Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feeling Human Fragility Revisited: How Breakdown of Authority Leads to Breakdown of Ethics

In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization.  Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions.  Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Comparative History of Human Development Can Provide New Clues for Explorations of Extraterrestrial Life

In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Prof. Jared Diamond argues that the different levels of development among modern human societies, in terms of institutions, wealth, and technology, are ultimately due to different environmental conditions faced by their historical predecessors.  The availability of wild plants/animals for domestication and fertile climates/soil for food production enabled some societies, more than others, to adopt agriculture, explode in overall population, and create non-food producing specialists that enable innovations and complex society-building.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Experiencing Suffering of the Poorest Firsthand is needed for Even the Richest

I write after two years in the depth of rural Tanzania, where I have worked for an NGO.  Our clients, a group of farmers scattered across a series of remote villages, struggles to make ends meet as changing rain patterns and dearth of high-quality fertilizers keep their farms unproductive.  It was a tough two years working to reverse these struggles.  Idealism turned into cynicism, hope into disillusionment.  For failures, I found myself becoming too quick to blame others, whether it be government absence, unmotivated staff, or refusal for organizations, including ours, to prioritize projects that are realistically feasible rather than glamorous for publicity. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Is Book Buying Also a Sign of Materialism?

What is the most visual sign of an intellectual?  For many people, the answer may be an obvious one.  The person must be well-read.  And what better proof is there of a person being well-read than having a study full of bookshelves, completely filled up with good books?  It is unsurprising than, whenever the average media outlet go conduct a face-to-face interview with scholars, professors, and experts, they are often conducted in their offices, flanked by bookshelves full of books related to the topics at hand and the person's field of expertise.  Having many books has become equated with knowledge.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Reforms Are Urgently Needed By Modern Education

Today’s students ought to be anxious.  As technology develops, many cushy jobs are in the process of disappearing and being replaced by robots and computer algorithms.  Government policies, from increased tariffs to fickle visa regimes, make employment in an increasingly interconnected world volatile and unpredictable.  To counter these constant changes in the overall economic environment, Educational institutions need to restructure their curriculums and mindset to help students develop a diverse set of knowledge base.  Only with varied set of skills will students, upon graduation, be able to weather changing employment patterns as well as rise and fall of particular industries. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Key to Ending Ivory Trade is not Bans, but Increase in Supply of Ivory in the Market

In economics, there is a type of product called "Veblen good" that does not contradicts the normal supply-and-demand relationships.  For a normal good, a decrease in supply corresponds to an increase in price, leading to a corresponding drop in demand as consumers reduce consumption and/or seek out cheaper substitutes for the now more expensive product.  But for a Veblen good, while decrease in supply also leads to a price increase, demand actually surges, with consumers assigning higher value to the good due to the higher price of the good.

Friday, March 17, 2017

「学生」という身分だからこそできる世界の「巡り方」

たぶんご存知でない方もたくさんいらっしゃいますが、著者の学生生活は日本で始まった。5歳で中国から移住していた著者、言語が分からぬまま入れられてしまった石川県金沢市のとある保育園は実に最初の学校経験であった。その後もそのまま隣の小学校に入学し、両親が学術研究で忙しいため、放課後には町が運営する児童センターで毎日何時間ほど過ごした。そのおかげで、12歳にアメリカに移民する前にはすっかりごく普通で日本っぽい小学生になっていた。

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Journey Outside the USA Continues....

Many readers of this blog may or may not realize that the author of this blog is actually an American citizen.  Yet during more than six years of this blog's run, the vast majority of posts are written in locations about topics that are distinctively unrelated to the author's country of citizenship.  Even when written, America only exists as an elusive point of reference for other countries, a passive player looming large in the background that features much in the collective psyche of the local populace, but not nearly as much in the workings of their daily lives.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How Lack of Financial Discipline Fuels an Explosive Growth of African Government Debt

In his work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki attempts to dissect the mentality of the poor, the middle class, and the rich.  Among all the differences he notes of the three, one is constantly repeated and stands out as pivotal in the difference.  The rich, he argues, invests in assets and not liabilities.  And when the rich makes these investments, they do so through incomes earned through assets, and not by taking on more liabilities in the form of loans to be repaid.  By wisely investing in income-generating assets within their means and then reinvesting resulting incomes in more assets, a small initial capital can quickly turn into a large sum.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Enviable Professional Freedom of an Academic

Many people see one's academic and professional lives are two separate,distinct phases.  Schooling is something done in young age, a process of learning that culminates in certifications that signify one's ability to think critically and apply certain skill sets.  Those skill sets are prerequisites to a second phase, professional work that apply and further enhance academic knowledge that can be directed and sharpened to achieve certain goals that are worthy of financial compensation.  For most, one leads to the other (sometimes in reverse), and the two rarely, if ever, crosses paths.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Should Government Bureaucrats be Trained in Special Schools?

Many countries have one of these.  Promising, self-confident young men and women are thrown into almost endless lectures of political orthodoxy, of the need to serve their country, and of uploading its law, without questioning its underlying morality and validity.  Years later, the indoctrinated youth become government officials, dictating the policies that affect the very future and fortune of the country.  Unfortunately, being isolated in an entirely different academic and living environment makes youth educated under "bureaucrat schools" lose connection with society at large.  As such, government bureaucrats should not be trained in special schools.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Underlying Universal Political Forces of Later "Three Kingdoms"

For people interested in ancient Chinese history, the Three Kingdoms era (roughly the second to three century AD) is one of the most familiar portion.  The titular novel on the subject, romanticizing the heroes of the era, along with numerous movies, books, and video games based off their stories, have become hits across much of East Asia in the past decades.  However, most of the interest in the era focus on the earlier half of the era, when various warlords and generals make their historical debut from humble origins in their respective lofty goal in uniting China in an era of internal divisions.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Attitude, Rather than Knowledge, Marks a Successful Educator

In the last weekend of his stay in Taiwan, the author was taken to a college campus by a friend of his.  As the friend was taking the author around her alma mater, explaining every corner of the school that made and unmade a thousand memories of her formative four years, the author noted a group of young high school students on what seems to be a summer camp being held at the school's main auditorium.  Boisterously, the kids were going about discussing among themselves, bouncing ideas off one another as they hatch ideas to bring forth in what seemed to be their end-of-the-camp presentation/talent show.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Whatever Happened to Masculinity?

It is a disturbing time that people seem to live in nowdays.  The fury of one person is casually unleashed upon the innocent passerby, making them the cannon fodder for social frustration that are not only not caused by them, but not even really related to them in any way.  The bloody mess in a subway carriage in Taipei recently is followed by a drive-by shooting in the UC Santa Barbara campus in California, in both cases instigated by young man whose unique concerns with their own, rather different forms of social disgruntlement were suddenly exposed to a society unprepared to receive them in the way it did.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Overwhelming Soul-Searching and Underwhelming Social Response

It has been a few days since one of the most talked about violent crimes in Taiwan's recent history took place.  A 21-year-old student, allegedly neglected by both parents and society at large, stabbed through carriages full of innocent commuters on Taipei's subway, killing four in what people can only dub as a psychopathic assault.  Since the incident, both mass and social media here are filled with speculative reports on the background of the 21-year-old, with discussions ranging from how to detect anti-social behaviors early in a person's life to how to properly punish violent criminals of this sort.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Dangers of "Manufactured Tourism"

In the eastern suburbs of Taipei, a little rural township nestles amid the northern reaches of Taiwan's central mountain range.  A little railway runs through the valley, bisecting the township's component villages and bringing in tourists from all over the island and beyond into the embraces of their splendidly well-preserved architectures of the past and winding, hilly roads frequented in the township's glorious past as a top coal-mining spot.  Honestly, the villages themselves are not that old, but that feel of "living history," along with all the foods and sights reminiscent of the past draw massive crowds on a regular weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

the Bird Chirps of Regret

The first rays of light in the morning accompanies the receding darkness of the night.  When bright colors of nature once again scar off the uniform blackness that enveloped the land, it is time to start anew, completely anew.  The clear blue sky heads into the mind through the eyes, clearing out any mental debris that tired it from the night before.  Refreshing, reinvigorating...it re-balances the senses and reassures one that what is past is the past, and what is future starts now, ready to be written on a new, blank chapter.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Taiwanese Domestic Politics: Is the Ideological Crowding out the Practical?

When talking about Taiwanese politics, China is the elephant in the room.  These words from Western media should not and indeed really do not face disagreement even here in Taiwan.  Certainly, for an island where 40% of exports head to China and 10% of citizens live in China, to speak of political issues in a Sino-centric fashion would not be at all excessive or exaggerating.  And looking at events of the past across the Strait and potential repercussions for the future, the fixation of local politicians and common people with China is very well justified.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Can Universalism of Religious Identity Overcome Nationalistic Biases?

At one moment the author and his friend were the only customers in a quiet hole-in-the-wall halal restaurant, and just five minutes later, to their bewilderment, the shop was getting over run by a Chinese tourist group, who took up 3/4 of the restaurant in two waves.  Even as massive, money-wielding Chinese tourists have become a common sight abroad in the past decade, this one was maybe a bit subtly different.  The venue was a Muslim restaurant, and the tourist group was composed fully of Chinese Muslims taking perhaps their first trips to Taiwan.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Institutional Robustness as a Prerequisite for Democratic Maturity

The ongoing political stalemate in Thailand, entering an even grander stage of opposition protests and incumbent counter-protests to paralyze Bangkok, seems to see no end.  Fueled by continued anger over talks of inappropriate use of national funds, hidden corruption, and unjustifiable grips on political power by the so-called "Thaksin regime", the opposition seems to still have plenty of firepower left despite private murmurs among its supporters that they are pushing too far with their demands, and that their lives are increasingly being disrupted by the constant need to be on the streets.