Aug 232017

The Sun tells what everyone already pretty much knows: fewer than half of the students in Maryland public schools are on track for college readiness, according to latest PARCC scores, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. This is grim news given that the instrument is itself only the most basic indicator of college preparation.

Preparation is worst where the state spent most. Quoting the linked article:

In Baltimore, math scores held steady while English scores inched up. Still, fewer city students passed the exams than in neighboring districts. Only about three of every 20 city students in grades three through eight passed both math and English. Almost 12 percent passed math, about the same as last year. Fifteen percent passed English, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from last year.

Maryland implements spending plans, not education plans. For those keeping score, the state dramatically ramped up funding for public schools over the last twenty five years, measuring its success by how much it spends, not what students can do as a result of their often not-so-close encounters with schools. As a result, the present news will be viewed by officials as a success … after all, the checks cleared, which was the whole point. Too bad for parents who thought their taxes were supposed to have been buying more than teacher union fealty.

Anyone who thinks this doesn’t impact us at College Park is kidding himself. This is a campus that lists skin color and orientation (among other characteristics) among ways an applicant can be deemed prepared for the flagship, so dismal PARCC scores which don’t factor in those characteristics won’t significantly affect our admission practices. We will maintain business as usual at the front door. But the professoriate in charge of generating scholarship will increasingly struggle in the face of a student base that similarly struggles with preparation. Time spent back-filling substandard education coming in to the flagship is time not spent pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in our respective disciplines.

All this is a recipe for implosion. The entrepreneurial mindset of public school officials does not stop at our front door; overall we continue to increase tuition beyond sensible limits, basically just raking in cash because it is on the table. Thoughtful people watch this knowing it is not sustainable. We have previously pointed out here how the bubble is already bursting around us, and we thus say it again: the market will reach a tipping point, after which consumers will demand to know why they pay so much for such poor outcomes, often in restrictive environments that negate the entire argument for campus as a place of free expression and thought in the first place.

We’re doing it wrong.

 Posted by at 12:31 pm on August 23, 2017
Jun 202017

A Supreme Court decision this week took a little step back toward sanity in allowing people some bit of flexibility in what it is they can do with “stuff” they buy. In this case it was with ink cartridges for printers, but it will be applied in more ways we trust.

Who’d have thought you didn’t have freedom to do things with such tangible products? The companies that want to use intellectual property and contract laws to prevent you from doing things other than pay money on their products. Read up on it at New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own.

This still doesn’t help much on software, which today you almost never are able to buy – only to pay for license, which gives the product creator control over what you do with it. What’s important is not what you want to do but what he wants to do, they argue.

 Posted by at 7:58 pm on June 20, 2017
Jun 192017

Reckless Exploit: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers, and a Child Targeted with NSO Spyware is another fine bit of investigative reporting by (a group that is worth following.) Read at this link the use of spyware to target journalists and advocates of views that are inconvenient to what some might view are corrupt officials.

 Posted by at 9:01 am on June 19, 2017
Aug 252016

… where your cronies give you a $75,000 bonus without feeling the need to actually explain what it is for. Maybe they felt sorry for him trying to scrape by on just $600,000 a year in salary and the housing, travel and administrative expenses they pick up for him on top of that.

STEM majors paying differential tuition and increasing fees here at College Park might want to look into whether we offer any classes on being a chancellor, so they can learn how to get by like this someday. (Our view: maybe he did something worthy of a bonus, but the fat-cats writing that check should be on the hook to explain to hard-working taxpayers what it is for.)

 Posted by at 8:09 am on August 25, 2016
Aug 242016

Bloomberg reports on Baltimore Secret Cameras, which constantly record in the city. It’s a good article on how much surveillance really goes on … and in a city that has just been issued a scathing report from the Department of Justice on persistent and long-term civil rights violations in its police department. Yes, it does seem like these things go together, doesn’t it?

 Posted by at 6:31 pm on August 24, 2016
Aug 142016

The Purple Line’s funding issues have recently slowed its early construction efforts, but never fear, its proponents – including, we presume UM President Wallace Loh, who single-handedly overcame local opposition and championed this campus-splitting project’s approval – remain optimistic about its prospects.

Which is more optimism than we can muster for traffic conditions during said implementation based on reading the Washington Post’s article about a similar light rail project in Charlotte. Read for yourself the devastating effect that project has on the region there.

 Posted by at 9:34 pm on August 14, 2016
Apr 052016

Telling travelers about to be screened whether to go left or right is an important job. It keeps people from getting in line in a way that would let them avoid more detailed screening. That’s why TSA bought $1.4 million of systems to do that. The product that costs 25 cents per installation – a quarter that screeners would flip – obviously won’t do. We need the cyber security version.

 Posted by at 10:14 am on April 5, 2016
Mar 202016

The war on impure thoughts continues down its slippery slope.

Harvard Law School will ban retire its seal because it derived from the emblem of a slave-holding family … never mind that the family funded the school’s first professorship 200 years ago. The way ahead is described in a very nice piece of writing by a scholar who studied other problematic icons associated with Harvard.

It will be easier in the future. Today’s digital era, in which so much data are kept, will make it far easier for tomorrow’s enlightened people to reach back and study our private thoughts in order to recognize which of us must be condemned for violating that era’s sensibilities.

They will know better then than we do today.

 Posted by at 8:52 am on March 20, 2016