Education and Nationalism @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 1)

The BYOB Party in December kicked off in December with the question of education. Ralph has a penchant for online PDFs that deal with academic subjects. The last time he had got a book with 23 words sentences, as he called it– Philosophy of Intellectual Property by Peter Drahos.

the-educated-mindThis time he talked about The Educated Mind– by Kieran Egan. The book discusses the problems with education and provides alternatives by way of practical proposals.  Unfortunately the book is peppered with huge words and while it talks about simplifying education, it is  a difficult book to read. Ralph, however, recommends the book.

The book reminded Jaya of a book called Hindi Nationalism by-Alok Rai, Premchand’s (the famous Hindi writer) grandson. Topically the books are dissimilar but what the books have in common is a tendency toward obscurity. Though both books deserve to be read, the difficulty of prose and repeated use of hard words can be a setback for an earnest reader. Hindi Nationalism deals with ideas like the separation of Hindi and Urdu, the history of language in India and Hindi as a national language. Many people consider Urdu to be exclusively poetic though writers like Manto wrote Urdu in its prosaic form.

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@ the BYOB Party

More books in Part 2.

Short Book Review: Geek Heresy by Kentaro Toyama

Geek HeresySBR: I was hoping to make Geek Heresy one of my monthly recommendation, but decided against it because the second part annoyed me to the hilt. It was the typical padding material that non-fiction publishers seem compelled to put in a book to reach a certain word-count goal. The first half of the book is a must-read though. It denounces technology, and more generically what it calls packaged intervention, as the ultimate solution to widespread social, political or economic problems. Despite the hoopla around Arab spring, facebook or forced elections can’t establish democracies, not stable, functional ones anyway; computers in schools cannot educate children better; and microfinance cannot magically eliminate poverty. Democracy needs strong institutions and aware citizens; better education needs good teachers and adult supervision; and microfinance needs handholding and training the beneficiaries to enable them to make the best use of credit. It doesn’t mean technology and packaged interventions are not useful though. When exactly are they useful and how is convincingly argued about in the book. Technocrats and bureaucrats will do well to stop looking for silver bullets and easy scale in solutions to hard problems. Creating positive change will continue to require hard work. Technology can help, but it cannot be an alternative to human factors.
To read or not to read: You must read it if you work in the social sector – for-profit or otherwise. The first part is also a must-read for others, especially if you are a blind devotee of technology as the ultimate solution to everything.  If you aren’t a hopeless case, it might open your eyes. You should also read if you are a complete technology skeptic. Because you need to know where exactly technology can be of real help. Then start reading the second part. If you find the first few pages pointless, you can safely skip the rest. Else read on and finish the book.

Author Update: A 10 minute IIT Puzzle

The telegraph extensively quotes Dr. Sanghi’s blog post on the rather lax process of hiring IIT Directors.

Sanghi said the process of selecting an academic leader of an institution should aim at assessing a candidate’s leadership qualities to take the institution to international levels in teaching, research, industry linkage, etc.

The process in American universities is more rigorous, with the board shortlisting three or four candidates after studying their bio-data and references. The candidates then have to spend a day or two with the board’s trustees and other stakeholders and present their vision for the institution.

Sanghi said he had had to go through a similar process before he was selected director of a private institution in Rajasthan in 2008.

He drew a contrast between the rapid selection of directors in six hours and the long-drawn selection of students for BTech courses through a series of tests. A student has to clear the Class XII board exam with 75 per cent marks or has to be in the top 20 percentile in the board.

Read the article on The Telegraph.