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Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

adnan patrawala

 

16-year-old Adnan Patrawala, who had been missing for 2 days, has been found lifeless near Panvel, just outside Mumbai city. Reports claim that Adnan may have been strangled to death by kidnappers who had earlier demanded 2 crore as ransom.

Now it seems that Orkut may have been used to lure Adnan.

It seems that the kidnappers may have used the moniker *Angel* to communicate with Adnan, befriend him, exchange phone numbers and entice him with the possibility of a ‘real-life’ meeting.

I was stunned by this, especially just a few days ago I had read on Boing Boing (via David’s excellent blog) about a National School Boards Association report that the internet was safe and that we should use it more. The NSBA had determined that the much-touted risk of online stalkers and predators was basically nonexistant.

Adnan who (in his profile on Orkut) called himself a party-animal and who wanted to be a pilot, is being mourned by the Orkut Community. His profile has received almost 2000 scraps in the last four hours.

Information from the press that he “loved to spend money on his friends”, drove a Skoda car, love to party (the most syndicated picture shows him with a Bacardi Breezer) may point to indulgent parenting and adolescent precociousness but also to unbridled use of the collaborative web. As I write this, for the first time, the ‘web’ seems more like a metaphor for a spider’s net than for a mesh.

This incident sure to cause a reverberation in the online community. As teachers and educators we have a responsibility to help protect our students again such act. The correct response would not be a blanket ban on sites like Orkut and Facebook in schools, I can see this as a very likely knee-jerk response to this event.

A better approach would be continuing education about the possible consequences of undiscretionary online behaviour, much like the talk students get (or should get) today about sex education. Students have to be told, with examples like this unfortunate incident involving Adnan, that dangers exist and like one would not share personal information with a stranger or accept food from someone you didn’t know similar behaviours were inappropriate even when the other were a virtual entity at a computer screen miles from home.

A good article on what students should be exposed (or not) to is Putting Them in a Bubble, over on Jeff’s Blog

Till students become more adept at using collaborative/discussion tools on the internet, web monitors and net nannies are a good way to go.

I wonder what you all think about this. I await your response.

Rest in Peace, Adnan.

 

Further Reading (click on numbers to open links)

#1: Rediff article that talks of the Orkut Connection to Adna’s murde

#2: An article that claims that over a thousand sex offenders may be on MySpace. It also profiles Pancake26, a predator who uses simple code to lure children and young adults

#3: Indiscreet posting costs students University Seats, Jobs and more.

#4: Link to download the entire NSBA report cited above.

#5: An article that talks of the irreversibly of internet postings; how we ourselves are invading our privacy.

#6: MSNBC Dateline article on Why Parents must Monitor Internet Usage and MySpace

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This one is a rant.

If you had a student who missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam, what would you do?

I would have probably:

a) Checked with the administrative department on news from home the first time she skipped class.

b) The second time it happened, I would call home.

c) The third time, I would write and inform the Principal.

I wonder if any of these steps were taken by Austin Lampros, Mathematics Teacher in Manhattan when his student Indira Fernandez careened of-course at the Arts & Technology High School.

If he did, what did the school authorities do about it?

Truancy Superhero

Whatever the case may be, I was shocked to read in the New York Times article this morning that the student in question, who had been failed by Mr. Lampros was given perimission to take the exam separately after being coached by another maths teacher for 2 days. After her aggregate score still fell below the pass mark, Mr. Lampros decision was over-ruled and the student promoted by the Principal. Apparently the school has a poliy that all students who turn up for even one class in the term get a minimum of 45 marks (of 100) when 65 are needed to pass.

Mr. Lampros quit.

What it worth it?

I don’t know. The student still graduated. The school still goes on unaffected. Hopefully he will find employment in native Michigan, but knowing the rather conservative administration of schools, I don’t see many jumping enthusiastically to have him working on their team.

Was it the appropriate thing to do?

Maybe. If he had indeed done Steps 1, 2 and 3 I mention above and has reason to believe that Ms. Fernandez’s absences were better categorized under truancy than illness, I can see why he was disillusioned.

Would I do it?

I would have probably brought the walls down if someone skipped 11 of the 14 tests I gave. Matters probably would not have come to head. But assuming Mr. Lampros did create his share of noise and the student was passed only to keep graduation rates soaring, I’d have to side with him. It would probably be the honourable and loyal thing to stick with the school and try and change things from the inside but lets be realists. As rookie teachers, none of us would have had the clout that early in our careers.

Frankly, I could not have worked under a head who I felt had compromised on the reasons for which we become teachers.

If change is what was important, I’d say Mr. Lampros has made a useful first step by talking to the press.

What’s my view on the action taken by the Principal?

This one action has probably seriously jeopardized the culture of the school, plunged the respects students had for her, made the other teachers feel a little distanced from their jobs and seriously undermined the confidence and the will-power of Ms. Fernandez who may never learn to take responsibility for her actions.

If the Principal may be in duress (low graduation rates may mean less money or no job) – the policy makers and boards deserve a swift kick in the pants.

If the Principal did this to cover her own inadequacies in not having discovered Miss Fernansez’s prolonged absences earlier, she is the one who should have quit.

Chivalry notwithstanding, maybe even received the aforementioned kick in the pants.

This is the kind of thing that gets my goat. What do you think? Let me know by writing in the comments section. Thanks.

See our latest EduPosts here.

 

(Image courtesy: Comics Reporter)

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I blogged a few days ago about the Tintin racism row and commented that “it was much a do about nothing” since this ‘concern’ by the racism watchdog dug up an affair done and dusted earlier.

I wondered whether this would bring this comic into the hands of thousands (especially kids) who may have never read it otherwise.

This morning as I checked my blog stats, I saw a 350% spike in readership, almost all towards my Tintin post- found by people who Googled “tinin racism” or “Tintin in the Congo.” This got me wondering about an increase in sales of the printed comic book.

Indeed, it seems the comic has seen a 3800% jump in sales and is now number 8 on the Amazon Bestseller List!

Ironic, given that a part-intention was ro make the comic book a little less accessible.

You can read the news story here.

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cover of tin tin in congoIt seems Tintin is a racist.

That’s what the Commission for Racial Equality, a government watchdog, has declared after thumbing through Tintin In Congo. They were referring to the following:

1. The portrayal of the Congo people and monkeys are facially indistinguishable.

2. The Deifying of Tintin and Snowy by the people of Congo.

3. They also objected to the way he treats animals (older versions showed him stuffing a stick of dynamite into an ox)

The exact quote from their spokeswoman: “This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the “savage natives” look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.”

tintin in the congo

Have a look at the photos below: you can see clearly that the natives are portrayed as rather comical and monkey-like. I tried to find a caricature of a monkey from the book, but couldn’t find it.

It seems that this book has a historical context– Congo was a Belgian Colony (the creator of Tintin, Herge was a Belgian citizen). The comic tried to glorify the name of Belgium, deliberately set in a region the colonial power was eager to hang on to. This story showed the dual face of colonialism, an exploitation of the natives and also the benevolence of Belgium through provision of infrastructure, utilities, health services and education.

This fact has been documented and denounced publicly earlier. In fact, Herge himself admitted to regretting certain caricatures in this volume.

My question to you as an educator is this:

1) Should we be shielding our children from comics like these? If yes, how far can you go?

2) Is there a possibility to use these comics as a tool to explain the zeitgeist back in Colonial Europe as many of the Imperialistic powers scrounged to hold on to their fiefdoms?

I am not in favour of racism, but nor am I in favour of mollycoddling our children. Comics are an evocative, visually-rich media and reactions like this will happen. That shouldn’t drive us to pull them off children books shelf. What will be next – puritans questioning the Batman-Robin relationship or the relative absence of clothing on various comic heroines like Teela and Sheeba?

The comic may have been moved from the kids section to the adult section (action by Borders post the watchdog comments) but this publicity would only drive more kids to it. Unlike with alcohol, you can’t stop a child from buying it from there.

As always, I look forward to hear what you want to say. Have a good weekend!

Update:  See an update to this post here

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AIR DECCAN IN THE DOCK

I just got off an Air Deccan aircraft that brought me from Kochi to Mumbai.

 

I’ve always liked Air Deccan (and that must put me the minority)- it has earlier made it possible for me to fly back home at a price that was affordable. If not for it, I may not have visited home from work as frequently as I have in the past.

 

 

Today however, I was irked. Flying in from Kochi I flew at a fair price (Rs. 2900; 400 more than I paid to GoAir for the trip from Mumbai to Kochi).

 

Firstly, the flight was 45 minutes late. When the plane did arrive, I waited for the others to board the coach (I am usually the last in queue). My laptop that I was working on, took 20 seconds longer to shut down, holding up the coach for me for about that time. The Airlines officer threw a fit. Strange, considering I was the one who had been inconvenienced by the wait: surely I got have been granted the half-minute? Or was it that delays like the one I made that caused airlines like it to be late?

 

On board the aircraft I thumbed through the inflight magazine. 99% on-time performance they proudly proclaimed. What period was this data valid for? What did On-time performance mean? I scanned the copy. No mention of the time-interval. On-time performance was defined as “flights leaving within 1 hour of scheduled departure.” I couldn’t even believe they had the cheek to write 99% On Time Performance given these criteria. From an airline that wants 15 minute plane turnarounds? No-way.

 

The cabin lights went off. I wanted to continue reading but the overhead light didn’t focus on my page. I tried to adjust it, it would rotate in its casing, but the angle of throw of light wouldn’t change (I later noticed this was true of all the overhead reading lights on that aircraft). Then it struck me.I was seated in the row closest to Emergency Exit. We had more legroom. The light was fitted perfectly and would have illuminated my magazine appropriately if there had been no extra space for legroom. But they fitting folks had done their job by the book without noticing the change in legroom and so now I had to hold the book away from me to ensure enough light fell on it.

 

Several other things of a minor nature bothered me, but since this is turning into a rant, I will stop.

 

The Silver Lining: Good that I wasn’t travelling GoAir. They were 3 hours late. Like they had been when I travelled to Kochi from Mumbai.

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