Wednesday, August 29, 2007



Here it is again in transcript form:
Q. Recent polls have shown 1/5 of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?

A. I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps. And I believe that our education, like, such as South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere, like, such as... and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq, and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children.

Why do people still hold beauty pageants? And why do they care what the contestants think about serious issues?

1. Wikipedia - Beauty Contest

Saturday, August 25, 2007

C&T first assignment

It doesn't flow as well as I would have liked, but it's the best I could do given the length:

C&T 100 (TuTh)
25 August 2007
“Why Teach?”
     I’ve been in school for the greater portion of my life, and during that time I have consistently seen problems to be corrected and triumphs to be lauded. I believe that education is a necessary institution for democratic societies and that without it democracy cannot achieve all that it sets out to. I believe that every individual has a natural curiosity and a capacity to do great things, that each should have access to high-quality schooling, and that an individual’s socioeconomic status should not be the determining factor in his or her intellectual development.
     With regard to the aim of education, I agree with Mary Warnock that “the essence of teaching is to help people see the world as intelligible (and therefore perhaps to see themselves in the world not as mere passengers, carried along by hidden and mysterious forces, but as able to intervene, to change things and to control).” Our current school system (in my experience) does this rather poorly. It does little to encourage independent thinking and self-study. It does not encourage critical thinking; it becomes an unavoidable rigmarole in the lives of most students. Too often, students become passive receptacles of miscellaneous facts rather than free thinkers.
     I believe that many of the shortcomings in our methods of instruction arise from not making subjects relevant to students. All too often, classes become pedagogic hurdles rather than a means to address modern problems. The current system is excessively bureaucratic and this often interferes with its efficacy. It is also seldom clear in communicating its objectives.
     In short, I’ve seen too many ineffective teachers in my day, and too many students that suffer as a result. I’ve seen a system that is plagued with problems. No individual should be deprived of the opportunity to grow and self-actualize. I’d like nothing more than to spend the rest of my life working to correct the shortcomings of our educational system and improving the lives of students.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The final frontier

BBC News had an interesting forum on the importance of space travel, asking "Is manned space travel still relevant in the 21st century and worth the cost? Is the risk involved in space missions worth it? Why does space still hold a strong fascination? Would you pay to go on a space flight?"

1. Have Your Say: How important is space travel?

Some, including myself, think space exploration is a ridiculous waste of money and resources:
I don't mind sending a probe up into space every once and a while, but I'd like to see the vast supermajority of work concentrating on useful applications for humans back on Earth. If the travel is in that context, great, if not, I don't want to be funding it. "Feel good" projects like moonbases, the international space station, a visit to Mars, etc. are just big wastes of money and energy.

Perhaps nothing underscores more effectively the crass stupidity and total ignorance of the more "highly-developed" part of the world than the mis-directed spending of billions on space (not to mention other areas of budgetary absurdity) for no essential purpose, when vast numbers of mankind do not have sanitary conditions under which to live, nor sufficient food and potable water to sustain them. A mere fraction of annual spend could give real benefit to the lives of real people - our fellows.

$10,000/ lb to get into space.
how many kids could that feed? jUst that one pound?

Space travel is a waste of money. Man will never be able to colonize another planet nor will he be able to travel en masse through space. Earth is and will be our only home, and mankind will never be able to achieve the level of technology capable of leaving it. So, it's extremely important to preserve what we have because it's all we will ever have.

Is space travel necessary? I think not, but I could be wrong. But one thing I am certain of is that the massive amounts of money spent on it would be better spent in trying to solve the lack of water and food that causes people such hardship around the world. If the human has a need to explore let us go under the seas. We really do not know wholly what is down there. I doubt that under sea exploration would cost anywhere near that of exploring space. Space can wait. Our fellow men cannot.

Manned space travel is a waste of money. The Shuttle and the Space Station simply exist as justifcations of each other. Neither is really necessary.

It's most unlikely that man will ever leave earth's orbit again. No nation is likely to have taxpayers willing to support the eye-watering cost of returning to the moon, let alone going to Mars.

In a few years we'll be struggling to put fuel in our cars, so burning tons of the stuff to go into space will not be popular!

There is a place for space exploration; science and discovery are a wonderful aspect of human nature. But I do feel that in terms of time and money spent, it should never take priority over matters such as health, education and welfare. The regularity of missions should be reduced, for the sake of putting money where it's needed most and to make the missions themselves more eventful, rather than costly and routine.

Others justify it for what can learned from it and the technologies that can be discovered:
You'll never guess what space exploration has brought to you that you use to this day. Your cellphone contains space-stuff, your own PC even in your kitchen there is material that was invented because of the space programs.

Never say "we do not see anything in return" before you know where normal things you use are made from. You won't see a "Invented by NASA" sticker on it, but "look inside" and explore the web. You'll never guess what was invented in space or because of the space program.

Space travel is vital. Why shouldn't we learn about the universe and our place in it?

But manned space travel is no longer necessary. It was big news in the 60's and 70's, but now it is impractical.

Until a new propulsion source is discovered that doesn't need rocket power, it's a waste of time and money.

The human need to explore is a trait we have evolved, this has led to the survival and success of our species.
Manned exploration of space will lead us to improving and perfecting the technology that allows us to survive in space and on other planets, this will be the only way our species will continue to survive in the long term.

Yes the space program is still relevant. The medical advances alone that have and continue to come out of this program make it worthwhile. If my health permitted and I had the money I most assuredly would take a trip into space.

Still others consider it necessary for the survival of the human species, although I find that proposition ridiculous:
Manned space travel is THE most important endeavor for the human species. It is the only way to ensure longevity of humanity. It is also the only way to top up resources on this planet that get used metals, fuels etc. The reasons are many and varied. If mankind had started out on the British isles & had stayed there & not proliferated the planet, we would not be a dominant species. We would probably still not have the wheel or have discovered fire. To be all we can be we must expand.

Without manned spaceflight mankind will share the fate of dinosaurs.

It will be a VERY long time in the future but we can`t live on our planet forever: One day our sun will die and we would die with it if we haven`t left our nest by then. Space travel is risky and it is expensive but it is necessary not only for our survival but also for our growth as a species.

I think it's important to note that the amount of funding NASA receives is slightly less than 17 billion dollars. That is out of a budget of 2.8 trillion dollars. If we as the human race wish to truly reap the benefits of space exploration, spending must be increased.

While the benefits of manned space flight may seem unhelpful or unimportant, or even difficult to categorize, ultimately, humans will need to learn how to live in space for our species to survive. Unmanned space flight has been far more beneficial in information gathering and technical achievement, but doesn't mean that manned missions are a waste of time and money. Even if manned missions serve only to inspire future scientists and astronauts to explore, it's still worth doing.

Space travel is just as relevant today as it was when it first started. The era of the explorers may be written in the history books, but truly as humans we are never finished exploring. This isn't about egos, this is about the betterment of humankind.

Our president sides with the third group of remarks...

2. President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program (2004)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pedagogia do oprimido and the "banking" concept

From the foreward by Richard Shaull:
There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education neither functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes "the practice of freedom," the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.
In fact, those who, in learning to read and write, come to a new awareness of selfhood and begin to look critically at the social situation in which they find themselves, often take the initiative in acting to transform the society that has denied them this opportunity of participation. Education is once again a subversive force.

Chapter Two:
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness.

The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration—contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.

The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education, then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power. “Four times four is sixteen; the capital of Para is Belem.” The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of “capital” in the affirmation “the capital of Para is Belem,” that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para means for Brazil.

Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into "containers," into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teacher. The more completely he fills the receptacles, the better a teacher he is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.

Education thus becomes an act of depositing in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors of cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is men themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from praxis, men cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
The raison d'être of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive toward reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction*, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

The solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:

(a)  the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
(b)  the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
(c)  the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
(d)  the teacher talks and the students listen—meekly;
(e)  the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
(f)  the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
(g)  the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
(h)  the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
(i)  the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his own professional authority, which he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students
(j)  the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.

It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.
But the humanist, revolutionary educator cannot wait for this possibility to materialize. From the outset, his efforts must coincide with those of the students to engage in critical thinking and the quest for mutual humanization. His efforts must be imbued with a profound trust in men and their creative power. To achieve this, he must be a partner of the students in his relations with them.
Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning. The teacher's thinking is authenticated only by the authenticity of the students' thinking. The teacher cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his thought on them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible.
Those truly committed to liberation must reject the banking concept in its entirety, adopting instead a concept of men as conscious beings, and consciousness as consciousness intent upon the world. They must abandon the educational goal of deposit-making and replace it with the posing of the problems of men in their relations with the world. "Problem-posing" education, responding to the essence of consciousness—intentionality—rejects communiqués and embodies communication. It epitomizes the special characteristic of consciousness: being conscious of, not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself in a Jasperian "split"—consciousness as consciousness of consciousness.

Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information. It is a learning situation in which the cognizable object (far from being the end of the cognitive act) intermediates the cognitive actors--teacher on the one hand and students on the other. Accordingly, the practice of problem-posing education entails at the outset that the teacher-student contradiction be resolved. Dialogical relations—indispensable to the capacity of the cognitive actors to cooperate in perceiving the same cognizable object—are otherwise impossible.

Indeed, problem-posing education, which breaks with the vertical patterns characteristic of banking education, can fulfill its function as the practice of freedom only if it can overcome the above contradiction. Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on "authority" are no longer valid; in order to function, authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. Men teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects which in banking education are "owned" by the teacher.
The problem-posing method does not dichotomize the activity of the teacher-student: he is not "cognitive" at one point and "narrative"at another. He is always "cognitive," whether preparing a project or engaging in dialogue with the students. He does not regard cognizable objects as his private property, but as the object of reflection by himself and the students. In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in the reflection of the students. The students—no longer docile listeners—are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher. The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers his earlier considerations as the students express their own.
Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.

Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they apprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context, not as a theoretical question, the resulting comprehension tends to be increasingly critical and thus constantly less alienated. Their response to the challenge evokes new challenges, followed by new understandings; and gradually the students come to regard themselves as committed.
Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education makes them critical thinkers. Banking education treats students as objects of assistance; problem-posing education makes them critical thinkers. Banking education inhibits creativity and domesticates (although it cannot completely destroy) the intentionality of consciousness by isolating consciousness from the world, thereby denying men their ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human. Problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality, thereby responding to the vocation of men as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation. In sum: banking theory and practice, as immobilizing and fixating forces, fail to acknowledge men as historical beings; problem-posing theory and practice take man's historicity as their starting point.

Chapter Three:
Only dialogue, which requires critical thinking, is also capable of generating critical thinking. Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education. Education which is able to resolve the contradiction between teacher and student takes place in a situation in which both address their act of cognition to the object by which they are mediated. Thus, the dialogical character of education as the practice of freedom does not begin when the teacher-student meets with the students-teachers in a pedagogical situation, but rather when the former first asks himself what he will dialogue with the latter about. And preoccupation with the content of dialogue is really preoccupation with the program content of education.

For the anti-dialogical banking educator, the question of content simply concerns the program about which he will discourse to his students; and he answers his own question, by organizing his own program. For the dialogical, problem-posing teacher-student, the program content of education is neither a gift nor an imposition—bits of information to be deposited in the students—but rather the organized, systematized, and developed "re-presentation" to individuals of the things about which they want to know more.
We cannot simply go to the laborers—urban or peasant—in the banking style, to give them "knowledge" or to impose upon them the model of the "good man" contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized. Many political and educational plans have failed because their authors designed them according to their own personal views of reality, never once taking into account (except as mere objects of their action) the men-in-a-situation to whom their program was ostensibly directed.

For the truly humanist educator and authentic revolutionary, the object of action is the reality to be transformed by them together with other men—not other men themselves. The oppressors are the ones who act upon men to indoctrinate them and adjust them to a reality which must remain untouched.

* "As used throughout this book, the term "contradiction" denotes the dialectical conflict between opposing social forces. —Translator's note."

1. Pedagogy of the Oppresed by Paulo Freire, Chapters 1-3

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"..." 8

"The essence of teaching is to help people to see the world as intelligible (and therefore perhaps to see themselves in the world not as mere passengers, carried along by hidden and mysterious forces, but as able to intervene, to change things and to control)."

—Mary Warnock

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ABC Republican presidential candidate debate in Iowa

Part One:



Four (go Stephanopoulis!):






  • Apparently Ron Paul is very popular among YouTube goers. According to a poll on ABC News' web site, Paul won by a landslide.

  • So... Mitt Romney believes (and says so twice!) that we went into Iraq because of 9-11...

  • Why is socialized health care such a taboo? Would the candidates also contend that we should privatize the fire department and allow the free-market to improve its effectiveness?

  • "The vice president really only has two duties: one is to cast a tie-breaking vote in case of a tie vote in the senate, and the other is to inquire daily as to the health of the president." —Sen. McCain

  • "We can no longer afford political correctness..." —Rep. Tancredo.    What's wrong about being sensitive toward other cultures?  You yourself do not represent your country in toto.

  • "I do not think in this country we should have secrecy in government, the purpose of government is to provide privacy for the people. I would never use executive privilege to deny information to the congress—with the full realization that you protect security information..." —Rep. Paul