Friday, February 27, 2009

How to make a class keep quiet

One guaranteed way to kill a debate is by participating in it. At least, that's what's happened to the "education" thread in my kids' blogs. Try to be too clever, and they don't know how to respond after that. So I'm holding my peace in the thread on Law and Society, quietly observing as more and more of them start contributing to the discussion. It's fun to watch them pitch their theories at each other as they work out among themselves whether the Law makes Society, or if it's Society that makes the Law. When they get sufficiently confused and ask for my input, then I'll throw in my two cents. I have no wish to end yet another promising webchat prematurely.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Take a break

With so much work backlog, I only have time to post a quick link, which under the circumstances I think is quite appropriate: kids -- even big 'uns like me -- need RECESS! Fortunately, I have colleagues who believe in it as much as I do too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We want to know the Truth

I happen to be pontificating again, so I'll just do a little copy-and-paste here as I respond to a couple of questions from the blogs of a couple of my current kids. Context: they're asking about the need for them to study hard in school because the end result as they see it is just a paper qualification that they are unlikely to make use of when they start a totally unrelated career [like maybe once the recession is over].

My response is a bit airy-fairy, a bit philosophical, but I only hope to provoke more questions to prolong an already interesting online debate. Here goes:

"We study because we want to know the Truth, and if we can't get the Truth immediately, we need to learn the tools we can use to discover the Truth for ourselves.

Why is the Truth so important? Knowing the Truth means you cannot be lied to, cannot be cheated or manipulated to do other people's bidding. Knowing the Truth sets you free, indeed.

Do we need a rigorous education system? Absolutely. The Truth is a slippery devil, and knowing the Truth will not always make us happy. So you have to be prepared to uncover the Truth and to deal with it when you find it.

Schools present truths (broken up into the different subjects) in their purest form. The longer you stay in school (right up to post-degree level), the more practice you get in discerning Truth from mere truths. Hence, it's a lot easier to become an empowered person through the school system than in any other environment because the school focuses its energy on EXAMining the Truth more so than anywhere else.

Sadly, most people go to the university just to get a degree they won't know what to do with when they graduate, when there is so much more education has to offer.

I'm actually a believer in education for education's sake. Our big mistake is to be rushing through the "system" and by doing so we take a lot of short cuts in the learning process.

If we examine the word "study" we see a process taking place in our minds: we observe (something... let's say a subject topic) -> we analyse it (break it apart to see what it's made of and how it works) -> we experiment (put it back together in new ways to see how it might behave differently in new and different forms) -> we apply (see connections between what we have just learned and what we already know in order to understand future implications) -> and when we are able to connect both prior knowledge and our new knowledge, that's when memory kicks in.

But because we are all in a rush to become paper qualified, we skip all the middle bits and what we end up with is students struggling to memorise a load of material that is new and unfamiliar because there's a test coming up tomorrow. That is no longer by definition "studying", that's just donkey work.

I know you don't have time, but I really hope you pick up one thing (just one) from our GP sessions: to stop doing donkey work and learn to study for real."

Oh dear, I just hope I haven't killed the ongoing debate. This looks like quite a chunk of text for the kids to wade through.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brave soldier

Oh, the drama of it all! While taking down his club's recruitment poster, Josh falls off his stepladder and bangs up his elbow good. Refusing to trouble anybody, he takes a cab to the hospital on his own. Diagnosis: dislocated right elbow, slight fracture in his arm. Doc gives him 10 days' medical leave, and the next thing he does is show up back at work, arm in cast and sling, claiming to all and sundry that he'd rather return to campus to face the daily chaos than stay home and face the wall for the next 10 days.

He has a point there. A lot of our experience at work can be quite highly therapeutic. We're busy and occupied the whole day, our friends and other silly people are within a quick SMS away for a little break and general entertainment to break up the monotony of the day, and really the atmosphere is a lot more livening than an isolation ward at home. So I fully understand his reluctance to stay off campus, even though I and many other colleagues berated him fully for not taking care of himself by going home to recuperate from his rather serious injury.

The end of the matter came when he was banned from darkening our doors again by the P himself, so there's nothing more to be said about that.

Poor Josh. Take care of that elbow, keep it immobilized, rest well and recover soon!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alvin gets hitched

And now a big Congrats! to Alvin on his long anticipated wedding. Here he is, just about to pop his champaign bottle, and his expression says it all. There's happiness mixed in with excitement and a little tense anxiety in not knowing when exactly the inevitable explosion of pressured fizz will occur, other than any second now.

I dunno, I'm just trying to find some significance to the champaign pouring ritual that Wayne's co-MC explained at length in Mandarin, but Wayne himself was unable to provide the requisite translation for us non-Chinese-speaking folks.

Anyway, I gotta thank Alvin for the invite. His dinner at the Grand Copthorne Harbourfront was an enjoyable Chinese 8-course. Notable dishes include the shark's fin soup (please no environmentalist commentary here -- I don't know if it was faux fin, so I'm assuming it was) with larger than usual chunks of crab meat in it; a lovely pomfret in some kind of veggie soup; a voluptous chicken, "pipa" style; an odd package of glutinous rice that tasted better than it looked; and a standard mango pud that was delicious simply because it was familiar.

Sorry to say our table was a clear split between dNYel folks and a bunch of guys I surmise were Alvin's chums from who knows where. We shared the table like we were at a crowded food court, except that we picked from the same dishes. Didn't need to get to know them any better as I was already in the presence of good company. 

Pix of said good company: click here.