Friday Links

The idea that education acts as a Matthew Effect that disproportionately benefits those who start with most is an uncomfortable but well-understood phenomenon. Everything we do in schools either widens the advantage gap between the most privileged and least privileged students, or narrows it. This is, I think, a real dichotomy: anything that, on balance, appears net neutral is in fact acting to keep the gap a yawning chasm of inequity.

Leaving a sock on the ground is a manifestation of a concept from physics you may have heard of: entropy. Entropy is a measure of how much energy is lost in a system. If a system loses too much energy, it will disintegrate into chaos. It takes only a little bit of energy to pick up one sock. But if you don’t take care of your yard, let pipes stay clogged and never fix electrical problems, it all adds up to a chaotic home that would take a lot of energy to fix. And that chaos will leach away your time and ability to accomplish other things.

ACP President Jacqueline Fincher, MD, MACP, says the new guidance reflects several years' worth of data that suggest that shorter antibiotic courses for these infections are just as effective as longer courses, and the growing recognition that overly long prescriptions are among the factors driving unnecessary antibiotic use and promoting antibiotic resistance."These are common infections that physicians and other clinicians treat every day," Fincher told CIDRAP News. "This is the low-hanging fruit that we can go ahead and grab and do something about while we look into other things."

Experts warn we are about to enter a new period of flux as the school year ends and more teachers consider whether to leave after another year of heightened stress. That could lead to a small but meaningful uptick in teachers leaving their schools.

“If the economy accelerates with all the government spending, as I anticipate it will, outside-of-teaching opportunities are going to look pretty good, so we may well face some staffing challenges,” said Dan Goldhaber, a leading researcher on teacher quality issues at the University of Washington. But, he emphasized, such challenges likely won’t be felt across the board, but rather in subjects like special education and math and science, as well as in schools with more low-income students and more students of color.

Actual incidents of intentional smallpox infection “may have occurred more frequently than scholars have previously acknowledged.”

Friday Links

For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

Judged by the standard of Arrow’s ideal of complete state-contingent markets, we’ve seen astoundingly little useful financial innovation during my long lifetime.

Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends – are famously nonviolent. One wartime tactic bears their name, not because they created it but because it bears the same hallmarks of nonviolence: the quaker guns.

This is how it typically worked: find a log that was roughly the shape and size of an artillery gun barrel, paint it black, and maybe carve the end a bit so it looks like a muzzle. Prop it up, point it at your enemy, and trust them to come to the wrong conclusion.

Despite the theory’s intuitive appeal, standards-based reform does not work very well in reality. One key reason is that coordinating key aspects of education at the top of the system hamstrings discretion at the bottom. The illusion of a coherent, well-coordinated system is gained at the expense of teachers’ flexibility in tailoring instruction to serve their students. Classrooms are teeming with variation.

The media narratives Americans consume may shape their opinions about whether the events of January 6 constitute terrorism, to a startling degree.

It is estimated that only 10% of academic titles are available for university libraries to purchase as digital copies for their students, and the books which are available, are frequently placed under restrictive licensing, made available only in bundles, and sold to libraries at incredibly high costs for single user or one-year access. As a result, academic librarians have been left with no choice but to tell staff and students that it is not possible to acquire key texts, and lecturers have had to re-design their reading lists around what is available.

I think what he's saying is digital art is the Platonic ideal of a Veblen good.

But “ownership” of crypto art confers no actual rights, other than being able to say that you own the work. You don’t own the copyright, you don’t get a physical print, and anyone can look at the image on the web. There is merely a record in a public database saying that you own the work – really, it says you own the work at a specific URL.

“We the people” have gotten a bad reputation in the annals of democratic theory. Thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Alexis de Tocqueville have identified an excess of democracy as the greatest threat to U.S. democracy. As recently as 2019, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt fretted about “an overreliance on the ‘will of the people’”—a Hamilton phrase—in their bestseller, How Democracies Die.

“It’s quite simple, really: Daylight Saving Time is a hoax perpetrated by the liberal elite as a form of mind control and time manipulation in order to make us all complacent and ready to be sold into the sex trade,” Perkins explained. “It didn’t exist until 1992, when it was instituted by perverted infidel Bill Clinton so that he and his satanic cabal could have a masked satanic ceremony on the White House lawn — they use TV commercials with subliminal messaging to lull the populace into a deep sleep for 60 minutes while they douse each other in pig’s blood and engage in extramarital sex. Like I said, pretty obvious.”

(End note: the only honest way I’ve heard to increase your winnings in the lottery is this: pick numbers higher than 31. This won’t increase your chances of winning, but it may just increase the amount you win if you do. Many people use their birthdays when choosing numbers, so when the numbers 1 to 31 come up there may be more winners. More winners means a smaller share of the prize to each one. If you win with numbers above 31, you may just be sharing the prize with fewer people – and so winning more money. I have no idea if this technique actually works in practice because I don’t buy lottery tickets, but it’s a neat idea, and you probably won’t go to jail for trying it.)

This afternoon, I was updating the streaming apps on my 2020 LG CX OLED TV, something I do from time to time, but today was different. Out of nowhere, I saw (and heard) an ad for Ace Hardware start playing in the lower-left corner. It autoplayed with sound without any action on my part.

“It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership,” the report’s authors say.

Saturday Links

Debates about whether to bar anticapitalist views from the classroom are not new. British lawmakers have considered similar bans on numerous occasions since the 1917 Russian revolution. But previous British governments refused to forbid materials from radical groups – including communists – from British classrooms, even at the height of the cold war.

Meanwhile in the US, legislation barring the teaching of “subversive” doctrines proliferated. States and towns demanded loyalty oaths from teachers and required that schools teach the “American way” of “free enterprise”. By the early 1950s, school curricula had become a central focus of anticommunist crusaders such as Senator Joseph McCarthy. Seemingly anodyne elementary-school stories such as Robin Hood were held up as dangerous “communist” indoctrination in “robbing the rich to give to the poor”.

I think it is also critically important to situate the study of digital curation so that it isn’t simply an esoteric matter that’s only relevant for cultural heritage organizations. Digital curation is set of concerns and practices that are present in students’ every day lives, and can be found all throughout society–and these practices have real, social and political consequences.

“The first person to claim extended interaction with aliens said that they were friendly, helpful, even noble beings,” writes Bader. In 1952, one George Adamski ran into Orthon, a five-feet-six-inch humanoid in a brown jumpsuit who hailed from Venus. Orthon was the first in a series of encounters with aliens who “resembled earthlings in every way,” writes Bader. “The beings spoke near-perfect English… They managed to hold down jobs [on Earth] by visiting their home planets only during work holidays.” Throughout the 1950s, many contactees referred to aliens as their peaceful “Space Brothers.”

Patent offices cannot make the connections to traditional knowledge because so much of it is either untranslated or just not easily accessible. As a result, it’s much more likely to be overlooked when examining patents. The Indian government attempted to solve this problem in a very pragmatic way: collect, translate, and make available every written account of traditional knowledge that they could find.

The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is a repository of hundreds of books of traditional Indian medicine, compiled, scanned, and translated. In all, it runs to 34 million pages. Now, every time someone tries to patent some organic compound from the Indian subcontinent, patent examiners can look it up in the library and see whether it is being co-opted.

Friday Links

With schools reopening after COVID-19 closures, concerns about the safety and certainty of public schooling have driven some parents to consider alternatives to sending kids back to brick-and-mortar classrooms.

One option making headlines is the formation of “learning pods” also known as “pandemic pods.” Pandemic pods are small groups of children from different families who learn together outside of traditional school buildings.

While pandemic pods may seem relatively harmless, they are part of a growing trend towards education privatization that undermines public education and democracy.

As Election Day approaches, he confronts not only an incumbent Republican president flush with campaign cash but also a nearly two-century-old hazard of history. Since the 1830s, the vice presidency has become a dead end for Democratic aspirants to the White House. 

Interestingly, the middle-class parents we spoke to used NAPLAN as a tool designed for them to check on their children’s progress and help them improve. But the working-class parents we spoke to saw NAPLAN as a tool for governments, and didn’t use the results to judge their child’s progress or seek additional help based on the results.

All the working-class parents we spoke with saw NAPLAN as a tool for government to assess schools and teachers. Parents did not see NAPLAN testing or reporting as something for them.

Every student is guilty until the algorithm proves her innocence.

However, what could not be fixed in the remote teaching and learning model were the persistent infrastructure and network holes, glaring social-cultural inequities and social-community environments that are not conducive to learning.

Yes, there are racial inequalities in testing that should concern us. But no one – no one – was helped more by a strong SAT score than a poor black kid.

Friday Links

In a national survey conducted this spring, one in six high-school seniors who before the pandemic expected to attend a four-year college full time said that they will choose a different path this fall. A majority expected either to take a gap year or enroll part time in a bachelor’s program (35 percent each), while smaller percentages planned to work or attend a community college.

Long before Donald Trump or Covid 19, the eerie resemblance of American higher education to the old Habsburg Empire was hard to miss. At the top a handful of vintage institutions continued to glitter. They exercised a magnetic attraction on the rest of the world that even intellectual disasters on the scale of the economics discipline before the 2008 financial crisis hardly dented. But most every institution below the royals was at least fraying around the edges. Long before the pandemic hit, many showed clear signs of distress.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration was reluctant to help states out of their budget shortfalls, while national Republicans were openly opposed. State support for higher ed plunged to new lows. In most states, it never really came back. In 2017, for example, the largest governmental source of revenues for public higher education, state general appropriations, amounted to $87 billion – $2.2 billion below the level of 2007.

Brave talk about innovating through various testing regimes is common. Some institutions promise tests to assure safety via robots or other devices that have never been tried on a large scale. Or they talk grandly about how students will agree not to congregate in groups in or out of class. The comparison to US states in the south and west which reopened too early is uncomfortable.

The notion that affirmative action in a handful of brand name institutions could substitute for serious efforts to broaden higher education for citizens in the twenty-first century is absurd. For minority students and poor whites alike, state universities and colleges, including community colleges, are indispensable as pathway to the middle class in a globalized context. If hundreds of colleges close or scale back over the next few years, then higher education in our New Gilded Age will go right back to where it was in the original Gilded Age.

In 2013, Bishin and his colleagues went looking for backlash in public opinion about LGBTQ rights in light of political decisions permitting same-sex marriage. They looked at what happened when study participants heard about the political advance of same-sex marriage rights. They also used the natural experiment created by pro-same-sex marriage Supreme Court rulings in the summer of 2013. They found no significant differences in participants’ opinions about same-sex marriage, or the intensity of those opinions, in the face of victories for LGBTQ rights. Looking at national public opinion polling, they found the same thing—major victories for same-sex marriage had no apparent impact on attitudes toward gay rights.

In April, the most recent month available, almost 6 million people were added to the food stamp rolls, reversing the long decline after the 2008–2009 recession. In percentage terms, that’s the biggest monthly increase since 1970, when the program was young and participation was just taking off. This surge is a thing unto itself.

The average monthly benefit per person was $181.60 in April, which works out to a rather tight $1.98 per meal. (All the SNAP stats are here.) That benefit level is about two-thirds of what the Agriculture Department calls a “thrifty” food budget for a non-elderly adult—a diet that, by the Department’s own accounting, doesn’t provide the recommended daily allowances of vitamin E or potassium; sadly, as they declare in cool bureaucratic prose, “a solution could not be obtained.” 

Back in February — phew, remember February? — Jeffrey Moro, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Maryland, wrote a very astute blog post "Against Cop Shit" in the classroom.

"For the purposes of this post," Moro wrote, "I define 'cop shit' as 'any pedagogical technique or technology that presumes an adversarial relationship between students and teachers.' Here are some examples:

  • ed-tech that tracks our students' every move
  • plagiarism detection software
  • militant tardy or absence policies, particularly ones that involve embarrassing our students, e.g. locking them out of the classroom after class has begun
  • assignments that require copying out honor code statements
  • 'rigor,' 'grit,' and 'discipline'
  • any interface with actual cops, such as reporting students' immigration status to ICE and calling cops on students sitting in classrooms.

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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