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College Admissions Scandal: Too Much Credit to The Ivory Tower, Too Few Safeguards Against the Dingy Shack: This is wide of my usual tech law and policy topics. But, as an elder Gen Xer and graduate of two respected schools my child probably won’t attend — not due to any differences in our abilities or qualifications (if anything, his teen smarts and dedication decimate mine at his age), but due to changed standards and times — I wanted to highlight a few points that have resonated concerning the college admissions scandal.
It’s not harder to get into a good college than it used to be. It’s just harder to get into some of them. “As it turns out, getting into college actually isn’t any harder than it was a decade ago. It’s just that the odds of admission to your particular college may have decreased.” It should go without saying, but one’s future success and happiness don’t hinge on attending a prestigious or elite institution of higher learning. The numbers back this up. All kinds of factors go into determining one’s future (the gender pay gap, for example, among other things), and pay and prestige are not synonymous with success, satisfaction, and happiness. Kids need to grow up, and helicopters, snow plows, and bulldozers have other and better roles to play in modern life.
It stands to reason that if we’re trying to bust the myth that says the name recognition of “prestigious” institutions equates to a seal of approval and guarantee of future security, we have to make sure standards at accredited colleges with less vaunted household names are, and remain, high. Otherwise, the misplaced caché afforded elite schools gets reinforced, and the pressure to secure a spot at a school with a familiar brand name intensifies as a way to hedge against the wildcard alternatives. That’s why it’s worrisome that the current mood in Washington is to loosen standards for colleges to get and keep accreditation. “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions and/or programs of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” The marketing secret sauce of prestigious schools is the promise of a quality education and the doors thereby opened. Should we fail to ensure valid, vibrant competition on the quality front, the mystique of the ivory tower institutions, and the unhealthy pressure that goes along with it, will persist.
The national conversation about college admissions has been encouraging. Corruption and unfairness have been exposed (see Why Paying Bribes to Get Your Child Into College is a Crime and How Admissions Really Work: If The College Admissions Scandal Shocked You, Read This), and change seems bound to follow. America is mad as hell, and it’s not going to take it anymore. Maybe, for example, something like Imbellus, Inc. eventually will replace the ACT and SAT with assessments that resemble video games and more accurately gauge critical thinking than do the tests relied on now.
In the near term, though, we’re stuck with the ACT and the SAT. One negative consequence of the admissions scandal is that students with learning issues who’ve done nothing wrong, and qualify for and need accommodations in order to put them on a level playing field with their peers when taking these tests, will now be subjected to greater scrutiny, viewed more skeptically, and perhaps deprived of accommodations they otherwise would have received before Operation Varsity Blues. Learning challenges that already are under-diagnosed in kids from lower income and non-English speaking families may now, in the wake of this scandal, be met with the kind of cynicism usually reserved for an emotional support peacock.
Watch: The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley. Hopefully, you’ve already read Bad Blood, Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou’s excellent account of how sources within Theranos gradually revealed their insights to him. If so, you know the story in greater detail than is included in HBO’s documentary on Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. There are two good reasons to watch it anyway. First, her voice. Bad Blood describes the basso profundo timbre of Holmes’ voice (and that she appears to have decided having a strangely deep voice would give her a leg up on the gravitas front), but you really, really have to hear it for yourself. Second, against the backdrop of the college admissions scandal, Holmes’ cultivation of renowned elder statesmen as board members — Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and David Boies, to name just a few — appears to have been designed to do for her and Theranos precisely what the Varsity Blues parents hoped their payoffs and lies would do for their children: conjure an undeserved aura of respectability, and open doors. This comes through well in the documentary.
Gear Grind: Old watches, new tricks. While Theranos couldn’t deliver on its healthtech promises, it appears the Apple Watch might. Stanford researchers studying 400,000 people who own and wear one of the Series 1, 2, or 3 Apple Watches found those models could accurately detect some heart problems, and that’s the case even though the additional capabilities included in the Series 4 Apple Watch weren’t part of the study:
The latest version of the Apple Watch can take an ECG reading, which is the kind of test a heart doctor uses to diagnose patients with certain conditions. It can also alert users if it looks like they have an irregular heartbeat.
All this is promising but not yet diagnosis-ready. For example, some in the Stanford study experienced false positives (the watch sent a problem alert when there was none, thus triggering medical interactions and expenses when none were needed). And this study didn’t address the false negative issue: if people put misplaced faith in their watch to alert them to heart trouble, but the watch can’t actually do that, people who wonder about their heart health but receive no warning from their watch might hold off on seeking care they actually require.
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Why Christchurch, New Zealand is one of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love
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Amazon plans to get 50% of its shipments to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. You can help Amazon group deliveries into a single shipment to your household per week by setting up an Amazon Day, which is free for Prime members (as it should be; reduced deliveries = reduced delivery overhead for Amazon as to its Prime members). It’s a good way to cut down on the emissions and packaging — presumably they’ll consolidate — associated with your deliveries, and customers can easily opt an item out of their weekly delivery day should they need it more quickly. More here.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K “Sustain” recommendations? Here you go.)
Spring has sprung, and should your warm weather plans take you to Utah in search of America, mountain splendor, great food, or all of the above, you should plan around the event calendar at Copper Moose Farm and Farm Stand. There’s a spring Open House and dinners throughout the warmer months, all featuring fresh, delicious fare and flowers grown on the farm.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K Imbibe/Ingest recommendations? Here you go.)
Reader Poll re Sentence Appropriate to the Crime:
The yoga instructor who shortens the term “sun salutation” to “SUN-SAL” deserves:
a) to be force-fed all the glutens
b) to be denied access to spirulina and pre- and pro-biotics
c) to have their man-bun or hair top-knot privileges revoked
d) if they also play Whitesnake during class, all of the above punishments
e) if they also play The Beastie Boys during class, none of the above punishments
f) all of the above
(email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post the results next time!)
Programming note: I’ve hosted two recent episodes of Triangulation at TWiT.tv: Episode 390 with criminal procedure/legal tech guru Niki Black, and Episode 392 (available on 4/5) with Tech Humanist Kate O’Neill. In June I’ll be speaking at the California Lawyers Association’s 2019 IP and the Internet Conference at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center. Topic: the law of social media influencers. If you have any interesting anecdotes or thorny issues we should consider, I’d appreciate hearing more. For example: Kidfluencers' Rampant YouTube Marketing Creates Minefield for Google
Inbox 5K Note: endorsements, suggestions, and recommendations in Inbox 5K are unpaid unless indicated otherwise. I highlight and recommend things I like or find useful, in hope you might feel the same. Sometimes I’ll mention a company, product or service offered by a friend, acquaintance, or family; rest assured they’re not paying me or haven’t asked for placement here unless I tell you that’s the case.
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