Thursday, March 24, 2011

Khan Academy

The Khan Academy. Fast growing educational program, all based on the web and videos.

And to think I didn´t know about this! I´m late to the game once again...
Watch the TED video to get the introduction of the concept. Its brilliant. I can´t get the video to function properly so if you want full-screen visit the TED homepage HERE.

I have a few problems (as always with anything) with the notion of video taking over for regular teachers. The problem with this does not lie with the method itself, but rather the person developing the video. Notice that Mr. Khan is from America... most people there talk english, right? Most people in the world does not however. This leaves a small hole, but one that should be easily overcome. All there is to it is for one teacher from each country to translate the lectures. A lot of work, but easily done... not to mention cheap.
So my problem comes here: the teaching method is heavily dependent on the guy making the lectures, being able to communicate with a broad spectrum of audience. Khan himself is such a guy, but lets all agree that all teachers are absolutely not as easygoing and understandable as him. That puts a pressure on the others translating the lectures, a pressure so high that I recommend only the best teachers for the job... but that may make it into an elite concept. Something to be highly expensive should only the best of the best be hired to teach the lectures. And not everyone has a big heart such as Khan... so they probably would ask a lot (given that only a few teachers are fitted for the job of translating the lectures so the competition is low).
That makes the concept profitable, something that as a fundament should be avoided if it is ment to reach the porest of us.
But thats not really a critique of this system as it could be a critique of all education systems everywhere and their teachers. As you probably have guessed until now; I´m not a fan of privately owned schools... Something about making education into a profit just doesn´t sit well with me. Thats primarely why I think this is such a great, radically awesome, idea!

Then there is the debate of which education-system is best... Which I´m avoiding deliberately here.
Other than that, and the fact that people in underdeveloped countries have to have an agreeable level of technology, I see no problem with this. Its awesome.

As a student of almost everything I´m easily fascinated by different things. Physics is one of them. Sadly I have never been good at it, and stopped trying after I got a C on a test where I was meant to find out my own weight on the moon. I failed terribly and gave up on physics after that... I now focus on social science since its much more understandable and fundamentally bereft of logic and answers. Fits me perfectly... Though I´ve always had an interest in other things more technical.
Here is Khans video of fundamental physics. I understood it again after years away from it. What about you?

And here is the link to his site if you are interested.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A letter about the UN

Today´s monday post will be a mail I sent to a journalist regarding the UN and Libya. I have translated the text since it was originally in Norwegian and therefore hard to read for most of the people reading this blog.
It should be said however that I don´t see it as realistic that anything should come out of it. I just felt that I had to write it.
Anyway. This is the third serious post in a row, and I will try not to get to engaged to critical writing. People don´t want news from blogs obviously, yet there are too few blogs who does it seriously to begin with.... and somethings are left out of the mainstream media. Enter the internet.

I´m a student at ***. Today I woke up with “todays paper” outside my door, branded with large head liners about the controversial theme: Libya.
After having read your article I´m left with a couple of questions I feel are essential because they are left out of the general media.
Not to make the impression to be a “know-it-all” student; This is not critique of your article. If anything it was good enough to inspire me to write this e-mail.

I´m especially interested in the part of the article where you site **** ***** with the line “We can get a westernization of what has been until now, a genuine people uprising”.
This is about the first time I have heard a politician from any of the western countries, ask a question concerning the legitimacy of the recent bombing. The issue that get the hair on my arms to rise up is that the bombing itself is fronted by the UN. After what American (and Norwegian) media calls a “historic moment” in the UN, when they gave a go ahead to the No-fly-zone over Libya, there was immediately underlined that this was strictly for civilian protection. But does this not put the UN in an extremely poor position as a peace-keeping/building organization?
You have to consider the fact that the UN does not have juridical power, even though it wants us to believe it does, as a transnational sovereignty. They do not have the right to “go in” as a police force, especially when their only legitimate motive is “defend from violence with violence”. This puts them out from being a peace-keeping organization to become an organization that is used as a cover that the superpowers use to “cover” their real motives.
I mean; what happened in the security-council was like a poorly-made re-run of the iraq war. The same actors who pushed for a war for democracy that time, are the same now and we all know that there was alternate motives than “building democracy and defend civilian lives” that drove them that time. As a bonus this became an economic black-hole for the US in later times, where soldiers die because the local people don´t want them there... you obviously don´t need a reminder.

Last time the UN left with its integrity intact by saying NO to the warmongers, something they have failed to do this time. This was their only basis as a transnational organization even close to being legitimate! They have let themselves be manipulated and made it to look like a “humanitarian operation”. Ironically enough... no matter how you look at it, it will come back as “to bomb for humanitarian reason”.

POINT being that the focus has deliberately been shifted from the stabilizing of oil-prices (America), bad election (France), and a budget hole (England), and over on “protection of civilians” for a reason.
It isn´t that I think of Gaddafi as anything else than a despot and a menace for his people and region, but I think the UN made a big, fundamental and eye-opening mistake when they approved the war-hungry countries, and gave them an incentive with ethical backing, to go on the offensive. This is what the media has forgotten to mention. Maybe because they are too afraid to make any other assumption, from fear of losing viewers, but I think they are making a mistake in not putting a light on the long term effect of what happened in the UN.
This paper ********* has an advantage there.

This is naturally a social scientific goldmine, and I can already see many a professor rub their hands eagerly together. Definitions are despite all what they are good at, and an opportunity to write new books and make students buy them for a bloody price, where they shift the term “peace-keeping” as a word thought of in a good sense to become something more like “war-incentive”, they applaud in their dark corners of their libraries. 

That Norway is going to partake in the coming battle/war (whatever) does not come as a shock. We are despite all Europa´s naive half-brother.
The repercussions of this remains to be seen. Everything depends on who wins down there. If Gaddafi wins, the west will have to crawl to the furnace (because of the oil involved) and lick his back for the next 30-40 years, and if the rebells wins there will still be 30-40 years before they get any resemblance of a agreeable democracy that functions, and this might not even be in the wests best interest. The ONLY thing we can be sure about is that civilian people won´t win. They will die be it bombs, persecution or torture anyway.

So here you have a case: the UN´s future legitimacy as a peace-keeping organization.

Have a good day and good luck with your article-writing

- Beornegard (