• ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 15

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    The aftershocks of Charlottesville continue

    The main story is the fallout from Pres. Trump’s initial failure to single out the instigators of the fatal attack. He has since issued a full-throated condemnation of the white nationalists, but not until he incurred serious political damage.

    The Washington Post makes an important point: “Turmoil in Virginia touches a nerve across the country

     Kim Jong Un backs down from his threat to Guam.  (Story here)

    Comment: The Chinese probably told him he went too far, but we don’t know the next shoe to fall. Kim has not been seen recently, which may indicate another test is near. In any case, the main problem remains, and there is no indication yet that China intends to resolve it.

    Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, says the only solution lies in the US and China working out a joint plan to deal with North Korea. The incentive for China is that North Korea’s provocative behavior could lead to nuclear proliferation in the region, which would be very bad for China. (Op-ed in WSJ, subscription)

    Iran announces that it could restart its nuclear program within hours if the US pulls out of the agreement (BBC)

    Comment: Another problem with pulling out: Obama front-loaded all the benefits–ace negotiators, eh?–so the Iranians have already received them.

    Democratic Party flailing: Four-state tour to reconnect with workers (New York Times)

    The need for the Democratic Party and the labor movement to take stock of their historically close alliance became clear after November’s election when Hillary Clinton’s support among union voters declined by 7 percentage points from 2012 when former President Barack Obama was re-elected.

    For months, Democrats have been grappling with how to reconnect with the union and working class vote they once considered their base, prompting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lament after the election that “my party did not talk about what it always stood for.” –New York Times

    Comment: For the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Steyer, and Keith Ellison to connect with workers, they will need to hire an anthropologist.

    China’s economy continues to cool as Trump Administration looks into its unfair trade practices (US News and World Report)

    Comment: The investigation could lead to tariffs or other punishment. As for Chinese economic performance, it is hard to assess because no serious economist trusts Beijing’s official data.

    Today in teaching

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, July 8

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     The main stories come out of the G20 meetings in Hamburg.

    • Anti-capitalist riots in the street by extreme left and anarchists
      • Comment: Idiots with nihilist agenda
    • Trump has very long 1-on-1 with Putin
      • Full range of issues, beyond US election meddling, with focus on Syrian cease-fire and division of territory there after ISIS defeat
    • Trump has China’s Xi on schedule on 1-on-1 today
      • North Korea is top of the agenda, of course, but also trade
    • Ivanka briefly sits in for Pres at G20 meeting on Africa alongside world leaders  (Washington Post) (Comment: A nothingburger; still, it should have been the Sec. of State sitting there)

    Comment: We won’t know the results (as opposed to the agendas) of the Putin and Xi meetings until the effects on the ground are seen, beginning next week. The fact that Putin and Trump met without advisors is interesting, too. It indicates how serious the leaks are. The US cannot trust anybody to be in room.

    Comment on Silences at G20: This was supposed to be a showcase for German leader, Angela Merkel. She has been overshadowed by Putin, Xi, Trump, and rioters. Second, we have heard little so far about the shared challenges of Islamic terrorism and vast immigration flows from North Africa and the Middle East.

     US B1 bombers fly over South Korea as heads-up to North Korea after its ICBM test  (CNN)

    Comment: The signal is “the US can easily can incinerate you.” The problem is, if we launch a military attack, the North Koreans can kill large numbers in Seoul. Moreover, the Chinese might come in to prevent a Korea unified under American leadership.

    There are no good US options here. My guess is that the US starts to up financial sanctions on all North Korean trading partners, including Chinese banks.

     Venezuela’s top opposition leader released from prison to house arrest  (CNN)

    Comment: The country is tottering toward civil war, and oppo leader Leopoldo Lopez is a threat to the regime. The surprise here is that he did not die in prison.

     Chuck Schumer skewers Rex Tillerson over Russian meddling in US election  (The Hill)

    “For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.” –The Hill

    Comment: Schumer is correct. This issue is not “unresolved.” His base loves it; it reinforces their view that Trump is illegitimate. But voters are interested in forward-looking solutions to real problems in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Schumer knows that, of course, but he has to toss red meat to the base. 

     Morgan Stanley: Renewables will be the cheapest power source within three years (Business Insider)

    Numerous key markets recently reached an inflection point where renewables have become the cheapest form of new power generation.

    A dynamic we see spreading to nearly every country we cover by 2020. The price of solar panels has fallen 50% in less than two years (2016-17). –Morgan Stanley via Business Insider

     K-12 Education: Betsy DeVos takes hard line on enforcing federal laws, surprising states who thought she would support local control (New York Times)

    The basic issue is an Obama-era law, replacing No Child Left Behind, that requires “ambitious” educational goals to meet federal standards. How much latitude will the Washington’s Dept. of Ed. give states to determine for themselves what it “ambitious”?

    “It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” –quoted in New York Times

    Comment: Conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about this issue. They weren’t surprised by Washington’s heavy hand under Obama; they don’t expect it under DeVos and fear they may be getting it.

    Alternative possibilities are that

    • Lower-level officials did this without DeVos’ approval (the person who wrote it is a Democratic advocate for charter schools, appointed by DeVos)
    • The Dept. is actually enforcing the law, as written, until Congress rewrites it

    José Luis Cuevas, a Dark Master of Mexican Art, Dies at 83 (New York Times)

    Comment: He was continually greeted by folks at the bar singing: 

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 18

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs hotly-contested education bill (Orlando Sentinel)

    The major bill

    tackles everything from recess to teacher bonuses to testing. Backers called it “landmark” and “transformational” legislation, while critics said it will harm public schools and their most vulnerable students. . . . .

    The measure includes the “schools of hope” provision [House Speaker Richard] Corcoran championed, which will use state money to lure high-performing charter schools to neighborhoods where students in traditional schools have struggled academically.

    “These are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “We want every single child to have an opportunity to get a world-class education.”

    The bill’s provisions related to charter schools — privately run public institutions — have prompted some of the biggest outcry, with many educators and school advocates urging Scott to veto the bill because they think it will reduce funding for traditional public schools.

    Comment: The bill was strongly opposed by teachers’ unions and other supporters of traditional public schools, strongly supported by proponents of charters and private schools.

     Carol Felsenthal has a thoughtful, succinct opinion piece at ZipDialog: Will Trump Ax Mueller?

    She thinks there is an excellent chance he will and that the political consequences will be very serious.

     Illinois state comptroller says she cannot pay the bills. State finances are in a “crisis mode” (Associate Press)

    [Comptroller Susana] Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.

    There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services. –Associated Press

    Comment: For years, the state spent lavishly on pensions for unionized state employees, who were so beloved by legislators that they actually wrote into the state constitution that pensions can never be reduced.

    On those rare occasions when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on budget cuts, they were struck down by the courts because they reduced future pension benefits, which violates the constitution.

    For years, the state has been deep blue, with House Majority Leader Mike Madigan (of Chicago) as the most powerful figure. Several years ago, a tough-minded Republican (Bruce Rauner) won the governorship, but he and Madigan have not been able to strike a deal. 

    Unlike Puerto Rico, Illinois and other US states cannot seek bankruptcy protection. But lots of city and state agencies can, and there is a real prospect that some will have to do so if the state cannot pay its share of their budget.

    You can easily imagine what the D’s and R’s say. “The other side is intransigent, and what we need to do is (a) raise taxes or (b) cut services.” You can guess who says A and who says B. (The one quirk is that not all Republicans favor being hard on unionized state employees. In some downstate districts, they are vote in large numbers, often for Republicans.)

     “Put down you make-up kit, m’am, and come out of the beauty shop with your hands up.”

    Idaho governor vetoed legislation to make it easier to work in cosmetology  (FEE, Foundation for Economic Education) Then, his wife called and asked her usual, unlicensed make-up artist to come and do some work. The make-up artist, Sherry Japhet, told her no.   

    Here’s what Ms. Japhet said on Facebook:

    Got a call to do [First Lady] Lori Otter’s makeup for a commercial on location and I said…

    “I would be more than happy to do it but her husband [Gov. Butch Otter, R] vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist and stylist to do so. She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself.”

    She added in the Facebook post: “That felt so damn good.” –FEE

    Comment: Too many people need costly, time-consuming, irrelevant licenses.

    Bureaucracies love imposing them. That’s what they live to do. Professionals already in the field often favor them to prevent competition.

    So, who loses? Consumers lose, unless the licenses protect health and safety.

    Licenses for commercial truck drivers and food handlers are obviously necessary. But many others are unnecessary or are saddled with lots of unnecessary classroom hours. They raise costs and force people to go to unlicensed or blackmarket providers–or do without.

     The answer, my friend, is blowing in the . . . Spark Notes???  (Slate)

    Slate asks, “Did the singer-songwriter take portions of his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes?”

    Sounds like their lawyer went over that headline, doesn’t it? Anyway, they note the following:

    Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site. And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as “Ahab’s lust for vengeance” in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all. –Slate

     Bodies of missing US sailors found in ship’s flooded compartment  (New York Times)

    The collision occurred in a  crowded shipping lane and the cause of the accident has not yet been determined.

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  • What really matters in K-12 Education reform

    0 No tags Permalink 0

    The basic issues, as I see them

    One of the great distinctions in life is between intelligent simplification and less-intelligent oversimplification.

    I try hard to simplify without being simple minded, to cut to the heart of an issue after considering the data and different viewpoints.

    With that prologue, here are my views on K-12 education policy. You’ll have to decide if they are useful simplifications or blockheaded oversimplications.

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    K-12 Schools Should

    • Be entirely about what’s best for students
      • What is good for the adults in the system is relevant only if it helps or harms children’s education
    • Compete with each other for students and thus for funding
      • There are several ways to do that; I don’t know whether one is better than another, so we should try multiple approaches to “letting the money follow the students.”
      • End-users always suffer in non-competitive systems since the suppliers have monopoly control–and exercise it for their own benefit. That’s true whether the end users are cable TV subscribers or school children.
      • Suppliers in such non-competitive systems reap the rewards and will fight hard to retain their privileged position. That means blocking competition, just as taxi companies tried to do with Uber and Lyft.
      • One result is that our current K-12 system doesn’t punish failure at the classroom, school, or system-wide level. It does too little to reward success at those levels, too.

    We just keep handing out “participation trophies,” whether the performance is good or bad.

    • Give failing schools, bad principals, and poor teachers an opportunity to correct their problems, but give them a brief window to do it
      • An opportunity to fix mistakes is the fair thing to do
      • But allowing too much time leaves kids in bad classrooms
    • Face closure if they cannot correct problems; similarly, bad teachers and administrators should face dismissal, either because their individual performance is poor or because their school is closing.

    If schools truly compete with each other and the money follows the students, then bad schools will face the same fate as bad restaurants.

    • The people who run each school know that and know their future depends on solving problems or preventing them in the first place. That gives the powerful incentives to manage effectively.
    • Teachers and administrators who are dismissed individually should have the same rights as employees at ExxonMobile or IBM. No more, no less. There should never, ever be anything like New York City’s “rubber rooms,” where bad teachers sit around, doing nothing, collecting salaries, all courtesy of the taxpayers and city officials who are more indebted to organized pressure from public-sector unions than disorganized disgust from parents.
    • Good teachers and administrators in failing schools should be given an opportunity to be rehired at other schools, but they should not be able to force out competent, existing employees at other schools because of seniority
    • Offer a full range of compensatory help for students who are poorly prepared to learn, lack adequate nutrition, or have disabilities
      • The public should continue to provide substantial extra funding for those in greatest need

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    There are basically two ways to identify bad schools

    1. Experts evaluate test results and then decide which schools live or die
    2. Parents evaluate test results and other information about the school (such as location and hours), then choose what they think is best for their children and their families

    I prefer the latter, as long as the parents have access to test results and expert opinions.

    The same people search out that information and advice when they buy cars, choose restaurants, rent apartments, or select colleges.

    Parents would search out that information here, too, and lots of people would be eager to provide it.

    We simply have to require schools make it publicly available.

    If the school’s information is transparent, then parents can figure out what’s best for them and their kids, just as the do in selecting everything else they consume, including the most important things.

    What’s good for me may not be best for you. If I lack good transportation, the school’s location may be crucial. If I sometimes have to work late unexpectedly, I may care about the after-school programs and flexibility in picking up kids. The key point is: I know my needs, you don’t, so give me the information and let me choose.

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    Beyond that, there are many important details. To take one: Since a school could fail financially in mid-year, leaving students in the lurch, it should be required to post a financial bond to ensure its students can always complete that year elsewhere.
    To take another: I would allow a limited number of schools to restrict admission to very highly-qualified students, as magnet schools do now.
    There might be other special schools for kids with special needs.
    All other schools would be required to admit all students, subject to enrollment caps. If a particular school is overenrolled, local officials or voters would have to decide what rules would be used to cull the excess applicants.

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    I hope that’s a useful simplification, as opposed to a simple-minded one!
  • Massachusetts Teachers Union is all about great teaching. That’s why they voted AGAINST honoring America’s Teacher of the Year, from their home state

    Go ahead. Guess why.

    Yes, she teaches at a charter school. Those are public schools, not private ones, but the teachers have not voted to unionize.

    Those miscreants cannot be recognized for good teaching. Otherwise, parents might get the wrong ideas.

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    The next time you hear the teachers unions say, “It’s all about the kids,” remember this shameful, if symbolic, incident.

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    Here is the recognition of Ms. Sydney Chaffee, named 2017 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

    As a humanities teacher at Codman Academy public charter school in Boston, Sydney takes risks every day to improve learning for all of her students. In the classroom, she strives to create lessons that demonstrate how education can be a transformative tool for social justice, and she encourages her students to see themselves as having the power to make change in the world based on lessons from the past. . . .

    She tries to infuse the hard work of learning with joy, not only in her classroom but throughout the school. For example, she is the coordinator of a schoolwide Community Circle every Thursday where all students in the school come together to celebrate successes, share good news and dig into serious conversations together. . . .

    Sydney has taught for the past 10 years, 9 of which have been in her current role. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Education from Lesley University. Sydney is a National Board Certified Teacher.

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    With this disturbing record, it’s easy to see why the Massachusetts Teachers Union would find Ms. Chaffee noxious.

    As The Commonwealth puts it

    Sydney Chaffee was welcomed to the White House last month. She was honored at an event in Boston by the governor and the state education commissioner. But the first Massachusetts educator ever named National Teacher of Year was given the cold shoulder by the state’s largest teachers union.

    Delegates at the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual state convention last Saturday voted down a motion to “publicly and formally congratulate and recognize Sydney Chaffee” on receiving the award.

    In previous years, the state’s teacher of the year (as Ms. Chaffee is) has been invited to address the Massachusetts Teachers Association convention.

    Not this year.

    Ms. Chaffee’s school isn’t even a private one. It’s a public school, as charter schools are. So, what’s the unions’ beef? It’s simply that teachers in many charters have not voted to unionize. 

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 23

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ My comment on the vile terror bombing in Manchester is posted separately (here).

    May the innocents rest in peace.

    May the wounded recover fully, in body and mind.

    May the police be safe as they root out the terrorists who prepared and executed this heinous act.

    These prayers have been said far too many times. And we fear this will not be the last time.

     Academic malpractice: Highly-esteemed professor at Duke Divinity School resigns after being attacked for not attending the university’s re-education and training camp for diversity.

    The story is here at The Weekly Standard.

    When Prof. Paul Griffiths refused to attend the “Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training” (it must have been named by Orwell) and explained his reasons, the Dean of the Divinity school attacked with full fury. According to Griffiths, Dean Elaine Heath

    initiates financial and administrative reprisals against Griffiths. Those reprisals ban him from faculty meetings, and, thereby, from voting in faculty affairs; and promise (contra the conditions stated in his letter of appointment) to ban him from future access to research or travel funds. –The Weekly Standard

    The faculty member who runs the re-education and peasant labor camp “launched her own disciplinary proceeding against Griffiths with Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).”

    Griffiths’ refusal to attend and his explanation made her workplace “hostile,” naturally. If the PC deans and faculty had their way, Griffiths would be sent to the countryside to plant and harvest rice and learn from the honest peasants.

    The article concludes with a powerful comment by the author, Charlotte Allen:

    It’s hard to figure out what’s more appalling about this episode: the ease with which powerful faculty members can strip their colleagues of their ability to do their jobs just because those colleagues exercise free speech and don’t sign on to their ideological priorities—or the increasing power of bloated university bureaucracies, especially “diversity” bureaucracies over every facet of existence at a university that is supposed to be devoted to the life of the mind. –Charlotte Allen in The Weekly Standard

    Peter Berkowitz, another acute observer of academic follies, has an excellent piece on this Duke fiasco at the Wall Street Journal.

    Comment: Shame on Duke, a school repeatedly cloaked in politically-motivated misdeeds. They seem to learn nothing from their mistakes.

    Bravo to Paul Griffiths, distinguished professor of Catholic theology, who deserves a badge for his intellectual courage. I hope he retains counsel and goes after the malefactors.

     At Dartmouth, somewhat better news

    First the bad news: the university selected as its new dean of the faculty a professor (N. Bruce Duthu) who helped lead his professional association to boycott and sanction all Israeli universities and the professors who work there.

    This sort of thing passes virtually unnoticed among university administrators, who probably missed it when they reviewed Duthu’s qualifications.

    But outside the ivied walls, people did notice it. The university defended him, said he was a swell fellow, and, after some hesitation, he eventually said he had changed his mind about boycotting and sanctioning everything from Israel.

    The good news: after national publicity about his anti-Israel views, Duthu has decided that he shouldn’t take accept the Deanship after all.

    Here’s the story at the Observer.

    Comment: Kudos to Paul Miller and Haym Salomon Center for publicizing Duthu’s role in the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement. Ultimately, what Prof. Duthu did behind closed academic doors couldn’t be justified to a larger audience of Dartmouth faculty, alums, trustees, donors, and others. 

     World’s first operational robot-cop has started work in Dubai. They want them to make up about 1/3 of their police force by 2030. (Daily Mirror, UK)

    Fox News also has a report:

    The Robocop, five feet five inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, speaks six languages and reads facial expressions.

    “He can chat and interact, respond to public queries, shake hands and offer a military salute,” Brigadier-General Khalid Nasser Al Razzouqi, Director-General of Smart Services with the Dubai Police told the Mirror.

    Residents can use the Robocop to pay fines or report crimes, and it also can transmit and receive messages from police headquarters. –Fox News

     Chicago clinches spot as great food city: America’s first Nutella Cafe to open in City of Big Stomachs next week  (Chicago Eater)

     Metaphor alert: Huge sinkhole forms near Trump’s Mar-A-Lago (Forbes)

     The headlines about Betsy DeVos’ speech focused on her promise that “more school choice is coming.” That’s big, if vague.

    But she said something equally important: education should not be run from Washington (USA Today)

    Comment: Exactly right, she, Trump, and the Republicans are beginning to turn around decades of increasing centralization of educational decisionmaking in DC.

    Washington can help by allowing all kinds of experimentation. Let cities and states figure out what works and what fits best in different locales.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, April 28

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump Warns That ‘Major, Major Conflict’ With North Korea Is Possible  (New York Times) The interview was with Reuters and everyone is reporting the same lede.

    Comment: The policy is to make the US threat credible, including the real possibility of war, since that is the only way to get China to move away from their long-standing policy of unflinching support for the Kim Family Enterprise. China has not been happy with young Kim, but they have feared a regime collapse even more. Now, they realize that an even worse outcome–war–could happen if they don’t use leverage.

    Trump has been very careful to say the right things about Beijing and hasn’t gratuitously insulted Kim. Plus, there are steady hands on the security side, even though it would be much better if the State Dept. had its top Asia appointments in place. 

     Government Shutdown? Ryan makes that less likely by postponing healthcare vote until the shutdown issue is resolved (Washington Post)

     South Carolina acts against campus anti-Semitism, despite opposition by pro-Palestinian groups  (The State, SC) The state House bill

    which requires S.C. colleges to use a U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism when investigating alleged civil rights violations on campus, was OK’d Thursday by a Senate panel. –The State (South Carolina)

    The governor has said he will sign it into law.

    Comment: EVERY campus has well-organized, single-minded, virulently anti-Israel groups. They sprang up simultaneously on all campuses a few years ago and troll every pro-Israel event. 

     Eliz. Warren “troubled” by Obama’s $400k fee from Wall Street firm for one-hour speech (ABC News)

    Irony alert: She said so in a radio talk promoting her book.

     Amazon, Google release great corporate results, buoy markets Reuters report on Amazon here. Their report on Alphabet (Google) here.

     Trump orders Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos to end federal government’s “top-down mandates” and restore local control of schools (USA Today) Devos’ top adviser, Rob Goad, explain the logic

    Since our founding, education was intended to be under state and local control. In recent years, however, too many in Washington have advanced top-down mandates that take away autonomy and limit the options available to educators, administrators, and parents. –USA Today

    According to Goad, Trump’s Executive Order gives the Dept. of Education the power “to modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law.”

    Comment: Good idea, but this is just posing–so far. The Sec. of Education already has the power to “modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law.”

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Robert May
    for the South Carolina bill on anti-Semitism

     

  • Eugene Lang: For his spur-of-the-moment generosity that changed countless lives for the better

    Eugene Lang, who just died at 98, was a very successful investor who rose from poverty.  But that is not what makes his story so remarkable.

    It was something he began, on an impulse, in June 1981, when he spoke to a class of sixth graders at a Harlem Public School.

    The 61 students were black and Hispanic, and poor–as Mr. Lang himself had been at their age.

    He began by telling them how inspiring Martin Luther King had been, how important hard work is, and other familiar observations about how to make your own life and others’ better.

    But he quickly realized that these kids were on another planet and would simply ignore an old, rich white man, even though his background was as impoverished as theirs.

    He had grown up in a $12-a-month cold-water flat in New York, graduated from high school at 14, and went to work in a restaurant. A regular customer there talked with him, realized how brilliant his waiter really was, and arranged a college interview. Lang was accepted to one of America’s best colleges, Swarthmore, and given financial aid to make it possible for him to attend.

    As he spoke to the kids in Harlem, he must have seen a chance to pay back that regular customer a half-century later.

    So, on an impulse, he told the class something remarkable.

    He said he would give each of them a college scholarship if they were admitted to a four-year college.

    Stunned silence.

    Then, after the principal told him that only one or two would make it to college, he began to do more.

    He “adopted” the class and the school and began contributing in ways that would make them ready and eager to take advantage of his offer.

    With Lang’s help and the students’ commitment, the success rate was much higher, around 50%. As the New York Times says in his obituary:

    At least half of the original 61 sixth graders — they called themselves Dreamers — enrolled in public and private colleges, although The Daily News later reported that some students had misunderstood the offer as a promise to pay tuition even at expensive colleges and were bitter. Of those who passed up college, Mr. Lang often found them jobs.

    “I know I’m going to make it,” Aristides Alvarado, then a 20-year-old junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told an interviewer in 1989. “And someday I’ll be big — real big — and pay the tuition for my own class of Dreamers.”

    Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers at the time, observed: “Lang put up a lot more than money. He put himself on the line, too.” –New York Times

    Lang founded the “I Have a Dream Foundation” and established year-round enrichment programs. He persuaded many rich friends to open similar programs or contribute to his or others.

    Over his lifetime, he gave $150 million to charities, including $50 million to his alma mater, Swarthmore, and another $20 million to the New School for Social Research in New York.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Eugene Lang: a true mensch.

    May his memory be a blessing.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 21

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The top three stories all involve public testimony by FBI Director James Comey

    1. Comey confirms his agency is conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, including any possible contacts with Trump campaign officials. He said no one was excluded from the investigation, but said little beyond that. (Washington Post report here.) 
    2. Comey said no US Government agency authorized any wiretaps or surveillance of Trump Tower. He added that no foreign agencies have been discovered doing such surveillance. Democrats focused on stories #1 and #2. (New York Times report on take-aways from the hearing here.)
      • Comment: Comey’s testimony directly contradict’s Pres. Trump’s tweet. So do the comments of senior members of Congressional Intelligence committees, who have been briefed on the matter. The White House is refusing to back down from its allegations and says it will present evidence later. Perhaps. But no one outside the White House is convinced.
      • Sidenote: Fox News judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, asserted last week that British intelligence had done the surveillance and had done so at the request of the Obama White House. That has been vigorously rejected by the British and has not been confirmed by another else. For that reason, Fox News has temporarily taken him off the air, according to the New York Times.
    3. Comey said that a major criminal investigation is being conducted into the “unmasking” of Gen. Michael Flynn’s name from an intercepted phone call with a Russian diplomat.  Republicans focused on this crime, led (as they are so often) by Rep. Trey Gowdy’s skilled prosecutorial questioning. (Los Angeles Times story here.)
      • Comment:
        • The release of Flynn’s name is a felony. US intelligence agencies charged with surveillance of foreign countries sometimes capture their conversations with US citizens. By law, the names of those citizens are supposed to be “masked,” that is, kept secret since they were captured without an appropriate court warrant.
        • VERY few people in the intelligence community, White House, and Department of Justice have access to these “unmasked names.” Professionals say it is probably less that two dozen, all senior political appointees of the Obama Administration, such as National Security Adviser Susan Rice, her number 2, Ben Rhodes, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director James Brennan, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, as well as the President.
        • One of those senior people leaked Flynn’s name to selected reporters, leading to a bombshell story in the Washington Post (link here), and then to Flynn’s resignation. It is possible, but less likely, that another senior administration official learned the information and then leaked it. But the crucial point is that the information itself was tightly held.
        • The FBI is now under enormous pressure to solve this.
      • My Advice: Once the groundwork has been laid, the Department of Justice should convene a Grand Jury and take testimony, under oath. Every official who had access to Flynn’s unmasked name should be questioned.

     Healthcare Bill: House Republicans unveil changes to bill, on which they expect to vote this Thursday. According to the Washington Post,

    The tweaks addressed numerous GOP concerns about the legislation, ranging from the flexibility it would give states to administer their Medicaid programs to the amount of aid it would offer older Americans to buy insurance. They are the product of two weeks of negotiations that stretched from the Capitol to the White House to President Trump’s Florida resort.

    The bill’s proponents also appeared to overcome a major obstacle Monday after a key group of hard-line conservatives declined to take a formal position against the bill, known as the American Health Care Act. –Washington Post

    Comment: With these changes, the bill should pass the House. It will likely require significant changes to gain 50 votes in the Senate (the number needed for a Reconciliation Budget Bill, with VP Pence breaking the tie). The bill will then go to a conference committee to produce a single joint bill, repealing and replacing Obamacare. That bill will then have to pass both Houses before Pres. Trump can sign it.

    Comment: If this process seems unfamiliar, it is only because Pres. Obama never used “regular order,” even when he controlled both Houses. Until then, it had been the normal way to pass legislation (which, in turn, is the normal way the US passes its laws, not via bureaucratic rule-making).

     Neil Gorsuch hearings for Supreme Court  The NYT lists six highlights. Actually, there were zero.

    Comment: Gorsuch made a calm opening presentation, following by Republicans preening (accurately saying he is supremely well qualified) and Democrats complaining (accurately saying they would not be sitting here if Pres. Obama’s nominee had been given a hearing and a vote).

    That’s why Republicans are secretly so grateful to Mitch McConnell, who saved this seat for them. 

     Kudos to the University of Chicago:

    Free tuition for any children of Chicago Public School employees admitted to the University.

    The parents can be children of teacher, nurse, janitors, counselors–anyone employed by CPS, and do not have to be graduates of Chicago Public Schools. (WBEZ)

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  • When the “wrong people” fail the test . . . stop giving the test? Another case of identity-group politics harming kids

     New York state requires prospective teachers to take a basic test for reading and writing.

     A federal judge has evaluated the test and ruled it is fair and not discriminatory.

     No matter. This competency test for teachers is being stopped because it screens out too many minorities, reports the Associated Press.

    NEW YORK (AP) – New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it. . . .

    Leaders of the education reform movement have complained for years about the caliber of students entering education schools and the quality of the instruction they receive there. A December 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs it surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes.

    The reformers believe tests like New York’s Academic Literacy Skills Test can serve to weed out aspiring teachers who aren’t strong students.

    But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates. –AP

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    Comment #1: This revision is designed to help adult school employees (and potential employees) at the expense of children’s learning. 

    That misses the whole point of proper K-12 Education Policy. It should focus exclusively on what is best for the students, not the adult employees. In too many cities and states, it doesn’t.

    If what is best for kids is also best for teachers, as it often is, that’s great. If the two diverge, go with what is best for the kids. That should be the goal of education policy, even though students don’t have well-paid lobbyists or union organizations working for them. (Ah, see the problem!)

    In New York’s case, any help to minority teachers from slackening requirement will surely come at the expense of minority students in classes taught by poorly-qualified teachers. Who speaks for the kids?

    Comment #2: If the test’s content is not biased, and if it is directly related to the job, then the test is not biased, regardless of the outcome. Period.

    Unfortunately, progressives now consider a test biased if the outcome does not suit them, even if the underlying process is neutral and non-discriminatory.

    The test itself has been ruled non-discriminatory, meaning that it has neutral content. The Obama Administration was moving to reverse these rulings based solely on outcomes they did not like, even if the content was neutral and the process fair. Under Eric Holder, the Dept. of Justice filed suits against employment tests, even if they were fair and directly relevant to the job requirements, solely because more minorities failed them. That viewpoint is firmly embedded in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, inherited by Jeff Sessions. Any wonder the “career civil servants” in that department are pushing back, reading to do everything they can to undermine the Administration? They have civil service protection, but the are highly politicized advocates and were put there by previous administrations for that very reason.

    More broadly, the whole idea that outcomes, not process, should be the legal measure of discrimination is wrong. If the outcomes show “too few” of group X or Y, we should focus on correcting the underlying reasons, not changing a subsequent result reached by a fair process.

    Comment #3: MEDIA BIAS: The Associated Press gave this story a seriously misleading headline. Local papers are repeating it.

    That headline is both slanted and inaccurate. The key word is “instead.”

    According to the article, the test did screen teachers for competence in reading and writing. That it, it did its job and did it using a neutral test, pre-tested for non-discrimination and approved by a federal judge. It also “weeded out” people who could not pass, whatever their race. More minorities than white failed, but many whites failed, too.

    But the test did not “weed out minorities” instead of screening teachers for competence. It weeded them out because it screened teachers for competence.

    The AP has written an editorial instead of a neutral, descriptive headline.

    Once upon a time, readers could count on the Associated Press for fair reporting, adhering to the Joe Friday rule, “Just the facts, m’am.” No more.

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