Saturday, March 26, 2011

The question once again

If not us, who?
If not now, when?

(the image is just for decor, courtesy of my 'droid)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Coalition" attacks Libya

So they've decided to attack Gaddafi and his troops. Watching the headlines right now makes me think they're trying to sell this like a football match.

War is no football match.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On 2 different balances, and hierarchies

I was telling two of my friends recently that I had a new-found respect for there being a balance to all things. We often categorize things in our heads - people, objects, events - as things that are "good" and things that are "bad". But we seldom think about how every bad thing (eg: a challenge) has a good side (ie: an opportunity). Likewise, every good thing (eg: luxuries) have a bad side (ie: complacency).

But it was then that my friends asked: That's how you think of good and bad, what about our views on good and bad? They told me if we were to think in terms of "balances", then there is my view of the balance as an individual, but there is also a second, bigger view of the balance, which is societal.

So from this conversation, I learned that the measurement of value in the big sense (costs relative to benefits in the macrocosm) is a lot more complicated than one person saying "let's measure it this way". Bringing together a consensus of basic human values is bound to be a very, very big matrix indeed.

On to hierarchies.

We were discussing hierarchies in class the other day, and it got me thinking. Who do you work for? It might seem like the person/school/company that occupies most of your time. But don't we decide to make it that person/school/company, hence we ourselves being the initiator of any action?

I think we work for ourselves first, before anything. What direction we tell ourselves to pursue for whatever purpose then becomes the second cause we work for. Then, only then I think we can say we are working for a certain company or institution, as a third cause. Thought, then action, then tools.

More on this later insha'Allah.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

London spring

Gotta love good mornings.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Commercial education

Crossposted on Vijana FM | March 4, 2011

Sir Howard Davies, who until recently was the director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in the UK, has resigned from his post. His reasoning? That he had made judgement errors on two occasions when advising the LSE to accept donations from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son.

Mr. Davies’ announcement comes just days after students at the LSE protested to the administration to investigate Saif’s previous records of postgraduate enrollment at the LSE from 2003. Saif is being accused of having plagiarized his doctrate, which he recieved in 2008. The accusations have also come with criticism towards LSE in accepting £1.5 million in 2009 from the so-called Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

When I was growing up, the word “education” had a positive ring to it. It meant that you (or those paying your fees: Parents, grant makers, universities, corporations, etc.) were investing in the capacity of your knowledge to eventually do some good in the world.

Today, I cannot say with confidence that this positivity still exists in the general scheme of how education is delivered globally. Instead, I think the focus of who matters most within the global formal education system has shifted from being the student, to the school.

It seems that the “school” as an institution today runs as a business, as it should. In very basic terms, there are inputs which cost money, and there are outputs which should yield a profit. But this is where things get tricky. How does a school account for its “profit”?

Remembering again my younger days, I would think that “profit” for a school meant that the level of “goodness” being produced by their alumni had a direct positive relationship with the school itself. That is, the school not only produced the talent that did good in the world, but benefited from this talent directly through interactions with the alumni and their activities.

But observing the situation in secondary schools and higher education institutions around the world, I fear that this definition of profit has changed. Today, it seems that profit has more of an implication on the school, before it has an implication on doing good in the world. That is, school brands are becoming more important than basic human virtues.

For us young folk, this could mean trouble. Some for us, but lots more for the next generations to come. It means that while “real” education may be consistent in terms of curriculi across any university from the East to the West, the costs, brands, and associated “careers” are likely to be better in those schools that have more resources. Which subsequently means that those schools with less resources will continue to be marginalized on the world map of education.

Duh, you say, that’s obvious. It’s about recieving a “quality” education. I agree, there are schools that deliver and support knowledge well, whereas there are other schools which do not. However, should that quality of education speak to one individual’s capabilities, opinions and actions? Should we label masses of students with the brand of the schools they graduate from?

Further, shouldn’t schools be properly valuing their inputs, relative to their broad objectives (and here, I am also talking about the philosophical objectives of education)? Should they not consider for what purposes resources are provided to them, and what implications this would (and should) have on their constituents?

Unless we young people can understand clearly why we go to school and what we’re supposed to come out with, I fear education will continue to become more commercial than beneficial to humanity.

Related links:

* Update: London School of Economics to give Gaddafi money away.