October 2009

“The School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG) was an American academic think tank focused on the subject of reform in mathematics education. Directed by Edward G. Begle and financed by the National Science Foundation, the group was created in the wake of the Sputnik crisis in 1958 and tasked with creating and implementing mathematics curricula for primary and secondary education, which it did until its termination in 1977.” [Wikipedia]

“The result, after twelve years, was total failure.  By any reasonable measure, and measures were taken, school mathematics was worse off in 1975 than it had been in 1955.  The idiocies of the older curriculum had in most places been removed, but often to be replaced with new ones.  Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song New Math, lampooning the pretentious language used to justify an inability to calculate, had the mathematical community itself laughing at the follies committed in the name of promoting a better understanding of mathematics.” [http://www.math.rochester.edu/people/faculty/rarm/smsg.html]

This is a good example of how deluded academics and technocrats can trying to apply their ideas, without regard of context or participants, to educational settings. I think that Tom Lehrer’s song may gave you and idea of the dimensions of SMSG failure:

A really interesting post by Kris Olds at the Global Higher Education Blog discuss the proposal for the revival of the  Nalanda University  and the implications of  the construction  of transnational spaces of higher education. My impression to this and other process and institutions, such as the Mercosur’s  Universidade Federal da Integração Latino-Americana (UNILA) is that they are not yet really operating outside the framework of nation states. For the moment, the most important players setting the policies of transnational exchange  are nation states with the capacities to impulse knowledge production in specific directions that are deemed favorable to their respective national interests. This seem a fair assessment especially in the case of institutions that are create as part of regional integration initiatives (e.g. UNILA). This does not mean that these configurations cannot become, eventually,   mainly driven by transnational dynamics. It would be interesting to see the eventual ways in which those transnational configurations develop in the coming years.

From Global Higher Education, October, 2009:

The emergence of new supra-national movements with respect to higher education and research continue apace. From the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), through to international consortia of universities, through to bits of universities embedded in others within distant territories (e.g., Georgia Tech’s unit within the National University of Singapore), the higher education landscape is in the process of being reconfigured and globalized. Yet, is it really that novel in an historical sense? Today’s call at the East Asian Summit for the revival of Nalanda University (see below) draws upon development outcomes in higher education that took place well before the establishment of medieval universities like Oxford, Bologna, or Lund. As Sashi Tahroor notes: Founded in 427 A.D. by Buddhist monks at the time of Kumaragupta I (415-455 A.D.), Nalanda was an extraordinary centre of learning for seven centuries. The name probably comes from a combination of nalam (lotus, the symbol of knowledge) and da, meaning “to give”, so Nalanda means “Giver of Knowledge”. And that is exactly what the university did, attracting prize students from all over India, as well as from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Persia, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Turkey. At its peak, Nalanda played host to more than 10,000 students — not just Buddhists, but of various religious traditions — and its education, provided in its heyday by 2,000 world-renowned professors, was completely free. The establishment of new types of universities in like Nalanda University, Øresund University, or the recently opened Universidade Federal da Integração Latino-Americana (UNILA), remind us that there is an emerging desire for novel spaces of knowledge production that think and act beyond the nation. A related question, then, is how effective will these new configurations be, and can supporting stakeholders (including nation-states) really act beyond the nation? (read here)

An additional reading to consider after watching Robinson’s lecture. The article entitled Speculation on the Stationary State was written by   Gopal Balakrishnan and published in the New Left Review this month  [read full here].

Thanks to Daniel Araya for the link

[…]What is the historical significance of the implosion of neo-liberalism, coming less than twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union? A disconcerting thought experiment suggests itself. The ussr, it might be recalled, had reached the summit of its power in the 70s, shortly before stumbling downward into a spiral of retrenchment, drift and collapse. Could a comparable reversal of fortune now be in store for the superpower of the West, one of those old-fashioned ‘ironies of history’? After all, a certain unity of opposites can be traced between an unbridled late capitalism and the centrally planned rust belts of the former Comecon—and precisely in the economic sphere, where they were diametrically counterposed. During the heyday of Reaganism, official Western opinion had rallied to the view that the bureaucratic administration of things was doomed to stagnation and decline because it lacked the ratio of market forces, coordinating transactions through the discipline of competition. Yet it was not too long after the final years of what was once called socialism that an increasingly debt- and speculation-driven capitalism began to go down the path of accounting and allocating wealth in reckless disregard of any notionally objective measure of value. The balance sheets of the world’s greatest banks are an imposing testimony to the breakdown of standards by which the wealth of nations was once judged. [read full here]

I believe that the quote from Fredric Jameson at the end of Gopal’s paper superbly illustrates today’s anxieties.

Confusion about the future of capitalism—compounded by a confidence in technological progress beclouded by intermittent certainties of catastrophe and disaster—is at least as old as the late nineteenth century; but few periods have proved as incapable of framing immediate alternatives for themselves, let alone of imagining those great Utopias that have occasionally broken on the status quo like a sunburst.

Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall

Thanks to Mousumi Mukherjee

Quite an interesting blog  post to consider after Robinson’s video lecture.

From Christian Science Monitor, by Isabelle de Pommereau, October 10, 2009:

Nobel Literature laureate Herta Mueller counters a current longing for the old days with harsh portrayals of their reality.

There are hints of “Ost-algia” in the air these days in Germany. One in seven German wants the Wall back, according to a recent poll published in Stern magazine. Many feel they were better off when the country was divided. They are bitter about high taxes and millions of dollars of their money poured into rebuilding the formerly communist east over the past two decades. And all that for what? For an eastern region that’s depleting itself demographically, and where unemployment is twice as high as in western Germany.

But lost in those statistics is the reality of oppression. [ read full here]

This conference will take place in Washington next year. The promoting of  green (i.e. environmental) education  is part of the agenda of discussion in this conference.

Thanks to Daniel Araya for the link

From the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE):

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) welcomes you to the 10th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment: The New Green Economy. Marking a decade of conference history, the signature event will be held January 20-22, 2010 in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in the heart of Washington, DC.

NCSE’s national conference engages leading thinkers and doers from a diversity of disciplines, sectors, and perspectives in a structured conversation about the meaning of the green economy and how investment in green education, research and jobs can help solve both the economic and environmental crises.

This interview with Zizek  is quiet interesting. I think that he may have a very good point on his commentary of the current  financial crisis.

Thanks to Ergin Bulut for the link

From Democracy Now Website:

Dubbed by the National Review as “the most dangerous political philosopher in the West” and the New York Times as “the Elvis of cultural theory,” Slovenian philosopher and public intellectual Slavoj Žižek has written over fifty books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory. In his latest book, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Žižek analyzes how the United States has moved from the tragedy of 9/11 to what he calls the farce of the financial meltdown. [includes rush transcript]

This is a fundamental issue for education. It is very difficult to consider the possibility to achieving any global education goal or agenda without attending this issue as a priority. The article comments in the result of the State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.

Thanks to Gabriela Walker for the link

From AP, by Tom Maliti, October 14, 2009:

NAIROBI, Kenya – Parents in some of Africa’s poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough.

A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture. According to the U.N. food agency, which issued the report, 30 countries now require emergency aid, including 20 in Africa [read full here]

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