities will gladly “step up to the plate” in defense of their employees in cases where the allegations against the employees arguably relate to their job duties is belied by the schools’ conflicting interests. The interests served by denying a defense and indemnity to their faculty members include universities (1) insulating themselves from the cost and potential liability of university employees’ actions and (2) avoiding involvement in controversial issues. The conflict between the interest of the faculty employee and the interest of the university employer highlights the need for clarification of the legal duties a university owes its faculty members. The difficulties faculty members often encounter when requesting a defense and indemnity from their university employer raises the question: What factors affect whether a college or university has a duty to provide a defense and indemnity to its faculty members?

How did “wokeness” jump from “elite schools” to everyday life?

The Economist:

You could use a single word as a proxy. “Latinx” is a gender-neutral adjective which only 4% of American Hispanics say they prefer. Yet in 2018 the New York Times launched a column dedicated to “Latinx communities”. It has crept into White House press releases and a presidential speech. Google’s diversity reports use the even more inclusive “Latinx+”. A term once championed by esoteric academics has gone mainstream.

Typographic Redesign

Marco Neumann:

It all started with a recommendation of a friend, that was to never read The Elements of Typographic Style shortly before you have to finish something. Since then I have finished many things so it was time for insightful procrastination. I read the book and now I cannot unsee it. Bad typography – everywhere, but especially in tech. So I had to redesign this blog. After consulting The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web which was partially helpful, I spend hours if not days on it. And here it is: the grand redesign.

Constraints

A blog is not a printed book. The size can change due to different screens and orientations, fonts can change due to user preferences, people can zoom the page, people might for some reason disable JavaScript, accessibility must be kept in mind, etc. On top of that I do not have the resources to spend as much time into a post as someone would spend into a book page. Posts in this blog are simply typed in CommonMark (Markdown) and are rendered byZola. The base theme is Even so I do not need to design the entire layout. Most of the design work should be done in CSS for efficiency reasons.

So every solution I come up here must work comfortably under these constraints. Sure the result might not be as beautiful in all cases – e.g. I cannot fix small-resolution screens or bad user font choices – but at least the whole things should not blow up when disturbed slightly.

Wildfire in the Western United States

Julia Holtzclaw:

Fire season in 2020 has resulted in another year of record setting megafires for the United State’s West Coast. Millions of acres have burned and lives have been lost. Six of the twenty largest wildfires in California history were part of the 2020 wildfire season – five of the new wildfires ranking in the top 10 were all a part of the August 2020 lightning fires.

As each successive fire season seems to be worse than the year before, what can be done to protect the people and the West’s vast land and resources? Read on to learn about how fire is a powerful land management tool to restore health and balance to wildlands as the climate continues to change.

A new way to detect ‘deepfake’ picture editing

Ross Anderson:

Common graphics software now offers powerful tools for inpainting – using machine-learning models to reconstruct missing pieces of an image. They are widely used for picture editing and retouching, but like many sophisticated tools they can also be abused. They can remove someone from a picture of a crime scene, or remove a watermark from a stock photo. Could we make such abuses more difficult?

We introduce Markpainting, which uses adversarial machine-learning techniques to fool the inpainter into making its edits evident to the naked eye. An image owner can modify their image in subtle ways which are not themselves very visible, but will sabotage any attempt to inpaint it by adding visible information determined in advance by the markpainter.

One application is tamper-resistant marks. For example, a photo agency that makes stock photos available on its website with copyright watermarks can markpaint them in such a way that anyone using common editing software to remove a watermark will fail; the copyright mark will be markpainted right back. So watermarks can be made a lot more robust.

A Layman’s Guide to Recreational Mathematics Videos

Sam Enright:

I have watched a lot of maths videos on the internet. The medium of YouTube is quite well suited to maths; maths books are frequently either boring or are really about maths history/psychology/sociology. People sometimes ask me for recommendations of maths channels and videos to watch, so I thought I would write this guide to have something to point them to. There are a number of channels that are good for formal education, like Khan Academy or Organic Chemistry Tutor. There are also other channels that upload high-quality lectures, like the Royal Institution and the channels of various universities. But I don’t even study maths at university, so here I’m only going to discuss channels I watch for fun.

Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless.

Anne Applebaum:

Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless.

“It was no great distance, in those days, from the prison-door to the market-place. Measured by the prisoner’s experience, however, it might be reckoned a journey of some length.”

So begins the tale of Hester Prynne, as recounted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. As readers of this classic American text know, the story begins after Hester gives birth to a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. As a result, she is sentenced to be mocked by a jeering crowd, undergoing “an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.” After that, she must wear a scarlet A—for adulterer—pinned to her dress for the rest of her life. On the outskirts of Boston, she lives in exile. No one will socialize with her—not even those who have quietly committed similar sins, among them the father of her child, the saintly village preacher. The scarlet letter has “the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.”

We read that story with a certain self-satisfaction: Such an old-fashioned tale! Even Hawthorne sneered at the Puritans, with their “sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats,” their strict conformism, their narrow minds and their hypocrisy. And today we are not just hip and modern; we live in a land governed by the rule of law; we have procedures designed to prevent the meting-out of unfair punishment. Scarlet letters are a thing of the past.

A Kindergarten Teacher’s comments on Reading

Kate Winn:

Today, what’s called “structured literacy” is instead being promoted by experts in fields like linguistics and neuroscience as an effective way to teach all students, beginning in kindergarten, and as a must for struggling readers.

In structured literacy, phonemic awareness (that is, working with the sounds of spoken words) is developed as a pre-reading skill, and phonics is taught explicitly and systematically, with much less focus on memorization of sight words and using clues other than the letters themselves to figure out the words when reading. This is done alongside developing vocabulary and language comprehension—both very important aspects in learning to read.

While the term “structured literacy” was new to me, the components certainly made sense, especially the more I found out about how the brain learns to read. In fact, it was a relief to understand why reading wasn’t clicking for some of my students—and to have concrete steps to follow to help ensure better results moving forward.

Generating Interesting Stories

John Ohno:

The problem of generating interesting long-form text (whether fiction or non-fiction) is a problem of information density: people do not like to be told things they already know (or can guess), particularly at length, nor do they generally find the strain of interpreting content that’s too informationally-dense interesting for long. There’s a relatively narrow window of novelty that a piece of text must stay inside for most people to put up with it (and when we go outside that window, there are often motivations outside of interest: we may be daring ourselves to put up with a difficult text out of masochism or pride, or we may need to learn something that isn’t explained in a more accessible way elsewhere). This pattern repeats at multiple levels: not only must we be careful with the novelty of our content, but we must also keep interest with a particular ratio of familiar and unfamiliar words, variation in sentence length and structure, and even changes in tone. Few human writers can maximize all these things successfully; those who can are considered geniuses. So, can a machine?
Historically, the best-performing text-generators have depended heavily on framing: in some traditions of writing (for instance, modernist or postmodern prose, or symbolist poetry) there is an expectation that the work itself will remain vague and the reader will put more effort into determining how to interpret it, even on an object level. Putting aside the fact that general audiences often do not want to do this much work (particularly for an unproven reward), these generators often have an underlying pattern to their output that is distractingly noticeable at the scale of tens of thousands of words. In other words, on different levels of structure, they are simultaneously too novel and not novel enough.

The “Stuff” of Class: How Property Rules in Preschool Reproduce Class Inequality

Casey Stockstill:

How does access to property shape children’s experiences of institutions? Can access to property in preschool counter class inequality? Using two years of ethnographic data from a preschool serving middle-class, white children and a preschool serving poor children of color, I explore how access to and control over objects such as toys shapes children’s school experiences. I found that preschools created different experiences of property: precarious property and protected property. Poor children of color experienced precarious property: personal objects were forbidden at school due to the risk of theft or loss. Teachers’ loose supervision meant that children sometimes had classroom toys taken by peers. In contrast, middle-class, white children experienced protected property; teachers’ rules encouraged children to bring some personal property, which was kept safe at school. Teachers’ close supervision also allowed children to securely enjoy classroom toys. These property rules meant that white, middle-class preschoolers could assert individuality and control through property. Meanwhile, poor preschoolers of color had limited school-sponsored opportunities to assert individuality through personal property. I argue that property rules at preschool can reproduce class inequality.

‘I guess I’m having a go at killing it’: Salman Rushdie to bypass print and publish next book on Substack

Shelley Hepworth:

It will be a digital experiment in serialising fiction (“the way [it] used to be published, right at the beginning”) with new sections coming out approximately once a week over the course of about a year, he says.

A surprising number of the classics were originally serialised: Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers is the best known example, but there are also Madame Bovary, War and Peace, and Heart of Darkness. Rushdie references the experience of Samuel Richardson, who serialised his novel Clarissa in 1748.

“His readers expected that she would, in the end, fall in love with the guy. But then he rapes her. Richardson had quite a lot of correspondence from readers who said that, in spite of that terrible act, they still wanted what they would consider to be a happy ending – and he very determinedly would not give it to them.

They Offered Early Retirement To Faculty. Here’s Why I Took It At 51.

James Lang:

[O]ver the past few years I have felt an increasing sense of imbalance in my professional life. My primary passion has always been writing. I write out of a compulsion that I don’t fully understand, but that gives my life purpose and joy. …

I’m happiest when I am writing, and I am convinced I have many more books left in me. But with each passing year, as my teaching, service, and administrative duties grew, I seemed to have less and less time to write.

I thought a lot about how to make more time for it but couldn’t see any easy remedies. My university paid me a salary, after all, and had given me a good life. My first responsibilities had to be toward my students, my colleagues, and my institution. Sure, research and writing are part of my job — but a relatively small part at a teaching-intensive institution like mine.

In short, I began to feel less like a plant blooming in a sunny garden and more like one fighting for sun in a shady corner of the yard, sending out tendrils and vines in search of new soil and light. But I had been in that container for so long I couldn’t see how to uproot myself and embark upon a different kind of professional life.

Along came the pandemic. Strange how a global health crisis can clarify the mind: I have only so many years left on the planet. Someday my back will indeed begin to stiffen, and all the yoga in the world won’t turn back time. Someday my passion for writing may diminish. And someday the ideas and words may not flow as easily as they do now.

Notes and Commentary on Madison curricular choices

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

Notes on the Tierney of low expectations; New York edition

Kyle Smith:

Excellence. It’s a thing. And to sort out who is excellent requires competition in various tests with measurable outcomes. 

Competition sadly exposes failure. But it also steers everyone to the most fitting role for them. I competed and failed at being a baseball player, soccer player and tennis player before I finally found a useful skill that I could master well enough to derive a living from it. (Polka dancing.) 

If we didn’t allow competition to determine who gets the plums in life, and simply randomly assigned everyone a place in society, Steph Curry might be a guy who makes sandwiches at Pret a Manger, and Mark Zuckerberg might be driving your Uber. 

The distribution of ability may be unfair, but competition is merely how we learn the truth about those abilities. We manage to live pretty comfortably with the result, which is everyone doing what the market will best reward them for doing. 

The New York City Department of Education hates competition for two reasons: One, the teacher mafia is a gang of ultra-woke progressives who bemoan the visible inequality that results from the invisible inequality that is the distribution of intelligence and skill. Two: competition exposes how bad the schools are at their jobs. This year especially, the teachers are terrified of any mechanism that might quantify just how badly they flunked in the last year and a half. 

Solution: do away with honor rolls and other competition-based stamps of excellence.

Related: English 10

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

We Know How to Teach Kids to Read

John McWhorter:

In a word, phonics. About one in four words is spelled in an illogical way, and the phonics teacher stirs these words into the curriculum gradually, like little Sno-Caps into ice cream. But the ice cream itself is learning what sounds the letters stand for.

Scientific investigators of how children learn to read have proved repeatedly that phonics works better for more children. Project Follow Through, a huge investigation in the late 1960s led by education scholar Siegfried Englemann, taught 75,000 children via the phonics-based Direct Instruction method from kindergarten through third grade at 10 sites nationwide. The results were polio-vaccine-level dramatic. At all 10 sites, 4-year-olds were reading like 8-year-olds, for example.

Crucially, the method works well with poor as well as affluent children. Just a couple decades ago, the method was still kicking serious butt where it was implemented. In Richmond, Va., the mostly Black public school district was mired in only a 40 percent passage rate on the state reading test until the district started teaching the phonics way, upon which in just four years passage rates were up to 74 percent.

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

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

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

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

An App Called Libby and the Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-books

Daniel Gross:

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before.

There are a handful of popular e-book venders, including Bibliotheca, Hoopla, Axis 360, and the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America. But OverDrive is the largest. It is the company behind the popular app Libby, which, as the Apple App Store puts it, “lets you log in to your local library to access ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines, all for the reasonable price of free.” The vast majority of OverDrive’s earnings come from markups on the digital content that it licenses to libraries and schools, which is to say that these earnings come largely from American taxes. As libraries and schools have transitioned to e-books, the company has skyrocketed in value. Rakuten, the maker of the Kobo e-reader, bought OverDrive for more than four hundred million dollars, in 2015. Last year, it sold the company to K.K.R., the private-equity firm made famous by the 1989 book “Barbarians at the Gate.” The details of the sale were not made public, but Rakuten reported a profit of “about $365.6 million.”

In the first days of the lockdown, the N.Y.P.L. experienced a spike in downloads, which lengthened the wait times for popular books. In response, it limited readers to three checkouts and three waitlist requests at a time, and it shifted almost all of its multimillion-dollar acquisitions budget to digital content. By the end of March, seventy-four per cent of U.S. libraries were reporting that they had expanded their digital offerings in response to coronavirus-related library closures. During a recent interview over Zoom (another digital service that proliferated during the pandemic), Potash recalled that OverDrive quickly redirected about a hundred employees, who would normally have been at trade shows, “to help support and fortify the increase in demand in digital.” He recalled a fellow-executive telling him, “E-books aren’t just ‘a thing’ now—they’re our only thing.”

AI solves all political, economic and medical problems after parsing Hacker News comments

Matthew Solenya:

An unprecedented leap forward in politics, global economy and medicine has been made virtually overnight after a powerful artificial intelligence system gained access to Hacker News, a popular discussion forum where tech elites share bits of wisdom while having decaffeinated chai.

According to the project manager in charge, the AI system is now constantly sending a large document titled “The Solution” to all government officials around the world.

China rolls out new textbooks on the supreme leader’s political philosophy

The Economist:

Ask members of China’s elite—from senior officials to academics at leading universities, well-known commentators or bosses at big companies—to explain the beliefs of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, and their replies are surprisingly unhelpful. Even simple questions elicit waffly answers. Take an ongoing campaign to clip the wings of some of China’s largest firms, notably technology giants. The authorities have variously accused such businesses of seeking excessive profits, harming national security with a cavalier approach to data, abusing workers, bullying smaller firms or exploiting young consumers with addictive video games and online fan clubs. Is Mr Xi revealing himself as an ideologue, bent on re-imposing Communist Party control over the economy at the expense of growth? Or is he more pragmatic than that: a nationalist strongman who is helping to make China stable at home and mighty abroad? There is chatter among the country’s grandees, but no consensus.

More than 65,000 fake students applied for financial aid in wide community college scam

TERESA WATANABE, COLLEEN SHALBY.

The colleges and student aid officials put their heads together and uncovered what is believed to be one of the state’s biggest financial aid scam attempts in recent history.

California Community Colleges officials declined to say whether any financial aid was disbursed to fake students and said they did not know of any confirmed Cal Grant fraud, but the investigation is continuing.

Perry said he thinks the attempted fraud was stymied before much, if any, aid was distributed because community college classes are just starting and campuses are now on high alert. “I can’t tell you whether any money has gone out or not, but my guess is probably not,” he said. “I think we’ve caught it.”