where trouble was needed

September 28, 2010

like a tightrope walker

Filed under: Comment — Aravinda @ 5:45 am

When we think about god are we thinking primarily of the origin of the universe, or the creator? Is saying "there is no god" the same as saying "there is no origin" or "there is no creator?" Is saying that there is an origin the same as saying that there is a god? what is the difference, if it is possible tohave one without the other? And strumming the harp from which the strings came, or banging the big, or letting that initial particle drop – how does it really matter whether this was done by god or by itself? How is this job related to to other jobs one might assign to god, like co-pilot, etc?

As I turned over these and other such matters I came across this wonderful quote:

"An honest religious thinker is like a tightrope walker. He almost looks as though he were walking on nothing but air. His support is the slenderest imaginable. And yet it really is possible to walk on it."
– Wittgenstein, quoted in Carlin Romano, Cosmology, Cambridge Style: Wittgenstein, Toulmin, and Hawking

September 26, 2010

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Cosmology, Cambridge Style: Wittgenstein, Toulmin, and Hawking 1

Art: Michael Morgenstern


September 22, 2010

Controlled Extinction?

Filed under: Comment — Aravinda @ 4:59 am

The New York Times

The Meat Eaters

By JEFF MCMAHAN, September 19, 2010, 5:35 pm
Would the controlled extinction of carnivorous species be a good thing?


If we agree that human have caused the most suffering on the planet so far, then how would controlled extinction, where we are in control, have any hope of decreasing suffering on planet earth? Unless we began with humans. See Comment #1.

What if, to alleviate suffering on the planet, we extinguish the species that damage land, water and air? Or even the one that has done the most killing that is NOT tied to survival? I am vegetarian, but I do not think one can compare factory farming and CAFOs to the carnivorous species in nature.

Furthermore, this kind of argument, which no one will take seriously, threatens to distract attention to all that we can do right now without impossible ideas like controlled extinction or even having all humans go vegan. Eliminate CAFOs, end wars, consume less, and we will reduce a tremendous amount of human and animal suffering on planet earth.

September 19, 2010

autonomous worlds of imagination

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 5:59 am

Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills
by Alix Spiegel, National Public Radio, February 21, 2008

Thanks to Sonika for sharing this excellent article. I am so glad that I discovered, somewhat ironically, that "less is more" and even "nothing is better than something" from a toy-vendor website – that toy vendor was up with the progressive, holistic approach to play and had low-feature, high-imagination-stimulating "waldorf dolls" etc and actually wrote " your child does not need toys." It was just what i needed to hear.

Spiegel writes: "But during the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts."

Speaking of autonomous world of imagination, I have been thinking a lot about something I did recently. Even while I was doing it I was asking myself, why am I doing this? It was – we were playing blocks with A (20 months). I asked her where is the green block etc. As if to "teach" her about "colour." But why, why was I doing this? I don’t believe in this kind of teaching. And yet there I was, drumming it in, "yes, this is green!" etc.

While answering a question on unschooling yesterday, I wrote the below:.

Why do we make efforts to teach little kids to identify red, yellow and blue? Primary for whom? for what? In Telugu it is not easy to distinguish pink, orange and red, because all are called red. In fact we can’t even say "red" but have to say "redlike." There are on the other hand very specific colours named "eggplant," "peacock’s neck" or "parrot" and heaven help you if you call these violet or blue or green (esp if you are in the matching centre!) Some years ago I participated in an experiment for a study on "categorization of color*" and joined a listserv called colorcat dedicated to this research.

So even if we know that by age 5 or 6 or 7 children will have to accept the colours in standard crayon boxes why not leave the years before that free for them to perceive light and color in various ways without us dictating names for these things. I say the same for letters and numbers. Treasure those precious pre-literate and pre-numerical years without rushing to count, classify, compile and categorize. Though the languages* of infancy and early childhood may not survive for long, the opportunity to discover and develop and discard concepts in those years, the sense of being a principal investigator rather than passive recipient of concepts others have tried and found true, can serve one throughout life. Let us stand on our feet before we stand on the shoulders of giants. (*Wade Davis on endangered cultures give us a glimpse of what values might survive along with non-dominant languages and concepts.)

Our daughter shared some memorable observations around age 2 about the number 0 and about white as a color. Yes, she currently uses our decimal number system and no longer objects to seeing colors the way we do. But we also got a glimpse of the questions our prevailing system raised for her and thought momentarily about what it would be like to see it her way. Alas, that moment may no longer be with us but the chance she had to protest the way zero was valued or the role of the white crayon is something that kindled in us respect for her imagination and analysis.

September 9, 2010

Homeschooling too is fine, says HRD Minister Kapil Sibal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 1:26 pm

So Kapil Sabil said, "Homeschooling is okay." It is in the Times of India:
epaper | Text posted here:

Great! I feel like a gay married person. It’s now safe to come out … But must we be guarded lest someone come along and take our rights away? Or can we openly express our joy and occasionally flaunt our fabulousness just as those in uniform do?

But seriously, Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said with respect to homeschooling, "we are not going to interfere …. We cannot be micromanaging." A refreshing breeze of common sense.

Heck, let’s just share the entire article:

From Alternative Education in India: In addition to the half page feature on homeschoolers in India in today’s Times of India Pune edition, there is an important legal article too on the front page titled – RTE: Homeschooling too is fine, says Sibal

RTE: Homeschooling too is fine, says Sibal

But States Must Ensure Education For All: Minister
Neha Madaan | TNN Pune 8 September 2010

Homeschooling parents can continue to educate their children at home now that HRD minister Kapil Sibal has clarified the ministry’s stance.“The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 wants every child to be in school,but if somebody decides not to send his/her children to school, we are not going to interfere. The compulsion is on the state, not on the parents. Parents are free not to send their children to school, but teach them at home. We cannot be micromanaging,” Sibal told TOI on Tuesday.

The Act stipulates eight years of formal education for all children between 6 and 14 years of age. Homeschooling parents believe in individual skills and want to nurture them in their children at home rather than in schools. The Act, outlining the duties of the parents,says,“It shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to admit or cause to be admitted his or her child or ward, as the case may be,to an elementary education in the neighbourhood school.”

The 25-odd city-based homeschooling families and scores from other cities have been looking at the implications of the Act and seeking clarifications over whether it is a punishable offence. Educational expert Alok Mathur said homeschooling is not punishable under the Act. Mathur, the director of teachers’ education at Rishi Valley school in Andhra Pradesh, which imparts alternative education, was part of a group which met Sibal a few weeks ago in Delhi. The meeting was initiated on behalf of a Delhi-based homeschooling parent. “I accompanied him for the meeting since a group supporting alternative schooling had sent a letter to the minister along with the homeschooling petition. I was among the signatories,” said Mathur. According to him, the minister, at the meeting, had said that the purpose behind the Act is to make it obligatory for the government to provide reasonable quality education to all sections of society, especially the poorest and deprived sections. In the minister’s view, if parents wished to and had the means, they can homeschool their children.

A Delhi high court division bench in April 2010 heard a PIL which said that the Act infringes on the freedom of parents and should be amended for homeschooling. The petition was dismissed, but the bench asked the petitioners to make a representation to the HRD ministry seeking its views on homeschooling. The homeschoolers group’s letter to Sibal asked him to accommodate homeschooling in the RTE Act or clarify its stand on homeschooling and alternative education. At the meeting, according to Mathur, Sibal had said that he did not feel that the government should enact or provide any special provision to cater to the specific needs of ‘gifted and talented’ children. “The minister associated these children with the betteroff sections of society who are already empowered to provide specifically desired education for their own children in the manner they wish to,” Mathur said. Nyla Coelho, coordinator for the Goa-based Taleemnet, a facility to support meaningful and alternative education, said, “The Act is more about giving the masses a chance to literacy. The government would not intervene if parents wish to homeschool their children. I have wanted to convey this to the parents of homeschoolers in Pune to allay their doubts about the Act.”

September 4, 2010

Reclaiming Education and Human Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:32 pm

Teacher Plus, 11 August 2010

Manish Jain, De-institutionalizing Macaulay: Reclaiming the wider meaning of education

You rightly warn against ceding "control over the very meaning of education and development" to the state or any entity. While you worry that the RtE rather than promoting equality would promote "a suffocating and unimaginative monoculture," it may do worse. To feed that monoculture it would still require the land and labour of India’s poor and marginalized.

How can something be called a Right but involve compulsion? Right to Food does not mean force-feeding, Right to Work does not mean Bonded Labour.

An effective way to relieve the burden of child labour would be to ensure for adults the right to work, with living wages, safe working conditions, and adequate leave. Implement laws concerning land rights, housing and food schemes, and migration would also come down, giving more people a key prerequisite for obtaining rations, health and education services – an address.

Ironically the number of people deprived of a home address may increase thanks to the Special Economic Zone Act which paves the way for large scale land-acquisition for a number of private, for-profit industries including Education, for whom the RtE Act guarantees clients. Those displaced by these ventures would join the millions who migrate daily in search of the next meal and simultaneously fend off police and forest officials who call their territories "ungovernable." Their children are termed by the RtE bill in that insulting phrase "“First Generation Learner” implying that only school-learning counts as learning, and dismissing the learning cultivated through all the previous generations.

Your suggestion that bridges should be built between the formal, non-formal and informal worlds of education is sound. This would strengthen people’s rights, quality of education as well as access for all.

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