Donald Trump’s Muslim Laptop Ban Could Be a Protectionist Scheme

U.S. airlines have asked Trump to punish Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways, which they say are unfairly subsidized.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Homeland Security announced an unprecedented new restriction on travelers from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries on Tuesday.

The DHS restriction states “that all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage at 10 airports where flights are departing for the United States.”

It’s a Muslim laptop ban.

The 10 airports are in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

American-based airlines do not fly directly to the United States from these airports, so these restrictions will not apply to them. The impact of this move will instead fall on nine airlines, including Gulf-based carriers that U.S. airlines have been asking President Trump to punish since the day after his election.

The U.S. carriers have long complained that Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways are unfairly subsidized by their national governments.

Executives at Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines met with Trump in early February. The day before the meeting, a group representing these American airlines, called the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, distributed a slick video using Trump’s own words to argue against the subsidies.

With this new travel impediment, Trump may be throwing these executives a bone.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Donald Trump’s Muslim Laptop Ban Could Be a Protectionist Scheme

CURMUDGUCATION: IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

Indy Ed is a website devoted to exploring one idea– “There are so many changes swirling around our schools that it’s hard to get straight answers.” Their focus is Indianapolis, one more urban center suffering from a plethora of education problems, not the lest of which is a government that doesn’t want to spend too many tax dollars on Those People. But Indy Ed seems to prefer focusing on that most magical of solutions– vouchers and choice.

There’s no big scam or fraud or misbehavior here. But in one simple piece, Indy Ed gives us a picture of many of the ways that vouchers open up the market and let profiteers and religious ed folks get past the system that has stood in their way for so long.

Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working for Some Families” is the headline for this piece highlighting Oaks Academy, an example of vouchers working for some people.

So before we read the piece, what do we know about Oaks Academy? Well, here’s the pitch at the top of their website:

The Oaks Academy is a Christ-centered school that exists to provide a rich, classical education to children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, preparing them to succeed in a rigorous secondary educational program and to demonstrate spiritual, social and emotional maturity.

Indy Ed tells us that the student population of Indianapolis is three-quarters black and brown, but the header photo for OA (which Indy Ed also uses for its piece)shows a group of students who are two-thirds white.

OA has a whole page devoted to Teacher Support which highlights such great features as their outstanding professional development (so much better than public schools). One might think they are really working at recruiting and retaining teachers (you can also do Americorps or VISTA work there). Their student profile shows a blend of socio-economic backgrounds and a racial breakdown closer to 50-50 than 25-75 (Britt actually cites a 30% black population in the school, which is smaller than what the school’s own graph shows). But they do great on that ISTEP (Indiana’s version of the Big Standardized Test). And they’ve been thriving– in the 1998-1999 year they opened with 53 students enrolled. This year they have 732 (pre-K through 8). The material is quiet about students with special needs, but that would seem to be one more area in which The Oaks does not resemble the Indianapolis student population. Reader ocg in the comments below offered this background:

The IDOE’s Compass website tracks demographics, test scores, etc. for every school corporation in the Indiana, public or private. Their data shows that all three Oaks Academy campuses have far fewer rates of students on free or reduced lunch (ranging from 23.6% to 34.4%) as compared to both Indianapolis Public Schools (68.3%) and the state as a whole (45.7%).
Although lunch status is a very rough way of looking at whether a population is “low income” or not, those numbers do make me scratch my head.
Their racial demographics are also not reflective of Indianapolis schools. All three Oaks Academy campuses are about 50-55% white, 30% black, and 15-20% Asian/Hispanic/multiracial. Indianapolis Public Schools have slightly different demographics.

And then there’s special ed numbers. The Oaks Academy with the highest rate of special ed students is their Fall Creek campus, at 8.1%. The other two campuses have special ed rates of 4.1% and 4.7%. The entire state has a rate of 14.5%. IPS’s rate is 17%. Hmm.**

But back to our Indy Ed profile. The writer, Baratto Britt, wants to argue that vouchers are actually a “liberal, almost socialist” thing with the mission of providing poor families with the same choices that rich families enjoy. About half of the students at Oaks are voucher students. 83% get some sort of tuition assistance (the toll is $10,300– so now I’m a little confused because Indiana vouchers only provide about $5K). Board policy reportedly says that 50% of the student body must be from poor families.  But Britt also says that the school attracts hefty philanthropy (“juggernaut” is the word he uses); their website promises “an unmatched philanthropic experience.” Almost 40% of the budget comes from donations; voucher money provides about 20%. Also, Oaks “acquired” a public middle school that had been “underutilized“.

The school was profiled by Ebony last fall as an example of diversity in action as an educational tool, and while The Oaks is diverse, it is far whiter than the Indianapolis public system. According to school CEO Andrew Hart, that takes some deliberate work:

We want to be diligent about maintaining this tricky balance. It’s something so unique to this place but very fragile. “The admissions pool is dominated by white families, who are moving back into the neighborhoods,” Hart added. “It would totally relieve our philanthropic burden, which would be great, but we want to make sure this unique proposition that Oaks is maintained over time

Hart graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill with an MBA, put in four years at Eli Lilly, then came to The Oaks.

Britt wants to suggest that Oaks does not cream or pick only the most-likely-to-be-successful students, but on top of the whole Christ-centered approach (about which the school is not shy, nor should they be) the school also has another requirement that Britt lays out

Additionally, parental involvement is not optional for all Oaks Families, but mandatory as a caring, committed adult must participate in various activities during the admissions cycle and school year to ensure all stakeholders have skin in the game.  

So, Jesus, plus a supportive family both willing and able to contribute work to the school, which is itself supported by extra funding from philanthropists. Is there any school, public or private, that could not achieve success with those advantages?

The Oaks is a private Christian school that self-selects for families with a commitment to their children’s education, all of which is perfectly fine– for a private school. But under Indiana’s system, public tax dollars are being sent to this religious private school (and some of the taxpayers’ buildings as well).

I decided to write about this precisely because The Oaks shows no signs of fraud or scandal or the kinds of egregious abuse of the system that we often see with vouchers. Except, of course, that the vouchers are completely flouting the separation of church and state by sending public dollars to a private Christian school, and that school has shown us nothing about education that we didn’t already know. With a different student body than the parent district, supportive families, free labor, and extra funding you can get good results?! Do tell!

The Oaks’ own history page and several press accounts note that the school was started by neighbors and concerned citizens who wanted an urban alternative, and their first school was in a less-than-stellar neighborhood. Voucher supporters can and do point to The Oaks as the sort of school that can save students. They seem like Very Nice People, and not crooks at all– and yet, they have completely changed the rules of public education, to the point that it’s not public education at all.

But at some point we have to decide if saving only some students (and only those we consider deserving) is good enough. A nationwide voucher system will not be about providing choices for poor families, but about changing the entire purpose of education in this country. Vouchers will shift us from a system whose mission is to do its best for all students– ALL students, no matter what– to a system whose mission is to save some students, the right students, the students with the right kind of families, who belong to the correct faith. Like it or not, it’s a huge mission shift for the country, and the end of public education as we know it. We should be talking about that.

** I’m copying the rest of the reader comments here to preserve the links (which blogger does not do– man, if I had had any idea what this blog was going to be lieke when it grew up, I would have picked a different platform). Here you go::

Finally, their claim that 85% of their students receive tuition assistance is pretty worthless in this state. Another choice school in Indiana, Delaware Christian Academy (godawful website, I know – somehow this school stays open), could not even open its doors in a timely manner last year, and yet they claim that 95% of their students got full scholarships. Either they’re lying, or getting tuition assistance to attend a choice school in this state is, um, extremely easy.

Anyway, the choice climate here in Indiana has very clearly hobbled certain school corporations (like IPS, and especially Gary, whose enrollment has gone from ~16,000 students to ~6,000 students in 12 years). It has also led to some very interesting data sets, like this choice school’s graduate rate trend (look at the bar graph). Wonder what happened there.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

CURMUDGUCATION: Netflix and the Myth of Personalization

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Netflix and the Myth of Personalization

Today Slate has an analysis of how Netflix began the process of personalizing marketing, of using “algorithms to micromanage distribution, not production” in particular in the multi-pronged marketing of House of Cards by creating multiple trailers to appeal to particular slices of the Netflix customer pool, based on their “likes.”

In the middle of the article, we find this paragraph:

House of Cards thus embodies one of the most seductive myths of the algorithmic age: the ideal of personalization, of bespoke content assembled especially for each one of us. In fact, the content, or at least the costly, aesthetically rich content we care about, like Fincher’s show, is still fairly limited. There is only one House of Cards, but there are as many ways to market the show as there are to target Netflix viewers. This is what information theorist Christian Sandvig calls “corrupt personalization”: the ways that algorithmic culture blurs the lines between our genuine interests and a set of commodities that may or may not be genuinely relevant, such as products “liked” by our friends on Facebook even if they did not knowingly endorse them.

The piece on corrupt personalization is worth the side trip, but it’s a bit much to squeeze in here. But let me toss out three context-free quotes that may ring bells.

It’s as if on Facebook, people were using the yellow pages but they thought they were using the white pages. 

In sum this is again a scheme that does not serve your goals, it serves Facebook’s goals at your expense.

Money is used as a proxy for “best” and it does not work. That is, those with the most money to spend can prevail over those with the most useful information. The creation of a salable audience takes priority over your authentic interests.

And I will bring back Greene’s Law– the free market does not foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing.

Personalized learning, whether we’re talking about a tailored-for-you learning program on your computer screen or a choose the school you’d like to go to with your voucher, is not about actual personalization. It’s about another path for marketing, a way of personalizing the marketing of the product, the edu-commodity that someone is already trying to make money from.

We’re being sold (and in many cases are arguing against) an AI that spits out just the digitized worksheet that Student 12-5452 needs to continue studies, but that’s not where we’re headed. Look, for instance, at the new, improved PSAT that returns both a score and some recommendations. “Looks like you need to log in to Khan Academy’s lesson series for calculus.” Or “You would really benefit from the AP Calculus course– talk to your guidance counselor today.”

That’s the personalized learning dream– students with vouchers paying for education one course or micro-credential at a time, and each exercise on the “parent” program ends with, “Good job! You should probably sign up for Edubizwang Corp’s Intro to Pre-Pre-Calculus next– just enter your edu-voucher account number.” Marketing that can be directed with laser-like precision at each individual consumer. Marketing that can tell the consumer, “Yeah, this– this is what you really want.”

It’s not a personalized product, but the personalized marketing will make you think it’s just what you want. Netflix is just the beginning.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Netflix and the Myth of Personalization

MD: University Privatization

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

MD: University Privatization

The University of Maryland University College is pioneering a new business model, and not everyone thinks it’s a very good idea.

George Kroner is a UMUC graduate and a former employee who worked on the tech side of things as UMUC developed a variety of on-line education and analytics programs (he is also, I should note, a former student of mine). But in the nine months since Kroner has left UMUC, he has noticed some disturbing trends.

For one thing, there has been a large administrative turn over– and not just of personnel as some old school positions like “VP of Academic Affairs” are replaced with new-fangled jobs like “VP, Strategic Partnerships.” These business-sounding titles seem to be in keeping with a new model being followed by the university:

As of the time that I left, my impression is that the university was beginning to struggle with finding a balance between its core mission focused on academics and the business aspects of focusing on future innovation. The noted shifts in the Cabinet membership seem to reflect these changes in priority and focus.  As much respect as I have for the university President, he seemed quite enamored with finding ways to use public resources to found private educational technology startup companies – instead of with the core academic mission of the university. The thinking was that the university might use excess income from these startups, or the proceeds from selling them off, to fund scholarships. This is a noble goal, but the business of edtech is extremely risky at best and can result in losing hundreds of millions of dollars for even the largest and most successful educational technology companies.

Inside Higher Ed writes about the “unbundling” university. UMUC has been a pioneer in distance and on-line learning (Kroner himself earned an advanced degree while still being able to hold down a regular job thanks to evening and online classes at UMUC). The university did big business with students attached to the military, including those on active duty.

But times are a-changin’ and UMUC was looking for a way to be more sustainable. President Javier Miyares (who left Cuba after his father was taken prisoner in the Bay of Pigs invasion– so there’s another person for your immigration list) took over the office in 2012 with no intent to instigate drastic changes.

Now Miyares thinks its time to pare UMUC down to its “core mission” and part of that has turned out to be “spinning off” departments into private businesses. So the Office of Analytics became the company HelioCampus. This joined other spun-off units under a UMUC non-profit umbrella holding company. UMUC used various departments to raise money two ways– either outright selling them off, or spinning them into private businesses. And the hiring them to do what they used to do– so spinning off and outsourcing, all at once.

Either way, say critics, it’s a dubious use of public money and the products of that public money. Eyebrows wet up when the university decided to spin off/outsource its entire IT department under the UMUC ventures brand. But outsourcing without a bidding process because they’re hiring a business that they are still sort of attached to. That’s a lot of spin.

Supporters say it can grow the endowment for the university. Critics point out that it puts UMUC in the business of being in business. That may be why Miyares has been making a bunch of noises that translate to, “No, really– we’re most concerned with the whole academics and teaching and students thing.” But there’s no getting around it– the taxpayers of Maryland are now financing both a university and a large-scale business enterprise. And the university and the business now do business with each other:

“For the regents, it was important that there was a really clear line of control,” Miyares said. “We are very satisfied that what we are getting from [HelioCampus] in terms of analytics services is what we were getting before, but that involved very well-crafted service-level agreements. The same thing will have to be done with IT … to make sure we continue to get what we need. At the end of the day, if we don’t, well, I can appoint new directors at any time.”

Which is a bizarre conversation to have. “Let’s make sure that these people who used to work for us directly still give us the service they would have given us as a matter of course if they were still working for us.” It’s like a divorcee saying to their ex as they leave divorce court, “But we’ll still get together and the sex will be just as good as ever, right?”


The ins and outs of public-private university partnerships are always a complicated web, whether you’re talking health care research or might-as-well-be-pro sports. But UMUC seems determined to push right up to the edge of the question, “When does a public university stop being a public university?” And that question lives right next door to, “If a public university is really a private business, should it be paid with public tax dollars?”

Source: CURMUDGUCATION

How Could Trump’s Budget Use $1 Billion in Title I Aid to Boost School Choice? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Politics K-12The budget proposal issued last week would include new funding designed to promote public school choice, but it’s not immediately clear how that would work under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Source: How Could Trump’s Budget Use $1 Billion in Title I Aid to Boost School Choice? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Here’s how Republicans just changed their health care bill | PBS NewsHour

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 12: House Speaker Paul Ryan reads from a list of states with increasing health insurance premiums during a news conference on January 12. Photo By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans want to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and fundamentally redraw health care in America. But first, they need 218 votes in the House by Thursday, when a floor vote is scheduled on the American Healthcare Act. To get them, House GOP leaders filed a package of changes to the bill Monday night.

The changes come after the Republican leadership was criticized from lawmakers on the left and right for the first version of the bill, which was released earlier this month.

So what exactly are they changing?

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: Here’s how Republicans just changed their health care bill | PBS NewsHour

The Health Care Bill Is Sinful By Jim Wallis, Sojourners

By Jim Wallis 03-17-2017

Health is very personal, for all of us. In fact there are few things more important in life than health, family, and faith. Especially as you get older, which I understand better and better each year, health issues increase and can make you feel very vulnerable — even if you have health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you are more than vulnerable — you are in great danger.

On a personal level, I have been though serious prostate cancer, the diagnosis and treatment of which was only made possible by my health provider and the NIH, where I was sent for surgery. If I was on my own, without health insurance and connections to great doctors, I would likely be dead by now, given how far along my prostate cancer had gotten before it was discovered. It would likely have been discovered and treated too late. I would be gone, and Joy, Luke, and Jack would be without a husband and father.

Even with health insurance, you can feel very vulnerable when…

READ THE FULL ESSAY HERE: The Health Care Bill Is Sinful | Sojourners

Michiganders say emergency managers wield too much power | Bridge Magazine

With Flint on their minds, state residents are overwhelmingly opposed to Michigan’s divisive emergency manager law and want the state should work more collaboratively with locally elected officials.  

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Michiganders say emergency managers wield too much power | Bridge Magazine