World Teachers’ Day

The 5th of October, since 1994, the World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The 1966 Recommendation provides the main reference when it comes to teachers’ rights and responsibilities on a global scale.

 

Worthwhile to remember what Alfred Marshall said in 1890.

The schoolmaster must learn that his main duty is not to impart knowledge, for a few shillings will buy more printed knowledge than a man’s brain can hold. It is to educate character, faculties and activities; so that the children even of those parents who are not thoughtful themselves, may have a better chance of being trained up to become thoughtful parents of the next generation. To this end public money must flow freely. And it must flow freely to provide fresh air and space for wholesome play for the children in all working class quarters. (Marshall, Alfred, 1890: Principles of Economics; MacMillan and Co., London, 1930: 718)

It seems that with the “refeudalisation of society” we face the situation that the positions of the revolutionaries of the olden times, whose authors had been yesterday’s conservatives, are becoming joining on the side of the revolutionaries again. In this light there is also something about the illustration, ensuring to sin – surely not catholic-literally but to accept that pupils and students are partners.

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Worthwhile a note on the world and China: on September the 10th I received a mail from 张伟, a former student of mine – well, she would say “a student of mine”, skipping the word “former”. She sent her congrats and best wishes for the teachers day. First I was puzzled – did she mix up the date? 2018, the Chinese teachers’ day is on the 10th of September, the world teachers’ day on October 5th, a simple explanation. I checked later on the web and found something that is … – well, I leave it up to you to think about it:

10 September is an official holiday in China. This day the whole country fetes educators and teachers. This holiday, in its different interpretations, has been existed in China as early as the Middle Ages. Teachers and coaches have always been honored and respected in China. Very often teachers acted as mentors throughout the whole life; especially it is true for the traditional Chinese martial arts.

It also says something on the reason of making it a public holiday: the official acknowledgment of teachers – as intellectuals – and their important role in boosting the development of the country. Also

Since the school system in China is based on the Western model, many old traditions in honor of teachers have not been preserved today.

One may have different opinions on this, the political background …, well. But at least it seems to be worthwhile to mention that there is a deed in the one part of the world, and that there are just words, probably widely unspoken, unwritten, unheard, unread … in another part of the world.

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Worthwhile a personal note:
Only recently, visiting with a friend the Kunsthalle in Munich, I remembered one point of all this, when standing with her in front of one of Emmanuel Maignan’s works, the “Anamorfosi San Francesco di Paola”. A pleasure to experience the amazement of both of us. Though it had not been about a visit with a student, it is very similar anyway: Something of learning together and admitting that it is about the experience of being caught by what one sees – in this case actually being caught by what one does not see: the praying person only visible from two specified angles, the sides. It reminded me of having used Holbein’s equally magnificent  work “Gli Ambasciatori” for showing the same effect: the hiding of something, the fact of leaving something invisible for those who lack the enlightenment – an enlightenment that is emerging from the standpoint, the perspective. Never having seen the original of Holbein’s work, seeing something similar entailed still the experience of being amazed. – What foolish teacher would say s/he knows the one and only perspective. Doesn’t such perspective emerge only from putting together experiences, that may at some stage get stuck, paralyse the experienced if it goes together with closing the eyes, blocking off, not allowing new experiences to be made; and even more: not allowing looking at something “known” through new spectacles and of course forcing looking at the new through the old glasses.

Teachers’ Day – an opportunity to congratulate students, and to thank my students for allowing me to learning together with them.

Annunci

Leisure Time

It is Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, Seollal in Korea, where the Olympic Games may be part of what they claim to be: a step to the peaceful unification of two countries, which would be a real and global platinum medal – and it is about celebrating and leisure time. Let us join in this difficult matter.

… unfortunately human nature improves slowly, and in nothing more slowly than in the hard task of learning to use leisure well. In every age, in every nation, and in every rank of society, those who have known how to work well, have been far more numerous than those who have known how to use leisure well. But on the other hand it is only through freedom to use leisure as they will, that people can learn to use leisure well; and no class of manual workers, who are devoid of leisure, can have much self-respect and become full citizens. Some time free from the fatigue of work that tires without educating, is a necessary condition of a high standard of life.

 

 

[Marshall, Alfred, 1890: Principles of Economics; MacMillan and Co., London, 1930: 718]

Digitalisation

Yes, writing “quick comments” is admittedly always dangerous, hastily arriving at wrong conclusions. Still, there is occasionally a huge temptation, and it may be justified as such writing possibly provokes …, well, some really important and not so hasty thoughts, easily overlooked when it comes to detailed analysis of …, well detailed analysis.

Reference at presence is a European Commission’s press release, titled

How digital is your country? New figures show action needed to unlock Europe’s potential

It presents results of the recent study of the DESI.

What is the DESI?

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is an online tool to measure the progress of EU Member States towards a digital economy and society. As such, it brings together a set of relevant indicators on Europe’s current digital policy mix.

If I am not mistaken, it fundamentally solves one fear of the past. People were afraid of the development, as they did not want to be “just a number”. We do not have to fear anymore that this may be coming up in the future. It is already the case.

And it also allows us to understand the attitude of those people in the glass palaces towards migration and migrants: Numbers cannot simply decide independently to enter an equation. Only the magician with numbers is The Lord, able and allowed to present the formula …, the white hair and long beard now appearing as netting of bits speeding through fiber glass.

  • Action needed to reach the global top: …

Yes, summits have to be reached – erected like the towers of fortresses. Would it not be an alternative to start with action to reach true global cooperation?

  • Better connectivity, but insufficient in the long-term: … . The EU needs to be ready to meet future demand and to provide the next generation of communication networks (5G).

Sure, but I am still wondering if our brain is fast enough to cope with the improvement of obtaining information, barely allowing for the time needed to think about it. – Since some years now I am introducing in my lectures a unit under the heading “slow reading”, the aim of which is UNDERSTANDING.

  • Digital skills to be improved:

It may not be much more than a side note, it may be that it actually is more: Apparently there is a paradoxical constellation in China where the language is strongly characterised by characters (instead of letters) and sound/pronouncation. The computer keyboard requires to write first by using letters, and moving from there to “choosing characters”. The consequence seems to be the emergence of a new form of analphabetism.

  • e-Commerce, a missed opportunity for smaller businesses:

Two of the issues, if you want: major reference points, in mainstream economics are scarcity and comparative advantage. Well, there is no reason to question the empirical data:

65% of European internet users shop online, but only 16% of SMEs sell online – and less than half of those sell online across borders (7.5%).

However, instead of aiming on change there could be another suggestion: SMEs may claim to move towards comparative advantage: offering something special instead of mass web-products, offer excellent individual advise, offering products that are even individually produced, or produced by individuals working together in cooperatives, and seeing the consumer as co-producer …

  • More public services online, but they are under-used:

Underused? If so, the conclusio may be that there is still hope and people still have more sense than those who govern them.

As said in the beginning, there are problems with such ad-hoc readings – there is much ore to it, including coproducing in particular due to the internet-use etc. – part of it I will deal with next month, when working briefly in Havana. But the problem of blasphemy is not necessarily the heretic; it may well be the self-acclamation of gods who forget that their suggested prayers are mere phantoms as long as their only purpose is … the bubble of their own believe system, the believe system of an old society of which we may say with Shakespeare:

Sans teeth, sans eyes

Sans taste, sans everything

Sure, talking about the believe system of an old society may end in a paradox: it easily lacks the opportunity to get a really good caffellatte.

PS: I hope my students anywhere do not read this blog-entry – as I am required to push them towards the global top, so to say: migrants with global access rights.

No-Cash-on-the-Table Principle

… or about the deforming of human minds …
Measuring the World – the title of a novel by Daniel Kehlmann …
 … The title of another novel could be Simplification of the World … the textbook version exists already
Still, the No-Cash-on-the-Table Principle is important. It tells us, in effect, that there are only three ways to earn a big payoff: to work especially hard; to have some unusual skill, talent of training; or simply to be lucky. The person who finds a big bank note on the pavement is lucky, as are are many of the investors whose stocks perform better than average. Other investors whose stocks do well achieve their gains through hard work or special talent. For example, the legendary investor Warren buffet, whose portfolio has grown in value at almost three times the stock market average for the past 40 years, spends long hours studying annual financial reports and has a remarkably keen eye for the telling detail. Thousands of others work just as hard yet fail to beat the market averages.
(Moore McDowell et altera, 2012: Principles of Economics; London et altera: Mc Graw hill. Higher Education; 3rd European Edition: 220)
It is always interesting to see how economics is able to separate distribution from production – thus resulting in assessments that focus on distribution, pleasing for “a bit more of justice”, and reducing production on an annex to distribution, trusting the markets and fortune.
There is something else that is interesting: my students, for example, immediately ask, similar stuff to that reflected in the Questions from a Worker Who Reads, and they immediately a surprised when looking the Warrens & Friends. It seems that only economists have this strange ability to reduce the world on some kind of formula that reflects the distribution of something without bothering too much about the from where things come.
Mad cow disease and “the discovery of a new breed of chickens that gain more weight than existing breeds that consume the same amount of food” (from the same “bible of Simplification” by Moore McDowell) just appear like in the ancient world gods turned up: today they are just the gods of the “market” I talked about on another occasion.

Stop googling …

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

(Leonardo da Vinci)

The other day a friend of mine sent me a link to an article — indeed, a very interesting article, raising many questions, and perhaps also some puzzled thoughts. One of the latter is on “the seven minute rule”. Spontaneously “speed dating” came to my mind. Never did it, cannot even imagine doing it — though I can imagine or even experienced if not love, so “attachment”, “sympathy”, “attraction” at first sight — and first sight is surely less than 7 minutes.

But there are two main points I am thinking about now:

First:

Of course, all these gadgets etc. are supporting this “turning away” from “deep communication”. At the same time I think there may well be a general shallowing of communication that supports the development of the reference to such means. If (taking an example) we (not necessarily as individuals but as “system”) ask for “power point knowledge”, nicely wrapped, offered in multiple choice packages … … can we expect people to think and engage in wider terms? I mentioned it frequently when teaching, and in different places: Often my students showed huge difficulties in the beginning; but after a while at least many had been attentive, engaged and liked the exercises of “eye opening”. After a while = after they learned that they will not get “slide-wrapped info” and after they learned and accepted: I am not interested in “tick-box” knowledge when they participate in class or when they are sitting their exam. I hate the term knowledge-based society, as in my opinion those, using the term, are actually often talking about skills and information based functioning. At times, the results of such tick-box-orientation is weird: I received the other day a “peer review” of an article I submitted. Some reasonable points. One …, simply stupid, sorry. The reviewer said:

With a reference to such classic thinkers as Marx and Bordieu, and new leftist thinkers such as Pikketty, the author calls for a revaluation of class-based analysis …

And then he criticised that I actually contradict in the following of my article Bourdieu’s class analysis. Leaving the question aside, if we can “qualify” and “classify” Marx, Bourdieu and Piketty (yes, with one k, not with two, dear reviewer) “in one pot”, the point is: I did by no way mention Bourdieu’s class analysis, let alone affirm it. Bourdieu wrote on other topics too and it is not enough for reviewers to show off by throwing names of authors into the debate, without recognising why they are turning up in the first instance …

Part of all this is also the overproduction: of students, of publications, of …. — I am very much in favour of mass education. But what we currently see is not mass education. We have more BA-graduates, but is their educational attainment really so much higher than the attainment of previous leaving cert attainments … ? Is not the MA today very similar to the previous BA, the PhD very similar to the previous MA …. — now we have post-docs and soon post-post-docs, and then ….

Sorry, I loose occasionally some patience here — it is all about increasing productivity of exchange values, completely forgetting the dimension of use value. It is about input and throughput and output …., every hen shows more sense with the put put put … in the chicken run —…

But there is surely a very serious thing about it — and it is for me a “problem”, a question. I am born BB, i.e. belong to the “before Bologna generation”, obtained a diploma in Germany. When I came to Ireland many years ago (I have had my doctorate at that time too), somebody said:

Your diploma is more than our PhD.

My first thought: nice, flattering …, but nonsense. I am not sure if I would maintain this “nonsense” today. And it is not about the German versus Irish but about the old-fashioned doctorate versus the new and highly commercialised PhD.

Complex and complicated issues. And part of it is the control of teaching by “blackboard”, by computerised systems …. — Then the frequently asked question:

But can we turn back the clock?

gains a new slant. Do we really want to turn it back? Do we have to look for another clock that allows “educating the masses” and doing it in a way that I would see as qualified (= really qualifying) way?

Yesterday I saw an interesting documentation on Cuba: on the medical/health system. It is geared towards prevention. Very close to the patient as coproducer … — the doctors highly committed although they are not well paid. Amazing: a ratio of 1 doctor on 170 patients. When I had been in Cuba I “enjoyed” the medical service (well, one never really enjoys it, especially when one needs it after collapsing). It had been unbelievable, and it is a very long time ago that I experienced something comparable – it had been in Finland, with an excellent health care system that is now under huge pressure. On the other hand, one of the “highlights”, just before I left Ireland: I had to go for an eye test — and the doctor (GP) asked me what she should do. Short time before: I have had a pneumonia, went to the GP and he said: it may be that you have to go to hospital. Here is the referral – if it is not getting better, you can go to the hospital. BTW, it had been “the same GP”, a surgery, a medical centre and though it is the same you never know who will finally will be looking after you. finally they are not looking after you but after their money.

Doesn’t all this show that may of the gadgets and much of their use is simply a matter of “escape”, substitute, often due to US reinforcing it? US, i.e. we are doing it — any other reference of US may be accidental and accidentally relevant.

Second:

Yes, personal contact, face to face communication …. — I appreciate it, I miss it … and then there is a BUT. A BIG BUT. I suppose it is particularly felt by those who left home. No, I should not write “Who left home” — instead, I should write about those who truly consider the globe as a village and see the world as their home. Paradoxically, they may not have a home in the traditional sense of nation states, municipalities, family, parish etc. To some extent it is a matter of priests who spend their life on missions (though they are member of the family of god – and still, look at Aodhán’s kettle). To some extent it is a matter of comrades who spend their life, acting in different contexts (though they are member of The International, with all their difference as we can see them here and here and here and here and here.

To some extent it is a matter of artists who spend their life on tours (though they may be member of the avant-garde of thinking). Or to some extent it may be a matter of the business elite spending their life in private jets, hotel lounges, in the extreme case even living their own time, not manipulating their watch or their body clock and expecting others to adopt to theirs. All this is also a bit about New Princedoms.

Anyway, there is in general terms and in the different realms of life the phenomenon of “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” — with the numerous variations: “One craw does not attack another” (a more suitable translation of the German saying than the usual “There’s honour among thieves” and even the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, indicating the need to personalise the other and making him/her very close to oneself. People making promises, people convincingly offering help and collaboration — and as soon as the door is closed, all seems to be forgotten, all and everybody. The concrete is concrete …, and any abstraction is for many difficult to handle.

It is an interesting phenomenon: xenophobia disappearing with the appearance of “the other”, “the stranger” in front of us. Note well: as individual.

In other words: there is always the problem that face-to-face communication can easily entail exactly this attitude, the one I mentioned and of which I said that there are numerous variations – I mentioned few, but the most dangerous remains to be added: NIMBY – not in my backyard.

This is surely one of the tensions we can observe now in connection with the phenomenon of migration. Instead of talking really about a general human right (as Rafael Correa did when addressing the UNGA did), we usually fundamentally maintain the idea of nationhood, of nationality, defining migration as flight only. Though it surely is currently for most such an escape, the very same attitude misses that only this basic pattern of nationalism, regionalism parochialism is nothing else than imperialism. I do not want to elaborate on this — Abby did this in her docu on the empire files; and in some veiled, though still frightening way Obama did this when addressing the 15th General Assembly of the UN   — It is a long time ago, I visited with two friends, Yitzhak and David, the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Just before reaching the exit a collection of “statements”, written on paper, had been exhibited …., impressions. One paper said something like this:

Why are we so empathetic with just one girl though her conditions had been actually relatively good — why do we not worry about the thousands who suffered the same or worse fate? The answer is that it is already difficult for us to deal emotionally with the one case — feeling the burden of all who suffered would break us completely.

It is not about heroism nor martyrdom ….; it may be the weakness to push the suffering, the joys, the strives and efforts of those who are not present, out of mind though …

Is it this attitude that made Leonardo da Vinci saying

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

Education

Sure, it is a topic, popping up again and again — and we are facing with variations only. Some more here:
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
Isaac Asimov
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As a matter of fact student riots of one sort or another, protests against the order that is, kicks against college and university management indicate a healthy growth and a normal functioning of the academic mind.
Youth should be radical. Youth should demand change in the world. Youth should not accept the old order if the world is to move on. But the old orders should not be moved easily—certainly not at the mere whim or behest of youth. There must be clash and if youth hasn’t enough force or fervor to produce the clash the world grows stale and stagnant and sour in decay. If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all their youthful vim and vigor, then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come on college campuses, the better world for tomorrow.
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The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Albert Einstein

Priorities …

How one can get things wrong – though they may be right in today’s age. Which then means: How wrong the times are …

A decline in real wages, a weak ruble and high interest rates have hurt middle-class people more than most, striking at their ability to travel abroad, invest in housing and in their health and children’s education.

From The Moscow Tomes, Monday, April 13, 2015