Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Education’

The Ticking Time Bomb that is India’s Population

Posted by Jerry on June 5, 2013

Absorb these facts:

One out of every 6 people in the world live within the geo-political boundaries of India, which makes this country the second most populous country in the world. Yet, despite having this large number of human minds who can potentially innovate, invent, imagine, achieve, and uncover great value, India remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world–with more than 22% of our population living below the poverty line.

In contrast, some countries having populations far lesser than some Indian states are far more prolific in their outputs in science, technology, arts, design, creativity, achievements, and research.

What’s more, almost half of India’s 1.22 billion people are under the age of 25, which makes India among the (most crowded and) youngest nations in the world.

Close to half of these 25-and-under are males, and this number is set to cross into a surplus of males by 2020.

So, India is fast developing into a country crowded with virile, young, hormonal men–and fewer women–that pass out of an educational system controlled by imbeciles and focused on producing rats that try and outrun each other in an impoverished landscape of sluggish economic growth, diminishing social and civil liberties, and non-existent psychological nourishment.

If we desire to stem this devolution, we must begin with a multi-pronged approach from the top of the institutional pyramid and from the bottom at the grassroots.

From the top, we must quickly loosen the tight grip of politics on the economy across all sectors and unleash the creative and entrepreneurial energies of its people to manifest business opportunities and new productive sectors.

Specifically, the government and its bureaucrats must completely be removed from decision-making in Education–right from setting the curriculum to standardized testing and evaluation. India must not have a Ministry of Education.

From the bottom, we must address the educational needs of the human mind, and focus as much on the arts, letters, and humanities as much as we do on maths and sciences. We must raise the consciousness of men and women to imaginations so varied and foreign to their ancestors–that these imaginations manifest as artistic and entrepreneurial energies that will exploit the opportunities offered by a free and unfettered economy.

Furthermore, a focus on the humanities will nourish the spiritual needs of our society, helping to make it more tolerable and accommodating to the crowds, to women, to diverse minorities, and to differences of all kinds.

Institutionally guaranteed freedoms coupled with an educational system that empowers its people to exercise these freedoms fully, responsibly, and imaginatively can help this country leverage its large population and uncover tremendous value.

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Congrats VanDamme

Posted by Jerry on January 28, 2008

Lisa VanDamme’s unique approach to education, which has proven to be a great success among students, parents, and educators, was featured in an article in The Heartland Institute’s newsletter.

The VanDamme Academy, a K-8 school in Laguna Hills, California, has an unusual way of giving students a better foundation of knowledge.

Founder Lisa VanDamme said the students learn incrementally, not moving forward in concepts until they’ve mastered the one at hand. Moreover, teachers encourage them to make connections within and between the subjects, and between school and life.

“[We’re] teaching in a very deliberate, planned, incremental order that provides for real understanding on the part of the child,” VanDamme said. “They’re starting on the small, simple steps and building on it, so at each new stage, they thoroughly grasp the material.”

Using a carefully planned curriculum, teachers help students build core knowledge and hone skills necessary for their future success, VanDamme said.

VanDamme developed her teaching method when she began as a homeschool teacher to an exceptionally gifted child about 11 years ago. She drew on the experience of highly educated friends and the educational philosophy of Ayn Rand to put together her curriculum.

The school emphasizes science, math, history, and language arts, which VanDamme considers universally necessary for all mature, informed adults.

Students must demonstrate a thorough understanding of each topic, often writing essay questions to explain everything from scientific theories to vocabulary.

“Something can pass as knowledge when it’s really just memorized gibberish,” VanDamme explained. “We only consider ourselves successful if [students] can explain to us what they’re doing in complete thoughts of their own.

“We don’t give multiple choice or true/false [tests] at any time,” VanDamme continued. “We put a big emphasis on writing. We want them to really, fully, completely understand what they’re doing. We want them to grasp and be able to explain everything.”

VanDamme’s curriculum advances students without putting them in the traditional K-8 grade classes, letting them progress in subjects as quickly as they learn them and constantly challenging each student, she said.

Of the 25 students who have graduated from the six-year-old academy since 2005, one-third had made their way partially through calculus before entering ninth grade.

Other students are just as successful: One seventh-grader recently scored a perfect 800 on the writing portion of the SAT. VanDamme’s first student, now in his early 20s, is in his fifth year of graduate studies in physics at Stanford University. [bold added]

Read more here.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons from Harry Potter

Posted by Jerry on October 21, 2007

Ari Armstrong writes a brief post on the success of Harry Potter books. He identifies the reason behind the book’s phenomenal success, and I agree.

The main reason that Rowling has had and will continue to have such profound cultural influence is that she is reaching millions of children when they are first exploring ideas and first thinking about moral choices. Harry and his best friends belong to the school house of Gryffindor, the house of the brave, and Rowling presents an inspiring image of moral courage.

But perhaps the best thing about Rowling’s books is that they have encouraged children to grapple with a complex story and difficult themes. The children who have graduated from those books will be prepared to read — and eager to find — other great and inspiring works of literature, such as Rand’s novels.

My own post on how ideas can be spread among little children offers the same suggestion: engage children at the sense-of-life level; offer them an emotional experience of the ideas you wish them to understand; present those ideas in the form of art–literary, dramatic, visual, and musical; over time, prod them to think critically, explore the reasons behind their emotional experiences, and encourage them to ask many “why” questions.

However, remember that all of these efforts require an adult mentor: therefore, the adult has to be convinced of these ideas–explicitly and in philosophical form–before they can choose to impart those ideas in emotional or dramatic form to the children in their care. Properly, children should never be converted to or cultivated into a philosophy; that works only with religion and doctrines. Children can be given an experience of possibilities, a moral lesson in dramatic form, a show of principle in practice, of how the world can be to a person who makes certain choices. Children can be taught how to think well and the consequences of thoughts, but should not be taught what to think. Only adults can be converted to a philosophy–insofar as the conversion is the result of intellectual persuasion and rational understanding.

Posted in Books, Culture, General Work/Life, Movies, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Target of Ideological Outreach

Posted by Jerry on October 16, 2007

Someone at the Atlas Shrugged event I organized asked me why the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) is not doing enough to educate children in the pre-school and high school levels on the ideas of Objectivism. He made the case that since children are at a particularly impressionable age, we must protect them from the influences of religious and irrational ideas imbibed by their parents and teachers. His argument was that if we protect the minds of young children early enough, they will have a better chance of being immune to irrational ideas later on in life, thus creating a fertile ground for the spread of Objectivist ideas.

He argued that by focusing on intellectuals and philosophers at the academic university level, ARI was already losing the opportunity of fostering young minds to grow with the ideas of reason. This, he argued, created the difficult situation of having to “unblock” the minds of later adults when they encounter Objectivist ideas, having to re-train them to think rationally, and perhaps not having much success in penetrating the minds of young adults who have been fed with irrationalism all their lives by their parents and teachers.

I disagreed with his analysis.

Objectivism is (1) a philosophy in general, and (2) a philosophy of reason in particular

As such, Objectivism makes crucial demands on a person to apply his critical thinking skills to process ideas and premises before reaching any conclusions. This statement implies two important requirements that a non-Objectivist must meet, failing which, it is best to leave the person alone and not bother engaging him in a discussion on the philosophy: one, he must be mentally and intellectually capable of considering new ideas; two, he must be honestly open to considering new ideas.

Therefore, it is more than a pursuit of frustration to try and convey the ideas of Objectivism to a mentally immature or intellectually incapable person: for example, little children, the retarded, the really old and infirm.

Objectivism is not a body of principles that must be religiously memorized and fed to little children, who should then be able to regurgitate the right principles in the exact order. Objectivism is a philosophy: it needs to be processed by an intellectually capable mind, a mind that has reached a sufficient level of maturity to make sense of philosophical premises. Objectivism is a philosophy of reason: it needs to be processed by a mind consciously dedicated to the task of rational and honest thinking, a mind that refuses to memorize a principle until it has rationally convinced itself of the principle’s truth.

The questioner above was implicitly–and perhaps unknowingly–propounding the idea of psychological determinism: that a child’s mind and intellectual premises are formed irreversibly during his childhood and that the child is doomed to those premises for the rest of his life. Granted that there are cases of children who grow up to hold the exact premises in adulthood that they were taught when they were kids; however, such cases are not proofs of psychological determinism but indicators of human volition. The Objectivist movement is better off not having such docile adults who succumb without a fight to the mental blocks laid by their parents or teachers. Remember, Objectivism demands an active consciousness that is committed to understanding and demanding reasons for every premise; Objectivism would benefit not having those without such an active epistemological inclination or those who tend to claim the intellectual victimhood of their particular circumstances.

Young children should properly be engaged at the sense-of-life level, i.e., at the level of aspirations, imagination, emotions, art, movies, books, recreational activities, friends, family, etc.; not at the level of philosophical principles. Philosophical ideas can be much effectively transmitted to a child’s mind through emotionally appealing, artistic or recreational means. Of course, as a child progresses through school, he should be taught critical thinking skills explicitly in order to tackle philosophical ideas in a limited measure. However, a pre-mature introduction to philosophical premises–especially, those as radical as the Objectivist premises of individualism, egoism, and self-interest–without the requisite years of training in critical thinking will only lead to an undigested, unintegrated, contortion of dogmatic beliefs. Eventually, such a child may literally “grow out” of their memorized philosophy and regard it as his foolish and juvenile indulgence in youth.

In religious training, little children are commanded by their parents or “moral science” teachers to memorize a set of incantations: like Koranic verses, the Apostles Creed, the Act of Contrition, etc. Many children grow up learning these prayers without ever pausing to reflect on the philosophical meaning of the words being uttered. Objectivism cannot–and should not–be taught to a child in this manner. A child must be shown the principle of rationality in action, not lectured on the essential nature of man that makes rationality virtuous and important. However, teaching by action and example is the job of an adult who understands the meaning and value of such lessons–and therefore, an adult is the proper target of philosophical outreach.

In this respect, the Ayn Rand Institute is brilliantly following the right course of action: they freely distribute Ayn Rand’s Anthem, We The Living, and The Fountainhead to be taught in the pre-school and high school levels to introduce young children (in accordance with their general level of mental maturity in that grade) to a new emotional sense of life, not a set of explicitly philosophical principles. The target of full-fledged philosophical outreach is properly adults–the adults who are parents of these children, the adults who do the “imbibing” of ideas in their children, the adults who are teachers, professors, and mentors of these children, the adults who are capable of processing and disseminating ideas in a culture.

Objectivism seeks the rational and active mind who wrestles the hardest with an idea before accepting it; Objectivism does not seek to have a large following of docile minds who were nursed with its philosophy from infancy and never bothered to validate its truth for themselves. Each man has to discover the truth of the principles of reason for himself: this task can only be done by an adult who is both capable and willing to do it.

[Edited]

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

 
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