Read a book with your laptop thrumming. It can feel like trying to read in the middle of a party where everyone is shouting
In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt. In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten. To pluck just one, Gary Steynghart's novel Super Sad True Love Story describes a world where everybody is obsessed with their electronic Apparat - an even more omnivorous i-Phone with a flickering stream of shopping and reality shows and porn - and have somehow come to believe that the few remaining unread paper books let off a rank smell. The book on the book, it suggests, is closing.
I have been thinking about this because I recently moved flat, which for me meant boxing and heaving several Everests of books, accumulated obsessively since I was a kid. Ask me to throw away a book, and I begin shaking like Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice and insist that I just couldn't bear to part company with it, no matter how unlikely it is I will ever read (say) a 1,000-page biography of little-known Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar. As I stacked my books high, and watched my friends get buried in landslides of novels or avalanches of polemics, it struck me that this scene might be incomprehensible a generation from now. Yes, a few specialists still haul their vinyl collections from house to house, but the rest of us have migrated happily to MP3s, and regard such people as slightly odd. Does it matter? What was really lost?
Are you ashamed that you find Facebook boring? Are you angst-ridden by your weak social-networking skills? Do you look with envy on those whose friend-count dwarfs your own? Buck up, my friend. The traits you consider signs of failure may actually be marks of intellectual vigor, according to a new study appearing in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior.
The study, by Bu Zhong and Marie Hardin at Penn State and Tao Sun at the University of Vermont, is one of the first to examine the personalities of social networkers. The researchers looked in particular at connections between social-network use and the personality trait that psychologists refer to as "need for cognition," or NFC. NFC, as Professor Zhong explained in an email to me, "is a recognized indicator for deep or shallow thinking." People who like to challenge their minds have high NFC, while those who avoid deep thinking have low NFC. Whereas, according to the authors, "high NFC individuals possess an intrinsic motivation to think, having a natural motivation to seek knowledge," those with low NFC don't like to grapple with complexity and tend to content themselves with superficial assessments, particularly when faced with difficult intellectual challenges.
The researchers surveyed 436 college students during 2010. Each participant completed a standard psychological assessment measuring NFC as well as a questionnaire measuring social network use. (Given what we know about college students' social networking in 2010, it can be assumed that the bulk of the activity consisted of Facebook use.) The study revealed a significant negative correlation between social network site (SNS) activity and NFC scores. "The key finding," the authors write, "is that NFC played an important role in SNS use. Specifically, high NFC individuals tended to use SNS less often than low NFC people, suggesting that effortful thinking may be associated with less social networking among young people." Moreover, "high NFC participants were significantly less likely to add new friends to their SNS accounts than low or medium NFC individuals."
To put it in layman's terms, the study suggests that if you want to be a big success on Facebook, it helps to be a dullard.
"First generation [corn] ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."
- Al Gore, speaking at a Green Energy Conference on November 22, 2010
"Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel. The future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol."
- Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, November 29, 2010
No one knows what brought on the blast of political honesty in the last eight days of November. Having been a rabid ethanol booster for most of his political career, there was former Vice President Al Gore reversing course and apologizing for supporting ethanol. Of course Gore's reason for taking that position was perfectly understandable -- for a politician. As he told the Athens energy conference attendees, "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers of Iowa because I was about to run for President."
Translated from politics-speak into English, pandering to farmers gets votes. But if your claimed position is to plan some sort of energy policy for everyone else, then getting farmers' votes shouldn't determine what's the right thing to do for the nation's fuel supplies.
The Economist:FROM “Wikinomics” to “Cognitive Surplus” to “Crowdsourcing”, there is no shortage of books lauding the “Web 2.0” era and celebrating the online collaboration, interaction and sharing that it makes possible. Today anyone can publish a blog or put a video on YouTube, and thousands of online volunteers can collectively produce an operating system like Linux or an encyclopedia like Wikipedia. Isn’t that great?
No, says Jaron Lanier, a technologist, musician and polymath who is best known for his pioneering work in the field of virtual reality. His book, “You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto”, published earlier this year, is a provocative attack on many of the internet’s sacred cows. Mr Lanier lays into the Web 2.0 culture, arguing that what passes for creativity today is really just endlessly rehashed content and that the “fake friendship” of social networks “is just bait laid by the lords of the clouds to lure hypothetical advertisers”. For Mr Lanier there is no wisdom of crowds, only a cruel mob. “Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks and lightweight mash-ups may seem trivial and harmless,” he writes, “but as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned personal interaction.”
If this criticism of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia had come from an outsider—a dyed-in-the-wool technophobe—then nobody would have paid much attention. But Mr Lanier’s denunciation of internet groupthink as “digital Maoism” carries more weight because of his career at technology’s cutting edge.
What is the biggest problem with the news media in America today?
Mr Rosen: The cost of changing settled routines seems too high, but the cost of not changing is, in the long term, even higher. A good example is the predicament of the newspaper press: the print edition provides most of the revenues, but it cannot provide a future. I know of no evidence to show that young people are picking up the print habit. So if the cost of abandoning print is too high, the cost of sticking with it may be even higher, though slower to reveal itself. That's a problem.
Another example is the decline of trust. In the mid-1970s over 70% of Americans told Gallup they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the press. Today: 47%. Clearly, something isn't working. But revisions to the code of conduct that has led to this decline would be seen by most journalists as increasing the risk of mistrust. I've tried to argue that the View from Nowhere—also called objectivity—should be replaced by "here's where we're coming from." That strikes most people in the American press as dangerous and unworkable. But the current course is unsustainable: trust continues to decline, with a big acceleration after 2003. When I mention this to journalists, they say: "Trust in all big institutions has declined, Jay." Which is true (except for the military). But is that really an answer? You're supposed to be the watchdogs over dubious actors. Why aren't you an exception?
I could go on, but I think you see the pattern. Change is too expensive; the status quo is unsustainable.
When David Zucker was a schoolkid in Milwaukee in the 1960s, one of his teachers made a prediction. "She said to me once, when I was fooling around in class, 'Zucker, I know one day I'll be paying good money to see you make me laugh, but right now, get your ass back in that chair and crack that book!'"
She was right. This badly behaved schoolkid would go on to reinvent US screen comedy with a movie called Airplane!, which he co-directed and co-wrote. Today, speaking in Manhattan, David is feeling a little rough. He was out the night before, it turns out, celebrating the film's 30th anniversary with the movie's co-creators, his younger brother Jerry and their lifelong friend Jim Abrahams. "I just couldn't get out of bed this morning," he says.
Well may they celebrate. Airplane! made $83m on its first release in 1980 (on an outlay of a mere $3.5m), and launched an entire comedy franchise, from the Police Squad TV shows to the Naked Gun movies they grew into – reconfiguring, in the process, one-time 1950s romantic lead Leslie Nielsen into a comic hero. Somewhere along the way, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (ZAZ for short) also inspired Saturday Night Live, launched another comedy titan of the 1980s, John Landis, and even gave the Farrelly brothers their big writing break.
Half a century ago, medicine was neither costly nor effective. Since then, however, science has combatted our ignorance. It has enumerated and identified, according to the international disease-classification system, more than 13,600 diagnoses—13,600 different ways our bodies can fail. And for each one we’ve discovered beneficial remedies—remedies that can reduce suffering, extend lives, and sometimes stop a disease altogether. But those remedies now include more than six thousand drugs and four thousand medical and surgical procedures. Our job in medicine is to make sure that all of this capability is deployed, town by town, in the right way at the right time, without harm or waste of resources, for every person alive. And we’re struggling. There is no industry in the world with 13,600 different service lines to deliver.
It should be no wonder that you have not mastered the understanding of them all. No one ever will. That’s why we as doctors and scientists have become ever more finely specialized. If I can’t handle 13,600 diagnoses, well, maybe there are fifty that I can handle—or just one that I might focus on in my research. The result, however, is that we find ourselves to be specialists, worried almost exclusively about our particular niche, and not the larger question of whether we as a group are making the whole system of care better for people. I think we were fooled by penicillin. When penicillin was discovered, in 1929, it suggested that treatment of disease could be simple—an injection that could miraculously cure a breathtaking range of infectious diseases. Maybe there’d be an injection for cancer and another one for heart disease. It made us believe that discovery was the only hard part. Execution would be easy.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
It is therefore all the more astounding that Facebook is not willing to eliminate the existing shortcomings regarding data protection, but is instead going even further. Decisions such as this will not engender trust in an enterprise in the long term.
“To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear…” Friedrich Nietzsche
“Any explanation is better than none.” And the simpler, it seems in the investment game, the better. “The markets went up because oil went down,” we are told, except when it went up there was another reason for the movement of the markets. We all intuitively know that things are far more complicated than that. But as Nietzsche noted, dealing with the unknown can be disturbing, so we look for the simple explanation.
“Ah,” we tell ourselves, “I know why that happened.” With an explanation firmly in hand, we now feel we know something. And the behavioral psychologists note that this state actually releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. We become literally addicted to the simple explanation. The fact that what we “know” (the explanation for the unknowable) is irrelevant or even wrong is not important to the chemical release. And thus we look for reasons.
How does an event like a problem in Greece (or elsewhere) affect you, gentle reader? And I mean, affect you down where the rubber hits your road. Not some formula or theory about the velocity of money or the effect of taxes on GDP. That is the question I was posed this week. “I want to understand why you think this is so important,” said a friend of Tiffani. So that is what I will attempt to answer in this week’s missive, as I write a letter to my kids trying to explain the nearly inexplicable.
The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.
In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a “build experience.” Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers.
The Rally Fighter was prototyped in the workshop at the back of the Wareham office, but manufacturing muscle also came from Factory Five Racing, a kit-car company and Local Motors investor located just down the road. Of course, the kit-car business has been around for decades, standing as a proof of concept for how small manufacturing can work in the car industry. Kit cars combine hand-welded steel tube chassis and fiberglass bodies with stock engines and accessories. Amateurs assemble the cars at their homes, which exempts the vehicles from many regulatory restrictions (similar to home-built experimental aircraft). Factory Five has sold about 8,000 kits to date.
The scene is Detroit, a training room at the headquarters of one of the three great US car companies. A group of corporate vice-presidents is attending a course being given by a distinguished management thinker.
“What you are telling us is great,” the VPs say, “but you are talking to the wrong level. You should be speaking to the next tier up.” The next week, working with more senior managers, he hears the same thing. “This is great, but you are talking to the wrong level. You should be speaking with the chief executive.”
The week after that, our thinker finally gets in to see the boss. “This is great,” the CEO says, “but you should be speaking with my subordinates – I’d need their support in order to do it.”
This is a true story, as told by Russ Ackoff, the management thinker in question, who died a few days ago, aged 90. Two key Ackoffian ideas emerge from this tale. First, do not wait for others in the business to start changing things. Go and do it yourself. But second, and more important: never forget that everyone in the business is interconnected, that they are all operating as part of a system, that tinkering with one part of the company is never really enough, and may even make things worse. You need to see the business as a whole, as a complete system, if you want to make lasting improvements to it.
But few of the former Soviet bloc countries had better jokes than the Hungarians. After all, several of their national characteristics—quick intelligence, mordant wit and an eye for the main chance—are summarised in the now legendary humorous definition of a Hungarian: “Someone who enters a revolving door behind you but comes out in front”.
My two favourites are set in the time immediately after the 1956 revolution:
In the first, Comrade teacher announces the day’s lesson in School Number One, Budapest: Marxist criticism and self-criticism.
“Istvan, please stand up and tell us what Marxist criticism and self-criticism means,” she instructs.
The little boy stands up. “Comrade teacher, Marxist criticism is how we must view my parents, who joined the reactionary counter-revolutionary forces who sought to destroy our heroic workers’ and peasants’ state, and then fled to the imperialist, capitalist west, to continue their intrigues against the Socialist regime.”
“Excellent, Istvan. And what is your Marxist self-criticism?”
“I didn’t go with them.”
Look carefully, and it is really the birth of the modern West that we see taking place here: snippets of news and sensation helped define a shared experience of the past and present, as political debates laid the foundations of democratic culture. If the Reformation is often credited with having turned the West toward the Enlightenment, another such force must be the growing taste for news and its multiple retellings. While other cultures were arguing over the interpretations of sacred texts, England’s was arguing over the nature of government in print. We are the beneficiaries.
The exhibition itself could have been much more clear in its chronological and thematic organization, particularly because the knotty politics of 17th-century England — centering on its civil wars — are treated as if they were far more familiar than is the case, but these documents repay the patience of careful reading.
When Sir Walter Raleigh was convicted of treason and executed in 1618, his eloquent speech on the scaffold was reported not by newspapers — which had not yet evolved — but in private written accounts. The real revolution came in the 1620s under the influence of “corantos” imported from Amsterdam, which provided the main news of the week. The corantos (which are still recalled in the names of newspapers, like The Hartford Courant) also inspired opposition from the government over their reports of troop movements during the Thirty Years’ War, leading to censorship and even imprisonment.
But the demand for news — and opinion — increased. Press censorship collapsed with the beginning of the civil wars of the 1640s, but the debates of this era were so intense and so much a part of public consciousness that news publications became instruments in the political battles between monarchists and parliamentarians. Newspapers were counterfeited, imitated, mocked and attacked. Parliament tried to reimpose censorship in 1643, and the poet John Milton wrote his famous speech demanding “Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing.” But newspapers, complained Sir Roger L’Estrange, an ardent monarchist, make “the multitude too familiar with the actions and counsels of their superiors.” He created The Observator, shown at the Folger — the “pre-eminent Tory journal of its day.”
Even as Madison, Wis., suffers arctic-like temperatures, there is a warm ray of hope for the commercial real-estate industry.
The city's academic sector is seeing a building boomlet while developers in other parts of the country slam the brakes on new office buildings, stores and shopping centers.
A student-services hub at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is part of a larger mixed-use project called University Square. About $600 million of new building projects are under construction on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and more than $450 million of additional projects are in the planning stage, said Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor of facilities planning and management at the university.
A student-services center will officially open to students this week in a larger mixed-use development called University Square. The 1.1-million-square-foot project developed by Executive Management Inc., of Madison, also includes a rooftop garden, rental housing and about 125,000 square feet of retail space that is about 55% leased. The project, on the edge of the campus, is on land previously occupied by a one-story retail property, Mr. Fish said. Also under construction is the $150 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an interdisciplinary research complex scheduled to open in 2010.
The construction, part of a continuing effort to update the campus's facilities since the 1990s, isn't just changing the face of secluded ivory towers. "We're smack dab in the middle of Madison," Mr. Fish said. "Clearly the dynamism the campus has exhibited in the last five years has had a big ripple effect."
Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus.
From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention"--as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name--have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.
Building a homeland security campus and bringing the university to heel is a seven-step mission:
1. Target dissidents. As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the campus has attracted increasing scrutiny--with student protesters in the cross hairs. The government's number-one target? Peace and justice organizations.
From 2003 to 2007 an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon's Threat and Local Observation Notice system (TALON), a secretive domestic spying program ostensibly designed to track direct "potential terrorist threats" to the Defense Department itself. In 2006 the ACLU uncovered, via Freedom of Information Act requests, at least 186 specific TALON reports on "anti-military protests" in the United States--some listed as "credible threats"--from student groups at the University of California, Santa Cruz; State University of New York, Albany; Georgia State University; and New Mexico State University, among other campuses.
At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double as full-time FBI agents, and according to the Campus Law Enforcement Journal, they serve on many of the nation's 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces. These dual-purpose officer-agents have knocked on student activists' doors from North Carolina State to the University of Colorado and, in one case, interrogated an Iraqi-born professor at the University of Massachusetts about his antiwar views.
First off, I’m not excusing auto dealers. Or lenders.From the LA Times article:
They have a moral and business responsibility to try to stop their customers from doing something stupid, such as buying a vehicle with a sticker price that will stick them with an oppressive debt.
But customers have responsibilities, too. It is their purchase, their money and their car payments. It is up to them, more than anyone else, to know their financial limitations and not cross them.
Yet, so many consumers today buy too much vehicle. Then, when the financial squeeze becomes eye-popping, they look for someone to blame. The dealership and lender make nice targets. Seldom do the debt-ridden blame themselves.
I pondered that while reading a Los Angeles Times article headlined, “New Cars That Are Fully Loaded – With Debt.”
The story tells how some Americans of average means roll over an existing loan on an expensive vehicle in order to get another expensive vehicle. They end up with two loans in one, when they couldn’t afford one.
Americans haven't just been taking out risky mortgages for homes in the last few years; they've also been signing larger automobile loans for significantly longer terms than they used to.
As a result, people are slipping into a perpetual cycle of automobile debt that experts think could lead to a new credit crunch extending from dealerships to driveways and all the way to Wall Street.
Should executives make decisions based on what their “gut” tells them? Lately that idea has lost some favor, as technology’s ability to accumulate and analyze data has rapidly increased — supplanting, according to some accounts, the high-level manager’s need to draw heavily on intuition. But intuition needs some rescuing from its detractors, and the place to start is by clarifying what it really is, and how it should be developed.
Intuition is not a magical sixth sense or a paranormal process; nor does it signify the opposite of reason or random and whimsical decision making. Rather, intuition is a highly complex and highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning, and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.
In this article, the authors draw on examples from the worlds of chess, neuroscience and business — especially Austria’s KTM Sportmotorcycle AG — to show that intuitive decision making should not be prematurely buried. They point out that although the study of intuition has not been extensively explored as a part of management science, studies reveal that several ingredients are critical to intuition’s development: years of domain-specific experience; the cultivation of personal and professional networks; the development of emotional intelligence; a tolerance for mistakes; a healthy sense of curiosity; and a sense of intuition’s limits.
IN AN AGE OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD, identifying the most useful information in a timely fashion isn't easy -- and it may be some comfort to know it never was. Yet by studying the adaptive skills of earlier captains of commerce, entrepreneurs in even the most cutthroat businesses can learn how to smack down the competition.
The key: Embrace invention -- even that of your competitors -- and use it better and faster than they do.
In the 1870s, John D. Rockefeller had a telegraph line run to his Euclid Avenue home in Cleveland. When he came home for lunch, he could stay in touch with his Oil City, Pa., contacts for updates on gushers and dry holes. He could then telegraph his brother in New York to adjust the price of kerosene for the European market, and his brother could pass the price on to Europe by trans-Atlantic cable.
Although Standard Oil employed telegraphers, John D. Rockefeller sent and received his own "e-mails." Sending and receiving Morse code at commercial speeds were not easy skills to master, but Rockefeller was "computer-literate." He had to be skilled in the current technology to have the best information and act on it.
The oil business of that day was not a fuel business. Standard Oil sold illumination. Tallow and whale-oil concerns were its competitors. Kerosene lamps, especially with mantles that burned white-hot, were a great advance in technology. Standard Oil produced a lamp-fuel kerosene of such purity that explosions were greatly reduced. Its five-gallon branded blue tins became known around the world. (Meanwhile, the byproduct of kerosene distillation, gasoline, was discarded as a nuisance.)
Life isn't fair. Many of the most coveted spoils--wealth, fame, links on the Web--are concentrated among the few. If such a distribution doesn't sound like the familiar bell-shaped curve, you're right.
Along the hilly slopes of the bell curve, most values--the data points that track whatever is being measured--are clustered around the middle. The average value is also the most common value. The points along the far extremes of the curve contribute very little statistically. If 100 random people gather in a room and the world's tallest man walks in, the average height doesn't change much. But if Bill Gates walks in, the average net worth rises dramatically. Height follows the bell curve in its distribution. Wealth does not: It follows an asymmetric, L-shaped pattern known as a "power law," where most values are below average and a few far above. In the realm of the power law, rare and extreme events dominate the action.
For Nassim Taleb, irrepressible quant-jock and the author of "Fooled by Randomness" (2001), the contrast between the two distributions is not an amusing statistical exercise but something more profound: It highlights the fundamental difference between life as we imagine it and life as it really is. In "The Black Swan"--a kind of cri de coeur--Mr. Taleb struggles to free us from our misguided allegiance to the bell-curve mindset and awaken us to the dominance of the power law.
This column by Tom Stills, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, ran in the Stevens Point Journal:
A joint proposal was filed Feb. 1 by the UW System, UW-Madison and Michigan State University to open a federal energy research lab in Madison. Molly Jahn, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has described the proposal as a strong fit with faculty, staff and student projects related to bio-energy. Those projects are taking place in disciplines that encompass biology, agriculture, engineering, natural resources and the social sciences. . . .
It will be months before the next phase of the federal selection process begins, but the collaborative effort should merit a hard look in Washington. If Wisconsin is successful, it could mean several hundred jobs and tens of millions of dollars within five years.
Suppose that, at the start of some year since the beginning of the twentieth century, you had taken $1,000,000 that you had invested in bonds and believed you would not want to touch for twenty years, and invested it insteade in a diversified portfolio of equities. (Or suppose you had been able to borrow $1,000,000 at the long-term government bond rate). And suppose you had then let both legs of that investment ride for twenty years. What would have been the results in dollars (adjusted for inflation) twenty years later?
I think it may actually get worse, each time! But I also suspect that that may be a paradoxical indicator of relative emotional health. If you've ever met anyone who's writing a book that he or she is convinced is *very* good indeed, you'll know what I mean. (Swift reading to his servants may be the perfect case in point.)
By the time I'm three-quarters through the writing of a novel, I've necessarily lost anything like perspective, and must rely on feedback from trusted daily readers to know whether or not I've completely driven the thing off the road. I suspect that the biggest part of the labor of writing, for me, has always consisted of bludgeoning the editorial super-ego into relative passivity, though no matter how thoroughly I've managed to stun it, it still manages to send messages to the effect that the work is really deeply pathetic, hideously flawed, and should be abandoned immediately. I tend to imagine that this is what writer's block is really about, though in my case it's remained only partionally symptomatic. I manage to ignore those messages, as painful as I still find them.
Jeff Angus over at Management by Baseball sent me an intriguing update about Billy Bean's approach to Moneyball. Bean is famous in the baseball world for developing quantitative techniques to help identify players that are underpaid by market standards and for developing a system that enables such "bargain" players to contribute to overall team performance. There are many signs that the system works, for example, Oakland's cost per win in 2005 was $450,000 in salary, while the New York Yankees paid 1.4 million. The 2006 payrolls (when Oakland had a better season than the Yankees) were about 60 million for the A's and about 200 million for the Yankees. Bean and his staff do impressive analysis to make decisions that gain them cost advantages and increase their odds of success. For example, they stay away for star players that are coming out of high school and prefer college graduates because only 5% of baseball players drafted straight out of high school are in the major leagues in three years, while 17% of college graduates that are drafted make it to the majors.Beane watching is worthwhile...
Milton Friedman died this past week. He was the most influential economist of the 20th century when one combines his contributions to both economic science and to public policy. I knew him for many decades starting first when I was a graduate student at Chicago, and then as a colleague, mentor, and very close friend.
I will not dwell here on what a remarkable colleague he was. However, I do want to describe my first exposure to him as a teacher since he enormously changed my approach to economics, and to life itself. After my first class with him a half-century ago, I recognized that I was fortunate to have an extraordinary economist as a teacher. During that class he asked a question, and I shot up my hand and was called on to provide an answer. I still remember what he said, "That is no answer, for you are only restating the question in other words." I sat down humiliated, but I knew he was right. I decided on my way home after a very stimulating class that despite all the economics I had studied at Princeton, and the two economics articles I was in the process of publishing, I had to relearn economics from the ground up. I sat at Friedman's feet for the next six years-- three as an Assistant Professor at Chicago-- learning economics from a fresh perspective. It was the most exciting intellectual period of my life. Further reflections on Friedman as a teacher can be found in my essay on him in the collection edited by Edward Shils, Remembering the University of Chicago: Teachers, Scientists, and Scholars, 1991, University of Chicago Press.
In a task-force report released Monday by NCAA president Myles Brand, Division I schools were encouraged to rein in spending on sports - but there aren't any requirements everyone must adhere to or punishments if they don't.I've gone to a variety of sporting events around the country over the past 25 years. It is interesting to observe the explosion in sponsorships, luxury boxes and facilities around college athletics.
"In the case of academic reform, we had a hammer - namely, by teams not conforming, we could take away scholarships and, if that failed, we could keep them out of the Final Four and postseason. That's heavy duty. That's a sledgehammer," Brand said after speaking at the National Press Club. "The fact is, we don't have that for fiscal responsibility in intercollegiate athletics."
The task force of about 50 school presidents and chancellors was formed in January 2005, and the report's release comes as the NCAA is preparing its response to an Oct. 3 letter from Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Thomas asked the NCAA to justify its tax-exempt status and sought a reply by the end of October; the NCAA received a two-week extension.
10/24/06 Peaking of world oil production, an update by Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Advisor, SAIC:
- In-depth introduction to the issue and its complexities. Prepared for the Atlantic Council, 23 October 2006 (735 KB PDF)
- Brief overview of the major issues. To be presented at "Engineering Sustainability in the Global Enterprise" at the University of Wisconsin, November 30 - December 1, 2006 (189 KB PDF)
While many U.S. manufacturers are decamping to greener, and cheaper, pastures overseas, Bobcat, a division of Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd., has found advantages sticking close to its North Dakota roots to build the little machines that, among other things, are used to clean barns, dig dirt and plow snow. Bobcat has exploited its location to keep a finger on the pulse of its core market of small landscaping and construction contractors, helping it quickly develop and ship products. Also, the company's rural setting, executives say, has bred the kind of culture where problems are solved with the can-do, make-do ethos of the farm.
"There are a lot of barriers any foreign producer has to overcome to give us a real challenge," says Richard F. Pedtke, the president of Ingersoll-Rand's compact vehicle division.
For example, the company usually can deliver any of the hundreds of attachments it sells for its machines to a customer within four days, a feat almost impossible and certainly costly for any company with long supply lines stretching overseas. And by keeping manufacturing, engineering, and marketing closely linked, with people in those roles sometimes living across the street from each other, the company is better able to anticipate how markets are shifting and find new applications for its machines, says Mr. Pedtke.
Facebook implemented a new feature called "News Feeds" that displays every action you take on the site to your friends. You see who added who, who commented where, who removed their relationship status, who joined what group, etc. This is on your front page when you login to Facebook. This upset many Facebook members who responded with outrage. Groups emerged out of protest. Students Against Facebook News Feeds is the largest with over 700,000 members. Facebook issued various press statements that nothing was going to change. On September 5, Mark Zuckerberg (the founder) told everyone to calm down. They didn't. On September 8, he apologized and offered privacy options as an olive branch. Zuckerberg invited everyone to join him live on the Free Flow of Information on the Internet group where hundreds of messages wizzed by in the hour making it hard to follow any thread; the goal was for Facebook to explain its decision. In short, they explained that this is to help people keep tabs on their friends but only their friends and all of this information is public anyhow.
Computer systems are notoriously finicky. They'll hum along just fine and then unaccountably slow down, freeze up or stop working altogether. Finding the cause of some unexplained problem is difficult and time-consuming, especially with complicated systems in real-life settings.PDF summary of all the winners.
Bryan Cantrill and a team of engineers at Sun Microsystems Inc. have devised a way to diagnose misbehaving software quickly and while it's still doing its work. While traditional trouble-shooting programs can take several days of testing to locate a problem, the new technology, called DTrace, is able to track down problems quickly and relatively easily, even if the cause is buried deep in a complex computer system.
The DTrace trouble-shooting software from Sun was chosen as the Gold winner in The Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards contest, the second time in three years that a Sun entry has won the top award. The panel of judges, representing industry as well as research and academic institutions, selected Gold, Silver and Bronze award winners and cited one technology for an Honorable Mention.
For the awards, now in their sixth year, judges considered novel technologies from around the world in several categories: medicine and medical devices, wireless, security, consumer electronics, semiconductors and others.
Since 1999, the editors of Technology Review have honored the young innovators whose inventions and research we find most exciting; today that collection is the TR35, a list of technologists and scientists, all under the age of 35. Their work--spanning medicine, computing, communications, electronics, nanotechnology, and more--is changing our world.
With Hyperwords™ installed in your web browser, select any text and a menu appears: searches, references, emailing, copying, blogging, translation, & more
In a marvellously contrarian new paper*, Amar Bhidé, of Columbia University's business school, argues that these supposed remedies, and the worries that lie behind them, are based on a misconception of how innovation works and of how it contributes to economic growth. Mr Bhidé finds plenty of nice things to say about many of the things that most trouble critics of the American economy: consumption as opposed to thrift; a plentiful supply of consumer credit; Wal-Mart; even the marketing arms of drug companies. He thinks that good managers may be at least as valuable as science and engineering graduates (though given where he works, perhaps he is talking his own book). But he has nothing nice to say about the prophets of technological doom.* “Venturesome Consumption, Innovation and Globalisation”, presented in Venice at the CESifo and Centre on Capitalism and Society conference, July 21st-22nd.
The broadly worded patents, which cover nearly any use of human embryonic stem cells, are held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a nonprofit group that handles the school's intellectual-property estate, managing a $1.5 billion endowment amassed during 80 years of marketing inventions.
John Simpson, an official at the foundation bringing the challenge, says WARF's efforts to enforce its patents are "damaging, impeding the free flow of ideas and creating a problem." Mr. Simpson's group got involved in the dispute earlier this year after Wisconsin officials said they would demand a share of state revenue from California's voter-approved stem-cell initiative.
WARF doesn't charge academics to study stem cells, but it does ask commercial users to pay fees ranging from $75,000 to more than $250,000, plus annual payments and royalties. So far, 12 companies have licensed rights from WARF to use the cells, and more than 300 academic laboratories have agreements to use the technology without charge. WARF spokesman Andy Cohn declined to say how much the organization has earned from the patents so far but says it is less than what it has spent funding stem-cell research and paying legal costs.
Happy 20th birthday to our Big Mac index.
WHEN our economics editor invented the Big Mac index in 1986 as a light-hearted introduction to exchange-rate theory, little did she think that 20 years later she would still be munching her way, a little less sylph-like, around the world. As burgernomics enters its third decade, the Big Mac index is widely used and abused around the globe. It is time to take stock of what burgers do and do not tell you about exchange rates.
The Economist's Big Mac index is based on one of the oldest concepts in international economics: the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), which argues that in the long run, exchange rates should move towards levels that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in any two countries. Our “basket” is a McDonald's Big Mac, produced in around 120 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would leave burgers costing the same in America as elsewhere. Thus a Big Mac in China costs 10.5 yuan, against an average price in four American cities of $3.10 (see the first column of the table). To make the two prices equal would require an exchange rate of 3.39 yuan to the dollar, compared with a market rate of 8.03. In other words, the yuan is 58% “undervalued” against the dollar. To put it another way, converted into dollars at market rates the Chinese burger is the cheapest in the table.
The temperature outside on the night of Dec. 30, 1987, was 45 and dropping. Cold for most anyone, but perilous for a newborn baby girl wrapped in a towel and stuffed in a brown paper bag like trash.
She probably wasn't meant to be found alive.
When Steve Gibbons, a California Highway Patrol officer, pulled off Interstate 280 to stop and stretch his legs, she was just hours old. Her temperature had plummeted to a dangerous 90 degrees. If she had been there much longer, she would have died near the intersection of Cañada and Edgewood roads in Redwood City.
But Gibbons heard the baby's cry.
If you want to change something in your life, it's common to try to stop the behaviors you don't like. While this certainly seems logical, it seldom works. The reason is simple - it unintentionally creates a vacuum where the old behaviors used to be. And since nature hates a vacuum it will fill it with anything it can find - usually the very behaviors you're trying to stop since they're so familiar. Instead of stopping certain behaviors, try focusing on what you want to create - and the new behaviors you need to get there. Eventually, with practice, new behaviors will develop enough muscle to naturally replace the old ones.
Often in life, the best things are free. Thanks, Richard and friends!
|Richard Davis's Friday night Birthday Bash (Richard mentioned that his birthday is actually tax day, April 15) seemed an appropriate way to wrap up a beautiful Madison week, with temperatures reaching into the 70's. The bash was held Friday night at Mills Hall and included participants from the Bass Conference Faculty. |
Audio / Video:
Conference pictures are available here.
More on Richard: Wikipedia | Clusty | Google | Yahoo
Carol Bartz has outlasted most CEOs of big companies. She has been chief executive of Autodesk for the past 14 years, when the median tenure is just five years. She led the Silicon Valley software company through economic ups and downs. In May, Ms. Bartz will relinquish her CEO post and become executive chairman. But her longevity as CEO gives her a rare perspective on what it takes to weather mistakes and business cycles and to be an agent of change.
Don't rest on your honeymoon-period laurels.
When she first became CEO, Ms. Bartz joked that her task was "playing Wendy to the Lost Boys of Autodesk." The company had one product, profits were sagging and employees, who brought their dogs and cats to the office, weren't used to answering to anyone. Even by Silicon Valley standards, the atmosphere was chaotic, choking creativity.
In Fast Company's first decade, we introduced readers to a lot of amazingly smart people. To launch our second, we asked 10 of our favorite brains what's next--and how to get ready for it.I think Malcolm Gladwell nails it, business will become much more active in political issues:
"Business has to find its national voice. It has to be engaged in the politics of this country in a way it's not accustomed to. Right now, executives are very good at saying, 'Cut our taxes, cut our regulations.' And they're really terrible at making far more important and substantive arguments about social policy. It's time they stopped banging this one-note drum and started saying that a lot of the things that have been relegated to ideology are, in fact, matters of fundamental international competitiveness for this country.
Take, for example, health care. We are ceding manufacturing jobs to the rest of the world because we can't get around to providing some kind of basic, uniform health insurance. Because of our strange ideological problem with nationalized health insurance, we're basically driving Detroit out of business--which strikes me as a very counterintuitive, nonsensical policy. The simple fact is that GM and Ford and Chrysler cannot compete in the world market if they're asked to bear the pension and health-care costs of their retirees. Can't be done. It's that simple.
No, instead I’m concerned about our country’s lack of vision for the future and the can-do attitude that we seem somehow to have lost — at least, it’s missing from most discussions on issues facing us today. In a nutshell, I’m lamenting the apparent mortal illness of optimism and ingenuity — the kind of spirit and drive that ignores all the negative issues in the news, the naysayers and the partisans and simply presses forward, driving toward solutions that benefit all of society.
I know we had that once, because the car industry as we know it today was not the invention of large and well-funded corporations. It was created and delivered by men who, though they often worked against the most incredible odds, never lost sight of their dreams and visions. With that focus — which often earned them scorn and insults — they changed the world for the better in a way that centuries of innovation hadn’t. And they did it in mere decades.
Would you rather pay $10 and have free shipping or pay $5 and pay $6 for shipping? Answer: you prefer the latter. Well, at least if you are like most bidders on eBay.
Morgan and co-author Tanjim Hossain, an assistant professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, held 80 auctions of new music CDs and Xbox video games to test how consumers respond to different price schemes. In the eBay study, they varied the opening bid price and shipping charges on identical CDs, ranging from Britney Spears to Nirvana, and video games, including Halo and NBA 2K2.
...A perfectly informed and fully rational consumer will merely add together the two parts of a price to obtain the total out-of-pocket price for an item and then decide whether to buy and how much to bid based on this total price.
But that’s not what happened in their eBay auctions. Instead, they found that lowering the opening bid price while raising shipping charges attracts earlier and more bidders and ultimately leads to higher revenues compared with doing the reverse. Those findings suggest consumers pay less attention or even completely overlook shipping costs when making bids...
The quote is from a writeup, the full paper is ...Plus Shipping and Handling: Revenue (Non) Equivalence in Field Experiments on eBay (subs required).
Also check out the interesting data on online pricing at Nash-equilibrium.com.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:42 AM
February 10, 2006
The Economics of MulchTyler Cowen:ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle, As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
ST. FRANCIS They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:04 AM
January 1, 2006
Interesting Collaboration Software Approach - P2PJames Fallows:The Berklee College of Music, in Boston, already supplies NoteTaker software to all 3,850 of its students and plans to issue NoteShare to them, too. David Mash, its vice president for information technology, wrote that because "notebooks are immediately available without servers," students can "collaborate on projects as the ideas hit them." For instance, they could "drag their music into a notebook, add some comments and ask for criticism" from friends and teachers on the network.The interesting aspect of this software is that it does not require any expensive/time consuming server tools. NoteShare FAQ.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:09 PM
November 24, 2005
WebSudokuSudoku (数独) is the number placing game taking the world by storm - see Wikipedia.
The rules of Sudoku are simple. Enter digits from 1 to 9 into the blank spaces. Every row must contain one of each digit. So must every column, as must every 3x3 square.
Each Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically without guessing.
October 22, 2005
Getting Things DoneThe Guardian:All must be corralled in one place and then processed using Allen's core mantra of "Do it, delegate it, defer it". If the action takes less than two minutes, do it there and then. If longer, you either hand off to someone else or defer it into your pending tray. Otherwise it is trashed or filed. The in-tray thereby becomes sacrosanct. You never put stuff back into "In". Never.Getting Things Done by David Allen
On the web, for example, Getting Things Done (GTD) has gone supernova. Web and IT professionals have taken Allen's core ideas and refined them into ever more effective tips called "life hacks". Adherents swap these across a broad network of blogs, wikis and websites such as 43Folders.com - all amid a considerable amount of one-upmanship over who has the biggest and best system.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:42 AM
September 20, 2005
Intelligence in the Internet AgeTake Diego Valderrama, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. If he were an economist 40 years ago, he may have used a paper, pencil and slide rule to figure out and chart by hand how the local economy might change with a 1 percent boost in taxes. But because he's a thoroughly modern guy, he uses knowledge of the C++ programming language to create mathematical algorithms to compute answers and produce elaborate projections on the impact of macroeconomic changes to work forces or consumer consumption.
Does that mean he's not as bright as an economist from the 1950s? Is he smarter? The answer is probably "no" on both counts. He traded one skill for another. Computer skills make him far more efficient and allow him to present more accurate--more intelligent--information. And without them, he'd have a tough time doing his job. But drop him into the Federal Reserve 40 years ago, and a lack of skill with the slide rule could put an equal crimp on his career.Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM
September 2, 2005
Glenn Reynolds interviews Kurzweil, with some interesting charts on US science and technology education.Posted by James Zellmer at 11:34 AM
July 12, 2005
Tufte in MadisonPresenting Data and Information: A One-Day Course Taught by Edward Tufte is in Madison August 8, 2005 ($320/person):
I attended his course in Chicago last year. Highly recommended. More on Edward Tufte.
- "One visionary day....the insights of this class lead to new levels of understanding both for creators and viewers of visual displays." WIRED
- "The Leonardo da Vinci of data." THE NEW YORK TIMES
- The Fee includes Tufte's three books: Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and the 15" x 22" Napoleon's March posterPosted by James Zellmer at 10:02 AM
June 14, 2005
Steve Jobs OdysseyA transcript of Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech, given this past weekend.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:26 PM
June 9, 2005
Does the Harvard Brand Matter Anymore?
UW Madison & Harvard Grad Thomas P.M. Barnett discusses the value of Harvard and mentions that the UW now has more Fortune 500 CEO's than Harvard (I'm not sure if that's good or bad).Posted by James Zellmer at 7:39 AM
June 3, 2005
Political MathMary Lazich comments on the political spin around small changes to the State's UW Budget (the budget is going up, just not quite as much as Governor Doyle wants). Doyle refers to this as a "cut" while Lazich corrects his math:There are two ways to do simple math. There is the way most everyone does it. And there is the way Governor Jim Doyle does it.Matt Pommer, writing in the Capital Times also referred to this change as a "cut". He doesn't mention total state support anywhere in the article. We're better off getting our facts right. There's no doubt that education funding at all levels has its challenges, but we do currently spend a great deal of money on education, at all levels. Choices must be made, perhaps there are things the State should not fund, allowing additional cash for education purposes.
As a member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee entrusted with crafting the state budget, I voted with the majority to approve a package to give the University of Wisconsin System a slight increase in state aid over the next two years. The increase amounts to $9 million.
Nevertheless, the governor could not resist issuing a news release referring over and over again to “cuts” he called “senseless.” Apparently in the governor’s world of fuzzy math, an increase is considered a cut.
The fact is the Joint Finance Committee gave the UW System more money for the next two years. The UW System is not being shortchanged. It receives close to $1 billion a year. That is billion with a “b.” Funding for the UW System accounts for close to 8% of the entire state budget.
Finally, Madison's recent school referenda initiative was also somewhat guilty of this. The questions were often phrased as costing a taxpayer no more than a Latte per day (avoiding any mention of the current, growing school taxes that property owners already pay). Transparency is critical to public support. Our politicians, and some writers, have a ways to go on this matter.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:55 AM
May 19, 2005
In order to clarify what I said to the reporter in the May 18 story entitled Mayor Urges Yes Vote for Schools, I sent the following letter to the CapTimes:
I was quoted as saying the "world wouldn't come to a screeching halt" if the referenda did not pass. Actually, what I said was there was plenty of time for the school board to prepare new referenda questions for a November election, when we would otherwise be voting. Thus, for those of us concerned that these items are not based on solid data, a 'no' vote now would not bring the district to its knees.
Why the rush, then? Because the outcome might change. For instance, by next fall, we might learn that the demographics in the district and Leopold neighborhood argue against a school there, perhaps that building there would mean certain school closures in the Isthmus area. Those following school issues know that another far West side elementary school is surely going to get built in addition to whatever happens at Leopold. Something's got to give.
And as to the operating and maintenance questions, we need a closer look at the teachers' contract and also the "untouchable" administrative staff arrangements. Actually, we need an overall transparent budget process. If the numbers are solid, let's see the justifications and assumptions. I am happy to support these requests when I can trust the numbers. Right now, I don't.
Joan M. Knoebel
I'd like to clarify that this post is not meant as a criticism of the reporting. This reporter does a terrific job of covering school issues, and doing so fairly. But I felt it was important to correct the misapprehension some had after reading the story that I believe the referenda are not important or that I don't care what happens to our schools. My point is that we have time to do this better, i.e., a "no" vote now won't shut down our schools. The board can bring these questions back to the public in November, hopefully after a more transparent look at all the numbers.Posted by at 8:38 AM
May 12, 2005
May 24, 2005 Madison Schools Referendum InformationI've posted links and summary information on the May 24, 2005 Special Election for the Madison Schools Referendums.Posted by James Zellmer at 6:48 AM
May 9, 2005
GM Gives it up - Discusses Hybrid License with Toyota
Toyota continues to build volume for it's supplier network by discussing a deal for hybrid auto technology with GM. Ford did the same with it's Escape small SUV Hybrid. Generally bad news for domestic parts suppliers.
May 7, 2005
$20M for UW Art MuseumJerome & Simona Chazen gave $20M to the Elvehjem Museum of Art - now renamed the Chazen Museum of Art. The funds will be used for a major expansion. Aaron Nathans has more. Background: clusty search.Posted by James Zellmer at 11:35 AM
April 25, 2005
UW Engineering Open HousePhotos from the recent UW Engineering Open House.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 AM
April 17, 2005
Paradox: WSJ: Skilled Labor Shortage: Milwaukee Journal: State Short on Jobs for GraduatesJason Stein writes in the Wisconsin State Journal that there's a skilled labor shortage here:Colleges and training programs aren't keeping up with the demand for skilled workers in a variety of industries, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has found. Rough state projections show Wisconsin needs 2,430 registered nurses to enter the work force each year until 2012. But in 2004, only 1,755 nursing graduates took the state exam to become registered nurses.Meanwhile, Joel Dresang writes in the Milwuakee Journal-Sentinel that we don't have enough jobs for graduates.
Wisconsin's construction industry needs a projected 1,020 new carpenters a year, but only 340 carpentry graduates are coming out of the state's apprenticeship and tech college programs."In many cases, the jobs aren't here," says Karen Stauffacher, assistant dean and director of the Business Career Center at UW-Madison.
As of last week, more than a third of the job offers accepted by the business school's spring graduates were with companies based in Minneapolis (18% of the accepted offers) and Chicago (17%).
Only 31% of accepted offers were from Wisconsin employers, mostly in Madison (13%) and Milwaukee (8%). On average, the Chicago employers offered salaries $10,000 higher than in Madison, and Minneapolis companies offered about $7,000 more.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:35 AM
April 10, 2005
UW-Stevens Point: Melvin R. Laird Youth Leadership Day
April 9, 2005
Arts & Education: Milwaukee Ballet, Degas & Milwaukee Art Museum
I chanced upon a rather extraordinary afternoon recently at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Museum is currently featuring a Degas sculpture exhibition, including Little Dancer. Interestingly, several ballerinas from the Milwaukee Ballet were present. Children could sketch and participate. I took a few photos and added some music. The result is this movie. Enjoy!Posted by James Zellmer at 2:16 PM
February 18, 2005
Underheim/Burmaster ForumWisconsin DPI Superintendent Candidates participated in a forum yesterday, sponsored by wispolitics.com. Alan Borsuk has the details.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:16 AM
February 15, 2005
Local Madison School Issues are getting lots of attentionVisit www.schoolinfosystem.org for extensive local school coverage.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:43 AM
February 14, 2005
UW Engineering Innovation DaysJane Howard on UW's Innovation Days ($10K in prizes).Posted by James Zellmer at 7:41 AM
February 12, 2005
Wisconsin DPI Candidate PrimaryAlan Borsuk posted a brief summary of the four DPI candidates for Tuesday's primary here.
January 31, 2005
Wisconsin DPI Candidate Madison Forum Video/Audio2009 Primary Candidate notes and links can be found here.
Three of the four candidates for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent participated in a Madison Forum Saturday morning. The League of Women Voters Melanie Ramey kindly moderated. Watch the forum here (video and audio clips). You can also read individual questions and watch/listen to the candidate responses.
Incumbent Libby Burmaster was unable to attend, though the three candidates mentioned that she has not participated in any primary events to date. I find this disappointing. These challenging education times require more debate, a more engaged citizenry and leadership.
I was impressed with the three participating candidates. They addressed the issues and were willing to put their names on a position.
In days long gone, it was likely sufficient to rely on special interests and avoid direct public interaction. Our current President certainly avoids any sort of critical engagements. Russ Feingold, to my knowledge, has always mingled easily with the public. [Melanie mentioned that incumbent non-participation in the primaries is a growing problem around the state.]
The internet era is dramatically changing the way in which we all communicate, are informed and express our points of view. Any candidate seeking office would do well to participate in the conversation.
I also want to thank the local media for their extensive coverage:
Take a look at the forum page and email the candidates with questions. The primary is Tuesday, February 15, 2005. Vote!
- 3, 15 and 27. Their coverage enabled these three candidates to have a few broadcast words with Madison voters.
- Isthmus posted the event in their weekly calendar.
- Sheryl Gasser emailed and mentioned that Wisconsin Public Radio will be interviewing the four DPI candidates individually starting this Monday morning from 7 to 8a.m. through Thursday morning. I'll post audio links to these conversations.
January 30, 2005
Tool for ThoughtSteven Berlin Johnson discusses the software he uses to organize his research, Devonthink.This week's edition of the Times Book Review features an essay that I wrote about the research system I've used for the past few years: a tool for exploring the couple thousand notes and quotations that I've assembled over the past decade -- along with the text of finished essays and books. I suspect there will be a number of you curious about the technical details, so I've put together a little overview here, along with some specific observations. For starters, though, go read the essay and then come back once you've got an overview.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 AM
January 18, 2005
Paul Yvarra: Candidate for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent
I recently had an opportunity to visit with Dr. Paul Yvarra, candidate for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent. This interview is available in both Quicktime Video and mp3 audio 1 | mp3 audio 2. Check it out. Learn more about all four Wisconsin DPI Superintendent candidates here.Posted by James Zellmer at 5:35 PM
January 17, 2005
Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Candidate SitesI've posted a brief summary of the 4 candidates for Wisconsin DPI (Department of Public Instruction) Superintendent. This page includes:
I'll update this page periodically.
- Contact information
- Audio/Video Interviews
- Fat links to extensive background informationPosted by James Zellmer at 12:02 AM
January 16, 2005
Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Candidate: Todd Stelzel
I had an opportunity to visit recently with Black Earth resident, Wisconsin Heights teacher and Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Candidate Todd Stelzel. I've posted a 13 minute video clip and mp3 audio file where Stelzel discuss his background, candidacy and asks for our vote. Following are a number of fat links to information about Stelzel, who recently completed his Masters Degree at Edgewood College in Madison. Fat Links (click on the icons):
Look for an interview with another candidate, Dr. Paul Yvarra soon. I've not heard from incumbent Madison resident Elizabeth Burmaster or Gregg Underheim. If I do, I will post their interviews as well.Posted by James Zellmer at 11:02 AM
December 18, 2004
WEAC Survey: Revenue Caps & School Spending
WEAC:The Wisconsin Education Association Council and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators annual survey of school administrators uncovered a new trend in the 2003-2004 school year: districts are being forced to cut academic programs because of state-imposed revenue controls. Revenue controls severely limit the funds school districts can raise and spend.Posted by James Zellmer at 2:04 AM
December 13, 2004
Cris Prystay discusses the growing use of the Singapore Math curriculum in US schools.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:29 AM
December 8, 2004
Corporate IlliteracyR. Craig Hogan, a former university professor who heads an online school for business writing here, received an anguished e-mail message recently from a prospective student.
"i need help," said the message, which was devoid of punctuation. "i am writing a essay on writing i work for this company and my boss want me to help improve the workers writing skills can yall help me with some information thank you".
Hundreds of inquiries from managers and executives seeking to improve their own or their workers' writing pop into Hogan's computer in-basket each month, he says, describing a number that has surged as e-mail has replaced the phone for much workplace communication. Millions of employees must write more frequently on the job than previously. And many are making a hash of it.
"E-mail is a party to which English teachers have not been invited," Hogan said. "It has companies tearing their hair out."Posted by James Zellmer at 12:07 AM
Economic Time Bomb: US Teens are Among the Worst at Math
June Kronholz summarizes the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment, which finds that:The percentage of top-achieving math students in the nation is about half that of other industrialized countries, and the gap between scores of whites and minority groups -- who will make up an increasing share of the labor force in coming decades -- is enormous.Here's the report. Slashdot discussion.
November 21, 2004
The Tyranny of Low ExpectationsAt one level, the debate is over current controversies in public education: Many parents believe that their children, mostly in elite schools, are being pushed too hard in a hypercompetitive atmosphere. But other parents are complaining about a decline in programs for gifted children, leaving students to languish in "untracked" and unstimulating classrooms. Some critics of education believe that boys especially are languishing in schools that emphasize cooperation instead of competition. No Child Left Behind, indeed.Fascinating article....
But the basic issue is the same one raised four decades ago by Kurt Vonnegut in "Harrison Bergeron," a short story set in the America of 2081, about a 14-year-old genius and star athlete. To keep others from feeling inferior, the Handicapper General weighs him down with 300-pound weights and makes him wear earphones that blast noise, so he cannot take "unfair advantage" of his brain.
That's hardly the America of 2004, but today's children do grow up with soccer leagues and spelling bees where everyone gets a prize. On some playgrounds dodge ball is deemed too traumatic to the dodging-impaired. Some parents consider musical chairs dangerously exclusionary.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:14 PM
November 6, 2004
Lessig @ Bloggercon"In normal times, people come to univerisities to learn things, these are extraordinary times: Universities, Chicago, Harvard, Northwestern don't have a clue - we need to go out and find things.Check the bloggercon site for mp3's later.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:31 AM
October 20, 2004
Silicon Valley School District Cuts Salaries by 5%Facing a budget crisis, California's Silicon Valley school district has resorted to cutting salaries of teachers and other employees by 5 percent.This is one of the problems that can arise when districts become too dependent on rising property taxes (Silicon Valley has a number of empty office buildings, due to the dot com crash).Posted by James Zellmer at 8:54 AM
October 19, 2004
Music and MathAt 28, Manjul Bhargava has already won a coveted full professorship at Princeton University. An expert in number theory, the study of the properties and relationships of numbers, Bhargava is also a master of the tabla, a small Indian hand drum used to create music with rhythmic, precise patterns.
Number theory is the type of math that describes the swirl in the head of a sunflower and the curve of a chambered nautilus. Bhargava says it's also hidden in the rhythms of classical Indian music, which is both mathematical and improvisational. He sees close links between his two loves -- both create beauty and elegance by weaving together seemingly unconnected ideas.Posted by James Zellmer at 12:22 AM
October 17, 2004
Famed Aerospace Designer Burt Rutan on the Government's Role in Technology Development�And we�re sitting there amazed throughout the 1960s. We were amazed because our country was going from Walt Disney and von Braun talking about it�all the way to a plan to land a man on the Moon�Wow!�I believe Rutan is correct. Government should generally provide incentives for private industry to address problems that we as a society believe need attention. Examples include: broadband (true 2 way), education, energy and space exploration.
The right to dream
But as a kid back then, Rutan continued, the right to dream of going to the Moon or into space was reserved for only �professional astronauts� � an enormously dangerous and expensive undertaking.
Over the decades, Rutan said, despite the promise of the Space Shuttle to lower costs of getting to space, a kid�s hope of personal access to space in their lifetime remained in limbo.
�Look at the progress in 25 years of trying to replace the mistake of the shuttle. It�s more expensive�not less�a horrible mistake,� Rutan said. �They knew it right away. And they�ve spent billions�arguably nearly $100 billion over all these years trying to sort out how to correct that mistake�trying to solve the problem of access to space. The problem is�it�s the government trying to do it.�Posted by James Zellmer at 12:03 AM
October 7, 2004
Cisco CEO Chambers calls for education reform & broadband push
Chambers did not get specific with respect to education reform, but did mention some problematic data:
David Isenberg summarizes Japan's successful broadband approach here. He also notes that the US has fallen to thirteenth vis a vis other nation's broadband adoption rate.
- Fewer than 6 percent of master's degrees issued in the U.S. in 2001-02 were in engineering, and fewer than 1 percent were in math, Chambers noted.
- The U.S. is also lagging behind most industrialized nations in broadband adoption, Chambers said. Japanese consumers have access to broadband speeds 400 percent to 500 percent faster than in the U.S., he said. "We've got to move faster," Chambers added.
September 27, 2004
Bill Cosby to visit Milwaukee's North High School
Georgia Pabst on Bill Cosby's visit to Milwaukee North on October 20, 2004 (6 to 9p.m.); 1101 W. Center St.The gathering was announced Friday by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who worked with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators and the Wisconsin Black Media Association to bring about the Cosby appearance.Debra Dickerson covers Cosby...
Barrett said he hoped the discussion would deal with the importance of education and how the community can tackle and develop solutions to educational disparities and other challenges.
Cosby first raised a national storm in May during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring an end to school segregation. He decried the lack of emphasis on education in the black community and challenged parents to greater accountability. Though he earned rebukes from some commentators, others praised him for speaking out.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:39 AM
Useful Education Posts
www.schoolinfosystem.org has an extensive set of education posts. Keep clicking and scrolling.
September 19, 2004
Arts & Madison Schools
This weekend's opening of the 200M+ Overture Center has created a great deal of excitement and activity downtown. Interestingly, the Madison School District has been de-emphasizing arts via:
- increased student fees
- Depleting the reserve fund for increased athletic spending (without looking at a more balanced extra-curricular approach such as re-instating the district arts coordinator)
- Failing to fund West High School's fall Performance ($11,000) while increasing sports dollars.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:42 AM
August 22, 2004
100 Black Men Back to School Picnic 8.28
Johnny Winston, Jr. sent a note today about a wonderful event that the 100 Black Men of Madison are holding:The 100 Black Men of Madison's 8th Annual Back To School Picnic will be held on Saturday August 28th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Demetral Park on Commercial and Packers Ave. This event will be held rain or shine.This year�s picnic will feature the distribution of over 1,600 backpacks filled with school supplies to help needy elementary and middle school students get off to a great start.
Children must be in attendance to receive a backpack and they are distributed in a �first come, first served� basis. In addition, hamburgers, hot dogs and other treats will be served. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and the Madison Fire Trucks will also be there.
For the first time, The 100 will work in conjunction with the Madison
Department of Public Health to provide toothbrushes and well child clinic
The 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) not for profit service
organization. The Back to School Picnic is sponsored by include Oscar
Mayer, Kraft, Target, Office Depot, Famous Footwear, Anchor Bank and
For more information please contact Wayne Canty 608-285-6753, Darrell
Bazzell 608-263-2509 or Micheal Boulden 608-285-6036.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:33 PM
July 14, 2004
Schoolinfosystem Great Posts
Check out the www.schoolinfosystem.org site for many great post on:
- Bilingual education, among others.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:23 PM
July 6, 2004
School Tax Dollars at Work
Madison Board of Education Member Ruth Robarts posted an insightful article on periodic information delivery via packets of papers.... (via van or diesel truck).
Given a choice between increased strings and wrestling fees and driving paper around, I'd support the students first....Posted by James Zellmer at 10:54 PM
June 2, 2004
Wisconsin School Finance Reform Proposal
The Governor's Task Force on Educational Excellence is evidently poised to suggest that the state fund schools by:
Amy Hetzner summarizes the proposal.
- Increase the state sales tax to 6% (from 5%) and reduce property taxes by 20% (I'll believe that when I see it)
- Eliminate the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer)
- Increase Class size reduction funding to $2,500 per child
- Reimburse school districts at a higher rate for educating high-cost special education students.
I think that school funding should include:
- Sales tax reform (newspapers, advertising - are currently not taxed)
- Increase in annual vehicle fees, reflecting the cost of a auto and the fuel efficiency
- Increased Federal Funding via reform of the Social Security tax so that all wage income is taxed, not just the first $87,600.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:12 PM
May 30, 2004
The son of a Milwaukee plumber, Rev. Reginald Foster has devoted his lift to saving Latin from extinction, says Clifford Levy from Vatican City.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:07 AM
May 20, 2004
Madison Schools Budget Updates
Barb Schrank updates us on the winners & losers in the recently passed $308+M 2004-2005 MMSD Budget:
Schrank also provides a complete comparison (excel file) here.
- Student Services increased 30%
- Business Services 7%
- General Administration increased 6% (!)
- Educational Services (spec. ed/bilingual) 1%
- Elementary Education -1%
- w/o Assist. Supt. Office -2%
- Secondary Education -1%
- w/o Assist. Supt. Office -2%Posted by James Zellmer at 7:06 AM
May 19, 2004
Madison Schools Budget Update
Barb Schrank summarizes Monday evening's School Board budget discussions ($1m of changes to the Administration's $308m budget, including the first ever fee for an academic program ($50 for strings)). Schrank also discusses the urgent need for the board to adopt a more proactive budgeting process.....Posted by James Zellmer at 6:58 AM
May 12, 2004
Madison Schools Budget Updates
Quite a few interesting articles on the Madison School Districts 308M+ budget are available at www.schoolinfosystem.org
- Board Member Ruth Robarts offers many useful suggestions, including the rather obvious improvement: drive budget decisions based on academic achievement and curriculum.
- The current process includes the discussion of "cuts" without prior to the presentation & review of an actual budget!
- Rob Hernandez writes about the potential loss of 60 coaching jobs.
- Get involved: Learn about the issues and communicate your ideas. MMSD budget hearing 5.13.2004 @ 5:00P.M. Email the Board of Education: firstname.lastname@example.orgPosted by James Zellmer at 11:15 PM
May 11, 2004
Madison is #1?
Forbes Mark Tatge writes about our "Miracle in the Midwest":David C. Schwartz is right at home in the dark. That's where his fluorescent microscopes can do their work, scanning thousands of samples of DNA that make a slow crawl across computer screens and methodically map the human genome. All this activity is packed into a cramped room inside a lab at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "Most people think I came here because I hated New York," he says with a boyish smile and a twitch of the mustache that curls over his lip. "I came here to start a companyInteresting sidebar:Out-of-state venture capitalists complain that most of these hatchlings need better management. G. Steven Burrill, who runs the San Francisco merchant bank Burrill & Co. and has invested $15 million to $20 million in young Wisconsin companies, bemoans the failure to capitalize on opportunities. "We see 100 deals a month in life sciences," he explains. "But I don't see even one a month from MadisonBurrill is correct - while there are many opportunities here, it is not generally a risk taking culture.... unfortunately.Posted by James Zellmer at 11:06 PM
May 5, 2004
Science is Not War
Alex Tabarrok comments about a recent NY Times article by William J Broad that states we are losing our lead in sciences. Tabarrok makes some excellent points, including this quote from Thomas Jefferson:He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:18 PM
April 28, 2004
Kelley Bruss writes about the Northeastern Wisconsin Charter School, opening this fall:Those who�ve experienced online education say good things are in store when the Northeastern Wisconsin Online Charter School opens in the fall.
But students enrolling in the Web-based courses shouldn�t expect a light load. The work is demanding, said Sara Dennison, 17, a Gibraltar High School junior who took an oceanography class online last semester.
�You have to be very driven to want to do the class,� Dennison said. �You really have to stay focused on your own time and be very self-directed to finish it. � You really have to put the effort in and want to learn it.�
April 27, 2004
Replace Textbooks with Laptops?Every fifth- and sixth-grader at Johnson Elementary will receive a $1,350 IBM ThinkPad computer loaded with digital versions of state-approved textbooks and 2,000 works of literature. If the experiment works, the program will be expanded to other grades.
In Henrico County, Va., where schools give laptops to all high schoolers, Apple Computer Inc. replaced pop-out CD-ROM trays with slides on its iBook laptops when students kept breaking off the trays after forgetting to close them.
"They get heavy use, and occasionally they drop them," said Cathy Fisher, Henrico's director of high school education. Still, she said breakage, as well as thefts, are rare.
The Henrico school board will decide next year whether to renew the deal with Apple, which cost the school district $18.5 million over four years. Fisher said the district can't prove that computers raise test scores, but she said they make learning more interesting.
Smith, whose program serves up to 150 students, doesn't know what he'll do after the experiment with textbook-loaded laptops next year. It all depends on the price, he said.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:28 PM
April 26, 2004
Milwaukee's School BudgetIts name remains unchanged: Elm Creative Arts Elementary School. Young students still walk the halls, with violins and saxophones swinging at their sides.Interestingly, she includes some other viewpoints on school spending:
At first glance, it looks very much the art school its name reflects. Colorful papier-mache and art projects of all kinds decorate the hallway walls and dangle from the ceilings.
But ask the principal and parents what's going on here, and the story is anything but joyous. Some parents cry as they talk about it.
Students at this specialty art school on Walnut St. risk losing their art teachers. Budgetary woes have already claimed three art specialists in the last few years. The remaining four are in jeopardy.
Rep. Luther Olsen (R-Berlin): "Look at the amount of money spent per student. "Wisconsin is number eight in the country. . . . The answer is not dumping more money in because we don't have the money."
Mike Birkley, of the lobbying group Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc.: "Our tests scores are going up. Our SAT scores continue to be among the highest in the nation. Our dropout rates are down. The quality of education has not suffered."Posted by James Zellmer at 9:45 AM
Madison Schools Budget Update
Madison School District 2004-2005 $310+m budget discussions continue:
- Barb Schrank posts three documents:
- 2004/2005 MMSD Budget Process
- Current MMSD Numbers
- A Proposed 2004/2005 Budget
- Ruth Robarts posts a process for a Priority Driven Budget (rather than the current process where cuts are discussed prior to a full budget disclosure) Ruth's thoughts are based on a book and information from the National School Boards Association and the American Association of School AdministratorsPosted by James Zellmer at 7:31 AM
April 25, 2004
Compulsory Training in Subordination
1991 New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto wrote this fascinating article in the Whole Earth Review:Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.
"School" is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends. "School" is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). In colonial days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized. We turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.
The current debate about whether we should have a national curriculum is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I've told you about and a few more I've spared you. This curriculum produces moral and intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.
None of this is inevitable, you know. None of it is impregnable to change. We do have a choice in how we bring up young people; there is no right way. There is no "international competition" that compels our existence, difficult as it is to even think about in the face of a constant media barrage of myth to the contrary. In every important material respect our nation is self-sufficient. If we gained a non-material philosophy that found meaning where it is genuinely located -- in families, friends, the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy -- then we would be truly self-sufficient.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:31 PM
Meg Kissinger writes about the challenge Milwaukee Public Schools face educating homeless children:Like about 1,400 other Milwaukee schoolchildren on any given day, and more than 13,000 a year, Kenesha has no home to call her own. The challenge of educating her and the others is staggering for school administrators as the children move from one place to another, often without notice.
Phy Ed Cuts?
Activity levels of students drops from years ago according to Nicole Sweeney:"We want the kids to be smart academically," said Otha Frazier, a physical education teacher at Racine's Case High School. "Well, it's not showing too much intelligence if you're going to destroy the body to prepare the mind."Posted by James Zellmer at 7:23 AM
April 22, 2004
Losing our Edge?
Tom Friedman writes about a recent trip to Silicon Valley:Still others pointed out that the percentage of Americans graduating with bachelor's degrees in science and engineering is less than half of the comparable percentage in China and Japan, and that U.S. government investments are flagging in basic research in physics, chemistry and engineering. Anyone who thinks that all the Indian and Chinese techies are doing is answering call-center phones or solving tech problems for Dell customers is sadly mistaken. U.S. firms are moving serious research and development to India and China.
The bottom line: we are actually in the middle of two struggles right now. One is against the Islamist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, and the other is a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle against India, China, Japan and their neighbors. And while we are all fixated on the former (I've been no exception), we are completely ignoring the latter. We have got to get our focus back in balance, not to mention our budget. We can't wage war on income taxes and terrorism and a war for innovation at the same time.
Curriculum was and is a hot topic in the Madison School District.
Further, the tech industry has been playing footsie with Hollywood (ironic, given the size of the tech industry vs Hollywood) regarding our fair use rights. Dan Gillmor has recently published a draft version of his upcoming book: Making the News. Chapter 11 includes some very troubling quotes:
- Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America): "And he was adamant that technology in the future -- including personal computers -- will have to be modified to prevent people from making unauthorized copies.. The result: "Give the copyright holders the ability to "fix" all of its perceived infringement problems, and you give copyright holders unprecedented control over tomorrow's information, over culture itself. Here's an example: It is currently illegal to copy a snippet of video directly from a DVD to use as part of another work. But you can do this with a piece of text, though the e-book industry is working to prevent even a small cut and paste. If we need permission, or have to pay, simply to quote from other works, scholarship will be only one casualty."
- No technology company has done more to curry favor with the copyright cartel than Microsoft, a company that repeatedly ignored copyright law in building its own powerful business. Here's how Cory Doctorow put it:When Microsoft shipped its first search-engine (which makes a copy of every page it searches), it violated the letter of copyright law. When Microsoft made its first proxy server (which makes a copy of every page it caches), it broke copyright law. When Microsoft shipped its first CD-ripping technology, it broke copyright law.
It broke copyright law because copyright law was broken. Copyright law changes all the time to reflect the new tools that companies like Microsoft invent. If Microsoft wants to deliver a compelling service to its customers, let it make general-purpose tools that have the side-effect of breaking Sony and Apple's DRM, giving its customers more choice in the players they use. Microsoft has shown its willingness to go head-to-head with antitrust people to defend its bottom line: next to them, the copyright courts and lawmakers are pantywaists, Microsoft could eat those guys for lunch, exactly the way Sony kicked their asses in 1984 when they defended their right to build and sell VCRs, even though some people might do bad things with them. Just like the early MP3 player makers did when they ate Sony's lunch by shipping product when Sony wouldn't.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's answer has been to build Digital Rights Management -- the more appropriate term is "Digital Restrictions Management" -- into just about everything it makes.
- Microsoft, Intel and several other major technology companies are now working on a "Trusted Computing" initiative, putatively designed to prevent viruses and worms from taking hold of people's PCs and to keep documents secure from prying eyes. Sounds good, but the effect may be devastating to information freedom. The premise of these systems is not trust; it's mistrust. In effect, says security expert Ross Anderson, trusted computing "will transfer the ultimate control of your PC from you to whoever wrote the software it happens to be running." He goes on:But now consider the ways it could be used, beyond simple tracking by copyright holders of what they sell. Anderson writes:
[Trusted Computing] provides a computing platform on which you can't tamper with the application software, and where these applications can communicate securely with their authors and with each other. The original motivation was digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a TC platform, but which you won't be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won't be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you'll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up.The potential for abuse extends far beyond commercial bullying and economic warfare into political censorship. I expect that it will proceed a step at a time. First, some well-intentioned police force will get an order against a pornographic picture of a child, or a manual on how to sabotage railroad signals. All TC-compliant PCs will delete, or perhaps report, these bad documents. Then a litigant in a libel or copyright case will get a civil court order against an offending document; perhaps the Scientologists will seek to blacklist the famous Fishman Affidavit. A dictator's secret police could punish the author of a dissident leaflet by deleting everything she ever created using that system - her new book, her tax return, even her kids' birthday cards - wherever it had ended up. In the West, a court might use a confiscation doctrine to `blackhole' a machine that had been used to make a pornographic picture of a child. Once lawyers, policemen and judges realise the potential, the trickle will become a flood.The Trusted Computing moves bring to mind a conversation in early 2000 with Andy Grove, longtime chief executive at Intel and one of the real pioneers in the tech industry. He was talking about how easy it would soon be to send videos back and forth with his grandchildren. If trends continued, I suggested, he'd someday need Hollywood's permission. The man who wrote the best-seller, "Only the Paranoid Survive," then called me paranoid. Several years later, amid the copyright industry's increasing clampdown and Intel's unfortunate leadership in helping the copyright holders lock everything down, I asked him if I'd really been all that paranoid. He avoided a direct reply.
I've often wondered if our tech industry & hollywood's attempts to impose their fair use & big brother controls on PC's will destroy their export business (and our jobs). China and intel recently battled over a wireless security spec.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:33 AM
Virtual Field Trip: The Wright Brothers
The Apple Learning Interchange has posted a virtual field trip: The Wright StartThe invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright is one of the great stories in American history. It tells of the creation of a world-changing technology at the opening of an exciting new century, an era full of promise and confidence in the future. At the center of the tale are two talented, yet modest, Midwestern bicycle shop proprietors, whose inventive labors and achievement transformed them from respected small-town businessmen into international celebrities. The influence of their invention on the 20th century is beyond measure. The transport by air of goods and people, quickly and over great distances, and the military applications of flight technology, have had global economic, geopolitical, and cultural impact. The Wrights' invention not only solved a long-studied technical problem, but also fashioned a radically new world.
April 20, 2004
MMSD Budget Update
Pat Schneider writes that the Madison School Board last night delayed a study of administrative costs:The district would need $318 million to continue current programming next school year, but a state formula caps district spending at $308 million.
Superintendent Art Rainwater proposed cutting approximately 135 jobs, resulting in larger class sizes in middle and high schools, and reductions in special services. Schools would be cleaned less often, and athletic programs would be pared down while fees would be raised.
School board members must hammer out a spending document by July 1, but teachers facing downsizing must be notified by the end of May.
Veteran board member Carol Carstensen, who had proposed the evaluation of administrative costs, said she sought it because of her own limited understanding of many of the district's business functions. "I don't know how many people we ought to have working in the purchasing department," she said, for example.
According to Carstensen, $3.6 million in administrative salaries - not counting 70 school principals - fall under the state spending caps,.
An in-house draft document seeking the administrative evaluation did not include anyone in the superintendent's office, legal services or the district's public information office as among those to be evaluated. No administrators in instructional programs were included, either.
Carstensen acknowledged that no study could be done in time for this year's tough round of budgeting. "But if we don't get it started, we'll never have it," she said.
Board member Ruth Robarts seemed eager for a measure of administrative effectiveness, but she argued that that could not be obtained until the board laid out an instructional plan with performance goals.Posted by James Zellmer at 6:20 PM
April 18, 2004
Good teaching matters...."We push a lot for the kids to be successful." And she is convinced all her students - all black, almost all from low-income homes - can learn "if given the right opportunities and the right environment.
She says she urges parents to limit television and to read more at home. Children are influenced by this.
But she also knows that many of her students lead challenging lives. During a class discussion of what fourth-graders can do that infants can't, making your bed is mentioned by one student. Another says he doesn't have to do that because he sleeps on the floor. Guinn understands that this means he doesn't have a bed of his own.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:54 PM
April 16, 2004
Chicago Schools: Private Tutor ChallengesOver several months, a string of novice tutors from a private company offering federally financed after-school classes had tried and failed to control Room 207's dozen rambunctious students. A supervisor from the company was dispatched to troubleshoot. Effie McHenry, Wentworth's principal, was clucking her tongue in disapproval.
I just don't think they're prepared to deal with challenging inner city children," Mrs. McHenry said of the company, talking past the supervisor to a visitor. "I think they expected to find children who'd just sit down and wait for them to expound. These kids aren't like that. They need challenging instruction."Posted by James Zellmer at 6:48 AM
April 15, 2004
MPS received $15m teaching quality donationThe Chicago-based Joyce Foundation announced Wednesday that it would provide $15 million over the next three years to support efforts to improve the quality of teaching in low-performing schools in Milwaukee, Chicago and Cleveland.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:19 AM
April 14, 2004
MMSD Transfer Requests Rejected b/c of Race - WSJDozens of Madison public school students are learning this month that their race can be the sole factor in whether they're allowed to transfer to another district under the state's open enrollment law.
The Madison School District said Tuesday it has denied 65 open enrollment requests for next fall because the shift of those students - all of them white - would upset the racial balance at specific schools.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:45 AM
April 12, 2004
MPS Voucher Program AchievementsMilwaukee's voucher program prompted sustainable achievement gains for the city's public elementary schools, according to a new study by a Harvard economist.
Researcher Caroline Hoxby followed up on a study of three years ago, in which she concluded that the private school choice program pushed the public schools to improve.
In the new study, she adds test score data from two additional years - the 2000-'01 and 2001-'02 school years - and finds that the gains were sustained, although they did not accelerate. The study was published in the Swedish Economic Policy Review.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:55 PM
New proposal would eliminate �Education� from school district budget
Bizzaro Wisco Column - [Humor]
March 30, 2004
A document released today by the Madison Metropolitan School District
outlines the administration�s proposal to close the district�s $10 million
budget shortfall by eliminating all �education� activities and focusing on
the district�s core �child storage� functions. According to Superintendent
Art Rainwater, the increasing cost of �education� has impaired the
district�s ability to balance its books.
Thanks to Lucy Mathiak for pointing me to this article.Posted by James Zellmer at 4:27 PM
Post & Publish
Nahal Toosi writes a very thin article about blogging, including campus initiatives.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:18 PM
April 11, 2004
Do right, trust in God, and fear no manPosted by James Zellmer at 11:03 AM
April 10, 2004
Madison Property Taxes: "Everybody's Richer"
According to city assessor Ray Fisher Friday when 2004 property assessments were released. "My house went up 10 percent this year. I look at it as money in my pocket." - Beth Williams writes. Interesting perspective.... Can't say that I agree with Ray on that one. Bill Novak writes:"Last year, assessments went up 8.6 percent and the local real estate tax was up 7.1 percent, according to the Assessor's Office. In 2002, assessments were up 8.1 percent and taxes went up 3.2 percent. In 1997 and 1999, assessments went up and taxes went down." What about 1998, 2000 and 2001?
There has been talk in the state legislature of completely shifting school taxes from the property tax to other sources, such as the sales tax. Wayne Wood, a retiring representative from Janesville and Rep Mickey Lehman (R-Hartford) developed a proposal that would have used a sales tax increase to reduce property taxes for schools.
Michigan dramatically changed their school finance system a few years ago, substantially reducing property taxes, in return for an increase in sales taxes.
My view is that the time is long past to remove school spending from Wisconsin's high property taxes. Every Wisconsin property owner should reasonably expect:
- Actual property taxes (not mill rate or assessed value) should increase at a rate not to exceed the past 12 month's Consumer Price Index (CPI)
- Increases beyond the CPI would only occur if one or more of the following occur
- Property is sold
- Building Permit is issued, increasing the value of the home
How should we replace some of the property tax revenues?
- Sales Tax
- Gas Tax
- Vehicle License Fees (tied to value as well as fuel economy - am I dreaming?)
Political paralysis on this issue can only lead to drastic measures in the not too distant future.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:56 PM
April 9, 2004
Educators Flocking to Finland, Land of Literate ChildrenImagine an educational system where children do not start school until they are 7, where spending is a paltry $5,000 a year per student, where there are no gifted programs and class sizes often approach 30. A prescription for failure, no doubt, in the eyes of many experts, but in this case a description of Finnish schools, which were recently ranked the world's best.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:21 PM
Budget Deficit: "throw Granny off welfare" and "buy your own drugs"
Posted by James Zellmer at 3:21 PM
April 7, 2004
Where are the Entrepreneurs?
- Most attendees at recent VC & Economic Conferences were from government agencies, community development organizations, schools and universities (why? most real entrepreneurs don't have time to sit around and talk, they'd rather make things happen)
- Byrnes further muses that perhaps our culture is to blame: "We may be dealing with the long-term effects of an overprotective social climate that discourages risk taking."
- Too much overhead: Byrnes cites a recent study by the California-based Milken Institute which shows that Wisconsin has more economic development offices and business incubators per capita that almost every other state, including California! Byrnes calcuates that the ratio of business support people to entrepreneurs is 100 to 1; if you add educators, the ratio is 1000 to 1!
Byrnes is right on. We don't need more state sponsored programs (that generally only benefit the largest firms). We in fact, need less paperwork (I can't imagine how a small business keeps up with it all....), more risk taking and a more entrepreneurial financial environment (California has this in droves).
Byrnes article appeared in the April, 2004 issue of Corporate Report Wisconsin.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:28 AM
April 6, 2004
Isthmus School Board Election ThreadPosted by James Zellmer at 1:22 PM
Kerry On Education
Ron Brownstein summarizes John Kerry's positions on education reform, then and now, including a discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:59 AM
April 5, 2004
MPS: Life & Death of 8-T
Alan Borsuk writes about the demise of Milwaukee Public Schools 8-T program, an initiative "aimed at dealing with a problem that perplexes urban school districts across the United States: what to do with the large number of eighth-graders who are not really ready for high school".Extensive research indicates that neither holding students back a grade nor promoting them unprepared fosters achievement," the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory said in a report summarizing the issue.
So what do you do with such students?
In 1997, the Milwaukee School Board voted to require students to meet a set of proficiency standards before they graduate from middle school in an effort to deal with a "social promotion" problem that made ninth grade, in the words of one MPS administrator, "a parking lot" for hundreds of kids who were doing poorly.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:24 AM
April 4, 2004
Intel Co-Founder Helps Fund Silicon Valley Charter School
The technology legend and his wife Betty Moore donated $250,000 to the school's foundation, charter-school supporters announced Saturday during a casino-night fundraiser held at the Fremont Hills Country Club.
Gordon Moore, who is famous for predicting that a computer chip's power would double every two years, stated in the charter-school foundation's press release that ``Betty and I feel very strongly that competition in educational opportunities results in innovation and significant improvements for all participants.'' From Tim OrenPosted by James Zellmer at 8:59 PM
Integration's Triumphs & Failures after 50 years
The Washington Post Magazine Features a series of articles on integration.
- Barbara Rose Johns is remembered not only as a soldier of civil rights, but also as a role model for her family.
- Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring shows what happens when everyone in the school is a minority.
- In the early 20th century, African American students learned the hard way that seperate was nowhere near equal.
- In 1954, Josie Davenport, Paul Bergeron and their McKinley High School classmates were on the unnerving front line of integration.
- The landmark decision in Brown v. Board is an appropriate moment to consider the implications of low expectations when it comes to African American and Hispanic students.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:04 PM
Blocks, nap time giving way to language and reading programs
Many researchers see the root causes of this gap in the early years. There is a growing conviction that even good schools cannot do enough for students who start far behind.
"If we send kids to kindergarten with this big gap, we can be pretty sure that as things stand, the gap is not only going to remain, but will get bigger," said Deborah Stipek, the dean of Stanford University's School of Education.
Increasingly, educators are focusing on preschool programs as a critical step in making up the deficit, and they are developing - or being pushed to develop - programs that are more overtly academic than ever. Nationally, some programs are cutting nap time; others have instituted more formal assessments. Literacy blocks - the jargon for early language and reading programs - are becoming as common as wood blocks.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:22 AM
April 3, 2004
Local Power PoliticsThis looks like a rather expensive election. Olson has raised nearly twice as much money as Robarts, according to recent campaign finance disclosure filings. MTI Voters had $47K on hand according to their March 25, 2004 campaign finance disclosure filing [116K PDF].
This campaign reminds me of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's 1998 race vs. Mark Neumann. The Republican's spent millions in soft (PAC) money in an effort to defeat Feingold (it should be noted that the Democrats planned to do the same but stopped after Feingold objected).Posted by James Zellmer at 7:50 PM
Madison School Board Election UpdateSchool Board Candidates & Groups (PAC's) filed their latest campaign finance disclosures this past week. I've added receipts, expenditure and PAC receipt data here. Highlights include:* MTI Voters Campaign Finance Disclosure shows a $1,560 contribution to Johnny Winston, Jr's campaign on March 17, 2004, but Winston's March 29, 2004 disclosure does not show the receipt of this contribution.
Raised most $'s: Alix Olson $11,203.21 (Olson's opponent, incumbent Ruth Robarts has raised $5,839.44 and has accepted no PAC money) Received most Pac $'s: Alix Olson $2,185.00 Raised least amount: Sam Johnson $1,656.30 (Johnson's opponent, incumbent Shwaw Vang has raised $5,153,98 and has accepted $2,135 in PAC money) Raised least PAC $'s: Ruth Robarts $0.00 PAC with most cash: MTI Voters
(Madison Teachers, Inc. PAC)
$47,391.55 PAC with least cash: Get Real $289.81 Fund raising Summary Seat 3 Sam Johnson $1,656.30 Shwaw Vang $5,153.98 PAC Receipts $306.30 $2,135.00 Seat 4 Melania Alvarez $2,111.27 Johnny Winston, Jr.$9,683.93 PAC Receipts $266.27 $600 other + $1560MTI* Seat 5 Alix Olson $11,203.21 Ruth Robarts $5,839.44 PAC Receipts $2,185.00 $0.00 Learn more here... and vote April 6, 2004Posted by James Zellmer at 4:08 PM
Connected Math Controversy: "It's not a bad thing to learn language, but there's a language arts class"Posted by James Zellmer at 9:33 AM
April 1, 2004
School Board Election Updates
Two interesting items related to the April 6, 2004 Madison School Board Election:
- Doug Erickson writes that Madison Teachers, Inc. filed a request with the UW Madison for all records pertaining to Ruth Robarts salary & compensation. (Robarts is an assistant law school dean)
- This Week's Isthmus has a fascinating set of letters regarding their recent article on the School District's math curriculum. Unfortunately, not online.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:24 PM
March 31, 2004
Politically Incorrect Paper of the MonthAfrican-Americans make up a larger proportion of students than teachers. Many educators say that as a result African-Americans students suffer because they lack role models and white students suffer because they lack diversity. In a newly published paper (working paper version), Thomas Dee (Swarthmore College) supports some but not all of this story. Using data from Tennessee's Project Star, a very important experiment in which K-3 students were randomly assigned to small and regular sized classes, Dee finds that black students improve when they have black teachers. So far so good. Dee also finds, however, that white students improve when they have white teachers. Uh, oh. There goes the diversity is good for everyone story.
Dee is quick to point out that we don't understand why students perform better with a teacher of their own race. If it is a role-model effect then why would white students perform poorly with black teachers - surely there are enough white role models to choose from that one more or less isn't going to have an effect on the self-esteem of white students. Another theory, with some support from other studies, is that teachers spend more time helping students of their own race. Note that if it is the latter then better teacher training, to overcome natural biases, could improve the effectiveness of both white and black teachers.
The cite for the paper is Dee, Thomas S. 2004. Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. The Review of Economics and Statistics 86(1): 195-210.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:55 PM
March 28, 2004
High School Sports: Coach Fitz's Management Theory
Michael Lewis pens a fascinating article on Billy Fitzgerald, the longtime baseball coach at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. Fitgerald has coached many exemplary student/athletes. Recently, some of them got together to fund the school's gym renovation in his name.
Lewis's article explores the friction between a coach trying to get the most out of student/athlete's and parents who want to protect their children.''The parents' willingness to intercede on the kids' behalf, to take the kids' side, to protect the kid, in a not healthy way -- there's much more of that each year,'' he said. ''It's true in sports, it's true in the classroom. And it's only going to get worse.'' - Scott McLeod, Newman's headmaster.
Since then McLeod had been like a man in an earthquake straddling a fissure. On one side he had this coach about whom former players cared intensely; on the other side he had these newly organized and outraged parents of current players. When I asked him why he didn't simply ignore the parents, he said, quickly, that he couldn't do that: the parents were his customers. (''They pay a hefty tuition,'' he said. ''They think that entitles them to a say.'') But when I asked him if he'd ever thought about firing Coach Fitz, he had to think hard about it. ''The parents want so much for their kids to have success as they define it,'' he said. ''They want them to get into the best schools and go on to the best jobs. And so if they see their kid fail -- if he's only on the J.V., or the coach is yelling at him -- somehow the school is responsible for that.'' And while he didn't see how he could ever ''fire a legend,'' he did see how he could change him. Several times in his tenure he had done something his predecessors had never done: summon Fitz to his office and insist that he ''modify'' his behavior. ''And to his credit,'' the headmaster said, ''he did that.''Posted by James Zellmer at 9:08 PM
Random Lake Schools Budget Challenges/ResponseWhen the Random Lake School District cut high school course offerings last fall to save money, teachers and parents stepped in to help fill the gaps.
The district was faced with getting about $350,000 less in state aid, so it eliminated three high school teaching positions, one middle school teaching position and seven extracurricular activities, according to Joe Gassert, who�s been the district administrator for 10 years.
�The reduction in aid was a combination of declining enrollment and the smaller amount of money the state gave all school districts,� Gassert said.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:28 PM
UW Minority Students - Alone in a Sea of White
Madison - The day he moved into his residence hall as a freshman, Christopher Loving heard the whispers of his hall-mates.
"There's a black guy on the floor. Somebody go talk to him."
Finally, three fellow University of Wisconsin-Madison students appeared.
After noting he was from Chicago, one asked Loving if he was from a rough neighborhood.
No, Loving said.
"My dad told me that all the black people in Chicago live in the projects. . . . Are you sure you didn't grow up in the Robert Taylor Homes?"
"Well, does your dad play for the Chicago Bears or something?"
No, Loving said. He wasn't rich.
"Well, how do you go to school here then? I thought you had to be either really rich or really poor to go here if you're black."
Loving, now a junior and president of the campus Black Student Union, recalls the encounter with humor and sadness.Posted by James Zellmer at 1:24 PM
March 27, 2004
"Getting the Most out of the Nation's Teachers"
Virginia Postrel writes that smart women who were shut out of the professions used to become teachers. That was bad for the women but good for their students. New York Times:The best female students - those whose test scores put them in the top 10 percent of their high school classes - are much less likely to become teachers today.
"Whereas close to 20 percent of females in the top decile in 1964 chose teaching as a profession," making it their top choice, the economists write, "only 3.7 percent of top decile females were teaching in 1992," making teachers about as common as lawyers in this group.
So the chances of getting a really smart teacher have gone down substantially. In 1964, more than one out of five young female teachers came from the top 10 percent of their high school classes. By 2000, that number had dropped to just over one in 10.Women who do become teachers, however, are better educated today than in earlier years so rather than a total dumbing down there has been a trend towards mediocrity.
Merit pay would lead to better teachers but it is opposed by unions.
This is from the ever-wise Virginia Postrel, NYT password required. Here is a link to the original research. Caroline Hoxby argues that wage compression, often brought on by unionization, is responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the aptitude of female teachers.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:44 PM
March 25, 2004
Vouchers/Charter Schools in the News
Washington, DC has selected a non-profit organization to administer the first federally funded school voucher program in the nation, according to Justin Blum:"The group selected, the Washington Scholarship Fund, will be administering the first federally funded voucher program in the country. The program received final approval from Congress in January after contentious debate.Meanwhile, the local morning paper suggested that Governor Doyle sign Senate Bill 253, which would let Wisconsin public universities run specialized schools for younger students. The article also references a recent statement by UW Chancellor John Wiley:
The voucher program will allow at least 1,700 District children to attend private and religious schools this fall with grants of up to $7,500 per student.
At a news conference this morning, officials released new details of how the program will operate. Families first will apply to private schools and go through the schools' normal admissions procedures. Parents meeting the program's income guidelines then will apply for voucher funds, indicating their order of preference among the schools where their children have been accepted."The measure could help address specific shortcomings in public schooling as well. For example, UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley this week cited "phenomenal shortages" in the country's supply of scientists and engineers. Charter schooling would let the UW System address the problem by getting in on the ground floor of public schooling, where educators could run a school geared to students with interest and aptitude in these areas. The students then get the preparation they need to pursue science and engineering degrees and careers.Wiley's comments follow a report from the American Electronics Association critical of American schools efforts teaching students science and math.Posted by James Zellmer at 6:55 AM
March 24, 2004
Outsourcing Report Blames Schools
Michelle Delio writes that a new American Electronics Association report on outsourcing charges that the American school system fails to provide a strong science and math education to students."Despite our best efforts, our kids really have a hard time understanding why they might need advanced math or science in their adult lives", said New York middle-school teacher Keri Carnen.
Noting that roughly 50 percent of all engineering, math and science degrees awarded by U.S. universities now go to foreign nationals, AeA researchers also called on the federal government to give green cards to all foreign nationals upon their graduation with master's and Ph.D. degrees, in an effort to keep these people -- and their skills -- in the United States.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:02 PM
Budget Cuts Without a Budget?
Lee Sensenbrenner writes that Madison School Board President Bill Keys stated during a telephone interview Tuesday that golf and strings should be on the chopping block as the Board considers $9m reductions in the $310+ budget:"Funding for the fourth-grade stringed music classes and varsity golf teams is being questioned by Madison School Board President Bill Keys as the school district struggles to find $10 million worth of cuts.Interestingly, Barb Schrank sent a one page Madison Schools Budget update where she writes:
The district administration made its recommendations earlier this month for next year's budget, and the board is in the process of its own review.
Although administrators did not propose cutting the popular strings class, Keys said in a telephone interview Tuesday it's an option he'd like to consider.
"The strings class has always been brought up as a possibility, so I said let's bring it up again," Keys said.""To date, the School Board has not received the budget for next year. How can the School Board make cut decisions without a reference budget?"[95K PDF] Great question.....Posted by James Zellmer at 8:08 PM
MMSD supports convicted monopolist Microsoft
The Madison school district has, for a number of years, supported a Microsoft based monoculture of computing tools. This ill advised policy has placed far too much emphasis on one computing model (by the time today's elementary & middle school students enter the work force, the technology at hand will be quite different).Among the documents introduced in court this week was a letter from June 1990 in which Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, told Andrew S. Grove, the chief executive of Intel at the time, that any support given to the Go Corporation, a Silicon Valley software company, would be considered an aggressive move against Microsoft.
Other evidence presented by the plaintiffs' lawyers at trial yesterday gave an account of how Microsoft violated a signed secrecy agreement with Go and showed that Microsoft possessed technical documents from Go that it should not have had access to.
Madison's financial support of this monoculture is absurd. We should take the cash we're sending to Microsoft and fund our PE program instead.... (Note that the argument that business uses Microsoft therefore we should feed our children the same dog food does not hold water. Increasingly, business is using open source tools such as linux, apache, php, mysql and other products)Posted by James Zellmer at 7:32 AM
March 23, 2004
The Plugged-In Parent
Samantha Ganey writes about child rearing strategies:You'd better be a good parent. Because if you're not, your kids will resent you, get tattoos, pierce their upper lip frenulums, drop out of school and maybe even join the circus. And believe me, you'll be sorry, Mister.
So how's that feel?Posted by James Zellmer at 4:31 PM
March 22, 2004
Meet Rita Mathes and Jeanne Gast, who stationed themselves in the high school�s front hall on St. Patrick�s Day with a giant box of cookies.
�Top of the mornin� to you, help yourself,� Mathes wished students going her way.
�You, too, as soon as I can see,� responded a bleary-eyed boy as he shuffled in, fresh from the shower.
�They�re so polite,� said Gast, taking pride in their manners as if all the students were her own. This grandparent of 23 knows most kids in town. �We grew them up from pups, most of �em,� she said.
Very nice high school web site, btw, including panoramic Quicktime VR Tours...Posted by James Zellmer at 7:36 AM
March 21, 2004
Still Seperate & Unequal
Bruce Murphy writes that low income students struggle to fund a college education:"Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruled that black Americans must receive an equal chance at a quality education, a college degree has become the ticket to the middle class. But it is a ticket that poor families - a high percentage of them minorities - often can't afford.
...Holmes works eight hours a week on campus and another 21 hours a week off campus at a local bank. She's had to scale back her class load to keep up. She also could take out more loans in order to cut back on work, but that would saddle her with as much as $20,000 in debt by graduation, with years of medical school education yet to finance."Posted by James Zellmer at 6:46 PM
March 19, 2004
MMSD Budget Update - from Barb Schrank
Posted by James Zellmer at 10:49 AM
March 18, 2004
Madison School Board Needs Diversity - Robarts
Lee Sensenbrenner writes about Wednesday's School Board Candidate Statements to the Madison Rotary Club:Given six unfettered minutes to explain to the Madison Downtown Rotary why she is seeking re-election to the Madison School Board, Ruth Robarts said that with or without her, the school district has sharp divisions.
"I think it's wishful thinking that says removing me from the board will heal this divide, and we'll go forward in a unified way," she said during Wednesday's meeting. "I think now, in a very real way, our board needs a diversity of viewpoints. To grow confidence in the board, we need to have a full debate of issues and approaches."
The Cap Times Editorial Page comments on the role of the School Board vis a vis the Administration.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:17 PM
Bailing out the Florence School District
The Wisconsin State Journal's Editorial Page writes:Instead of recognizing the Florence County cash squeeze for what it is - a symptom of a statewide school financing problem begging for legislative attention - lawmakers instead will:
Roll over for whiners hollering "crisis!" Many large rural school districts are in trouble, squeezed by declining enrollment, inadequate tax base and high transportation costs. Florence County's substantial loss of state aid in recent years matches a corresponding decline in student enrollment. Lawmakers wrote this formula, which applies to all public schools, not just one in the hinterlands.
Reward bad management. The Florence County School Board recently bought out the contracts of three administrators for a whopping $439,000, plus extended health coverage for the former superintendent. With that kind of money at stake, school officials could have served taxpayers better by jetting in Donald Trump to bark out his catch phrase: "You're fired!"
It's certainly time to revisit how we fund public education. I sincerely hope that Governor Doyle thinks about this while winging his way to China (on a Tommy Thompson style trade mission) [WI Dept of Commerce 6 page PDF document on the trip fees & schedule]Posted by James Zellmer at 8:01 AM
March 17, 2004
Silicon Valley Exec Tries to Change Dartmouth
Cypress Semiconductor CEO TJ Rodgers is running for Dartmouth's Board of Trustees, with the stated goal that the college stop adding ethnic studies classes and refocus its resources on the fundamentals, such as civics, science and history.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:28 PM
March 16, 2004
Administration Cuts @ MMSD?
UPDATE: Lee Sensenbrenner writes about last night's "tense" board meeting.
Doug Erickson writes:Carol Carstensen suggested Monday that the board seek an independent analysis of the school district's administrative costs as it mulls $10 million in proposed cuts (on a 300+m budget).
Specifically, Carstensen said she's heard concern from the public about the cost of the district's administrators.
School Board President Bill Keys said he's not sure the board can cut much more from the administration.
"You still need to buy supplies and cut checks," Keys said. "There are things that have to be done."
Keys is correct that some of these things must be done. Perhaps there are better ways, including further automation, outsourcing to local businesses or simply eliminating some processes.Posted by James Zellmer at 6:54 AM
March 15, 2004
Interesting Spanish Teaching Project
Christopher Hamady, technology coordinator for the Regina Coeli School, is looking for help with an interesting project:Our Spanish teacher would like to find a school in a native Spanish-speaking country that would like to do web-based video correspondence with our students. The format would entail that each school would make QuickTime videos of their students asking simple questions about the culture of the other, and the other school would reply using the same medium. The videos would be uploaded to the Web so that each school could easily access them.
Each group of students would have the opportunity to ask and answer questions in both English and Spanish, thus aiding development skills in speaking and translating of both languages. The participating school would have to have access to a web server to post their videos. The rest of the details could be discussed via email.
This is a great idea, and is quite doable with very inexpensive tools today.
Email email@example.com [from macintouch]Posted by James Zellmer at 12:47 PM
Sketchy Grade for Cyber Schools - Wired
John Gartner writes in Wired that Cyber Schools are not measuring up...Cyber schools -- where students complete all coursework online using home computers -- are a big hit with parents, who are signing up their children as quickly as the virtual doors open. However, test results for 2003 show students at many cyber schools are not measuring up to state standards or to their peers who attend brick-and-mortar schools.
According to the non-profit Center for Education Reform, or CER, the number of online public schools has grown from 30 to 82 during the past two years, offering instruction in 19 states. That number could more than double in 2004, as school districts in Ohio have granted charters to 63 cyber schools, up from seven in 2003.
I don't know much about these initiatives, but one year's worth of data does not mean a whole lot....Posted by James Zellmer at 9:01 AM
March 14, 2004
Ruth Robarts on Madison Schools Budget
Ruth Robarts emails her comments on the MMSD administration's proposed 3% budget reduction along with some alternative approaches.Posted by James Zellmer at 12:09 PM
March 12, 2004
Madison Schools Budget Update
Lee Sensenbrenner has a summary of the nearly $10m in proposed cuts to next years $308m Madison schools budget:The chops fall hardest on custodians, teachers and support staff. But they also take a significant toll on high school athletics, including big fee hikes, fewer teams and coaching positions as well as the elimination of all high school athletic directors.
No upper level administrators would be affected by the proposed cuts.
Additional background here....
Posted by James Zellmer at 12:28 PM
March 11, 2004
Madison School Budget Cuts
The Madison Metropolitan School District announced their recommended budget cuts [265K PDF] today. (MMSD Budget site)
Barb Shrank passed along two budget documents from a March 1, 2004 presentation to the School Board.
Board of Education Agendas, Minutes & SchedulePosted by James Zellmer at 7:08 PM
Laptops in Schools? Maine, Michigan & Virginia Experiences
There's been much discussion recently regarding laptops in schools, including a recent chat I had with Madison Superintendant Art Rainwater (MP3 3.7MB - video on the way)
From District Administration:For those who envision laptop computers in the hands of every student, this may be the best of times and the worst of times. While classrooms using this approach are churning out success stories, growing state budget deficits are threatening future funding, leaving educators to wonder whether laptops for everyone is a great idea that they simply can't afford.
A four-year, $37-million initiative to provide laptops to all seventh and eighth graders in Maine has transformed middle school classrooms there and generated positive reviews. At the same time, the state's budget crunch has left the program's longer-term future up in the air. In Michigan, a plan to equip the state's sixth graders with laptops recently lost more than half of its $39 million funding before it could get started, thanks to an almost $1 billion state budget shortfall.Posted by James Zellmer at 11:10 AM
Police to Arrest Truant's Parents
Milwaukee goes after truant parents:
As part of an intensified effort to cope with the problem of truancy in Milwaukee, police will begin Monday to arrest parents of truant children. District Attorney E. Michael McCann called it "a new tactic" in the fight against truancy.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:34 AM
March 9, 2004
Madison Schools Budget - 10m Gap
"The shortfall is caused by costs - mostly tied to staff contracts - that have increased faster than state law allows school districts to tax, officials said. It's a phenomenon that's been repeated since 1994, and assistant superintendent Roger Price predicted that the district will face $6 million to $7 million shortfalls every year."
Great to see this article online; this morning's Wisconsin State Journal interview with School Board Candidates Shwaw Vang & Sam Johnson is not.... [Ed: it's 2004, is it not?]
This is a real opportunity for the board & community to start developing alternative sources of revenue - other than the property tax.
Learn more about the April 6, 2004 election & school board candidates here.
Posted by James Zellmer at 2:20 PM
March 7, 2004
School Lunch Food Fighter: Alice Waters
Alice Waters is taking her message of eating healthfully, organically and locally to middle schoolers in their lunchrooms. If she builds a better sloppy Joe, will they eat it? By PEGGY ORENSTEINPosted by James Zellmer at 10:08 PM
March 2, 2004
Smart children left behind
In order to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, New York State
and Illinois have stopped dedicating funds to providing enriched programs
for gifted students, The New York Times reports.
"As long as students pass the exams, the federal law offers no rewards for
raising the scores of high achievers, or punishment if their progress lags."
We have special protection for the disabled, the various races, the two
genders (I think), ESL students--and we condemn the brightest to
The consequences of abandoning a substantial percentage of the Republic's
brightest students--even if the great cities, by virtue of their size, and
the wealthiest suburbs, by spending their own money, are able to protect
their brightest--will be severe. "Justice cannot sleep forever."
Thanks to ALEX R. COHEN, J.D.Posted by James Zellmer at 8:08 AM
March 1, 2004
No child left behind - Ro vs. Lantos
Larry Lessig posts on a recent debate between California 12th District incumbent Democrat Tom Lantos and challenger Ro Khanna. The debate included a discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act (google) (teoma) (alltheweb) (yahoo).
And here's a link to one of my favorite exchanges. Ro criticizes Congressman Lantos for supporting the "No Child (except public school childred) Left Behind Act." Just "talking to teachers," he says, would have told you that Act wouldn't work. In classic DC style, Lantos' response: Ted Kennedy supported it, so it is "outrageous" for a "newcomer" to criticize what people who have "devoted their whole life to education" say. Ro is cut off in his reply: "I'm assuming that teachers who have devoted their whole life to education know more..."Posted by James Zellmer at 11:32 AM
February 28, 2004
William Winter & the Education of Mississippi
In 1980, when William Winter became governor of Mississippi, there was no state funded kindergarten. School attendance was not compulsory. Mississippi ranked last in the nation among most educational indicators. And in the more than 25 years that had passed since the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the state had not been able to come to terms with school desegregation.
In 1982, Gov. Winter succeeded, against all odds, in passing the most sweeping education reform the state had ever seen, which among other things established kindergarten for all Mississippians.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:13 AM
February 23, 2004
Art Rainwater Profile
Doug Erickson profiles Madison Metropolitan School District Administrator Art Rainwater.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:35 AM
February 22, 2004
WSJ on MMSD Teacher Buyouts
s objectionable as the idea is, buying off terrible teachers often works better than firing them.
Many times, settlements save taxpayer money and more effectively protect students. But the Madison School Board went too far last week in giving superintendent Art Rainwater sole authority to flash cash to settle employee misconduct cases.
A 4-3 board vote allows school administration to, in essence, pay teachers to quit - without board discussion or approval.
Opinion Page: Wisconsin State JournalPosted by James Zellmer at 2:36 PM
February 13, 2004
Laptops in Schools?
There are many challenges to successful technology implementations, including:
- Opportunity cost (dollars & time) What are we not doing when we're spending money on laptops & overhead for them?
- Training & Support
- Things change fast, are we better off to support our student's critical thinking, rather than the latest windows, mac or linux pc? (I think we are). These tools will change quite a bit by the time the students enter the workforce.Posted by James Zellmer at 9:51 AM
February 12, 2004
School Board Debate
In a sign that this spring's Madison School Board elections are being taken more seriously than in years past, the debate season has already begun and an independent Web site is tracking the candidates' positions.
Whether the district will pursue another referendum to address its budget problems is certainly a leading issue, but candidates are also pushing curriculum changes to the front, as well asserting that board members have not been sufficiently independent from the district's administration.
I'll be posting video clips and mp3 files here shortly.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 PM
February 11, 2004
Watching the Jobs Go By
NY Times OP-ED Columnist Nick Kristof on the weakness in US science and math education.
Mr. Subbakrishna, a management consultant specializing in technology, notes that in his native Bangalore, children learn algebra in elementary school. All in all, he says, the average upper-middle-class child in Bangalore finishes elementary school with a better grounding in math and science than the average kid in the U.S.Posted by James Zellmer at 10:59 PM
February 10, 2004
The government is very close to deciding whether to grant the first licenses for commercial space flights carrying passengers, the chief commercial space regulator said on Monday.
Three teams have applied for permission to send people on suborbital ships, which would fly to an altitude of about 100 kilometers, or 63 miles, and then return near the point of launching.
Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites has posted an extensive library of photos and information from their test flight program (very interesting!). They recently flew faster than the speed of sound.Posted by James Zellmer at 7:44 AM
February 8, 2004
1954 - 2004 Brown vs. Board of Education
In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregating students in public schools by race denied black children their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Brown vs. Board of Education sparked the civil rights movement that wrought enormous change to America's laws and public schools. Yet 50 years later, most African-American children in Wisconsin remain far behind whites in education, jobs, housing, safety and family stability - further behind, in some measures, than in any other state. Why, in a Northern state with a progressive tradition, have we seen so little progress after so much time?
The Journal Sentinel has an excellent set of articles here.Posted by James Zellmer at 3:39 PM
Herb Kohl at 13. Bud Selig at 13. The solid base of the next generation of Milwaukeeans, not only future senators and baseball commissioners, but future tool-and-die makers and teachers, accountants and business owners, professionals and laborers of all kinds.
That was then at Steuben Middle School.
This is now:
"I have five assignments, I have 33 students. Why do I only have five assignments?" eighth-grade science teacher Yolanda Williams asks her class.
A few more comments from Steuben Middle School.Posted by James Zellmer at 3:31 PM
February 7, 2004
MPS Direct Reading Approach
Sarah Carr writes that a drill-oriented approach to teaching reading is gaining followers in Milwaukee public school classrooms. In 1998, 15 MPS schools used direct instruction. Today, about 47 schools do.
But some critics say drill-based reading method hurts students.
"There's such tremendous pressure on teachers and administrators to advance reading scores that they are literally desperate to try new things they think will bring them success," said Randall Ryder, a professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Last month, Ryder completed a study concluding that students in direct instruction classrooms fared worse than students taught using other reading methods.
But Dolores Mishelow, a former principal and one of the leading backers of direct instruction within MPS, said: "I get really upset when people bash it, because I know that it works."Posted by James Zellmer at 8:00 PM
February 3, 2004
Virtual School Marketing
Anne Davis writes: "Wisconsin Connections Academy, Wisconsin Virtual Academy and, in particular, the just-approved iQ Academies at Wisconsin are using paid advertisements, billboards and direct mail to woo students during the state's three-week annual open enrollment period that begins Monday and runs through Feb. 20."
No matter what they spend, Northern Ozaukee school Superintendent Bill Harbron is asking K12 representatives to make some adjustments to their marketing approach this time around to avoid overselling the school.
After a short but intense campaign last year, the virtual academy received more than 1,000 applications. About 455 students actually enrolled, and the enrollment has continued to drop ever since as parents have discovered the program doesn't fit their needs, Harbron said.
"There's no sense recruiting a large number of students (and) then having them enter the program and drop out," Harbron said. "We want parents to make a very realistic choice for their child."Posted by James Zellmer at 10:06 PM
February 2, 2004