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Pratham, the largest ‘education’ focused NGO in the world, held a fundraiser this week in NYC for its work in India. The organization’s mantra is “Every Child in School and Learning Well.” According to Pratham Founder & CEO Dr. Madhav Chavan, Pratham has “developed a scalable approach to driving education and ending illiteracy in India.”
Pratham USA Ambassador, Archie Panjabi, the award-winning British actress, was on hand to help MC the program.
Describing himself as the ‘tooth fairy,’ Mr. Negroponte has sought through his non-profit OLPC (One Laptop per Child), to make laptops affordable (100 Swiss Francs) and available to all children — especially in developing countries — who he considers to be ‘agents of change.’
Mr. Negroponte spoke about the need for ‘learning learning,’ which for him means getting away from ‘rote learning’ — which he said it is “killing kids.”
A better way, he believes, is helping children to ‘make things.’ Toward that end, Negroponte has installed “constructionist” software (Logo & Scratch) in all OLPC computers going to children. He thinks the process of debugging a computer program is an example of ‘learning to learning’ — the “joy of bugs” as he put it.
Negroponte was highly critical of the Indian school system, saying that “to make children fearful of mistakes is criminal behavior.” He thinks it’s important to “get to children (by the first grade) before they are screwed-up by school.”
Commentary: One has to keep in mind the real likelihood of hindered spatial awareness and development, especially in young children, resulting from computers and devices. Those who push computers and devices on children are as irresponsible as those who push antipsychotic drugs on children. In fact computer use has contributed to mental health issues, resulting in school administrators/nurses forcing children to take psychotropes. ‘Children with computers’ is not a fix for the errors in education, but rather is adding to them.
“What is the future function of a predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant upper class in an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous democracy? In many ways this is the most important question of all.” E. Digby Baltzell
” Some will always be above others. Destroy inequality today and it will appear tomorrow.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mr. Khan is a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH (an elite prep school), as was E. Digby Batzell (1915-1996). Mr. Batzell is credited with coining the term White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).
In his book, Khan looks at the “logic” of entitlement, privilege and elitism as they have evolved at the prep school level, and by extension the rest of society. He mentioned during his talk that America’s elites have historically “made fences around resources” to keep others from getting access. So, true to form, in places like Columbia, where the student population has become ”representative,” graduates still “go on to drive inequality.” Schools can contribute to ”entitled” individuals becoming elitists, said Khan.
LE asked Mr. Khan if he thought the U.S. was in decline, and if so — do the elites bear some responsibility? He said “yes” and “absolutely,” but added that if America’s elites were all of a sudden to disappear, “whoever replaced them would do the same things.”
On the St. Paul’s School homepage, the first thing a visitor notices is the question: “What is Freedom with Responsibility?” They answer with “clear rules, consequences, moral standards, and an honor code govern our lives together; freedom does mean we have no rules.”
“Honor Code?” Mafia bosses are guided by an Honor Code (see Joe Bonanno’s “A Man Of Honor”).
The elite schools of America are not presenting their students with a coherent, compelling and complete view of the human person and of reality. Until or unless they do, the leaders of society will continue to be driven and guided by their ‘animal spirits’ and society will founder.
Photograph: Stephen Wise
In a panel called Youth Voices, one of the students said he wanted to hear teachers say “I trust you” — rather than, “I am a criminal — I am not a criminal; I can be more than that!”
Arthur Dean Myers, author and advocate for young people, echoed the same sentiments in his talk, when he said that young people “need someone to show them what the right thing is.” He quoted from Goethe “For man to fulfill himself, you must expect the highest.” And then added “What can you be?”
With an ever growing cast of looters, rapists and murderers running American society (into the ground), it’s easy to see how young people have difficulty seeing, embracing, and making real — the highest human ideals.
She spoke yesterday, at the “Celebration of Teaching and Learning” conference in NYC.
An important difference exists between feminism in Africa and feminism in the United States. In the U.S., women use their power to advocate for war. In Africa, women are mobilizing to put an end to war.
African feminism has a spiritual component. American feminism is more material, with women viewing their power as coming from their body, money, guns and pills. Ms. Gbowee’s work has brought together Christian and Muslim women to pray and work for peace through non-violent means.
In her talk, to several thousand educators, Ms. Gbowee cautioned the group, “Don’t buy everything that people say, see to it that you get the true story.”
Afterwards, she commented on the power of the media in the formation/deformation of men and women.
The next stop for Ms. Gbowee is Ivory Coast.
Photograph: Stephen Wise
Writers Zadie Smith and Nathan Englander delighted an audience of supporters of the Matawi Organization, with a discussion of their work, Thursday night at SVA in Manhattan.
The event was a fundraiser for the Dadaab scholarship program, to benefit women in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Englander are acclaimed authors and university professors (NYU and Hunter College respectively), who seem to respect each other’s work. The format of the discussion included their asking each other questions and commenting on process, sources of inspiration, and societal concerns.
Coming from an Orthodox Jewish background, Mr. Englander talked about “entitlement,” and the pressure to write using Jewish themes and characters. He said he likes writing because of its “subversive” possibilities, and talked about “wanting out of our (suburban Long Island) town so badly” but at the same time realizing that it was where he found what was ”most important.”
Ms. Smith is from northwest London, and a mixed race family. Her mother is Jamaican and her father English. She said that she feels pressure to write about “everybody” and not just “professors.” She commented, that for people today “it’s almost impossible to see themselves as the bad guy.” Englander added that “you have to understand what is good and evil to work (as a writer) – I want to bring back right and wrong.”
Photograph: Stephen Wise
There are 600 attendees, from the 47 historically Black Colleges around the U.S., in the Big Apple for a weekend of activities.
Today’s luncheon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, included remarks by Mr. Larry Stubblefield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army. Also on the dias (in photo), was Mr. Brian Simmons of the U.S. Army Test and Evalualion Command.
Mr. Stubblefield spoke about the “human” — soft skills, necessary for effective leadership.
Photograph: Stephen Wise
Arne Duncan, (third from left) the U.S. Secretary of Education, lead a discussion Wednesday on The Role of Service in Remaking American Education. He was joined by among others, Anthony Salcito (far right), Microsoft VP-Worldwide Education.
Given the stark reality that a large percentage of America’s young people are not graduating from high school, and among those who do, many are not “college ready.” Mr. Salcito advocated for “service learning” as a way to “drive immediate change in classrooms today.”
Will the adults be good role models in showing young people how to serve others, in a “disinterested” and good-hearted way?
Photograph: Stephen Wise
At the recent Teaching and Learning Conference in NYC, that included 9000 educators from around the U.S. and some foreign countries, two women stood out for their leadership, wisdom, and courage — Diane Ravitch and Queen Noor.
Diane Ravitch, formerly the Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush was an early advocate of “No Child Left Behind” — the program that emphasizes student testing along with “sanctions and incentives” for teachers.
In her talk, Ms. Ravitch said the program “has been a failure” that is ”defrauding students” by not addressing their needs and by manipulating tests and scores to falsely indicate improved performance. As the saying goes — “the tests have become the curriculum.” She said the “problem is not with testing, but in the misuse of testing.”
She went on to say that a “data-driven” program that scapegoats teachers is not the answer, nor are charter-schools that hand students over to hedge fund managers, resulting in “educational apartheid.” A better way is to take into account the diverse needs of children with a broad curriculum that preserves the public school system.
Her view is that the Obama Administration has essentially continued the failed Bush approach — which “will not produce school reform.”
At the end of her talk, Ravitch said that parents and educators need to “organize” to create a better way (there was no mention of union bosses and their role as obstructionists of reform). She was given a rousing ovation from the standing room only crowd.
Talking from her experience as a highly educated Arab-American woman, who married King Hussein of Jordan in 1978, she addressed the mistaken idea the Islam oppresses women. She said that when Muslim women have been oppressed it has been because of other factors, including vestiges of colonialism, not their religion.
One of her themes was the “interconnectedness” of the world today. She said that our common humanity trumps our differences, and offers the “key to peace.” She added that the three major religions have at their core, the teaching: “treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Noor suggested that Hollywood has added to unfair stereotypes and misunderstandings of the Muslim world over the years. But added that Hollywood could also play a roll in “building peace.” She said that this is the most important time in history for teachers and that problems won’t be solved with more wars, weapons, and technology. What’s needed is to join critical thinking skills with empathy and a sense of humanity.
Before her talk, I asked Queen Noor how the Israeli/Palestinian problem might be resolved? She looked at me intently and said — “Faith, Hope, Humanity and (with arms raised) Justice!” She too was given a standing ovation.
It would be nice to have a penny for all the times in the last decade someone said: “No one could have seen this coming.” “No one connected the dots.” “We didn’t have the right intelligence” — blah, blah, blah.
Most people in the U.S. are trained to be “foxes,” that is — to have a lot of experiences and know many things — but without any systematic way of synthesizing the experiences and information into a coherent whole.
What is lost in that approach, is failing to understand the nature of “Being,” and how to participate in Being in a conscious and concrete way.
As a result, people can become disoriented and lost, in good times and in bad — missing the big picture, and not thinking and acting well for themselves.