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A junior at Columbia College wrote an editorial in the Columbia Spectator (April 19, 2012) in which she says: “I’m not ready to be a senior and I’m sure there are other juniors who feel the same way.” She laments not having anyone older to help answer her “existential questions”.

Who’s going to grab coffee with me next year? I’ve started wondering to myself. I never really had role models growing up — I had figured out by middle school that my parents, cheerleading coaches and baby sitters knew a lot about life because they were older, but in many ways they were still clueless too.”

The editorial takes a dramatic turn when she adds: “One of my professors recently said, ‘Parents don’t know what the fuck they’re doing either. There’s no ultimate handbook for parenting.’ Maybe we could say the same thing about being a senior — you’ve got three years of experience behind you, but you still don’t have a definitive guide for exactly what you should be doing…”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

As politicians and business leaders get more involved with education, the emphasis on productivity, efficiency and scale have produced  unfortunate outcomes — from No Child Left Behind (during the Bush years), to e-learning with President Obama.

E-learning is hot. A recent Google search generated 181,000,000 responses. But is it good? Already people are discovering (as with NCLB), that e-learning can fail to deliver what is most important (reality) for a person’s growth and development, and can even be harmful. Psychiatrists are finding that excessive computer time (over 5 hours/day) and WiFi exposure — are unhealthful for children and adults.

Maria Bartiromo, Anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” was honored at a dinner for “Futures In Education” — an organization whose mission is to provide tuition assistance and program support to the neediest students attending Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens NY.

Included with Ms. Bartiromo, in the photo are Frank Bisignano CAO, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (second from right) and The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn.

At a time when public school education, in the U.S., is not oriented to helping young people discover the truth, Catholic education is needed more than ever. But it has to remain true to what it is.

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.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab, addressed a gathering of IIT (India Institute of Technology) alumni today at their 2011 Global Conference in NYC.

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.

Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, reads from his book, Privilege — The Making Of An Adolescent Elite At St. Paul’s School.”

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

WNET (New York Public Media) held their 6th Annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning last week, with over 10,000 educators from across the globe.

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.

African peace activist Leymah Gbowee helped to create the movement (Women Of Liberia Mass Action For Peace) that succeeded in bringing an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

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

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is underway this weekend with its 10th Annual Leadership Institute & Career Fair.

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

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