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Just Who Is Herman Curtis Malone?

Curtis Malone created a D.C. youth basketball empire. Turns out, he was a drug dealer, too:

The Malone these by-the-book high achievers know is, well, one of them. Over three decades, he guided hundreds — some say thousands — of teenage boys toward higher education, especially those whose skills on the basketball court set them apart from their peers. The athletically gifted youngsters often landed on the Amateur Athletic Union basketball team Malone founded with his friend Troy Weaver in 1993, D.C. Assault.Malone built a winning team, which attracted more talent, which meant more wins. Charismatic and driven, Malone grew D.C. Assault into one of the top AAU boys’ basketball programs in the United States with nine teams.

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3425 words)

Is There Hope for the Survivors of the Drug Wars?

Men from Baltimore's poor neighborhoods are turning to a family and job training center to keep themselves off the street dealing drugs and rebuild their lives after spending time in jail:

The men are what policymakers euphemistically call a challenging population: Lacking high-school education or formal work experience, they’re the most likely of any group in America to die young and to die from violence. Most of their life experience, the skills that have helped them survive the streets or prison, works against them in the legal world. The biggest problem the center has spent 15 years trying to solve isn’t how to get these guys jobs, or how to encourage them to be more involved in their children’s lives, or how make the streets safer, though those are tough enough. The problem is more profound: How do you give these survivors of the drug wars, men who are criminalized and discarded by society, who are at the bottom of every statistic, hope?

PUBLISHED: March 24, 2014
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8059 words)

Inside The Barista Class

A former barista examines service work and the difficult transition into the creative class:

My kind of service work is not the kind of service work that puts you in the back room washing dishes for 12-hour shifts for dollars because you are considered completely expendable. But my kind of service work is part of the same logic that indiscriminately razes neighborhoods. It outsources the emotional and practical needs of the oft-fetishized, urban-renewing "creative" workforce to a downwardly mobile middle class, reducing workers’ personality traits and educations to a series of plot points intended to telegraph a zombified bohemianism for the benefit of the rich.

PUBLISHED: March 11, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5621 words)

What We Talked About on Campus This Week: A Reading List

Higher education is a hot topic because it’s so familiar and so easy to criticize. Even if you haven’t gone to college, you get what it’s about. And the complaints – about tuition, about culture, about curriculum – happen on campus, too, and louder. Here are six articles that prompted discussions inside the Ivory Tower this week.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 22, 2014

Inside the Iron Closet: What It's Like to Be Gay in Putin's Russia

Violence, threats and living in fear that things are only going to get worse:

“Something is coming,” says Pavel. What it will be, he’s not sure. He’s worried about “special departments” in local police stations, dedicated to removing children from gay homes. He’s worried about a co-worker discovering him. He is worried about blackmail. He is worried, and he does not know what else to do. He wishes he could fight, but he doesn’t know how. Sign a petition? March in a parade? Pavel would never do that now. “My children,” he murmurs. “This law,” he says, referring to the ban on “propaganda.” “If something happens, it touches only me. And I can protect myself.” But the next law: “This is about my child. My baby.” If the next law passes, they will leave. The two women are doctors and Nik works in higher education, careers that will require new certification. Which means that only Pavel, a manager for the state oil company, will be able to work right away. They will be poor, but they will leave. They might have to separate, Pavel and Irina and Emma to Israel, where Irina can become a citizen, Nik and Zoya and Kristina to any country that will take them. They might have to become the couples they pretend to be. For now, they are staying. “We’re going to teach them,” he says of his two little girls, Emma and Kristina. “How to protect themselves. How to keep silence.”

PUBLISHED: Feb. 4, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7543 words)

A Dangerous Mind

Examining the case and trial of Gilberto Valle, AKA the "cannibal cop," a New York police officer who fantasized about kidnapping, killing, and eating women he knew with strangers, but who never acted on any of his plans:

On August 24, they discussed ways that Valle might kidnap another woman, Kristen Ponticelli, a recent graduate of Valle’s old high school whom he never met personally (Valle’s lawyers assume he just noticed her photo on Facebook). The next day, they moved on to Andria Noble. “If Andria lived near me, she would be gone by now,” Valle wrote. “Even if I get caught, she would be worth it.”

But there was no physical evidence from Valle’s home suggesting he was getting ready to kidnap or cook anyone—no oven large enough for a human, no cleaver, no homemade chloroform. Prosecutors had no proof he had a place in the mountains. They had no proof that Valle knew the identities of the three people he was chatting with. Valle never divulged the last names of any of the people whose photos he passed along (not even his wife’s) and never gave out any of their addresses, even after Moody Blues ­specifically requested one, and he haphazardly switched up details about their life stories and college educations.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 12, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4858 words)

The Opt-Outers

Parents in New York are joining a growing movement to opt out of high-stakes testing for their children:

In response to the growing criticism, Arne Duncan, the White House’s Education secretary, this month said it was “fascinating” that some of the Common Core’s detractors are “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” There was an uproar among parents and administrators. “Did he really say that?” wrote Long Island superintendent Joseph Rella in an open letter. Duncan later “regretted” his phrasing, but what was most telling about his comment was that it seemed to acknowledge that support for the Common Core is being derailed in part by how it plays into the culture of anxiety often associated with high-stakes testing.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4377 words)

'We Have a Lousy Product'

Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun takes stock of what’s working, and what’s not, with regard to online university courses:

As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students–1.6 million to date–he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.

“We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun tells me. “It was a painful moment.” Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5041 words)

Creationists' Last Stand at the State Board of Education

A history of the Texas textbook wars, and questions of whether those seeking to influence changes to textbooks can hold onto their power:

But highly placed stakeholders — ranging from those in publishing to sitting board members — believe the culture warriors are losing the ability to run roughshod over state education. After years of alienating the Legislature, the state board has seen its influence weakened. A changing textbook marketplace has eroded Texas’ clout, and technology is sweeping into the classroom, bringing with it the next generation of learning materials. The statewide reach of the culture warriors is ending.

The biggest test will take place when the state board considers a new high-school biology text next week. Another will follow in the ensuing months, as it takes up a new social studies text. How the state board and publishers respond to Bohlin’s critiques, to his evolutionary “gaps,” will determine whether the innuendo of God lingers in classroom discussions about evolution. It will determine whether the political ideology of an elected board shapes, by omission and addition, the history of America Texas students will learn for years hence.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5072 words)