Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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The right’s latest attack on academic freedom might succeed

Mark Joseph Stern writes: The Trump administration has threatened to withdraw federal funding from the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies because it does not portray Christianity or Judaism in a sufficiently “positive” light. A letter from the Department of Education—sent on Tuesday and reported by the New York Times on Thursday—directed the program to emphasize “positive aspects” of these and other non-Islamic religions in the Middle East. If it

Trump’s Education Dept. threatens academic freedom through witch-hunt against ‘anti-Israel’ bias

The New York Times reports: The Education Department has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake the Middle East studies program run jointly by the two schools after concluding that it was offering students a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region. In a rare instance of federal intervention in the

Most American teens are frightened by climate change, poll finds. One in four are taking action

The Washington Post reports: A solid majority of American teenagers are convinced that humans are changing the Earth’s climate and believe that it will cause harm to them personally and to other members of their generation, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Roughly 1 in 4 have participated in a walkout, attended a rally or written to a public official to express their views on global warming

Jerry Falwell’s aides describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at Liberty University

Brandon Ambrosino writes: At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public. “When he does stupid stuff, people will mention it to others they consider confidants and not keep it totally secret,” a trusted adviser to Falwell, the school’s president and chancellor, told me. “But they won’t rat him out.” That’s beginning to change. Over the past year, Falwell, a prominent evangelical leader

The moral rot of the MIT Media Lab

Justin Peters writes: Founded in 1985, the Media Lab cultivated an image as a haven for misfit geniuses, for academics who, as the Lab’s most recent director put it, “don’t fit in any existing discipline either because they are between—or simply beyond—disciplines.”. These thinkers were the latest inheritors of MIT’s famed “hacker ethic”: iconoclastic engineers who used applied science to try and make the world a better place. Yet the

How an MIT research center concealed its relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Ronan Farrow reports: The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scandal over accepting donations from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had a deeper fund-raising relationship with Epstein than it has previously acknowledged, and it attempted to conceal the extent of its contacts with him. Dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that, although Epstein was listed as

Educators must join students in demanding climate justice

Jonathan Isham and Lee Smithey write: Sometimes it’s the students who teach. This week, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg arrived in New York City in a zero-emissions yacht, en route to the United Nations climate change summit. The purpose of the trip? Let’s call it a teachable moment. Over the past year, Greta and more than 2 million teens around the world have led school strikes for climate justice, demanding that their

Steven Pinker’s aid in Jeffrey Epstein’s legal defense

Inside Higher Ed reports: That convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had help in avoiding federal or state prison is unsurprising: money and power often buy what they shouldn’t. But the recent revelation that Epstein found aid from star psychologist Steven Pinker in the form of a 2007 legal document surprised both Pinker’s fans and critics. At least at first. Then came the analysis: to supporters of Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor

Merkel takes aim at Trump in ‘tear down walls’ speech at Harvard

“I want to leave this wish with you: Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is”. – Angela Merkel’s speech to students after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree from Harvard University. — James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 31, 2019 Politico reports: Angela Merkel urged Harvard graduates Thursday to “tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness” in a speech laced with apparent

Children change their parents’ minds about climate change

Lydia Denworth writes: Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg became famous this spring for launching a student movement to compel adults to take action on climate change. Instead of going to school, Greta has been spending her Fridays in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign reading: “School Strike for Climate.” Students in more than 70 countries have since followed her lead. But before she started trying to convince the world

Screen time has stunted the development of generations of children

The Guardian reports: A study has linked high levels of screen time with delayed development in children, reigniting the row over the extent to which parents should limit how long their offspring spend with electronic devices. Researchers in Canada say children who spent more time with screens at two years of age did worse on tests of development at age three than children who had spent little time with devices.

The importance of knowing you might be wrong

Brian Resnick writes: Julia Rohrer wants to create a radical new culture for social scientists. A personality psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Rohrer is trying to get her peers to publicly, willingly admit it when they are wrong. To do this, she, along with some colleagues, started up something called the Loss of Confidence Project. It’s designed to be an academic safe space for researchers to

Millions of America’s school children are being terrorized by gun violence

The Washington Post reports: Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you ok?” In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that

Binge drinking and blackouts: Sobering truths about lost learning for college students

Young adults at a tailgate. Young adults are more likely than older adults to binge drink and are at greater risk when they do. Monkey Business By Jamie Smolen, University of Florida Tens of thousands of college students nationwide will cheer for their football teams this weekend. Some of those who show up for the game after tailgate drinking may not remember the highlight touchdowns that they cheered so

The U.S. education system has produced a society of ‘smart fools’

Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg: IQ rose 30 points in the 20th century around the world, and in the U.S., that increase is continuing. That’s huge; that’s two standard deviations, which is like the difference between an average IQ of 100 and a gifted IQ of 130. We should be happy about this, but the question I ask is, If you look at the problems we have in the world

The Chinese Communist Party is setting up cells at universities across America

Foreign Policy reports: In July 2017, a group of nine Chinese students and faculty from Huazhong University of Science and Technology participating in a summer program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) formed a Chinese Communist Party branch on the third floor of Hopkins Hall, a campus dormitory. The group held meetings to discuss party ideology, taking a group photo in front of a red flag emblazoned with