Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Swedes were fooled by one of the biggest scientific bluffs of our time.

David Sumpter:

Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of Swedes have spent an estimated total of more than ten million euros on a book which many of them believed contained a scientific account of human psychology, written by an expert in the area. The book’s success has led many companies and other organizations to order personality tests, from a growing number of suppliers eager to exploit the new market, and apply them on their employees. Surrounded by Idiots has had a major impact on how Swedish people talk to each other about psychology and discuss the behaviour of those around them. Indeed, Thomas Erikson has undoubtedly had the greatest influence on the public’s interest in psychology in a generation.

Unfortunately, the theory behind this book, and the various follow-ups, is no more than pseudoscientific nonsense. And Erikson appears to lack even basic knowledge of psychology or behavioural science. This is why we at VoF (Vetenskap och Folkbildning — the Swedish Skeptics Society) named Thomas Erikson fraudster of the year in 2018.

Accusing an individual of being a fraud should never be done lightly. We need to be very sure of where we stand. Here I lay out the case as to how and why Thomas Erikson books have misled so many people…

China Ends Independent Admissions Program for Colleges

Yuan Ye:

China’s decades-old independent admissions program allowing top universities to cherry-pick talents from high schools is coming to an end.

In a notice published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Education announced that the Independent Freshman Admission Program (IFAP) — an alternative to the country’s test-centric college admission program instituted in 2003 to recruit students who may have underperformed on the rigorous exams — will be replaced by a new pilot plan that vows to address enrollment inequality with a centralized recruitment scheme.

Under the new plan, 85% of applicants’ eligibility will be based on their college entrance exam — or gaokao — scores, restricting schools from making independent decisions based on their own criteria, according to the notice. A number of universities had already lowered their preferential admissions quotas last year.

Currently, 36 elite schools have been picked for the pilot program, with the application process starting in April. However, certain students with outstanding performance in related fields — as yet unnamed — could be exempt from the strict standards, according to the notice.

The new enrollment process will be more equal and transparent than IFAP, said Wu Xiaogang, a sociologist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The system has been dogged by controversies over enrollment corruption and fraud, as well as accusations of favoringstudents from privileged families.

A cry for freedom in the algorithmic age

The Economist:

As artificial intelligence makes its way to all areas of life, the most prominent people aiming to explain the technology and translate it for the public tend to be scientists, businessmen and often, Americans. Gaspard Koenig is different. A French philosopher, he runs GenerationLibre, a think-tank that promotes classical liberal values of individual freedom. And he brings vibrant intellectual energy to the debate.

In his latest book, “The End of the Individual: A Philosopher’s Journey to the Land of Artificial Intelligence” (Éditions de l’observatoire, 2019), Mr Koenig argues that society should be cautious about the power of AI not because it will destroy humanity (as some argue) but because it will erode our capacity for critical judgement. He already sees that happening, as people blindly follow algorithmic recommendations, be it to watch a film or use a map. He frets this will only get worse.

Anti Parent and Student Choice Political Rhetoric

Will Flanders:

Conservatives are often accused of being “science deniers” when it comes to issues like climate change. But recent events reveal that those on the left suffer from significant confirmation bias when it comes to a stance that is increasingly central to the liberal education agenda — opposition to charter schools.

In December, the Network for Public Education put out a report entitled, “Still Asleep at the Wheel.” The study purports to examine the prevalence of waste in the Department of Education’s Charter School Program, which provides resources for new charter schools to get started, or for existing charter schools to expand and improve. 

The NPE report claims that a significant number of charter schools that received grants under the program never opened, or had already closed. But even a cursory look at the data revealed to me that at least three of the schools in my home state described as “closed” are very much open — indeed, they are among the top-performing schools in the city of Milwaukee. If they got that wrong, what else might there be?

Further examination of the report’s findings led myself and the president of School Choice Wisconsin, Jim Bender, to write a post for the Fordham Institutethat brought to light some additional errors. Indeed, at least 10 Wisconsin schools that the report claims are closed remain open. Christy Wolfe, vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, identified similar errors in the identification of closed charter schools in California. Additionally, Nina Rees, president of NAPCS, pointed out that the total amount of money received by schools that never opened is likely to be far less than what is reported in the study because such schools are likely only to receive the planning portion of multi-year grants.

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

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Montclair State sued over unconstitutional speech policy, arbitrary favoritism toward student groups

Alliance Defending Freedom:

A student and a student group represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Montclair State University officials Wednesday after they forced students to stop peaceful, expressive activity without a permit. The lawsuit also challenges the university’s Bias Education Response Taskforce and an unconstitutional class system that grants preferential treatment to student organizations based on their viewpoints.

On Sept. 10, 2019, Mena Botros and two fellow students dressed in orange jump suits and held up signs voicing their support—as pretend criminals—for gun-free zones. The purpose was to express their belief that laws creating gun-free zones only benefit criminals and harm law-abiding citizens. Despite peacefully expressing their ideas in a common outdoor area of campus, a campus police officer forced them to stop. He told the students that anyone who wants to speak on campus has to obtain permission at least two weeks in advance and that the dean’s office would assign them a time and place to speak. The students, affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty, are challenging the two-week requirement because it unconstitutionally suppresses all speech and because it allows the university to deny or delay a student’s request for permission for any reason.

“A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function if officials impose burdensome restraints on speech or if they can selectively enforce those restraints against disfavored groups,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross.

Ethnic Studies 101: Playing the Victim

Heather Mac Donald:

On November 27, 2019, Harvard University denied tenure to an ethnic-studies professor specializing in Dominican identity. Students and faculty at Harvard and across the country sprung into protest mode. The failure to tenure Lorgia García Peña, they said, resulted from Harvard’s racism. NBC Nightly News, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other outlets covered the controversy from the same angle.

In fact, García Peña had been catapulted into the academic firmament with a speed that most non-intersectional professors can only dream of. She has been showered with benefits. Thirty-one percent of Harvard’s tenure-track professors lost their tenure bids in the 2018‒19 academic year without alleging bias, since most of those failed contenders were white. Yet García Peña has gone through her academic career playing the victim, reflexively accusing those around her of white supremacy. In this, she is a perfect synecdoche for ethnic studies itself, which also stakes its identity on the conceit that it is in a nonstop battle for survival against the forces of racism and exclusion.

To the contrary, ethnic studies is ascendant. It is spreading rapidly throughout K‒12 schools; its ideology has already bled into the political realm. It’s worth reviewing García Peña’s career as an emblem of a fast-rising academic field whose worldview is taking over American culture.

UW System presidential search committee will consider non-academic applicants

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The University of Wisconsin System’s presidential search committee is casting a wide net for applicants in not stating a preference for candidates with a doctoral degree, opening the door for a non-academic to potentially lead the state’s public colleges.

The committee assigned to select System President Ray Cross’ successor held a conference call Friday to go over the job description. Committee members agreed on language that calls for at least 10 years of experience in a “significant senior executive position” and an understanding of public higher education.

University leaders traditionally have come from academia, though some politically appointed governing boards for universities have chosen businessmen or politicians. The strategy has seen mixed success with faculty and staff often arguing that those leading institutions should have experience working at them and others saying that the job has evolved to demand more government and business acumen.

What Went Wrong With IBM’s Watson

Felix Salmon:

What if artificial intelligence can’t cure cancer after all? That’s the message of a big Wall Street Journal post-mortem on Watson, the IBM project that was supposed to turn IBM’s computing prowess into a scalable program that could deliver state-of-the-art personalized cancer treatment protocols to millions of patients around the world.

Watson in general, and its oncology application in particular, has been receiving a lot of skeptical coverage; STAT published a major investigation in 2017, reporting that Watson was nowhere near being able to live up to IBM’s promises. After that article came out, the IBM hype machine started toning things down a bit. But while a lot of the problems with Watson are medical or technical, they’re deeply financial, too.

As of 2018, IBM is shrinking: In 2011, when the company first introduced the idea that Watson might be able to one day cure cancer, its revenues were $107 billion. They’ve gotten smaller every year since, ending up at $79 billion in 2017. That presents enormous problems for any CEO, who’s generally charged with growing the company, or, failing that, growing the stock price.

Math 101: A Reading List for Lifelong Learners

Jennifer Ouellette:

1. Number: The Language of Science
Tobias Dantzig
Plume, 2007

“First published in 1930, this classic text traces the evolution of the concept of a number in clear, accessible prose. (None other than Albert Einstein sang its praises.) A Latvian mathematician who studied under Henri Poincare, Dantzig covers all the bases, from counting, negative numbers and fractions, to complex numbers, set theory, infinity and the link between math and time. Above all, he understood that the story of where mathematical ideas come from, how they relate to each other, and evolve over time, is key to a true appreciation of mathematics.”

Why are Madison middle school principals leaving?

David Blaska:

Wanted: More Milton McPikes, fewer guilt mongers 

Obsessed with identity politics, Madison school board member Ali Muldrow posts on social media an article headlined:  “The discomfort of white adults should never take priority over the success of our black and brown students.”

“I didn’t come here to teach those kinds of kids.”

As harmful as that kind of statement is, very few teachers are brazen enough to express their racist thoughts out loud. If teachers express bias at all, particularly White teachers, they do so silently or even unconsciously — implicitly.

Are they also victims of MMSD identity politics?

The clear implication is that school board member Muldrow is, once again, accusing Madison educators of racism most foul.

Hire more educators of color? Fine with us. Go For It!

But if race is so important, why have so many principals of our middle schools failed? Tequila Kurth stepped aside this week as principal of often-violent Jefferson middle school to take “an extended leave of absence.” That makes nine schools at MMSD’s 12 middle schools to experience a change of leadership in the last 3½ years, according to  Chris Rickert in the WI State Journal.

Rickert also named Kenya Walker, who quit as principal of Black Hawk Middle School in April 2017 amid suspicions of financial mismanagement, and Sherman Middle School Principal Kristin Foreman the next year after a teacher alleged in a blog post that the school was “in crisis.” Those were the only principals Rickert named.

We reached out to Ms. Muldrow to ask why the leadership turnover at Madison’s middle schools? If these principals are incompetent, why were they appointed? If color is so critical, why did they fail?

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: middle school governance edition

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

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Chris Borland criticizes Wisconsin Badgers, NFL in Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary

Colten Bartholomew:

Chris Borland criticizes Wisconsin Badgers, NFL in Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary

Former University of Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland spoke harshly of the football program and his brief time in the NFL on a Netflix documentary released this week.

Borland was featured in two of three parts of “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” a documentary detailing the life and death of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who was convicted of murder and took his own life while in prison.

Borland, an Ohio native who won three Big Ten Championships during his Badgers career, criticized the program and college football as a whole for the position it puts players in.

“At Wisconsin, I was taken aback by how serious practice was taken. I was playing on every special team, I was running scout team, I was running with our twos on defense. Objectively, just like, too much of a load for anybody. And I saw, you know, a line of our upperclassmen with their pants to their knees just waiting to get their Toradol injection. And I didn’t know this at 18, I thought, ‘Oh my God, these 15 upperclassmen starters are taking steroids before the game.’ Completely naïve. I later found out it was Toradol, this painkiller that our team docs would administer so guys could play with whatever they had going on,” Borland said in the second part of the series.

“To see that at 18, that was really enlightening to just how seriously it’s taken. Kind of my first glimpse at, ‘This is very real. It’s a big industry. And they’re willing to put in basically kids, young men, in situations that will compromise their long-term health just to beat Northwestern.’”

Brian Lucas, UW’s Director of Football Brand Communications, said players’ well-being is “first and foremost” in their decision-making process.

Digital sharecropping

Nicholas Carr:

A while back I wrote that Web 2.0, by putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the product of their work, provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very few.

Richard MacManus’s new analysis of web traffic patterns helps illustrate the point. Despite the explosion of web content, spurred in large part by the reduction in the cost of producing and consuming that content, web traffic appears to be growing more concentrated in a few sites, not less. Using data from Compete, MacManus shows that the top ten sites accounted for 40% of total internet page views in November 2006, up from 31% in November 2001, a 29% increase. The greater concentration comes during a period when the number of domains on the web nearly doubled, from 2.9 million to 5.1 million.

Even if we grant that traffic numbers are unreliable and that page views are not the only way to measure traffic, the trend seems clear: A few big sites increasingly dominate the web.

On the surface of it, this might seem to contradict the long-tail, or power-law, theory. But it’s not so simple. As MacManus shows, the greater concentration of traffic can largely be explained by the popularity of two “social networking” sites, MySpace and Facebook, which together accounted for 17% of all page views in November 2006. Both MySpace and Facebook are made up of millions of “user profiles” created by their members. If we counted each profile as a separate site, which in a content sense it is, we would find no increase in the concentration of traffic, consistent with the long-tail theory.

Candidate Quotes from Madison’s 2020 Superintendent Pageant

Scott Girard:

Behavior Education Plan

Vanden Wyngaard: “Just like in previous districts I have been in, it appears we have a perception issue in the community.”

Gutiérrez: “What I’ve seen is a rather comprehensive plan. I think it may be a little overwhelming for folks. How can we simplify that to be user-friendly, easy to read, easy to follow?”

Thomas: “There’s a group of teachers who are not excited and at the same time there’s a group of kids who are not excited about it, so I’m not exactly sure how we got there. We have to create structures and strategies to build relationships.”

Charter schools

Vanden Wyngaard: “I expect us to partner with charters. I would partner with any other group so why wouldn’t I do that as well? Parents made a decision on where their child could best learn. Our job is to make sure the children of Madison can be successful.”

Gutiérrez: “There are circumstances when public schools partner with a charter system to serve students. Those are very unique circumstances. I believe that we’ve got to continue to find a way to meet the needs of our students in the public school system. It’s just part of our democratic society.”

Thomas: “I’m an advocate of traditional schools. And I’m an advocate of ensuring that every school is of high-quality.”

No budget or reading discussion?

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

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: middle school governance edition

Chris Rickert:

In at least two cases, principals left under a cloud.

In 2017, district officials decided not to pursue legal action against former Black Hawk Middle School Principal Kenya Walker, who abandoned her position and oversaw more than $10,000 in spending on the school’s credit card that could not be accounted for. In 2018, Sherman Middle School Principal Kristin Foreman decided to leave after a teacher alleged in a blog post that the school was “in crisis” due to deteriorating student behavior and disrespect for staff.

Tense hallways

Former Jefferson math teacher Mauricio Escobedo said Kurth had “lost control of the school” and described an environment there in which he felt threatened and had “all kinds of racial epithets and insults hurled at me” by students.

According to confidential student records obtained by WISC-TV (Ch. 3), the student in the Dec. 3 incident had been involved in 25 disciplinary incidents this school year prior to his suspension in the BB gun case.

Escobedo was fired on Dec. 20, he said, after pointing out to school leaders that the student who fired the BB gun had previously threatened to “shoot up the school.” Officially, he was let go for failing to earn a state teaching license, he said.

Kurth did not respond to email and Facebook messages seeking comment. Escobedo is one of five teachers who have left Jefferson during the current school year.

While declining to comment on specific employees, district spokesman Tim LeMonds said one of the teachers left for personal family reasons, two for another job in the district, one for “dissatisfaction” with her job and one for not meeting state licensing requirements.

Escobedo, who said he has more than 20 years of teaching experience, said he was properly licensed. But Department of Public Instruction spokesman Benson Gardner said that unless Escobedo “has used another name, he has never held a license to work in a school in Wisconsin.”

David Blaska:

Just Wednesday afternoon (01-15-2020) a Jefferson middle school student hospitalized with a concussion after being punched by a classmate. The victim told police he had been bullied for some time by the boy who hit him.

A school staff member said the victim fell to the floor after the initial blow, and was then punched a couple of more times. The employee said the suspect was screaming and knocking over chairs.

Mauricio Escobedo told Blaska’s Policy Werkes:

“I was fired and ushered out the back door because I would not allow Tequila Kurth to cover up her dangerous lack of sound disciplinary policies. On Wednesday, yet another child was nearly killed at Jefferson. YOU helped to divulge the fact [earlier this week] that the Jefferson Administration was no longer in control of the school to a wider audience than I could ever reach.  For that, I thank you.

And now that Tequila Kurth is gone, the job is remains unfinished. …

The idea that race should be considered before meting out disciplinary consequences (or disciplinary data) is inimical to the foundational principle that Justice is blind.  This aberration of America’s justice System must be changed inside of the MMSD from which it was removed by verbal artifice and deception.”

Because of the leadership change, the parent/citizen meeting is rescheduled for 6 p.m. February 6 at the school.

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

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Two Tsunamis are About to Hit Higher Education

Andrew Gillen:

But the second tsunami bearing down on higher education will be even bigger — informed choice on the part of students and parents.

For years we’ve asked students to make one of life’s most important decisions essentially blindfolded. We’ve told them a college degree is the surest path to success but have given them little guidance on where to go to college or what major to choose once they get there. As a result, too many students leave with a mountain of debt and a credential that isn’t worth much on the labor market. The new data will help equip students — and their parents — with the information necessary to avoid these costly mistakes in several ways.

First, the data will help guide students toward non-risky majors. Potential students will know that earning a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing is likely a safe choice, as there are 100 programs that pass GEE for every program that fails.

Second, the data will help students avoid risky programs within generally non-risky fields or colleges. Of the universities in the top 5 of the US News and World report college rankings, Harvard and Yale both had one program fail, and Columbia has 10 programs that fail. Helping students avoid these financial bad apples will help all students by keeping the pressure on individual academic programs, not allowing them to coast on a college’s (or field’s) reputation.

Civics: Toronto is surveillance capitalism’s new frontier

Shoshana Zuboff:

The city of Toronto now sits in the crosshairs of a uniquely 21st-century economic model that I call surveillance capitalism. Invented at Google two decades ago, surveillance capitalism claims private experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Most data are hunted, captured and valued not for service improvement but rather for their rich predictive signals. These data flows lay the foundation for a lucrative new surveillance economy. First, data are extracted from private experience. Next, they are conveyed to computational factories called “machine intelligence,” where they are fabricated into behavioural predictions. Finally, prediction products are sold to business customers in markets that trade exclusively in human futures, where companies compete on the quality of predictions: they sell certainty.

Surveillance capitalism has become the default model of the tech sector and now migrates across the normal economy, infiltrating every sector: insurance, education, health care, retail, finance, transportation, the list goes on. As its name suggests, this rogue mutation of capitalism operates stealthily, designed for secrecy and camouflaged by a fog of carefully crafted rhetorical misdirection, euphemism and mendacity, all of which aims to keep us ignorant.

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

Civics: US Government-funded Android phones come preinstalled with unremovable malware

Dan Goodin:

An Android phone subsidized by the US government for low-income users comes preinstalled with malware that can’t be removed without making the device cease to work, researchers reported on Thursday.

The UMX U686CL is provided by Virgin Mobile’s Assurance Wireless program. Assurance Wireless is an offshoot of the Lifeline Assistance program, a Federal Communications Commissions plan that makes free or government-subsidized phones service available to millions of low-income families. The program is often referred to as the Obama Phone because it expanded in 2008, when President Barack Obama took office. The UMX U686CL runs Android and is available for $35 to qualifying users.

Researchers at Malwarebytes said on Thursday that the device comes with some nasty surprises. Representatives of Sprint, the owner of Virgin Mobile, meanwhile said it didn’t believe the apps were malicious.

The first is heavily obfuscated malware that can install adware and other unwanted apps without the knowledge or permission of the user. Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX contains striking similarities to two other trojan droppers. For one, it uses identical text strings and almost identical code. And for another, it contains an encoded string that, when decoded, contains a hidden library named

Once the library is loaded into memory, it installs software Malwarebytes calls Android/Trojan.HiddenAds. It aggressively displays ads. Malwarebytes researcher Nathan Collier said company users have reported that the hidden library installs a variant of HiddenAds, but the researchers were unable to reproduce that installation, possibly because the library waits some amount of time before doing so.

‘Cancel Culture’ Comes to Science

Peter Wood:

An unhappy side effect of the digital age is “cancel culture.” Anyone with an attitude of moral superiority and a Twitter account can try to shut down an event where opinions he dislikes are likely to be spoken. For several years the National Association of Scholars has inveighed against this infantile form of protest, which undermines free expression of ideas and legitimate debate. Now the cancel caravan has arrived at our door.

We are holding a conference co-sponsored by the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., in early…

Nearly half of the Palmyra-Eagle school board quits following the ruling that the district won’t dissolve

Bob Dohr:

Three of the seven members of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School Board, including the president and vice president, have resigned following the state’s denial of the district’s dissolution attempt.

School board president Scott Hoff, vice president Tara Bollmann and clerk Carrie Ollis announced their resignations at the Jan. 14 board meeting, effective at the end of the meeting.

The resignations come five days after the School District Boundary Appeal Board, a panel made up of school board members from around the state, denied the district’s dissolution by a 6-1 vote.

The school board ordered the district to dissolve last year after the failure of an operational referendum that members said was needed to keep the financially-troubled district open.

Hoff said one of the reasons he stepped down is because during the SDBAB’s hearing process, a member of a citizens group came forward and said a community member was willing to give $100,000 in matching donations to help the district if the current school board would step down.

“They need the money far more than they need me,” Hoff said. 

Hoff also said those who came to the appeal board with ideas on how to save the district need an opportunity to put those in place. 

“I’d be nothing more than a roadblock,” he said. 

Civics: Warren says she would bypass Congress, begin canceling student loans on 1st day as president

Jordyn Pair:

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on Tuesday that she would start to forgive student debt on the first day of her presidency by using legal tools meant to bypass Congress.

“We have a student loan crisis — and we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act,” Warren said in a tweet that included a link to her student debt erasure plan. The U.S. Department of Education already has authority to cancel student debt, she added.

Warren also released a letter written by three legal experts that vouched for the legality of erasing student debt through executive action. The experts described it as “lawful and permissible.”

A 2014 Saturday Night Live skit on then President Obama’s attempts to create law around Congress.

How Will History Books Remember the 2010s?


We aren’t just approaching the end of a very newsy year; we’re approaching the end of a very eventful decade. To mark the occasion, Politico Magazine asked a group of historians to put all that happened over the past 10 years in its proper historical context—and literally write the paragraph that they think will describe the 2010s in American history books written a century from now.

Will the seemingly significant events we have lived through this decade be important in the grand scheme? Are there powerful historical forces playing out that we’re missing? Where will Black Lives Matter, the social media revolution, #MeToo, climate change, Barack Obama and Donald Trump fit into the history books?

Many described the 2010s, in the words of Andrew Bacevich, as an era of “venomous division,” characterized by massive racial, economic and political divisions. Some saw hope in the discord—as a catalyst for much needed reform, soon to come. Still other historians pointed out less-noticed trends—in technology and foreign policy—that will resonate far into the future.

How will the future remember the 2010s? Here’s what the experts had to say:

How Negativity Can Kill a Relationship

John Tierney & Roy Baumeister:

There’s an elegant symmetry to traditional wedding vows: for better or for worse. But love is not symmetrical, and most of us don’t realize how lopsided it can be. The worse matters far more than the better in marriage or any other relationship. That’s how the brain works.

Our thoughts and feelings are skewed by what researchers call the negativity effect, which is our tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. When we hear a mix of compliments and criticism, we obsess over the criticism instead of enjoying the praise. This imbalance, also known as the negativity bias, evolved in the brain because it kept our ancestors alert to deadly threats, but too often it warps our perspective and behavior. A slight conflict can have ruinous consequences when the power of bad overwhelms your judgment, provoking you to actions that further alienate your partner. You’d fare better by using your rational brain to override your irrational impulses, but to do that you need first to understand just how powerful bad can be.

In relationships, the negativity effect magnifies your partner’s faults, real or imagined, starting with their ingratitude, because you’re also biased by an internal overconfidence that magnifies your own strengths. So you wonder how your partner can be so selfish and so blind to your virtues—to all that you’ve done for them. You contemplate one of life’s most exasperating mysteries: Why don’t they appreciate me?

Madison 2020 Superintendent Pageant: Eric Thomas appearance notes

Logan Wroge:

“We have a district that is successful for a group of kids. We have a different district that’s not being successful for a group of kids,” he said of the Madison School District. “That means our organization is uniquely and excellently designed to get the results that we’re presently getting. If we keep doing what we are doing … I can’t imagine why anybody thinks we’re going to get different results.”

Thomas, who goes by his middle name, Eric, said he would not just seek “buy-in” from teachers on programs or initiatives, but rather “co-create” with them changes to improve the district.

If chosen from the pool of three finalists for superintendent, it would be Thomas’ first position leading a school district.

In front of a few dozen people in the theater at La Follette High School, Thomas addressed questions submitted by those in the audience or watching a live-stream of the meeting.

More on Eric Thomas.

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

US colleges struggling with low enrollment are closing at increasing rate

Karina Huber

For 185 years this college campus in Vermont was teeming with students. Now it sits empty. In January, the school announced it would be closing.

‘I’ve had a very long professional career. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – to stand in front – in our auditorium with 400 people and telling principally students, but faculty and staff, that we wouldn’t be opening this fall,” said  Bob Allen, President at Green Mountain College.

The liberal arts college, that specialized in environmental studies, wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to keep up with costs. Enrollment was down and it had to offer ever-larger tuition discounts to attract students. 

While annual tuition was around $36,000, no one paid that.

“We were actually discounting that about 67%. So the average student was really only paying about $12,000 for tuition,” said Allen.

L.A. Unified pays $25 million to settle sexual misconduct cases

Howard Blume:

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to pay more than $25 million to settle lawsuits over alleged sexual misconduct. Some cases were related to well-known incidents of abuse at Telfair and De La Torre elementary schools, for which teachers went to jail. Others never led to convictions. The larger settlements are about $2 million per student.

Officials with L.A. Unified like to believe they’ve turned the page on the worst employee misconduct following a spate of high-profile cases, and they can cite a long list of new safeguards. But attorneys for the victims questioned the district’s commitment to reform.

“No one has a full account of how many children have been abused, how many cases they’ve settled,” said attorney John Manly, who represented some of the victims. “This board has made every effort to keep it secret. That is troubling. There is a culture at LAUSD that accepts this as a cost of doing business.”

L.A. Unified General Counsel David Holmquist defended the district’s intentions and response.

Four years ago, UTLA increased its member dues by 33 percent. What did the union do with the money?

Mike Antonucci:

In the summer of 2015, Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, gave a state of the union speech in which he alerted members to the dire necessity of raising dues by 33 percent. Without the increase, he said, UTLA would be “bankrupt or dramatically weakened” in the years to come.

Though there was considerable squawking from the rank-and-file, they ultimately approved the increase in February 2016.

Did the increase have an impressive effect on UTLA’s finances and avert a cataclysm to its bottom line? An examination of the union’s financial disclosure reports to the Internal Revenue Service both before and after the dues hike indicates it didn’t do much except pad UTLA’s payroll and bank account.

Before the increase went into effect, UTLA collected $41 million in dues, of which about $9.4 million was spent on officer and staff compensation. The union’s net worth was about $28.5 million, of which about $7.9 million was in non-interest-bearing cash. This hardly appears to be a case of impending doom.

The dues increase led to an additional $5.8 million in revenue, of which about $1.4 million was added to staff salaries and benefits. The number of UTLA employees earning more than $100,000 ballooned from 12 to 23 in just two years.

The union had other windfalls. Its legal expenses fell by more than one-third, and its accounting expenses by two-thirds.

School Helps Top Testers Bring Home the Bacon for Lunar New Year

Sixth Tone:

A Shanghai-based women’s rights group is planning to propose a new parental leave policy for the city that would extend time off for new parents and include mandatory leave for fathers, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Wednesday.

The Shanghai Women’s Federation — the municipal branch of China’s quasi-official women’s rights group — said Wednesday that it plans to raise the issue during the city’s upcoming “two sessions” political meetings. The federation is seeking to extend the current maternity leave from 138 days to six months, and to introduce shared parental leave for couples, with fathers having at least 30 days of mandatory time off after the birth of a child.

A spokesperson for the federation’s Shanghai branch said the proposal is aimed at encouraging more fathers to get involved in childrearing, as well as supporting women’s professional development after giving birth, according to The Paper. She added that the move could also help boost the city’s fertility rate.

Education and Men without Work

Nicholas Eberstadt:

America today is in the grip of a gradually building crisis that, despite its manifest importance, somehow managed to remain more or less invisible for decades — at least, until the political earthquake of 2016. That crisis is the collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.

According to the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “work rates” for American men in October 2019 stood very close to their 1939 levels, as reported in the 1940 U.S. Census. Despite some improvement since the end of the Great Recession, Great Depression-style work rates are still characteristic today for the American male, both for those of “prime working age” (defined as ages 25 to 54) and for the broader 20 to 64 group.

Unlike the Great Depression, however, today’s work crisis is not an unemployment crisis. Only a tiny fraction of workless American men nowadays are actually looking for employment. Instead we have witnessed a mass exodus of men from the workforce altogether. At this writing, nearly 7 million civilian non-institutionalized men between the ages of 25 and 54 are neither working nor looking for work — over four times as many as are formally unemployed. Between 1965 and 2015, the percentage of prime-age U.S. men not in the labor force shot up from 3.3% to 11.7%. (The overall situation has slightly improved in the last four years, but this group still accounted for 10.8% of the prime-age male population in October 2019.) Over that half century, labor-force participation rates fell for prime-age men in all education groups, but the decline was much worse for men with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with higher levels. Labor-force participation dropped by about four percentage points for college graduates and by two points for men with graduate training; it fell by 14 points for those with no more than a high-school diploma, and by 16 points for those who didn’t finish high school. By 2015, nearly one in six prime-age men with just a high-school degree was neither working nor looking for work, and for those without a high-school diploma, the ratio was worse than one in five.

Study: Newark’s large charter school networks give students a big boost. Other charters, not so much.

Patrick Wall:

Newark’s largest charter school networks give students a big bump in their test scores, while other charter schools are far less effective at boosting scores, a new study finds.

Students who enrolled at schools run by the city’s two largest charter operators — KIPP and Uncommon Schools — saw large and lasting gains on their test scores, according to the analysis of data from 2014 to 2018. But students who attended a different set of charter schools, on average, got a much smaller boost.

The study by the Manhattan Institute adds to previous research showing that Newark’s charter schools, which educate more than a third of the city’s public-school students, collectively raise students’ test scores. But the analysis also sheds new light on the wide variation within Newark’s large charter sector, showing that the big charter school networks with the most students drive the sector’s positive results.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district has long resisted parent and student choice, despite spending far more than most and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Milwaukee and many other cities offer extensive parent and student choice. An interview with Henry Tyson, Superintendent of the inner city St. Marcus elementary school.

An elegy for cash: the technology we might never replace

Mike Orcutt:

Think about the last time you used cash. How much did you spend? What did you buy, and from whom? Was it a one-time thing, or was it something you buy regularly?

Was it legal?

If you’d rather keep all that to yourself, you’re in luck. The person in the store (or on the street corner) may remember your face, but as long as you didn’t reveal any identifying information, there is nothing that links you to the transaction.

This is a feature of physical cash that payment cards and apps do not have: freedom. Called “bearer instruments,” banknotes and coins are presumed to be owned by whoever holds them. We can use them to transact with another person without a third party getting in the way. Companies cannot build advertising profiles or credit ratings out of our data, and governments cannot track our spending or our movements. And while a credit card can be declined and a check mislaid, handing over money works every time, instantly.

The Rise of the Rural Creative Class (?)

Richard Florida:

One of the most persistent myths in America today is that urban areas are innovative and rural areas are not. While it is overwhelmingly clear that innovation and creativity tend to cluster in a small number of cities and metropolitan areas, it’s a big mistake to think that they somehow skip over rural America.

A series of studies from Tim Wojan and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service documents the drivers of rural innovation. Their findings draw on a variety of data sets, including a large-scale survey that compares innovation in urban and rural areas called the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS). This is based on some 11,000 business establishments with at least five paid employees in tradable industries—that is, sectors that produce goods and services that are or could be traded internationally—in rural (or non-metro) and urban (metro) areas.

The survey divides businesses into three main groups. Roughly 30 percent of firms are substantive innovators, launching new products and services, making data-driven decisions, and creating intellectual property worth protecting; another 33 percent are nominal innovators who engage in more incremental improvement of their products and processes; and 38 percent show little or no evidence of innovation, so are considered to be non-innovators.

The first table below charts this breakdown for rural and urban areas. Establishments in urban areas are more innovative, but not by much. Roughly 20 percent of rural firms are substantive innovators, compared to 30 percent of firms in urban areas.

I recall chatting with a former Madison School District Superintendent, who, when I asked about learning from rural (far less $) schools, replied that “I would never do that”.

Life Under the Algorithm

Gabriel Winant:

Until, it turns out, they don’t anymore. The unwinding of this agreement in recent decades, such that workers must continue to produce more without expecting it to show up in their pay stubs, has now been the subject of a good deal of discussion and debate. The decline of unions, the rise of inequality, the crisis of liberal democracy, and the changing face of American culture all, in one form or another, relate to this transformation. We work and work and barely get by, while wealth pools up in obscene quantities out of view. Pile more pig iron, but don’t imagine you’re high-priced. What, ask new books by Emily Guendelsberger and Steve Fraser, is this colossal insult doing to our heads? No wonder, Guendelsberger observes, the country is collectively “freaking the fuck out.”

In her new book, On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane, Guendelsberger re-creates a version of Barbara Ehrenreich’s famous experiment in Nickel and Dimed. Guendelsberger, a reporter for the alt-weekly Philadelphia City Paper until it was sold off and shut down in 2015, went undercover at three low-wage workplaces: an Amazon warehouse in Indiana, a call center in North Carolina, and a McDonald’s in San Francisco. Whereas Ehrenreich’s main discovery was that there still existed an exploited working class—a controversial point in the late 1990s and early 2000s—Guendelsberger takes inequality and exploitation as given, asking instead what these jobs are doing to the millions who work them.

What does the phrase “in the weeds” mean to you? In the professional-managerial class, “in the weeds” signifies knotty detail (as in the Vox public policy podcast, The Weeds). In the working class, Guendelsberger points out, “in the weeds” means the same thing “swamped” does in professional-speak: overwhelmed and stressed out. And America’s working class, Guendelsberger argues, is in the weeds all the time, increasingly subjected to an automated neo-Taylorism. Workers are scheduled by algorithm, their tasks timed automatically, and their performance surveilled digitally. This was what she learned on these jobs: “The weeds are a terribly toxic place for human beings. The weeds make us crazy. The weeds make us sick. The weeds destroy family life. The weeds push people into addiction. The weeds will literally kill you.”

What Guendelsberger found in her experiment was that employers now “demand a workforce that can think, talk, feel, and pick stuff up like humans—but with as few needs outside of work as robots. They insist their workers amputate the messy human bits of themselves—family, hunger, thirst, emotions, the need to make rent, sickness, fatigue, boredom, depression, traffic.” The results are “cyborg jobs,” and they account, by Guendelsberger’s reckoning, for almost half of the American workforce. The hidden moments of reclaimed freedom that make any job bearable are being discovered and wiped out by bosses everywhere: That trick you used to use to slow down the machine won’t work anymore; or that window of 23 minutes when you knew your boss couldn’t watch you is vanishing. Whatever little piece of humanity survived in these fragments dies with them.

Madison’s Jefferson Middle School principal taking ‘extended leave of absence’

Shanzeh Ahmad:

Madison police said a Jefferson student suffered a concussion Wednesday after being punched by a classmate who had been bullying him for some time. The injured boy was taken to a hospital, and the student who punched him was removed from the classroom and later taken to the Juvenile Reception Center on tentative charges of substantial battery and disorderly conduct, police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

Another incident in December resulted in the arrest of two 13-year-old boys, one for shooting a BB gun out of a bus window and the other for bringing the BB gun inside the school the next day, police said. Two girls, ages 13 and 14, were struck by the BB gun shots as they were getting off the bus. All of the teens were Jefferson students.

No safe space for reformers at Madison’s Jefferson middle school? “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

Desegregation, Then and Now

R. Shep Melnick:

The central, unstated assumption of Hannah-Jones and other defenders of court-ordered busing is that the meaning of the crucial term “desegregation” remained constant from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to busing in Boston two decades later. To oppose busing in Detroit, Dayton, or Delaware (as Biden did), so the story goes, is to reject the most important Supreme Court decision of the 20th century. Moreover, if “desegregation” has a coherent, constant meaning, we should focus on the benefits of the entire project, from desegregation of the border states in the 1950s to the “reconstruction of Southern education” in the 1960s and 1970s, to the effort to create racially balanced schools outside the South during the 1970s and 1980s. There is no need to distinguish among the diverse projects lumped under the heading “desegregation.”

This story is just plain wrong, as anyone who has studied the history of desegregation well knows. The starting point for any serious evaluation of desegregation must be acknowledging how much the meaning of that key term changed over time. We can argue over the merits of this transformation, but not over the nature and extent of the change.

In his opinion for a unanimous court in Brown v. Board, Chief Justice Earl Warren presented arguments he hoped would not only convince legal skeptics, but appeal to the better angels of citizens in the North and South. He never explained what school districts must do to achieve desegregation. For that omission the Court has been justly criticized, since its silence allowed the South to evade its constitutional responsibilities for a decade and a half. Nor did Warren provide an adequate explanation for why state-sponsored segregation is wrong. His reliance on dubious social-science evidence needlessly left him open to attack by segregationists.

Although the Court never cited the famous words of Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson — ”Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens” — that understanding lay at the heart of the NAACP’s legal argument and formed the foundation of the Court’s discussion of remedies. In oral argument, the NAACP’s Robert Carter explained that the “one fundamental contention which we will seek to develop” is that “no state has any authority under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunity among its citizens.” Thurgood Marshall assured the Court that “the only thing that we are asking for is that the state-imposed racial segregation be taken off, and to leave the county school board, the county people, the district people, to work out their solutions of the problem to assign children on any reasonable basis they want to assign them on.”

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

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

“Madison teachers say ‘society is murdering black & brown people”

David Blaska:

We are a group of educators planning a Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Madison as part of the National BLM Week of Action February 3-7, 2020.

The Black Lives Matter movement recognizes the impact of mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unfair immigration laws and policies, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare. All of these injustices exist in the intersection of race, class and gender. And they have always existed and continue to exist within our Madison community, including within our own school system.

…. If society continues to marginalize, murder, and devalue Black and Brown lives, then there is little hope for America to ever reach her fullest potential.

We call all of our colleagues, administrators, students, families and community members to partner with us as we engage in the National Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 3-7, 2020. We commit to analyzing and challenging both our personal and systemic or institutional racialized beliefs and practices.

For Extra Credit: Madison superintendent hopeful would concentrate on social justice and equity. Read it and weep.

diversity/inclusion programs “benefit higher education institutions rather than contributing to a commitment to inclusion, equity and creating a diverse workforce.”

Jack Grove:\

One interviewee observed that the leadership courses were in essence adapted from those aimed at “white, middle-class women”, and had not been tailored to provide “tools to navigate the complex interpersonal relationships we have to think about as BME people”. Another questioned whether black staff would want to “conform to the white style of leadership…that may not work for us because we are not white”.

Some questioned the fact that the courses were run by black trainers without an academic background, with one stating that it was “bit strange” that there were only BME people in the room.

“White senior academics…should be brought in at the end so that they can also understand first-hand some of the issues we are facing – which many of them don’t really comprehend,” said one black male interviewee quoted in the paper.

This lack of engagement from senior management led some to conclude that “institutions are using these courses as a tick-box exercise to say they are supporting BME staff”, Professor Bhopal told Times Higher Education.

Cracking the code on reading instruction stories

Holly Korbey:

In late 2018, WHYY Philadelphia education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent was asked to coffee by a group of suburban Philadelphia moms who had “this little movement” going to push their highly regarded school district to help their struggling readers, some of whom had been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Wolfman-Arent had recently heard APM Reports senior producer and correspondent Emily Hanford’s audio documentaries on reading instruction and decided to pursue the local story because he understood there was “something in the water about it.”

His February 2019 story, Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading, surprised readers with its description of parents who were angry at a well-funded, desirable suburban district where as it turned out, lots of children hadn’t learned how to read.

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

We all agree that inequality is bad. But what kind of equality is good?

Joshua Rothman:

Michael and Angela have just turned fifty-five. They know two people who have died in the past few years—one from cancer, another in a car accident. It occurs to them that they should make a plan for their kids. They have some money in the bank. Suppose they were both killed in a plane crash—what would happen to it?

They have four children, who range in age from their late teens to their late twenties. Chloe, the oldest, is a math wiz with a coding job at Google; she hopes to start her own company soon. Will, who has a degree in social work, is paying off his student debt while working at a halfway house for recovering addicts. The twins, James and Alexis, are both in college. James, a perpetually stoned underachiever, is convinced that he can make it as a YouTuber. (He’s already been suspended twice, for on-campus pranks.) Alexis, who hopes to become a poet, has a congenital condition that could leave her blind by middle age.

At first, Michael and Angela plan to divide their money equally. Then they start to think about it. Chloe is on the fast track to remunerative Silicon Valley success; Will is burdened by debt in his quest to help the vulnerable. If James were to come into an inheritance, he’d likely grow even lazier, spending it on streetwear and edibles; Alexis, with her medical situation, might need help later in life. Maybe, Michael and Angela think, it doesn’t make sense to divide the money into equal portions after all. Something more sophisticated might be required. What matters to them is that their children flourish equally, and this might mean giving the kids unequal amounts—an unappealing prospect.

The decline of nonfiction in the IP era

James Pogue:

In early 2018, I was spending a warm West Hollywood Sunday evening on the balcony of a young director of film development, drinking a beer and hoping for an early night[*]. I had planned to sleep on his couch, but when I suggested we turn in, he said, “Nah, just take my bed, I’m probably not sleeping tonight.” I asked why not, and he looked momentarily surprised, as though it was strange I wasn’t aware of the impending event that had a small but important segment of the film and publishing industries alive with anticipation at the two ends of the great book-to-film pipeline connecting agents, assistants, film execs, and book scouts through endless emails and group chats. “That new David Grann story drops at midnight,” he said.

I expressed mild shock at this, saying it was sadistic for an agent to send out notices to otherwise self-respecting adults calling on them to stay up to read and compose notes on a magazine story instead of trying to sleep before a workday. Surely they would still be expected, as is the custom in the newly big business of turning books and magazine pieces into films, to send the regular weekly memo about recent publications their peers and bosses might find interesting enough to read, or maybe to offer on, and to be alert and shrewd at the regular meetings about the reading that everyone did over the weekend. The expectation now is to mine, on a bulk scale, for writing that producers might want to buy. In this case, the aim was to acquire a story by a staff writer at The New Yorker who I personally don’t consider one of his generation’s great talents—though living in Los Angeles in the era of book-to-film has given me reason to wonder about the acuity of my taste in literature. My friend gave me a slightly patronizing look, implying that he didn’t need, at that moment, to hear opinions about the great David Grann from a younger writer whose work emphatically does not keep execs and agents awake late on a Sunday night waiting to pull million-dollar triggers. Rather than live as a curmudgeon, I would do better to learn from this moment and start producing books and articles that would get me up off his couch and into some serious money. He knew I knew how to do it because he’d told me how, many times.

Hard Questions: Hear the Voices of Young Journalists

Simpson Street Free Press:

Several of the most dynamic and accomplished young journalists working in the Madison media market answer questions from student reporters.

Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She recently took on the criminal justice beat for the paper.

Jenny Peek is a digital news editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and an education reporter for Isthmus.

Amanda Quintana is a general assignment reporter and news anchor at WISC-TV, News 3 Now.

Taylor Kilgore is a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Journalism and the managing editor at Simpson Street Free Press.

Unmerited: Inequality and the New Elite

Nicholas Lemann:

About 25 years ago, I spent a memorable afternoon in London with Michael Young, the author of the strange 1958 dystopian novel in the form of a dissertation called The Rise of the Meritocracy, which introduced that term into the English language. In the United States, for years, people have liked to insist that wherever they work or go to school is a meritocracy, meaning, roughly, that they understand it as an open competition in which the most deserving succeed. Americans assume meritocracy to be an unalloyed good; the term implies a contrast to some past system or an era when success went instead to lazy inheritors, timeservers, or adept players of office politics.

Young, however, wanted not to celebrate meritocracy but to warn the world against it. He had the detached air of someone who has quietly noticed everything, and a sense of humor so bone-dry that most people missed it. By the time I met him, he was Baron Young of Dartington—an oft-noted irony. But intellectually, he was a creature of the post–World War II British Labour Party, in which he served as an important adviser on education, and of the impoverished East End, where he did his sociological research. He had been involved in the great expansion of the state-run school system after the war, which was an aspect of the broader socialist project aimed at creating structured mass opportunity for the first time in British history. It was in keeping with the tenor of the time that this effort relied on administering intelligence tests to masses of 11-year-olds, who were then each directed into what was, essentially, a blue-collar or a white-collar educational track and who would, when they were a few years older, take another set of exams that would anoint a small cohort as bound for higher education.

No safe space for reformers at Madison’s Jefferson middle school? “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

David Blaska:

“Teachers are very very afraid.” — former teacher*

Parents are mobilizing for a showdown at Madison’s Jefferson middle school, which they describe as ruled by virtue-signaling administrators and out-of-control students.

The flash point was on December 3 when a 13-year-old boy shot a girl with a BB gun outside from a bus window. The student had remained in school despite a history of transgressions, include threatening to shoot up the school “and kill everyone” three months earlier.

* Former teacher Mauricio Escobedo told Blaska Policy Werkes that students at Jefferson, located on the same campus as James Madison Memorial high school on Madison’s far west side, must be bribed with candy and potato chips to follow instructions because there are no penalties for disobedience.

School district spokesman Tim LeMonds seemed to acknowledge problems at Jefferson. He told the Werkes: “We’ve been reviewing the culture and climate of that school for a few months now and we are working with the leadership at that school.” 

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

I raised my hand and said, ‘Well, I don’t agree. I don’t have skin in the game. I’m not white.’ The educational philosophy of the school district is focused on feelings of safety not on discipline.”

Mr. Escobedo told this blog: “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

Escobedo feels that school administration blamed him for leaking the disciplinary file of the December 3 shooter to Channel 3000, which he denies. “Instead of focusing on safety policies, school principal Tequila Kurth wrote memos that threatened the school employee/s who divulged this public information.” Kurth is in her second school year as principal at Jefferson.

LeMonds, public information officer for the school district, told Blaska Policy Works no one has been accused of leaking the information. “That was federally protected information, so the district has been actively investigating the release of that record. We haven’t even narrowed it down to a point where we can interview folks.”

Escobedo said: “I come from business and if you’re black or white, I don’t care what race, if you’re hired at McDonald’s and you burn the food, they’re going to fire you because you are not getting the job done. But here in this school, here in Madison WI and in the United States, schools are saying ‘alright students you are failing but we’re going to protect you from failure. We’re not going give you an F but draw you a happy face for effort.’”

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Schools without discipline will fail

Peter Anderson:

Jennifer Cheatham’s tenure, to a not-insignificant extent, became increasingly defined by her efforts to deflect vocal pressure from Freedom Inc., by how those efforts affected her determination to convince opinion leaders of her commitment to racial justice, and by her inability to actually reduce the black achievement gap.

To reinvigorate her bona fides, she caved in to unsubstantiated claims of racism and sacrificed teachers with no record of bias. 

But that undermined teachers’ ability to discipline disruptive students who are African-American, and, in consequence, significantly contributed to schools becoming increasingly dysfunctional, which leads to middle class flight. Then, because her efforts also proved misdirected to reduce the black achievement gap, Dr. Cheatham misrepresented performance data by lowering expectations in order to artificially inflate the reputation she cultivated.

Behavior Education Plan

The debilitating problems began with the roll out or Dr. Cheatham’s Behavior Education Plan in 2014. The plan itself was a well-intentioned replacement of the earlier zero tolerance policy, which had a disparate impact on black students from troubled homes. The Plan provided for a progressive approach to discipline, and restorative justice in lieu of punishment, that was intended to keep misbehaving students in classrooms.

Problems arose in the Plan’s implementation that led students to conclude that there no longer any consequences for bad behavior.

No consequences for misbehavior

For the Plan’s positive approach to work, it was critical that students continued to believe that there were real consequences for bad behaviors, which meant they had to see positive reinforcements and restorative practices as something serious, and not as a free pass to continue misbehaving. Otherwise, discipline will break down and the other students will increasingly be unable to learn, and will convey that fact to their parents.

Additional Commentary.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Planning: School Board Rhetoric Ko

Scott Girard:

During a board retreat Saturday to discuss strategies for both a capital and an operating referendum in April, board members generally agreed they wanted to vote in March — before board member Kate Toews’ term is over and a new board member takes her place.

Toews is not running for re-election to Seat 6 in April, and some board members said it could be a complex topic for a new board member to walk into. Board president Gloria Reyes also said she wants the outreach and communication process to begin as soon as possible.

“I do strongly believe that if we’re going to start a process and strategy we should all have voted,” Reyes said.

Public input on the projects, presented Monday night during an Operations Work Group meeting, shows overall support for both, though there are some concerns about how the operating funds would be used.

Board members and district staff have been working with a plan for a $315 million capital referendum to renovate the four high schools, build a new school in the Rimrock Road neighborhood and relocate the alternative Capital High School to the Hoyt building. The same ballot could ask voters for up to $36 million in operating funds over four years. That would allow the district to exceed state revenue caps by $8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24, though some board members asked to go lower than that at least for the first school year.

That complicates this summer’s budget process, as the board will have to approve two budgets — one for if the operating referendum passes and one in case it fails — but it also presents an opportunity for the board to show voters its priorities and the cost to the district if it fails, board members said.

Much more on the planned 2020 tax and spending increase Madison referendum.

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Eric Thomas stresses success for ‘all students’ in Madison School District is key

Scott Girard:

“My background is very much anchored on supporting all students,” Thomas said. “That’s sort of why I wake up every morning. The notion that all students are able to achieve at a high level, I truly not only believe it, but I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. I know it’s possible.”

He will be the third and final candidate for the Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent position to visit for his Day in the District. Thomas will be here Thursday to meet community members, interview with the School Board and hold a public session from 6-7:30 p.m. at La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road.

Various news reports have listed him as a finalist for multiple superintendent positions in recent years, as well as being among 51 applicants for the superintendent position in Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Florida. An Atlanta Journal Constitution article says there has been “long running tension between (Thomas’) office and that of state school Superintendent Richard Woods, who has always wanted control” over the turnaround program Thomas leads.

Thomas began his career as a high school social studies teacher in Cincinnati in 1994, and after four years moved into a district coordinator position for a program supporting “overaged” eighth graders (those older than their peers) until 2002. He then moved to the nearby Middletown City School District to be an administrator at an alternative high school.

More on Eric Thomas.

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard

Logan Wroge:

She also highlighted the importance of having teachers know the cognitive process of how children learn to read to improve literacy outcomes.

When asked about school-based police officers, a divisive topic in the Madison School District, Vanden Wyngaard said she doesn’t have a problem with police being in schools but thinks they should only be involved if a felony-level crime is suspected.

She also spoke to giving teachers the ability to “fail forward” when they make mistakes, allowing them to learn and adjust.

To increase the number of teachers of color, Vanden Wyngaard said the district can try to recruit directly from historically black colleges, expand a district program that encourages minority students to become teachers and change the culture of the district to be more welcoming for teachers of color.

People can provide online feedback for each candidate until 8 a.m. Friday. For Vanden Wyngaard, the website is:

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Ramanujan’s First Letter to G.H. Hardy

Jorgen Veisdal:

By the second paragraph however, Ramanujan was already getting to the point of his inquiry by suggesting that he could give meaning to negative values of the so-called  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>gamma function:

Just as in elementary mathematics you give a meaning to aⁿ when n is negative and fractional to conform to the law which holds when n is a positive integer, similarly the whole of my investigations proceed on giving a meaning to Eulerian Second Integral for all values of n. My friends who have gone through the regular course of University education tell me that

A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse

Thomas Teasdale and David Owen:

In the 1980s reviewed evidence indicated that, through the preceding decades of the last century, population performance on intelligence tests had been rising substantially, typically about 3–5 IQ points per decade, in developed countries. The phenomenon, now termed the ‘Flynn Effect’, has been variously attributed to biological and/or to social and educational factors. Although there is some evidence to suggest a slowing of the effect through the 1990s, only little evidence, to our knowledge, has yet been presented to show an arrest or reversal of the trend. Substantially replicating a recent report from Norway, we here report intelligence test results from over 500,000 young Danish men, tested between 1959 and 2004, showing that performance peaked in the late 1990s, and has since declined moderately to pre-1991 levels. A contributing factor in this recent fall could be a simultaneous decline in proportions of students entering 3-year advanced-level school programs for 16–18 year olds.

Life at the End of American Empire

Richard Lachmann:

Student achievement at the primary, secondary, and university levels has fallen from the top ranks. US students, who attend ever more decrepit schools, are performing less well than their peers in countries with much lower levels of income or educational spending. The United States, which pioneered mass higher education with the GI Bill of 1944 and held the lead in the percentage of its population with university degrees for the following five decades, has now fallen to fourteenth among developed nations.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Fieldston, Elite Private School, Faces Backlash From Jewish Parents

Eliza Shapiro:

The episode comes at a highly charged moment for the school, and for New York.

Fieldston spent much of last year trying to contain a rebellion by its students, some of whom locked themselves in buildings on the school’s campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in March to protest what they said was a racist school culture.

The school agreed to many of the students’ demands, including anti-bias training and a commitment to hire more teachers of color.

Our Tax Dollars at Work: Wisconsin DPI loses School Choice Case


Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Bohren issued a summary judgement order Tuesday in favor of School Choice Wisconsin Action (SCWA), a WILL client, that sued the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the state education agency, for their unfair, illegal treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs. WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of SCWA in March after DPI denied private choice schools the opportunity to fully utilize online, virtual learning as part of classroom instruction.

Judge Bohren wrote in his decision, “There is not a legitimate government interest in denying Choice Schools the opportunity to use “virtual learning” as Public schools do. The denial is harmful to the Choice Schools and its students.”

The Quotes: Libby Sobic, Director of Education Policy at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said, “Today, the Waukesha Circuit Court ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction broke the law when it denied private schools in the choice program the opportunity to fully utilize online learning as part of classroom instruction. For too long, DPI has been unfair in their treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs and today’s decision affirms that when they break the law, they will be held accountable.”

Terry Brown, Chair of School Choice Wisconsin Action said, “State statutes are created and changed by elected officials accountable directly to the public. State agencies run by unelected bureaucrats are not allowed to modify or interpret those laws without legislative oversight.”

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Parent union forming to combat power of public school teachers unions; “The tyranny of low expectations”

Nick Givas:

Keri Rodrigues and Alma Marquez said they were so appalled by the low standards of America’s public school teachers unions, they formed the National Parents Union (NPU), so families could have a greater say in their children’s education.

Rodrigues, a mother of three from Boston, and Marquez, a mother of one from Los Angeles, are no strangers to public-sector unions. Rodrigues worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), while Marquez grew up in a union household and worked for Green Dot Public Schools — a public charter organization

“I worked in labor, working for the SEIU, and I spent a big chunk of my career in politics,” Rodrigues told Fox News. “But at the same time, I’m a single mom with three little boys. My oldest son has Asperger’s and ADHD. So we knew from a very young age that he was going to need help.”

Her son had been suspended from kindergarten 36 times and was supposed to be aided by an individualized education program (IEP). Instead, Rodrigues said she was met with indifference and ineptitude from instructors who were supposed to be helping her boy.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

“The tyranny of low expectations.

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel

Charlotte Higgins:

To visit Dr Dirk Obbink at Christ Church college, Oxford, you must first be ushered by a bowler-hatted porter into the stately Tom Quad, built by Cardinal Wolsey before his spectacular downfall in 1529. Turn sharp right, climb a flight of stairs, and there, behind a door on which is pinned a notice advertising a 2007 college arts festival, you will find Obbink’s rooms. Be warned: you may knock on the door in vain. Since October, he has been suspended from duties following the biggest scandal that has ever hit, and is ever likely to hit, the University of Oxford’s classics department.

An associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford, Obbink occupies one of the plum jobs in his field. Born in Nebraska and now in his early 60s, this lugubrious, crumpled, owlish man has “won at the game of academia”, said Candida Moss, professor of theology at Birmingham University. In 2001, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award for his expertise in “rescuing damaged ancient manuscripts from the ravages of nature and time”. Over the course of his career, he has received millions in funding; he is currently, in theory at least, running an £800,000 project on the papyrus rolls carbonised by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.

Since he was appointed in 1995, Obbink has welcomed many visitors into his rooms at Christ Church: dons, undergraduates, researchers. Less orthodox callers, too: among them, antiquities dealers and collectors. In the corner of Obbink’s study stands a pool table, from which two Egyptian mummy masks stare out impenetrably. Its green baize surface is all but obscured by papers and manuscripts – even, sometimes, a folder or two containing fragments of ancient papyrus. One bibliophile remembers a visit to this room, “like the set of an Indiana Jones movie”, a few years ago. He was offered an antique manuscript for sale by a man named Mahmoud Elder, with whom Obbink owned a company, now dissolved, called Castle Folio.

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin Legislature:

–State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance and State Representative Jeremy (R-Fond du Lac), Chair of the Assembly Education Committee released the following statement calling for an audit of the Department of Public Instruction:

“Representing nearly one-fifth of the entire state budget, the Department of Public Instruction budget has increased by nearly $3 billion since 2012,” said Rep. Nygren. “Despite providing more resources than ever for public schools, student achievement in reading, unfortunately, continues to decline.”

“Wisconsin’s overall test scores are headed in the wrong direction. Especially concerning is the downward trend in reading scores, the core of education attainment,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Recent Forward Exam results show that 60% of Wisconsin students cannot read or write at grade level. Taxpayers and students deserve better.”

The proposed audit would examine approaches to reading instruction and resulting student achievement. Specifically, LAB would examine methods of reading instruction utilized in Wisconsin’s schools, the impact of the Foundations of Reading Test on teacher licensure, and whether DPI consistently measures student achievement. A similar audit was conducted in 1998.

“Given the significant level of taxpayer resources dedicated to education, the need for oversight and accountability could not be clearer,” said Reps. Nygren and Thiesfeldt. “It is our hope that this audit will provide long overdue oversight of funding provided to DPI and help inform legislative action to improve student outcomes.”

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Gutiérrez hopes to be ‘uniter’ for Madison School District

Scott Girard:

Are we able to be laser focused on a number of a initiatives?” Gutiérrez said. “When you really do the research, the most highly successful systems have just three or four initiatives that they’re focused on, and you can do them really well.”

He also brings recent experience with one of the likely immediate roles he would take on, having seen Seguin voters approve a bond referendum last spring. He said he learned the importance of “proactive” communication throughout a referendum process, especially given the “conservative community” that had “a large amount of distrust in the school district” a few years before the successful referendum.

“To be able to have a referendum pass with those challenges I believe is pretty huge and something I’m very proud of,” he said. “When you can really take a proactive approach to community, a transparent approach to communication, really put yourself out there to meet with people, meet with different groups, you can certainly accomplish that goal.”

More on Matthew Gutiérrez

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

The Disgusting New Campus Novel

Kristina Quynn:

If contingent faculty were being killed at your university at the rate of one per day, how many days would it take for someone in your administration to notice?” That’s the question asked by Geoff Cebula’s murder-mystery novel Adjunct (2017), set at fictional Bellwether College. The mysterious disappearance of faculty members compels Elena Malatesta, an adjunct professor in the modern-language department, to unravel budget cuts from murder and uncover the real cause behind the disappearance of Bellwether’s adjuncts. In the end, Malatesta also disappears from campus. She quits teaching to pursue a life of the mind outside academe. She will, however, advise a part-time colleague to continue teaching. Because a full-time position may — just may — open up in the future. Thus the crisis continues.

Cebula’s novel contributes to a new trend in American campus fiction that features contingent faculty and staff as protagonists seeking to understand the changing nature of higher education and to gain job security, professional recognition, and promotion. Such novels and short fiction — instances of what Jeffrey Williams has called the “Adjunctroman” — include Julia Keefer’s How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling (2006), J. Hayes Hurley’s The Adjunct (2008), Alex Kudera’s Fight for Your Long Day (2010), A.P. O’Malley’s “Vagrant Adjunct” (2012), and Gordon Haber’s “Adjunctivitis” (2013).

Feces, vomit, blood, amputated limbs, corpses — these are some of the motifs by which the new campus fictions announce their difference from the old.
These small-press or self-published narratives of contingency frustrate the most recognizable mode of campus fiction, the “Professorroman,” with a saga of Sisyphean lack of progress. If the Professorroman is a version of Bildungsroman that substitutes a story of coming into tenure for a coming-of-age narrative, in the Adjunctroman no one achieves professordom or even gets close: These are cautionary tales of academic drudgery and professional woe.

Civics: disinformation, “surveys” and Madison’s proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendum

Michael Ferguson:

In October 2019, select U.S. officials offered closed-door congressional testimony regarding their knowledge of events surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Fiona Hill, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, testified it was very likely Russian disinformation influenced the documents used to acquire a surveillance warrant on members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign. A January 2018 Wall Street Journal editorial by the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Moscow station chief, Daniel Hoffman, appears to support her assessment.

If even partially true, this is a significant development. It would force the national security enterprise to amend its understanding of disinformation’s potential to shape the national consciousness—a conversation that until recently has been defined by references to social media bots and Internet trolls.

Reporting on disinformation generally focuses on either violent extremists or hostile states deploying carefully crafted lies to influence portions of the civilian population by distorting their perception of the truth. But this was not always the case. In fact, this emphasis on public opinion is a rather nascent phenomenon. How did we get to this point, why is disinformation so prevalent, and what should the world expect from it going forward? The following analysis explores these increasingly important questions, and concludes that the skyrocketing volume, reach, and subtlety of disinformation from both states and non-state actors will make it harder to combat at the policy level in the future.

The taxpayer supported K-12 Madison School District continues to push the proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendums.

The district acknowledges, though, that survey results are “not fully indicative of the general population,” because 85% of those who responded either currently have a student in Madison schools or work for the district.

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

Civics: Younger Americans more likely than older adults to say there are other countries that are better than the U.S.

Hannah Harris and Hannah Gilberstadt:

However, slightly more than a third (36%) of adults ages 18 to 29 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., the highest share of any age group.

Age differences in these views are evident within both partisan coalitions but are particularly wide among Democrats. Nearly half (47%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents under 30 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., as do roughly a third (34%) of those ages 30 to 49. By comparison, just 20% of Democrats ages 50 and older say this.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 19% of adults under 30 say there are other countries that are superior to the U.S. In contrast, just 4% of Republicans 50 and older take this view.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

South Korea’s fertility rate falls to a record low

The Economist:

FOR MUCH of its history, South Korea worried about having too many babies. In the 1960s and 1970s the government set targets for family size. South Koreans were told that “even two are a lot”. Sterilisation was subsidised. Today the country has the opposite problem. In 2006 the government set a goal of raising the total fertility rate—a measure of births per woman—from 1.2 to 1.6 by boosting child-care subsidies and cutting taxes for families. Yet instead of rising, the figure tumbled even lower. On August 28th new data showed that the fertility rate fell to 0.98 in 2018, from 1.05 in 2017. South Koreans are having fewer babies than ever.

Civics: Paging Dr. Google: How the Tech Giant Is Laying Claim to Health Data

Rob Copeland, Dana Mattioli and Melanie Evans

Roughly a year ago, Google offered health-data company Cerner Corp. an unusually rich proposal.

Cerner was interviewing Silicon Valley giants to pick a storage provider for 250 million health records, one of the largest collections of U.S. patient data. Google dispatched former chief executive Eric Schmidt to personally pitch Cerner over several phone calls and offered around $250 million in discounts and incentives, people familiar with the matter say.

Google had a bigger goal in pushing for the deal than dollars and cents: a way to expand its effort to collect, analyze and aggregate health data on millions of Americans. Google representatives were vague in answering questions about how Cerner’s data would be used, making the health-care company’s executives wary, the people say. Eventually, Cerner struck a storage deal with Inc. instead.

The failed Cerner deal reveals an emerging challenge to Google’s move into health care: gaining the trust of health care partners and the public. So far, that has hardly slowed the search giant.

Google has struck partnerships with some of the country’s largest hospital systems and most-renowned health-care providers, many of them vast in scope and few of their details previously reported. In just a few years, the company has achieved the ability to view or analyze tens of millions of patient health records in at least three-quarters of U.S. states, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of contractual agreements.

In certain instances, the deals allow Google to access personally identifiable health information without the knowledge of patients or doctors. The company can review complete health records, including names, dates of birth, medications and other ailments, according to people familiar with the deals.

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

Special sunglasses, license-plate dresses, Juggalo face paint: How to be anonymous in the age of surveillance

Melissa Hellman:

Cory Doctorow’s sunglasses are seemingly ordinary. But they are far from it when seen on security footage, where his face is transformed into a glowing white orb.

At his local credit union, bemused tellers spot the curious sight on nearby monitors and sometimes ask, “What’s going on with your head?” said Doctorow, chuckling.

The frames of his sunglasses, from Chicago-based eyewear line Reflectacles, are made of a material that reflects the infrared light found in surveillance cameras and represents a fringe movement of privacy advocates experimenting with clothes, ornate makeup and accessories as a defense against some surveillance technologies.

Some wearers are propelled by the desire to opt out of what has been called “surveillance capitalism” — an economy that churns human experiences into data for profit — while others fear government invasion of privacy.

Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.

Dana Goldstein:

The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

Civics: ‘Richard Jewell,’ Nicholas Sandmann and the media mob

John Kaas:

Nicholas Sandmann, the kid from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. He suffered the same kind of agony and humiliation.

It was only a year ago that Sandmann was all over the news, branded as a hateful racist in a MAGA hat. The media got it wrong. Sandmann was in the news again the other day, after CNN settled that $275 million libel suit he filed. Terms were not disclosed.

Jewell and Sandmann were each publicly stripped of their honor through no fault of their own. Yes, “honor” is a terribly old-fashioned word, a bizarre medieval concept to some, but others can’t live without it.

Jewell was a security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He spotted a bomb in Olympic Park and police began pushing people away. If it weren’t for Jewell, many would have died. But he was torn apart by the media mob in wild, speculative stories pinning him as the prime suspect in the bombing.

But Jewell wasn’t the bomber. The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was eventually caught.

I’ve been a reporter most of my life, and “Richard Jewell” was unsettling. I’ve been in media packs staking out a story on some front lawn, the people frightened and unprepared and hiding inside.

Still, I’m glad I watched it. All of us need to be reminded.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Growth Dilemma

Joel Kotkin:

For much of the last seventy years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns.

This sharp break from the past is occurring as growth in Europe, Japan, and the United States has fallen to half or less of what it was just a generation ago, and while fertility rates are at levels not seen since the medieval era. This promises to create a tsunami of retired people whose retirements can only be addressed by economic growth.

A new way to make quadratic equations easy


The ancient Babylonians were a remarkable bunch. Among many extraordinary achievements, they found a now-famous mathematical solution to an unpleasant challenge: paying tax.

The particular problem for the ordinary working Babylonian was this: Given a tax bill that has to be paid in crops, by how much should I increase the size of my field to pay it?

This problem can be written down as a quadratic equation of the form Ax2+Bx+C=0. And it is solved with this formula:

Why Copying Successful People Can Backfire

Scott Young:

Many animals exhibit what’s known as a dominance hierarchy. The alpha picks on the beta, all of whom pick on the omega. These hierarchies are asserted through force and they exist in human beings as much as they do in others. Bosses, commanders and kings all formalize the notion of a dominant individual being higher up in status.

Interestingly, however, human beings have a second, separate status hierarchy that doesn’t seem to exist in other animals: prestige hierarchies. A prestige hierarchy isn’t maintained through force and alliances, but through respect. Artists, academics, celebrities and intellectuals are higher up on prestige hierarchies.

A competitive Wisconsin DPI superintendent election in 2021?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor announced her decision today not to run in the 2021 election for state superintendent of public instruction. Gov. Tony Evers appointed Stanford Taylor to the office in January 2019, and her term ends July 2021.

“I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Evers to lead the Department of Public Instruction and will always be grateful to the governor for the trust he placed in naming me as his successor,” Stanford Taylor said. “I promised Governor Evers I would commit to completing the 2 1/2 years left in his term as state superintendent and to continue the work we had started together at the DPI, and I will maintain that commitment while I serve this office.”

Stanford Taylor says she is making her decision public at this time so others interested in being the state’s chief education officer and leading the department will have sufficient time to organize their campaigns. The state superintendent says she hopes her successor will continue to maintain a focus on educational equity and ensure all of Wisconsin’s students graduate college and career ready.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass the Foundations of Reading content knowledge examination (based on Massachusetts MTEL).

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Vanden Wyngaard wants to focus on social justice, equity in MMSD if selected

Scott Girard:

She noted successes while she was in Albany, mentioning the graduation rate, increased attendance rate and lower disproportionality in its special education programming among them, and said maintaining the programs that helped lead to those was part of the resignation decision.

“I work from a philosophy of students first, and I always will ask the question, regardless of what the subject is, what impact will this have on student success?” she said. “When those philosophical differences started to emerge, I knew that in order for all of those programs to stay in place, in order for all of that work to be continued and in order for me to make sure my students were still successful, I had to not continue.”

‘I truly love the work’

She said her three years and four months in the Albany job showed her how much she enjoyed a position with “the ability to try and influence people, to try to help people, to gather the resources to build the networks.”

“I truly love the work,” she said. “Social justice is my passion and my calling and how I live my life. That role provided me the opportunity to do that work. For me, it showed me who I was and it showed me what impact I could have on the community at large.”

She said, while acknowledging she hopes to hear more during her visit here, that her initial impression is Madison needs to tackle trust and transparency, communication, parental involvement opportunities and “obviously equity.”

“Equity for me means that the students and the staff have what they need in order for them to be successful,” she said.

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School District superintendent finalists visit this week

Scott Girard:

The three finalists to be the next leader of the Madison Metropolitan School District will visit the city this week.

Their “Day in the District” will begin at 8 a.m. with meetings with community and staff groups until 11, followed by lunch with students until noon. The afternoon will include school visits, meetings with the School Board and community leaders and end with a public forum from 6-7:30 p.m.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard will visit Tuesday, Jan. 14, Matthew Gutiérrez will visit Wednesday, Jan. 15, and Eric Thomas will visit Thursday, Jan. 16. Both Vanden Wyngaard and Gutiérrez’s forums will be at East High School, while Thomas’ will be at La Follette High School.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School Board would make decision on staff ‘racial incident’ discipline under proposals

Scott Girard:

On Jan. 11, the Madison School Board began evaluating new responses to staff racial incidents that would have the board make discipline decisions.

The conversation came at the end of a week in which the district’s communication on staff use of racial slurs received criticism from an independent hearing officer, who advised the district to overturn a disciplinary suspension given to a Nuestro Mundo social worker last year following her use of the N-word in a staff meeting.

The “zero tolerance” practice the district began using during the 2018-19 school year. Seven staff members were disciplined. The practice came under international scrutiny last fall when West High School security assistant Marlon Anderson was fired for using the N-word while telling a student not to call him that.

Ideas discussed Saturday included the School Board making decisions on any discipline related to a racial incident, focusing on a restorative process rather than a punitive one.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Outlaw Universities: Discrimination in Academia

Probably everyone in the academy knows that affirmative action is widely practiced: racial minorities (except Asians) and women are commonly given preference in hiring and admission decisions at American universities. I would guess, however, that some academics — and many more non-academics — are unaware that typical university hiring practices are blatantly illegal. So I’m going to talk about that for a while, in case you find that interesting.

Job advertisements commonly say things like that the university rejects discrimination, supports equal employment opportunity, and considers all applicants “without regard to” race, sex, religion, etc. What they actually mean by this is that they only discriminate in certain specific ways. E.g., they don’t discriminate against blacks or Hispanics, but only against whites and Asians. They don’t discriminate against women, only against men. And so on. (This sounds to me like a rather Orwellian use of “equal opportunity”. But what do I know? I’m just some crazy libertarian philosopher.)

I think pretty much everyone in the academic subculture knows this. I don’t know if this is widely known outside academia, though.

Here are a couple of examples:

Why does a highly-educated university town (Madison) need a charter school?

Greg Richmond:

Richmond: Madison is a university town. It is highly educated and pretty solidly middle class. Why does it need One City?

Caire: Madison has been harboring an achievement gap, that they knew about, since they first learned about it in 1965. Back then, there was a 27-point difference between black and white students in reading. That was in a Master’s thesis written by a woman named Cora Bagley, whose work was cited in a report called, “The Negro in Madison.” It was reported on again in 1965 by Dr. Naomi Lede who was responsible for the National Urban League’s assessment of whether or not a chapter of the Urban League should be established in Madison.

But there wasn’t a push to do anything about it until more reports came out in the 1970s that said, not only do we have an achievement gap, we also had a large gap in high school completion rates where only 44% of African-American students graduated with their senior class.

Madison had a surge of African-Americans that came to the university in the 1970s and many were activists. These students began living and teaching in the community and they took on social and economic disparities along with the NAACP and the Urban League. But the activism would die down because the school district would throw some money at it and, out of graciousness, people would wait and see. And then 5 years later it would come up again, and again, and again.

In 1991 or 1992, there was a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute titled, “Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District” that said there were two school districts, one serving black students and one serving everybody else.

About 5 years before that, I myself was part of a data set that showed disparities. I graduated from high school in 1989 and was a sophomore in 1987 when the Urban League looked at sophomores’ course taking patterns.

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

Detroit homeowners overtaxed $600 million

Christine MacDonald:

Detroit overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million after it failed to accurately bring down property values in the years following the Great Recession, according to an investigation by The Detroit News.

City Hall completed a state-ordered reappraisal of every residential property in 2017 to correct the problem, but the pain of its past mistakes remains with thousands who today face foreclosure over back taxes. 

Of the more than 63,000 Detroit homes with delinquent debt as of last fall, more than 90% were overtaxed—by an average of at least $3,700—between 2010 and 2016, according to calculations by The News. The debt owed on about 40,000 of those homes is less than the properties were overtaxed over those seven years. 

The inflated bills have been an added burden to homeowners in the poorest big city in the nation, and call into question a tax system that has foreclosed on a third of city properties since 2008. 

‘I have a chance now to have a life’: Navy vet who won watershed student loan ruling tells his story

Arthur Swaminathan:

For nearly 15 years, U.S. Navy veteran Kevin Rosenberg owed six figures in student loans.

But on January 7, 2020, a New York judge ruled that the $221,385.49 in student loan debt owed by Rosenberg as of November 2019 was dischargeable under chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“I have a chance now to have a life,” the 46-year-old Rosenberg told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

A bankruptcy expert told Yahoo Finance that Rosenberg’s case is a watershed in that it dispels the notion that student loans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

“What I found most fascinating, and I think heartening, is the very strong language that the judge used to call out on what she calls this quasi-mythic status of student loan non-dischargeability,” Jason Iuliano, an assistant professor of law at Villanova University and an expert on bankruptcy, told Yahoo Finance. “I’ve never seen it put quite so pointedly before in a judicial opinion like that.”

After more than a decade of going through the student loan system — making on-time payments, following up with loan servicers, keeping up with the paperwork —  he was finally free of his student debt.

Civics: 2019: A Year the News Media Would Rather Forget

Matt Taibbi:


The 2019 portion of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle was marked by a crisis of pundit confidence. Old practices like the “invisible primary” were rendered meaningless, thanks to an electorate that no longer flocks to media-endorsed frontrunners. Nonetheless, outlets spilled enormous quantities of ink and devoted oceans of airtime hyping establishment candidates whose “electability” arguments were mostly fictional. The magazine covers for Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were one thing, but there was real weirdness in the mania over “momentum” for Amy Klobuchar, whose recent “Klobucharge” a whole point or so up in the polls recalled some of the sillier stories of the 2016 cycle (i.e. “Marcomentum”).

Bernie Sanders in particular led a Trotsky-like existence in coverage in 2019, i.e. he was often all but physically cut out of headlines. When he held a huge rally in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times headline was about Biden winning the “electability primary.” CNN ran five stories about a New Hampshire poll showing Sanders in the lead, and none mentioned Sanders in the headline. These things can be in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of innocent oversights look intentional when you’ve invested hopes in a campaign, but the clearest evidence of how the media shaded Sanders coverage (to say nothing of often-detestable treatment of some other, lesser-polling candidates) is that he hasn’t yet suffered the backlash that usually comes with being hyped as a possible nominee. Brace yourself for an avalanche of insane propaganda if the wrong candidate does well in New Hampshire or Iowa.

LGBTQ history lessons will soon be mandatory in NJ classrooms; 12 schools to pilot program

Hannah Adley:

Twelve New Jersey schools will begin piloting a new LGBTQ-focused curriculum this month, the first wave of a requirement that will soon be mandated across the state. 

The pilot sites to be announced by the state Tuesday – including schools in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark and Asbury Park – are intended to be proving grounds for new lessons in history, economics and even grammar designed to improve awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender contributions and issues. The instruction, approved by the state last year, will be a requirement for all of New Jersey’s public schools starting in the fall. 

“We want students to see themselves in the stories that are told,” said Ashley Chiappano, safe schools and community education manager for Garden State Equality, the advocacy group leading the pilot program. “We want to make sure they are getting accurate, appropriate and historically relevant information about the community and the strides that have been made.”

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LGBTQ people but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons. School boards must update standards in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Stirring on Milwaukee’s south side, a building boom of growing and popular choice schools

Alan Borsuk:

Notre Dame School of Milwaukee opened on Milwaukee’s south side in 1996 with a student body of 26 middle school girls.   

It grew steadily — 90 students in 2001, 130 in 2006, 201 in 2012. It added co-ed elementary grades and a middle school for boys, as well as a second building.   

It now has 535 students, a five-star (“significantly exceeds expectations”) state report card, and a lot of construction equipment in what was previously a paved area adjacent to its building at West Greenfield Avenue and South Layton Boulevard as it builds a $7 million addition.  

Three blocks from that Notre Dame building is Nativity Jesuit School. It opened with 14 middle school boys in 1993 and grew within several years to about 60. In recent years, its enrollment has quadrupled to 252, including boys and girls in elementary grades. It also has a five-star report card and it recently completed $3 million in improvements. 

And in four buildings on the south side, there are Carmen charter schools with about 1,400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade (plus another 663 at a northwest side Carmen school). The first Carmen school, which opened in 2007, got a five-star report card this year for the second year in a row. 

Milwaukee parents and students have extensive school options.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 school district has long resisted school choice, rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (2011) and lobbying against a proposed University of Wisconsin system charter school (2019).

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment

Sarah Zhang:

By then, the scientists who dreamed up this 500-year experiment—Charles Cockell at the University of Edinburgh and his German and U.S. collaborators—will be long dead. They’ll never know the answers to the questions that intrigued them back in 2014, about the longevity of bacteria. Cockell had once forgotten about a dried petri dish of Chroococcidiopsis for 10 years, only to find the cells were still viable. Scientists have revived bacteria from 118-year-old cans of meat and, more controversially, from amber and salt crystals millions of years old.

All this suggests, according to Ralf Möller, a microbiologist at the German Aerospace Center and collaborator on the experiment, that “life on our planet is not limited by human standards.” Understanding what that means requires work that goes well beyond the human life span.

The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

Constance Grady:

So what happened? How did the apparently inevitable ebook revolution fail to come to pass?

To figure out the answers, we’ll have to dive in deep to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2012 against Apple — newly entered into the ebook market with the advent of the iPad — and five of what was then the Big Six publishing houses. The Department of Justice accused Apple and the publishers of colluding to fix ebook prices against Amazon, and although the DOJ won its case in court, the pricing model that Apple and the publishers created together would continue to dominate the industry, creating unintended ripple effects.

The case of US v. Apple encapsulates the dysfunction of the last decade of publishing. It’s a story about what we’re willing to pay for books — and about an industry that is growing ever more consolidated, with fewer and fewer companies taking up more and more market share. What happened to the ebook in the 2010s is the story of the contraction of American publishing.

2020 Madison school board election: Candidate “suspends campaign”

Scott Girard:

When he initially filed papers to run, Strong said he considers school safety and racial disparities in discipline and achievement to be the top issues facing MMSD.

“We have to make sure that our schools are safe and that they’re safe learning environments for our kids to learn and for our teachers to teach in,” Wayne Strong said. He stressed the importance of “tackling the achievement gap and just making sure that all of our students are given the best possible opportunity to get the quality education they deserve.”

The end of his campaign leaves Seat 6 as the only contested election, with three candidates running. Incumbent Kate Toews is not running for re-election, leaving newcomers Maia Pearson, Christina Gomez Schmidt and Karen Ball set for a Feb. 18 primary election. The top two vote-getters will move onto the April general election.

Curiously, this has occurred several times in recent years: Ed Hughes, after 3 unopposed campaigns withdrew from a competitive 2017 campaign after the primary!

2016 commentary.

Similarly, Sarah Manski withdrew after the 2013 primary

Mr Hughes name resurfaces occasionally, lobbying against parent and school choice in the form of the 2019 Arbor school charter proposal and in the taxpayer supported Madison school administration’s 2020 spending increase referendum slides.

Finally, despite spending far more than most K-12 school districts, and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results, Mr. Hughes voted against the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school (2011).

Chinese students aren’t brainwashed


The CSSA-gate at McMaster has triggered an interesting online debate between members of the Chinese community at McMaster and the rest of campus. Many non-Chinese students mistakenly believe that the Chinese students who questioned the procedures and implications of the McMaster Students Union’s decision are brainwashed as their life before coming to Canada was behind China’s “Great Firewall”. Some of them seem to perceive such Chinese students to be victims of an absolute information barrier, which supposedly leaves them no choice but to accept the government’s propaganda. Therefore, it seems righteous to “enlighten” those Chinese students with patronizing questions or bombardment of pictures of historical incidents like the Tiananmen Square Protest. These gestures, although they may have good intentions, are pretty amusing to this new generation of Chinese students who were born and raised in China, including me. Let me explain why.

First, Chinese people have access to the largest ever-increasing reservoir of information and news on China — in Chinese. Such information not only comes from state-owned media channels, but also non-official channels, social media platforms, online chatting groups and other online platforms. Contrary to what many people in the West may believe, state-run news stories about China, although heavily censored, are in fact quite accurate when they do get published. Due to the rise of social media platforms as well as the anti-corruption campaign, it has become increasingly difficult and costly for government officials to cover up catastrophic or controversial stories. Therefore, most people, if curious enough, can get a pretty good grasp of what is going on simply by combining information from state media and other channels.

Second, while China’s “Great Firewall” does block a few websites, such as Google and Facebook, it does not block all Western media. In fact, Chinese people have access to a majority of Western media channels through state and non-state owned media. Some include the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, CBC, The Globe and Mail and CNN. Selected news coverage on China and international affairs are translated into Chinese from tens of languages. In any country in the world, a larger blockade to absorbing foreign information is usually the barrier of a foreign language rather than the “Great Firewall”. Therefore, translated news stories offer a very informative picture of the world to the Chinese people.

Flyers urge teachers in Spokane, statewide to opt out of union

Jim Allen:

The flyers, tens of thousands of them, arrived during the holidays at the homes of educators in Spokane and throughout the state.

“Give yourself a raise this Christmas and every Christmas to come!” they read.

At first glance, the brightly-colored flyer looks like a last-chance sale advertisement from a retailer, including a chance to “save up to $1,200.” A website,, shows you how.

Actually, it’s an invitation from an Olympia-based conservative think tank to save that money by opting out of paying membership dues to the Washington Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union.

“They’ve been doing this every year, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Jeremy Shay, who as a teacher simply tossed them in the trash.

Now, as president of the Spokane Education Association, he fields occasional questions from new teachers about the flyers.

They are part of an intensifying battle between the state’s labor unions and the Freedom Foundation, which states on its website that it’s “working to reduce the stranglehold unions have” on state and local laws and policies.

Following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus vs. AFSCME case, public employees are free to opt out of paying dues to their unions.

Budding computer scientists should learn to collaborate, not go it alone.

Nathan Equenazi:

Any tech breakthrough is almost always a joint effort. To add a single feature to an iPhone app, teams of front-end engineers, user experience designers and graphic designers must work with cyber security specialists, back-end developers and iOS developers — just for starters. That means that today’s best engineers are prodigious collaborators and communicators. And yet we still train too many prospective coders to work alone.

From their first day in the classroom, computer science students are nudged to value individual successes over team victories. Most assignments are completed and submitted solo. While liberal arts majors are drilled in methods of communication, and vocational programs like business and medicine feature tons of group work, many computer science programs prize technical output over so-called “soft skills” like collaboration and communication. Conflict resolution and critical thinking get short shrift.

Madison K-12 Administration & Board 2020 Referendum Rhetoric, Consulting and Planning

Documents from the January 11, 2020 taxpayer supported Madison School Board retreat:

Administration slides (pdf)

Hanover Research Consulting Summary (PDF)

Hanover Research: duckduckgo www

Illinois (!) Association of School Boards referendum summary (pdf)

Much more on the planned 2020 taxpayer supported Madison School District referendum, here.

2019: Madison increased property taxes by 7.2%.

Commentary on Madison’s very large property tax increase, and the desire for more spending

David Blaska;

This is sad news to the “higher taxes” crowd. But take heart, our acquaintances. Like most folks in Orchard Ridge, the Stately Manor’s property tax bill for this year (2020) increased 9.0% thanks to a 12% increase in school taxes, which account for nearly half the total local tax bill.

In what the Policy Forum calls “raw dollars” Madison’s $22.1 million property tax hike was the largest in the state and twice that of the much larger Milwaukee’s $11.6 million. (As percentage, Madison asked 7.2% and Milwaukee 4.6% more from their taxpayers.)

Of course, our … acquaintances could always move to Democrat-controlled Illinois. They need the headcount. No state lost more population in the last decade. The independent think tank called Illinois Policy reports:

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

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivers personal message to SF’s new DA, Chesa Boudin

Evan Sernoffsky:

The following is a transcript of Sotomayor’s message to Boudin:

Chesa, my court sessions resume next week so I am unable to join your inauguration ceremony. I sent you this message to tell you how much I admire you, and to wish you well in your new endeavors.

A little over ten years ago, I was visiting the public housing project where I grew up in the Bronx. A film crew was following me around. As I left the building in which I had lived, I stood next to a young child, about 10 years old, whose mother was looking down from one of the apartments above us.

The child asked me why all the people surrounding us were making such a fuss about me. And I paused to think and finally said, “I grew up in this building where you live now and there are many people who think that kids like us can never become something important in life. They think because we may be poor in money, we are poor in spirit too. You’re not and I’m not that way. We can make something of ourselves. And my becoming the first Latina justice of the United States Supreme Court is proof that people like us have a chance in life.

Well Chesa, you too are an example that gives hope to so many. It is uncommon for a former public defender to become a district attorney of a major city like San Francisco. Especially a district attorney who spent his childhood visiting parents incarcerated for committing serious felonies.

As you described it to me, the difficulties you faced as a child, including that you did not read until age nine, are common among children of prisoners. You have lived the stigma of anger, shame and guilt that so many such children in the criminal justice system experience. By your own admission, you were fortunate that friends of your parents had the means to help you get back on track. But your parents’ friends could not supply you with the strength of character and moral composure that ultimately led you to graduate from Yale college with high honors, become a Rhodes scholar, clerk for two respected federal judges, be awarded a Liman fellowship and publish scholarly and important social justice pieces.

Wikipedia on Chesa Boudin.

The universality of music

Philip Ball:

Christmas, as everyone knows, officially begins the first time—often now in mid-November—you hear the ancient refrain: “So here it is, Merry Christmas…”

It may be guaranteed this year that plenty of British people of one political persuasion or another (maybe all) will certainly not be having fun at all. But you might still muster up the spirit to sing a few carols, because Christmas is arguably the most musically codified of all western festivals. It is a demonstration of one of music’s universal functions as an essential aspect of ritual.

That music possesses a global universality is often asserted (“Music is a universal language”), yet proving it is challenging. The predicate is rather ill-defined in any case. Yes, every culture that we know of has some kind of music—but do these diverse musics share anything in common, for example in terms of function, affect and content? An extensive ethnographic study published in Science in November presented the case that they do.

Exercises like this are nothing new, but the latest study, conducted by an international team led by data scientist Samuel Mehr of Harvard University, is notable for both the breadth of its cultural coverage and the depth of the analysis that looked for shared properties. Using two databases—audio recordings of songs from 315 societies, and ethnographic texts from 60 that document the uses of songs in that culture—the researchers were able to mine rich cross-cultural resources to compare both the musical characteristics and the social contexts and functions of music. They found that the variations are greater within than between societies—for example, hip hop might be more different from western sacred music than the latter is from Tibetan sacred music. The study found that most music has a “tonal centre”—in western terms, a key, or a sense of a “home note” that the melody will return to—on which naïve listeners can generally agree. And the acoustic features of music—the pitches and tempos, say—are rather systematically linked to the emotional goals and responses of the performers and audiences across cultures: “sad” music, say, tends always to be softer and slower.

How to Keep Criticism From Sinking Your Confidence

Maria Popova:

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,” Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) wrote in offering his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life in the preface to Leaves of Grass. When Whitman first published his masterpiece in 1855, it was met with indifference punctuated by bursts of harsh criticism. It is difficult to imagine just how insulting to the young poet’s soul such reception must have been, or what it took for him to dismiss it and carry on writing. What buoyed his spirit through the tidal wave of negativity was an extraordinary letter of appreciation from Ralph Waldo Emerson — the era’s most respected literary tastemaker and Whitman’s greatest hero, whose 1844 essay The Poet had inspired Leaves of Grass. The young poet wore Emerson’s praise of “incomparable things said incomparably well” like an armor, almost literally — he carried the letter folded in his shirt-pocket over his heart, regularly reading it to friends and lovers.

Minnesota teachers union opposes constitutional amendment to address achievement gap

Mary Lynn Smith:

The largest organization representing Minnesota educators announced Wednesday that it opposes a plan to change the state Constitution in an effort to narrow the state’s persistent academic achievement gap.

Education Minnesota, the union representing 80,000 members who work in pre-K and K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, announced its opposition as the authors of the proposal launched a public effort to woo support for their “out-of-the-box” idea.

Alan Page, a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, want to make quality public education a civil right for all children. To do that, they propose amending the Constitution’s current language on education, which has remained largely the same since it was written in 1857.

But the teachers union argues that the change would pave the way for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, which they’ve long opposed.

“The public schools paid for by the taxpayers should be available to every Minnesota family no matter where they are from, how they pray, whether their children have special needs, or who they love,” Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a written statement.

The proposal would remove the mandate for a uniform system of public education, creating even wider inequities between wealthy and poor districts, Specht wrote in a series of tweets.

Related: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Administrative Commentary on the taxpayer supported Palmyra-Eagle School District (and the relevance of many smaller districts)

Chris Rickert:

Five of the six other board members, all representing other local school districts, agreed. Only the state superintendent of public instruction’s designee to the board, David Carlson, voted against keeping the district open.

District employees, students and community members packing the district’s middle school gymnasium where the board was meeting erupted in applause when the fourth vote in favor of keeping the district open was announced, and then again when the final vote was tallied.

“I am just happy to give this to our students. … and to know that our juniors are going to graduate next year as Panthers means the world to me and their families,” said Tara LeRoy, a mother of two students in the district and a main force behind a citizens group working to preserve the district, named the Panther Community Network after the district’s mascot.

Palmyra-Eagle has seen its enrollment drop over the last 14 years from 1,154 students to 769 in 2018-19. It’s lacked commercial and industrial development to drive property tax revenues and seen an increase in the number of students in the district — up to 40% — opting to go to school in other surrounding districts under the state’s open enrollment program.

Related: An emphasis on adult employment.

A battle over gifted education is brewing in America

The Economist:

The debate over whether education of gifted children segregates them on the basis of pre-existing privilege rather than cognitive ability is neither new nor uniquely American. The number of selective, state-run grammar schools in Britain reached its zenith in 1965, before the Labour government of Harold Wilson embarked on a largely successful effort “to eliminate separatism in secondary education”. The three-tiered German education system—which sorts children on the basis of ability at the age of ten into either university-preparatory schools or vocational ones—has always been criticised for fostering social segregation. The fact that the children of Turkish migrants are now disproportionately sorted into lower-tier secondary schools instead of selective Gymnasien adds a disquieting racial divide.

In America the debate is kicking up anew. The issue is national: the most recent statistics show that whites are 80% more likely than black students to take part in programmes for the gifted, and Asians are three times as likely. But the principal battleground has been New York City.

Madison, 2006: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

NEA and Its State Affiliates Took In $1.6 Billion in 2018, Federal Disclosures Show

Mike Antonucci:

As #RedForEd strikes hit West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and a handful of other states, 2018 was dubbed the year of teacher protests. It was also the year of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which promised to have a profound effect on teacher union finances.

In between those events, the National Education Association and its state affiliates completed their annual financial disclosure reports for the Internal Revenue Service detailing their income and expenditures. These reports are public records, because all these unions are exempt from federal income taxes. The reports are filed well after each affiliate’s fiscal year is complete, leaving us to examine disclosures that are now 18 months old. Even so, one affiliate, NEA New Mexico, has apparently not filed yet.

I have compiled information from the filings of NEA and its state affiliates for the 2017-18 school year. Their revenues totaled more than $1.66 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent over the previous year.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

The most radical prediction for America’s future

Larry Kammer:

I have written thousands of posts about our problems and possible solutions (the former are much more popular than the latter, which is part of our problem). But the Millennials I know, mostly Scouts I led (now in 24-30), say that my solutions are inadequate to the problems I described. Far too small. They are right. I believe we have passed the exits leading to easy or pleasant solutions.

So what lies ahead? We might get horrific outcomes, the dystopian or collapsitarian solutions Americans love so much (“everything is doomed, so my passivity is AOK”). Or we might stumble into stable but dark solutions (in the jargon, “non-optimal”). Or we might make harsh choices and take difficult actions to build a better America. So I have accepted their challenge to abandon consensus thinking behind and try to imagine what radical futures might lie ahead.

The point of this exercise is not to make predictions (like those listed on my Forecasts page) but to help people open their imaginations to the possibility of strange futures for America. All we know that in ClownWorld the unexpected is tomorrow’s news.

Observing, funding and interacting with the “we know best” K-12 education infrastructure reveals a great deal, from endless spending growth to diminishing results for future generations.

Chrome Scans PC’s and reports data to Google

Martin Brinkman:

Software Reporter Tool, the executable file is software_reporter_tool.exe, is a tool that Google distributes with the Google Chrome web browser.

It is part of the Chrome Cleanup Tool which in turn may remove software that causes issues with Chrome. Google mentions crashes, modified startup or new tab pages, or unexpected advertisement specifically.  Anything that interferes with a user’s browsing experience may be removed by the tool.

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

The world is not enough

Samuel Graydon:

It’s no secret, however, that light does act like a wave as well – which is very much where the questions start. And, in fact, wave-particle duality exists not just as a phenomenon of light, but, seemingly, of all matter as well. One of the most famous experiments in all quantum theory is the double slit experiment. It relies on diffraction, which most of us are familiar with from school. Pass a water wave through two slits close to each other and ripples will propagate from them both; as the two sets of ripples encounter one another you will see a pattern of constructive and destructive interference between them, as they either enhance or attenuate the oscillations. The same is true of other at least nominally more corpuscular things. Fire a beam of electrons towards two slits and you will also see peaks and troughs spread out on the wall behind them.

Moreover, if you fire one electron at a time through the slits, so that they cannot interfere with any other particle, you still get peaks and troughs at the other end. An interference pattern emerges over time as you fire electrons one by one through the slits, though individually they arrive on the other side of the slits in a defined place. We are forced to conclude that electrons can interfere with themselves like waves. They pass through both slits at once.

But this isn’t the strangest thing about the experiment. Every attempt – every attempt – to measure an electron passing through the slits has destroyed the interference pattern, and produced a definitive answer to which path the electron took. Without a measurement there is concrete evidence for a wave-like nature; but as soon as one is made, however it is made, all evidence of it disappears and we are just left with particles.

A Brooklyn school district tackles school segregation

The Economist:

New york city is famous for its diversity. Yet the 1.1m pupils in the city, who are mostly non-white, attend some of the most segregated schools in the country. They are even more segregated than schools in some southern cities such as Atlanta. Complacency has reigned for decades. But a school district in Brooklyn is showing early signs of success in a drive towards integration.

District 15 encompasses expensive brownstone houses in Park Slope, immigrant enclaves in Sunset Park and one of the country’s largest public-housing projects in Red Hook. Despite that, it remained intensely segregated. The more affluent—and usually white—school-age children flocked to the district’s “good schools”. Last year, after a parents’ campaign, the district eliminated admission screens, which included test scores, attendance and behaviour records, for its 11 middle schools. Parents still rank their preferred schools, but now the district uses a lottery, with 52% of places at each school set aside for pupils who come from poor families, are still learning English or are homeless.

Eight of the 11 schools are now hitting integration-rate targets. Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a think-tank, calls it “one of the most exciting educational-reform efforts in the entire country”. One school, MS51, was 47% white last year. It is now 28% white.

It is still early days for District 15. But so far, integration appears to be stable. Fears of “white flight” out of the public-school system have not been realised. The middle schools’ incoming classes remain 31% white, roughly the same since 2015. MS88, which was only 9% white last year, is now 24% white. Ailene Mitchell, MS88’s principal, says children from different backgrounds are starting to socialise with each other and joining each other’s after-school activity programmes. Jason Hoffner, a teacher, says some of the “new” pupils had near-perfect exam scores, but in classroom discussions there is little difference.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

New Jersey’s Teachers Union: A spider web of political power and influence

Mike Lilley, via a kind reader:

In total, from 2009 to 2016, the NJEA alone has spent over $33 million on the wide variety of non-profits and political action groups mentioned in this report, and in many cases is a major source of funding for these groups. When added to the funding provided by its fellow public sector unions, this massive amount of money is the animating force behind an unrivalled network of progressive and public sector union-backed organizations that reaches every corner of the state. These organizations include a wide variety of civic and political action groups – some directly connected to the NJEA and its fellow unions, some indirectly – but the one characteristic they have in common is that they all assist the NJEA and the public sector unions in their unceasing efforts to shape New Jersey’s political order. Importantly, they help the unions form coalitions that give the unions more political reach and weight. Ultimately, not only do they ensure the continued domination of state politics by deep-pocketed special interests but they help to disguise it as well.

Laura Waters:

The way NJEA funnels money to its allies is complex. You can read the report yourself for the details. But to give a sense of NJEA’s influence throughout the state, their allies (in addition to the others mentioned above) include Education Law Center, New Jersey Policy Perspective, the Abbott Leadership Institute, the Latino Action Network, Paterson Education Fund, BlueWave NJ, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, the NJ arm of NAACP, Paterson Education Fund, Parents Unified for Local School Education, and NJ Communities United. And that’s not the full list.

How does the NJEA’s reach affect our public schools system? The power of its endorsements and cash woo legislators to pass NJEA-friendly bills, its power over the Governor (this didn’t work with Christie) gives NJEA influence on leadership appointments, and its power over its allies initiate lawsuits on issues important to NJEA. Here is an incomplete list:

“Students need exposure to rigorous grade-level curriculum and they need to work at their learning edge.”

Sal Khan:

Back in 2010, my experience tutoring told me that students’ struggles had nothing to do with “innate ability” or subject matter difficulty. Instead, they struggled largely due to knowledge gaps and weak foundations that had been accumulated over time. We needed to meet students where they were, diagnose their gaps, and then allow them to progress at a speed right for them.

I talked about mastery learning a lot back then. By enabling progress through a mastery-based system, we would help students build confidence and challenge them in the most personalized way. In 2015, a major report from the research nonprofit RAND found that personalized learning works, confirming many of our hopes. It also pointed to challenges implementing mastery in the classroom—challenges we’re eagerly making progress on to this day.

I continue to talk about mastery now because I believe more strongly than ever in its power to tailor education for every student. The philosophical core of Khan Academy is mastery learning. 

Yet a tension exists today between the notion of assigning grade-level work and providing a highly personalized, mastery-based learning experience for every student. I’d posit that it’s a false choice, and here’s why: We can have both.

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