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Education

The Things We Do: How Goals Corrupt

Roxanne Bauer's picture

China has a long tradition of burying the dead and building tombs to honor them. This ancient practice, however, has recently been butting heads with modernity as the Chinese government now needs to conserve limited land for farming and development to support its people.  In an effort to use land more effectively, the government launched a campaign to encourage cremation instead of burial, and authorities demanded that a minimum number of corpses be cremated each year, based on the total population of the previous year.
 
The campaign, however, led to unexpected results.  At the start of November, two officials in China’s Guangdong province were arrested for allegedly buying corpses in order to meet the strict cremation quotas. Police from Beiliu City in Guangxi Province began investigating the theft of bodies in the region during the summer and apprehended a grave robber named Zhong in July. Zhong admitted to stealing more than 20 bodies from the graveyards of local villages in Guangxi at night. He then transported the bodies to Guangdong province to the east, where he sold them to two local officials. These two officials, He and Dong, were formally in charge of funeral management reform in the province and were arrested for purchasing the corpses with the intent of delivering them to a funeral parlor for cremation on the official registry.

Compare this to public school teachers in the United States who cheated on standardized test scores by illegally viewing tests ahead of the test date and changing their students’ answers to meet high yearly targets for student progression.

Blog Post of the Month: Realization of the Dream

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.

In October 2014, the most popular blog post was "Realization of the Dream" by Leszek Sibilski.  

In this post, Leszek describes the "changing faces" of his students in university courses and ponders whether terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” will one day be obsolete as his students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds. 

While acknowledging that there is still plenty of space to improve, Leszek reminds us that focusing on differences can limit our ability to connect with each other. He writes, "Instead of building societal firewalls, we should expose the negative vocabulary for classroom and public discussions in order to raise public awareness supported by mutual understanding."
 

How Soap Operas and Cable TV Promote Women’s Rights and Family Planning

Duncan Green's picture

Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI provides an absolute gold mine of a crib sheet on this in the shape of Drivers of Change in Gender norms: An annotated bibliography, by Rachel Marcus and Ella Page with Rebecca Calder and Catriona Foley.

Here’s one of the excerpts that caught my eye:

Jensen, R. and Oster, E. (2007) ‘The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India’. Working Paper 13305. Cambridge, MA: NBER

Realization of the Dream

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

For the last 15 years, I have been a Sociology Professor in private and public institutions of higher education in the Metropolitan area of Washington, DC. Every year, every semester, I was able to observe the constantly changing faces of my students. At one point I asked my class: “so who is the minority in this classroom?” and, in return, I heard a choir of young voices: “You, Dr. Sibilski!”  During all those years, I taught students from all the inhabited continents of all religions and orientations. Although I am still patiently waiting for a student of Eskimo heritage, I think it is only a matter of time. Most students take introductory sociology classes to fulfill their academic requirements so I am very fortunate to be exposed to the entire palette of the student body. As I teach on a daily basis about social justice and equality, I am seeing that our daily work is starting to mold a student who is well acquainted with the religious and cultural differences of his/her classmates, and race or ethnicity is not an issue anymore, especially when group projects are assigned.  I am starting to believe that terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” very soon will be obsolete and will not remain in vogue. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I have a dream speech” of August 28, 1963, was yearning: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I feel very privileged to witness the realization of King’s dream.
 

Quote of the Week: Malala Yousafzai

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I want to bring change to my whole country.  On the spot, I could only help one or two children, but if I want to help the whole country then I need to be a politician.”

- Malala Yousafzai, an education activist from Swat, Pakistan.  She is known for her activism in support of universal education and in support of women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have, at times, banned girls from attending school.

Campaign Art: Pão dos Pobres

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Globally, significant progress has been achieved in elevating the position and dreams of children. United Nations data show that mortality rates of chilren under 5 years of age have dropped by 49% from 1990 - 2013.  Primary school enrollment in developing regions reached 90% in 2010, up from 82% in 1999, which means more kids than ever are attending primary school. However, it is also true that youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed, and over 350 million young people are not engaged in education, employment, or training.

The lesson of the following video by Fundação Pão Dos Pobres is that reality can't stop us from dreaming.  To show that dreams are worthwhile, Pão dos Pobres created an art exhbition entitled "Por Trás Sonhos" (Behind the Dreams) featuring young people who illustrate their dreams for the future and professional artists who transform these dreams into depictions of reality.  Reality is often darker than our dreams, but that should be reason enough to work for positive change.
 
Por Trás Sonhos

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Out in the Open: This Man Wants to Turn Data Into Free Food (And So Much More)
Wired
Let’s say your city releases a list of all trees planted on its public property. It would be a godsend—at least in theory. You could filter the data into a list of all the fruit and nut trees in the city, transfer it into an online database, and create a smartphone app that helps anyone find free food. Such is promise of “open data”—the massive troves of public information our governments now post to the net. The hope is that, if governments share enough of this data with the world at large, hackers and entrepreneurs will find a way of putting it to good use. But although so much of this government data is now available, the revolution hasn’t exactly happened.

Four mobile-based tools that can bring education to millions
The Guardian
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela is famed for saying. Yet access to good quality learning is still denied to millions around the world, particularly in developing countries where teaching standards and education facilities are often poor. The ubiquity of mobile phones is presenting educators with a new, low-cost tool for teaching. Here we look at four mobile-based solutions delivering real results for low-income learners.

The Things We Do: I'll Have What's She's Having

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Swimming is to cats what rational thinking is to humans- they can do it, but usually begrudgingly.

While people like to think of themselves as independent thinkers who employ rational thought to make decisions (and this can sometimes be true), many of our choices are influenced by social instincts. What goes through our minds is derived, in large part, from what goes through the minds of those around us. 

According to a book, I’ll Have What She’s Having, by Alex Bently, Mark Earls, and Michael J. O’Brien, humans are fundamentally pro- social creatures that collaborate and copy the behaviors and choices of others when making decisions.

Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak

Margaret Miller's picture

In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence. Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.

The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
 

Mandela on My Mind

Maya Brahmam's picture

Last Friday, July 18, was Nelson Mandela Day, a day to recognize and remember his legacy to the cause of social justice – including the fight against extreme poverty. Mandela has inspired countless people with his ideas and actions.

The moment of personal inspiration came when I read a friend’s blog post several years ago in which he described a visit to Mandela’s prison cell, where he spent more than 20 years – a small cramped space that couldn’t constrain his larger vision. In Long Walk to Freedom, an autobiography he began writing in prison, Mandela said, “It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”  I found these words compelling, as they challenge each of us to examine our own life and direction.

In a very visceral way, Mandela understood the concept of inequality. He established the “Train of Hope,” which made its first journey to deliver health care to underserved rural populations in 1994, the same year that he was elected as South Africa’s president. He also believed in the promise of education. In 2001, at the opening ceremony of a secondary school, he stated, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine…

Mandela is for my generation what Gandhi was for my parents: A legend in his own time.
 

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