How to read long, difficult books

Berkeley economics prof (and former Clinton deputy Treasury secretary) J Bradford DeLong (previously) has written a guide for reading "long, difficult books," in response to Andy Matuschak's "rant" Why Books Don't Work. Read the rest

Elementary school apologizes after children of color were asked by peers to role-play as slaves for lesson

The principal of Lafayette Elementary School in Washington DC has apologized after a fifth grade lesson on the Civil War and Reconstruction had some children of color role-playing "a person of color drinking from a segregated water fountain and an enslaved person." From CNN:

During classroom circles and small group discussions, (principal Carrie) Broquard said, some students said they were uncomfortable with the roles their peers had asked them to play. Others, she said, had been unsure how to respond or stand up for their peers who were uncomfortable.

"We deeply regret that we did not foresee this as a potential challenge in role playing so we could set appropriate parameters to protect students," the fifth grade team said...

Broquard outlined a number of steps the school is taking in response to the lesson.

In her letter, she said students who were directly affected have been meeting with the school's social emotional learning team and members of the administration to "process and talk through" the incident. The social emotional learning team and a racial equity committee at the school will work to ensure all assignments are "culturally sensitive and appropriate," she wrote.

The staff will participate in a full day of training on equity and race in January, and the school plans to create a diversity and inclusion committee, the letter stated.

Read the rest

School apologizes after parents complain that "Santa Goes Green" Christmas concert was anti-oil

On Thursday, the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School in Saskatchewan, Canada staged their annual student Christmas concert. The show, "Santa Goes Green," pissed off parents in the town where oil is one of the major industries. Here's a description from the Santa Goes Green sheet music:

Melting ice caps, global warming, surfing reindeer! The North Pole is going green this year and everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except Santa who likes things just the way they are. Solar panels, LED light bulbs, new power sources? It all sounds a bit inconvenient to him. Mrs. Claus, the elves, toys and reindeer have their hands full!

From CBC:

(Mike Gunderman, whose daughter was in the show,) said the concerns raised were not directed at the children. He said they did a great job singing and performing, but he felt it was "the wrong message to send at the wrong time of the season.

"Especially when our industry is suffering right now," he said. "It's a tough time for everybody."

Audrey Trombley, chair of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division where Oxbow Prairie is located, apologized to anyone who was offended by the concert, saying there was never any intention to make the show political.

"There was no political agenda," said Audrey Trombley, chair of the division's Board of Trustees. "The teacher chose the song because of the rhythm and the beat, and thought the kids would like it."

image: cover detail of Santa Goes Green sheet music book (Hal Leonard) Read the rest

Illinois schools don't just lock special ed kids in solitary, they also restrain them

Last month, Propublica published a characteristically blockbuster piece on the use of "quiet rooms" in Illinois schools, especially in special ed programs: these are a euphemism for solitary confinement, and their use is so cruel and grotesque that Propublica's reporting prompted state level action to ban quiet rooms in schools and reform the policy on their use. Read the rest

Students at elite Shanghai university protest the removal of "freedom of thought" from the school charter

Fudan University, one of China's elite centers of higher learning, has had its charter altered to remove "freedom of thought" from its values. In its place, the charter now promotes "arming the minds of teachers and students with Xi Jinping's new era of socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics." In response, students have launched a protest in the form of performances of the school song, which touts "academic independence and freedom of thought." Read the rest

Bernie Sanders got the GAO to study the life chances of millennials, and the report concludes that debt is "crushing their dreams"

Bernie Sanders commissioned the Government Accountability Office to study the consequences of the high degree of indebtedness borne by Millennials; the GAO's report concludes that Millennials dreams are being "crushed" by debts -- primarily student loans -- which have limited their abilities to seek good employment, good housing, and to save for retirement. Read the rest

Librecorps: an organization that connects student free/open source software developers with humanitarian NGOs

Librecorps is a program based at the Rochester Institute for Technology's Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) initiative that works with UNICEF to connect students with NGOs for paid co-op placements where they build and maintain FOSS tools used by nonprofits. Read the rest

As news outlets were shutting down for Thanksgiving, the University of North Carolina quietly gave white nationalists $2.5m to settle a lawsuit that hadn't even been filed

On November 27, just as the courthouses were closing and newsrooms were going to a skeleton crew, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina -- lately stuffed with GOP operatives and seemingly bent on destroying the university -- announced that it would settle a lawsuit with the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- a white nationalist organization devoted to installing the "traitors' flag" of the Confederacy across the south -- for $2.5m, diverting millions from educational purposes to building a Klan museum. Read the rest

After Katrina, neoliberals replaced New Orleans' schools with charters, which are now failing

After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was shock doctrined through a massive, neoliberal transformation, the centerpiece of which was a replacement of the public school system with a system entirely made up of charter schools. Read the rest

Indiana University Provost: The First Amendment says we can't fire our notorious bigot professor, so here's what we're doing instead

Eric Rasmusen is a tenured business school professor at Indiana University Bloomington; for many years, he's posted a stream of "racist, sexist, and homophobic views" to his personal social media, including the idea that women do not belong in the workplace (he often refers to women by slurs like "slut" when discussing this and other subjects); that gay men should not be allowed in academia because of their insatiable sexual appetites and propensity for abusing students; that Black students are academically inferior to white students and do not belong at elite academic institutions. Read the rest

Quiet Rooms: Illinois schools lead the nation in imprisoning very young, disabled children in isolation chambers

20 years ago, Illinois was rocked by a scandal after the widespread practice of locking schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities or special needs, in small, confining boxes was revealed. The teachers who imprisoned these children argued that they did so out of the interests of safety -- that of the imprisoned students, of the other students, and of school staff. Read the rest

Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy is looking for engineering, social science, law, and policy "visitors" for interdisciplinary one-year positions

Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy is a marvellous interdisciplinary research center, and it is advertising for "visitors" for one-year stints: postdocs, policy fellows and visiting IT professors. Read the rest

Boy genius will graduate college at age 9

Laurent Simons is pursuing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) in the Netherlands. He's 9 years old. After graduation, he intends to earn a PhD in electrical engineering along with a medical degree. His longterm goal is to develop artificial organs for transplant. From CNN:

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But (mother) Lydia has her own theory.

"I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy," she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

"That is not unusual," said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering, in a statement.

"Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport."

Read the rest

Free Coursera MOOC on inequality

Starting Monday, you can enroll in a free massively open online course from Coursera on inequality: "Most countries are getting more and more unequal. But the core of democracy is political equality: that everyone should have an equal say in how their country is run. Can we really expect these things to go together? Can people have equal political power while economic inequality grows and grows? This course takes students through the issues. It covers the reality of economic inequality, and how corporations and wealthy individuals are able to convert economic into political power. Students learn about lobbying and campaign finance, tax avoidance and capital flight. The course discusses the value of democracy, and the possibility of alternatives to our current economic system. This is an interdisciplinary course combining politics, philosophy, economics, history and law. The course is for anyone looking for an accessible introduction to these topics: concerned citizens, or those in fields such as politics, media, education, government or law. Although the topics are unusual, the difficulty level is similar to the first-year of an undergraduate degree. No prior knowledge is assumed." (Image: mSeattle, CC BY) (via Crooked Timber) Read the rest

Teen uses external cameras and projection-mapping onto the a-pillar to "solve" blind-spots

"Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blind Spots" is 14 year old Alaina Gassler's prizewinning science-fair project, which uses cameras mounted to the exterior of the car and feeding their video to internal projectors, which projection-map them onto the a-pillars that otherwise obscure the driver's view. Read the rest

Chicago teachers declare victory after 11-day strike

After 11 days, Chicago's teacher's strike is at an end, with the city agreeing to the majority of the union's demands, including: higher pay, limits on class sizes, a nurse and social worker in each school, 120 new "equity positions" (librarians, counselors and restorative justice coordinators), bilingual/special ed educators, and five make-up days for teachers and students to compensate for part of the missed instructional calendar. Read the rest

NJ school district bans indebted students from prom and field trips, refuses offer to pay off lunch debt

America has a food insecurity problem, and poor, hungry kids who can't pay their school cafeteria lunch debt are performatively ridiculed and humiliated by their schools. Despite this shaming, these kids parents refuse to stop being poor, and so schools are turning to desperate measures to provide the right incentives to these parents (meanwhile, kids from wealthy families are being offered front-of-the-line privileges in exchange for their parents' "donations"). Read the rest

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