Завтра начинается Сегодня

Posts Tagged ‘education’

A working class hero… What?

In books, ethics, moral issues, people, politics, science fiction, writing on April 17, 2013 at 15:25

I’ve been sent a book by an amateur author to read and review (thank you). I’ve given up after just a few pages because of intolerable amount of arising complains about the style and content (sorry). Don’t know yet if I write a real review (after all, I do a bit of writing which probably is not terribly good also) but I’ll put down some thoughts here.

I think it is a mistake to write fiction to serve a political/economical/worldview idea. The book should be about real living human beings, otherwise it looks just like bits of everyday blog and forum posts pretending to be a book. We all have ideas and they should shine through proper fiction writing. No need to force them on readers.

There is no human beings who are “your typical something”, that’s cardboard cutouts. Everybody really is unique.

The protagonist supposed to be your typical “working class hero” fighting dogmas. Class is a dogma, “working class” – double so. There only a tiny sad minority of people who don’t work, some of them spending their time drinking, in front of tv or playing computer games. If you call somebody “working or labouring class” what are you saying? That others don’t work or do not work well enough? That’s wrong. And is the protagonist (being a politician) in a lower tier job or being of low education? Nope. (See Wikipedia: working class – a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs (as measured by skill, education and lower incomes)). Maybe his parents were of working class. But are we defined by our origins (unfair) or our own effort and goodness (fair)? Anyway there is no excuses now for low education, not with internet, tv documentaries and public libraries. Even in 1900s, working at a factory, my great-grandfather managed to self educate and loved to read serious literature.

New Great British Class Survey has some flaws in my opinion too.  Peoples’ lives are changing all the time in many ways. Somebody inherits the money. Somebody skilled and educated has to do a low paid simple job for a while. Somebody loses jobs or property. Somebody gradually educates him or herself and is learning new skills. Somebody lives in an expensive house but doesn’t want to sell it and struggles. Somebody moves to more rural area, can’t go to opera and theaters anymore, looses his connections – does he jumps classes? A “class” sounds almost as permanent as a “caste”.

The worst to come. Reading the book I’ve stumbled upon the notion that global warming is not a big deal, but (o, horror!) there is “rise of Russia and China“… Being both Russian and British citizen I find this offending. I could understand people being worrying if Russia or China are not getting any more democratic, peaceful and open. But, no, they have to stay poor and undeveloped for that “working class politician hero” being happy… This is so nationalist. Well, that’s it for me. Page four and I am completely fed up…

An attack by Taliban gunmen in north-west Pakistan that wounded a 14-year-old who campaigned for girls’ rights

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 20:37

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on her way home from school in Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley.

The president and prime minister have led condemnation of the attack.

Initial reports suggested she was out of danger, but there is growing concern over her condition with some reports saying she may need treatment abroad.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told the BBC they carried out the attack.

Ehsanullah Ehsan told BBC Urdu that they attacked her because she was anti-Taliban and secular, adding that she would not be spared.

Evolution…

In books, religion on September 4, 2012 at 13:58

It has been a couple of years since I gave up my religion but only now I’ve got Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” from a library. I though I already know all that could be said. Apparently not. One case has really infuriated me – and this is what happened in the USA which calls itself a “democracy” (text selected by me):

 “A Christian faith-healer ran a ‘Miracle Crusade’ which came to Mills’s home town once a year. Among other things, the faith-healer encouraged diabetics to throw away their insulin, and cancer patients to give up their chemotherapy and pray for a miracle instead. Reasonably enough, Mills decided to organize a peaceful demonstration to warn people. But he made the mistake of going to the police to tell them of his intention and ask for police protection against possible attacks from supporters of the faith-healer. The first police officer to whom he spoke asked, ‘Is you gonna protest fir him or ‘gin him?’ (meaning for or against the faith-healer). When Mills replied, ‘Against him,’ the policeman said that he himself planned to attend the rally and intended to spit personally in Mills’s face as he marched past Mills’s demonstration. Mills decided to try his luck with a second police officer. This one said that if any of the faith-healer’s supporters violently con- fronted Mills, the officer would arrest Mills because he was ‘trying to interfere with God’s work‘. Mills went home and tried telephoning the police station, in the hope of finding more sympathy at a senior level. He was finally connected to a sergeant who said, ‘To hell with you, Buddy. No policeman wants to protect a goddamned atheist. I hope somebody bloodies you up good.‘ Apparently adverbs were in short supply in this police station, along with the milk of human kindness and a sense of duty. Mills relates that he spoke to about seven or eight policemen that day. None of them was helpful, and most of them directly threatened Mills with violence.”

First I though: “Somebody just have to do something about this situation!” And then my thoughts came to natural selection & evolution. Who is more likely so survive: one who goes to a trained doctor or one who throws away ones medicines and listens to a “faith-healer” instead? And in the countries where they deprive women (50 per sent of population) of education isn’t their potential for new achievements and discoveries halved because of that? And imagine what harm could do denial of evolution in medicine if fanatics take control. 

They may threaten or even harm others but they harm themselves even more. I do feel sorry for their innocent minors and whole naive uneducated brainwashed lot.

In Uncategorized on August 29, 2012 at 15:30

Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2012 at 13:39

I believe that a mature civilised society ought to be funding universities properly through tax. Students should go to university for nothing because it’s an investment that society’s making in itself

A.C. Grayling

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2012 at 14:02

Astronomy Magazines 2010

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2012 at 10:44

There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity … It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyong our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.

Augustine, late forth / early fifth century AD (from The Closing Of The Western Mind by Charles Freeman)

Pakistan: Karachi police free chained students

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2011 at 12:09

About 50 students have been freed from a religious school in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, where some were being kept in chains, officials say.

The male students, some as young as 12, were reportedly beaten, deprived of food and kept in what police say amounted to a torture chamber.

Some parents paid for their children to attend the school known as the “jail madrassa” because their sons were addicted to drugs or involved in crime.

One said he was beaten 200 times, while another said they were told they would be sent to join the jihad and if they tried to escape they would get 200 lashes.

“I was kept in the basement for the past month and was kept in chains. They also tortured me severely during this period. I was beaten with sticks,” student Mohi-ud-Din told Reuters news agency.

Our correspondent met one teenager who said they were forced to study all hours. “We were not provided proper food or clothing,” he said.

One boy said Taliban members had visited the seminary and told them to “prepare for battle”.

Some parents paid substantial amounts to enrol their children at the seminary and correspondents say that in some cases parents actually applied the chains which imprisoned their children.

Many parents had left their children at the madrassa for treatment, believing that the harsh regime would aid rehabilitation – some of these parents told the BBC they were happy with the result. They say they were chained to prevent them for escaping.

“If a child has issues such as bad company, smoking and drugs then we have no choice but to get him admitted in such places,” Mohammed Qasim, the father of one student, told the BBC.

Babar Khan, 16, spent nine months in the “jail school”.

Originally from Karachi, he was taken there by his parents because he would not go to school.

“We were not able to see the sun or the moon for several days at a stretch,” he said.

“We were kept in an underground room while small kids were kept on the first storey with chains.

“The last time I had tea was several months back. They would serve us dinner after midnight. But that too would be in small portions.

“Mostly the food was lentils with lots of water and no salt or spices. The students used to fight over bread. This too when my parents were paying them 8,000 rupees [about $90; £58] a month in fees.

“I was beaten up the first day after my parents left me here.

“We were allowed to talk to our families once a month on the telephone or [have] one visit a month from family members.

“They told us not to talk about our status with them.

“Before any visit, they would let us have a bath and wear clean clothes.

“A school worker was made to sit with us to listen to our conversations.

“They warned us we could meet bitter treatment if we told our parents about it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16167602

Never say these words!

In kids, xenophobia on November 29, 2011 at 06:51

Kids had an anti-racist lesson at school where they have been taught all these abusive racist words they had no idea existed. So now they know…

Steven Pinker: ‘Artists used to gush about the beauty of war. The First World War put an end to that’

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2011 at 08:01

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the psychology department at Harvard University. This newspaper said of his work that “words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker’s investigations”. His latest book The Better Angels of Our Nature argues that humans have never been less violent than we are now. Clint Witchalls asked him to explain:

Clint Witchalls: You say that, over the centuries, violence has been declining, yet most people would view the last century, with its pogroms, death camps and nuclear bombs, as the most violent century. Why was it not?

Steven Pinker: You can’t say that a particular century was the most violent one in history unless you compare it with other centuries.

The supposedly peaceful 19th century had one of the most destructive conflicts in European history (the Napoleonic Wars, with 4 million deaths), the most destructive civil war in history (the Taiping Rebellion in China, with 20 million), the most destructive war in American history (the Civil War, with 650,000), the conquests of Shaka Zulu in southern Africa (1-2 million), the most proportionally destructive interstate war in history (the war of the Triple Alliance in Paraguay, which killed perhaps 60 per cent of the population), slave-raiding wars in Africa (part of a slave trade that killed 37 million people), and imperial and colonial wars in Africa, Asia and the Americas whose death tolls are impossible to estimate. Also, while the Second World War was the most destructive event in human history if you count the absolute number of deaths, if instead you count the proportion of the world’s population that was killed, it only comes in at ninth place among history’s worst atrocities.

I think few people would disagree that the medieval times were tortuous and bloody, yet most imagine primitive tribes living in Edenic bliss. But you claim that these tribes are far from the noble savages portrayed by Rousseau. How homicidal were they?

Steven Pinker: Tribal groups show a lot of variation, but on average around 15 per cent of people in nonstate societies die from violence. This is the average I got from signs of violent trauma in skeletons from 21 prehistoric archaeological sites, and from eight vital statistics from eight hunter-gatherer tribes.

Hunter-horticulturalists and other tribal people have even higher rates of violent death – around 24.5 per cent. By comparison, the rate of deaths from all wars, genocides, and man-made famines in the world as a whole in the 20th century was just 3 per cent. Even the famously peaceful tribes, such as the !Kung and Semai, have homicide rates that rival those from the most violent American cities in their most violent periods.

Why is violence declining? What are the main civilising influences?

Steven Pinker: I identify four major forces: (1) The Leviathan – a government and justice system that deters people from exploiting their neighbours and frees them from cycles of vendetta; (2) Gentle commerce – an infrastructure of trade that makes it cheaper to buy things than to plunder them, and makes other people more valuable alive than dead; (3) Technologies of cosmopolitanism, such as reading, travel and cities, which encourage people to see the world through the eyes of others, and makes it harder to demonise them; (4) Technologies of reason, like literacy, science, history, and education, which make it harder for people to privilege their own tribe’s interests over others’, and reframe violence as a problem to be solved rather than a contest to be won.

Humans are very good at ignoring the big problems: climate change, overpopulation, dwindling resources. Won’t it be a matter of decades before the next global conflagration hits us?

Steven Pinker: Maybe, but maybe not. For one thing, it’s not a certainty that human will and ingenuity will fail to rise to the challenge. For another, the connection between war and resource shortages is tenuous. Most wars are not fought over shortages of resources such as food and water, but rather over conquest, revenge, and ideology. Nor do most shortages of resources lead to war.

For example, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s didn’t lead to an American civil war (we did have a Civil War, but it was about something completely different); nor did the tsunamis of 2003 and 2011 lead to war in Indonesia or Japan. And several studies of recent armed conflicts have failed to find a correlation between drought or other forms of environmental degradation and war.

Climate change could produce a lot of misery and waste without necessarily leading to large-scale armed conflict, which depends more on ideology and bad governance than on resource scarcity.

In Better Angels, you describe Pepys witnessing a man being hung, drawn and quartered. Afterwards, clearly unperturbed, Samuel Pepys goes to the pub with his friends. Fast forward a few centuries and people are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing the 9/11 attacks on TV. Do you think a long peace might be detrimental to the robustness of humankind and hence might be our undoing?

Steven Pinker: That’s the least of our worries. A century ago artists, critics and intellectuals gushed about the beauty and nobility of war, with its fostering of manliness, solidarity, courage, hardiness, and self-sacrifice. The First World War put an end to that. Better a little PTSD, I say, than the kind of indifference to the lives of men that resulted in the Battle of the Somme.

Nor has the Long Peace turned us into a civilisation of selfish wimps. However traumatic 9/11 may have been to some small number of people, it didn’t stand in the way of heroic rescues, the rapid clearing of Ground Zero, and (for better or worse) a quick and successful invasion of Afghanistan.

‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes’ by Steven Pinker is published by Allen Lane (£30).

%d bloggers like this: