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Viking 'Drinking Hall' Uncovered in Scotland

August 7, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Archaeologists in the Orkney Islands, off the northeastern coast of Scotland, have uncovered the ruins of what they think is a Viking drinking hall used by high-status individuals, possibly including a powerful 12th-century chieftain named Sigurd.

Orkney’s link to the Vikings can clearly be seen in local place names and architecture, as well as the DNA of those who live there. According to one genetic study, about 25 percent of islanders’ DNA can be traced to the Norse settlers who first came to the islands in the late 8th century, at the dawn of the Viking Age. The islands remained part of Scandinavia until the 15th century, when King Christian I of Denmark handed them over to Scotland as part of a dowry for his daughter.

After working for years at the Skaill Farmstead site on the island of Rousay, a team of archaeologists and students from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) unearthed the stone walls of a Viking-era building believed to date to between the 10th and 12th centuries.

Though the farm currently on the site dates to the 18th or 19th centuries, the name “Skaill,” which is a Norse word for “hall” suggests the site may have housed a Norse drinking hall. The partially uncovered building is around 13 meters (42 feet) long, with one-meter thick stone walls. The researchers also found stone benches along either side of the building, as well as pottery and fragments of a Norse bone comb.

It is suspected to have been a high-status site. According to The Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney, a historical narrative about the Norse conquest and rule of the islands written around 1200, the area, called Westness, was home to a powerful chieftain named Sigurd. The UHI team had long expected to find evidence of a Norse settlement underneath the present farm there.

Sigurd of Westness, the saga records, was a chieftain during the 12th-century reign of Earl Paul II. He was married to a woman named Ingibjorg (“the honorable”), and their two sons were also chieftains. As a close friend of Paul’s, Sigurd apparently hosted a feast that the earl attended at Westness just before he was kidnapped in 1136 by Sweyn Asleifsson, known as the “Ultimate Viking,” who wanted to clear the way for Paul’s rival, Rognvald II, to take power in …read more


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Parents Don't Care About Standardized Test Scores, and Experts Shouldn't Either

August 7, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

They say you shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees.
Unfortunately, several people in the education policy debate are
doing just that. Researchers and journalists are focusing on the
effects of education policies on standardized test scores while
ignoring more important long-term outcomes such as crime and
earnings. That’s obviously a problem.

Here’s a case in point. Matthew Yglesias, co-founder of Vox, just quoted five rigorous studies
linking families’ schooling selections to student outcomes.
Yglesias quoted snippets from the five abstracts finding no change
in students’ test scores. The only problem is that he
completely omitted all of the positive effects on long-term
outcomes such as health, safety, crime reduction, and earnings.

Researchers and
journalists are focusing on the effects of education policies on
standardized test scores while ignoring more important long-term
outcomes such as crime and earnings.

For example, Yglesias cited a rigorous
of families’ schooling selections finding that
“on average, sought-after schools do not improve student test
scores.” However, perhaps unintentionally, he left out that
getting the chance to go to those same preferred schools reduced
teen pregnancies and improved “educational attainment,
occupational rank, earnings, and health.”

He cited another rigorous study finding that
families’ schooling selections had “no effects on
traditional outcomes.” However, Yglesias again forgot to
include the positive effects of those same selected schools on
students’ reports of safety.

But that’s not all.

Yglesias also cited an experimental
finding that students winning a lottery to attend a
public school of choice in Chicago didn’t provide “any
benefit on a wide variety of traditional academic measures,
including standardized test scores, attendance rates,
course-taking, and credit accumulation.” It’s
encouraging that he expanded this particular quote to include
non-test score outcomes here.

But, again, Yglesias somehow forgot to include the positive
effects of the same schools of choice on reducing
“self-reported disciplinary incidences and arrest

This isn’t the first time someone has cited lackluster
test score results while completely omitting the important positive
effects of attending a chosen school. For example, reporters such
as Valerie Strauss focused on initial negative
effects of the D.C. voucher program on test scores without even
mentioning that the same study found positive effects on student

We can all learn something important from these omissions. The
fact that the story changes substantially when long-term outcomes
are omitted tells us that standardized test scores are not good
proxies for true success in the long-run. My recent peer-reviewed summary of the evidence shows
that there are many more examples of disconnects between
schools’ effects on test scores and their effects on
long-term outcomes.

We should look …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Some Thoughts on the El Paso Shooting

August 7, 2019 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

A few thoughts in the wake of the horrendous white-supremacist
terrorist attack in El Paso:

We must be careful not to
let fear (and grief and anger) drive us to rashness.

  1. We should never forget that the purpose of terrorism is to
    terrorize. To the degree that we succumb to fear, that we alter our
    lives, or that we give up our freedoms, the terrorists win. It is
    not to diminish the horror of such events to recognize that we
    remain remarkably safe in this country. Your chances of being
    murdered by a terrorist of any kind remain smaller than your
    chances of drowning in a bathtub. We should not stop going to
    stores, eating at restaurants, having a drink in bars, or otherwise
    living our lives.
  2. In the wake of 9/11, we allowed fear to lead us into a host of
    measures that threatened our civil liberties. Muslims and Muslim
    Americans were obviously the most likely to be targeted, but all
    Americans were caught up in increased surveillance and other
    law-enforcement measures. Recall that the Patriot Act passed by a
    margin of 91-1. Now we see similar knee-jerk calls for the
    government to “do something.” Already there have been
    calls to regulate the Internet, ban video games, curtail free
    speech, and generally increase police powers. Gun-control advocates
    ratchet up their proposals with little regard for practicality or
    empirical evidence. And that doesn’t even include bizarre
    proposals like Sean Hannity’s call for transforming America
    into a virtual armed camp, with paramilitary forces surrounding
    schools, stores, and other locations. But as Benjamin Franklin once
    warned, “Those who would give up essential liberty to
    purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor
  3. None of this is to diminish the threat from nor the noxiousness
    of white supremacy. Nor is it a call for inaction. Certainly, there
    are things that the government can and should do. It is long past
    time to take violence from white supremacists as seriously as we do
    the threat from Islamic extremists. There may even be gun-control
    measures that can make us safer without infringing on our rights to
    self-defense or legitimate gun ownership. But whatever we do should
    be thoughtful and with full consideration of possible unintended
    consequences. Among other things, that means acting through the
    regular legislative process. Executive actions or hastily convened
    legislative sessions are invitations to abuse.
  4. A thoughtful decision needs to be based on data, not emotion.
    But that data is hard to come by, often biased, and subject to
    varying interpretations. To cite one example, President Trump
    stated that the rate of mass shootings has remained constant
    throughout the …read more

    Source: OP-EDS