July 2008


TSF Rising Powers is a beautifully designed resource to think about the new sources of global power.
Thanks to Fazal Rizvi and Nick Burbules for the link.
From Rising Powers: The New Global Reality Website [Stanley Foundation]:

The global order is changing. The 21st century will be marked by many competing sources of global power. Across politics, economics, culture, military strength, and more, a new group of countries has growing influence over the future of the world.

Rising Powers: The New Global Reality is a Stanley Foundation project designed to raise awareness, motivate new thinking, and ultimately improve US foreign policy regarding this global transformation. Our aim is to discuss several of the countries challenging the global order, major issues which cut across national boundaries, and how all of this will impact American lives.

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From Eldis:

Tittle: Denied status, denied education: children of North Korean women in China
Publisher:
Human Rights Watch , 2008

This report analyses the situation faced by children of North Korean women in China. The report points out that these children lack access to education, as Chinese schools require verification of identity for admittance and continued schooling. Children born of North Korean mothers are not registered in China, as registering the child would mean exposing the mother, which would subsequently lead to her being arrested and repatriated to North Korea as an illegal economic migrant.

The report states that under domestic and international laws, China has a legal obligation to grant all children in China access to education, regardless of their legal status. North Korean or half-North Korean children should not be required to submit copies of hukou for admittance to schools or continuing schooling, nor should their parents and guardians be forced to pay bribes.
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From IPS by David Vargas, June 13, 2008:

ASUNCIÓN, Jun 13 (IPS) – After nearly two decades of apathy, the university student movement in Paraguay has made a comeback, demanding a law to grant them rebates on public transport fares and opposing a draft law on higher education reform.

Both issues are the focus of draft laws currently under debate in Congress. In the last few months students have demonstrated, marched, barricaded roads and boycotted classes to put pressure on lawmakers to vote on the proposals before Jun. 30, when the current legislative period ends.

The protesters have been demanding approval of special tickets for university students, which would halve fares on public transport for some 150,000 students attending public and private universities.

The lower house of Congress has already passed the draft law, but the students announced they would keep up the pressure until it makes it through the Senate.

The other bone of contention is a controversial proposal to reform the higher education system, which has been under consideration in parliament for two years. The students are against the reform, alleging that it would restrict their participation in decision-making and undermine the autonomy of the country’s universities.

Paraguay has five public and 16 private universities. The largest is the state National University of Asunción (UNA), with a student body of 33,000 and some 2,500 professors.

This country of six million people has one of the lowest access rates to higher education in Latin America. Less than three percent of children who enter school are estimated to go on to university after 12 years of primary and secondary education[…]

[Read full]

More news about the Minerva project. I mentioned in a previous post my deep skepticism on this direct involvement of the DOD in sponsoring social science research. This is related with the ethical problematic of instrumentalizating social research to follow military purposes. In a recent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog it is mention a essay which points out to one of the main criticisms on the Minerva initiative. In this essay , “David H. Price, an associate professor of anthropology and sociology at St. Martin’s University, warned that military-financed social science will crowd out other forms of academic inquiry”. I still believe that the participation of the NSF may not preclude some the inherent problems of this type of initiatives. For instances, Minerva final objectives may not be different from those found  in the 1960’s DOD project: Camelot.  Camelot was seen  as a component of a larger behavioral science project of social engineering whose contributions had very narrow instrumental purpose, oriented by a ‘conservative’ agenda of research,  of  finding effective instruments and knowledge to operationalize a notion of ‘order’ (e.g. anti-insurgency, etc) . The adverse reaction against Camelot in Latin America ended in a backlash against US scholars doing field research in Latin American countries.

From Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, June 30, 2008 by David Glenn”

In a memorandum of understanding that was signed today, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation have agreed to work cooperatively to support social-science research on topics of interest to the Pentagon.

As widely expected, the NSF has agreed to help review proposals submitted to the Pentagon’s Minerva Research Initiative, a fledgling program that will offer grants to university-based scholars to study the Chinese military, the records of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and other specific topics.

The two agencies will soon — possibly within a week — release a joint request for Minerva-related proposals. Those proposals will be judged by the NSF’s typical merit-review panels, though the Pentagon has the right to nominate experts to serve on those panels. (The Pentagon is also accepting Minerva proposals through a separate pathway known as a broad agency announcement. Proposals that are submitted via this second track will reviewed through the Defense Department’s usual processes, not by NSF panels.)

But Monday’s agreement is broader than Minerva: It also creates a mechanism through which the Department of Defense can help to finance other national-security-related proposals submitted to the NSF. In such cases, scholars will have the option to decline the Pentagon’s money. (read full here)

The Pentagon as already started to invite universities to apply for grants of research for the Minerva initiative.

An interesting article at the Guardian arguing for teaching of philosophy as a learning practice in order to develop critical thinking skills in school. Anthea Lipsett mentions the book Philosophy in Schools, edited by Dr Michael Hand of the Institute of Education and Dr Carrie Winstanley of Roehampton University. The article puts forward several arguments mentioned in this book for including philosophy in the school curriculum.

FromThe Guardian, by Anthea Lipsett, July 2 2008:

Children of all ages should study philosophy in school to develop their critical thinking skills, education experts said today.

Academics suggest that, rather than start off with Socrates, teachers use common classroom disputes to help children learn about abstract philosophical principles such as fairness, morality and punishment. They give the example of apportioning blame for spilling paint (read here)