Critical Thinking, Humanities Needed for Widespread Educational Success

There are two visions of what education can provide, as a service: it can provide the opportunity for integral cultivation of the full human self, with the aim of yielding productive, conscientious citizens of a dynamic, free society; or, it can produce workers to take their place in a faceless workforce, where individual rights are subsumed in the thrust of the major forces that govern society.

For most of our history, we have understood the value of citizenship-focused education, a humanizing process whereby the individual is introduced to higher-order critical thinking and the ability to formulate and pursue knowledge in new and unique ways, but the trend toward standardization and processization of our educational system has shifted the focus away from the humanizing effects of education and toward the idea of an able workforce.

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Climate Destabilization & Cold Winter Weather

Climate change means “global warming”, so how can severe winter storms and excessively cold breezes be evidence of a warming climate? The key is in the word “global”: the warming of the overall global average temperature need not manifest in all places at all times as warmer weather. Throughout the history of human civilization, the Earth’s climate has remained relatively stable, due to optimal global average temperatures; as global average temperatures slip outside that optimal range, the warmer air makes the interaction between climate systems more inconsistent and more severe.

So, while monsoons are failing across Africa and southern Asia, and major rivers are starting to run dry for part of the year, failing to reach the sea, in northern climate bands, storms are getting to be more severe and winter weather is hitting harder. This is because climate bands themselves are blurring, becoming less rigid, less reliable, and so in traditionally temperate climate zones, arctic and tropical air are coming together more often than before, both demonstrating and exacerbating the ongoing destabilization of major climate patterns.

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‘Psychic Numbing’: Why does mass suffering induce mass indifference?

Psychic numbing‘ is a relatively new term, assigned to the phenomenon which shows people tend to feel less urgent compassion, and tend to give less, when the suffering in question is shown to be more systemic and more pervasive, or affecting larger numbers of people. Some psychologists believe it is linked to our intuitive sense that if one suffers alone, the suffering is worse, but if one is accompanied, there might be some security in numbers, not just emotionally, but practically.

The individual does not actually suffer less, but somehow, human beings —across cultures, ages groups and regions— appear to have an almost inborn tendency to convince themselves that the one who suffers with others is somehow safer. This is, of course, rarely true. While yes, a young boy might survive because his older sister goes without food, two young children in a population beset with pervasive, persistent scarcity or political disorder, may be at significantly heightened risk of violence, or even enslavement.

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In Defense of the Book, in All its Forms

Today is the Day of the Book, in part spurred by the urge to recognize two of the great progenitors of modern literature, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who both died on 23 April 1616, at least according to the official history. Their work and the various arts that go into making books, as such, are celebrated around the world as staples of modern global civilization and the human element of culture.

But the book is more than those sweeping historical energies; it is a concrete, observable register of intent and of meaning, which carries evidence of our humanity forward and informs and improves future worlds. The book, bound pages imprinted with text in one form or another, is one of the oldest continuously used and still highly relevant technologies, and for good reason.

Paper is both a simple and a complicated tool, requiring large amounts of industry and energy to produce, yet is produced in massive quantities and seems endlessly available. Staining it in a way that allows a visual rendering of a given code (a language and its preferred alphabet) allows us to create a record of ideas and thought patterns that holds up remarkably well against time and can be accessed with no technology aside from our own senses and knowledge of the code in question. Continue reading “In Defense of the Book, in All its Forms”

CSW54: New Media, Social Action & Women’s Economic Security

Motivating social action through social media was the subject of one of the morning sessions on Day 1 of the 12-day 54th annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN headquarters in New York. A panel of pioneering and accomplished women, from diverse fields of research, activism, and enterprise, offered a far-reaching exploration of the ways in which new media can help to effect change and improve the situation of women, around the world. Outreach, social networking, and informational access, were integral to the morning session’s discussion.

As social networking technologies have evolved, they have become not just user-friendly in the extreme, but have created a global forum through which individuals and communities, organizations and governments, can work to build connectivity among people, and share information in a way that promotes opportunity, liberty and stability for women in even remote corners of the world. Social networking tools decentralize the flow of information, allowing for a more flexible, dynamic application of global communications platforms, handing the control of access and information to the people who seek or require it.

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Malaria Kills Millions Every Year in Africa

Malaria is one of the 21st century’s great plagues. It is responsible for anywhere from 1 to 3 million deaths per year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to eradicate the disease are mounting: in the year 2000, just 3% of children under 5, in sub-Saharan Africa, slept with mosquito nets; by 2008, that figure had risen to 56%. Aid groups now project that aggressive preventive measures can protect 100% of the population by the end of 2010 and reduce the number of deaths to near zero by 2015.

Doing so requires an aggressive and coordinated effort by governments across the region, in concert with world health experts, the UN’s WHO, aid organizations and local communities. Malaria, originally named “the bad air” because it was thought to be airborne, is actually a water and blood-borne disease, transmitted by a particular variety of mosquito. The scarcity of safe drinking water across much of the region leads to ill-advised practices like leaving whatever standing water one can find at hand for human consumption.

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