The relationship between educational institutions and students

The three scholarly articles on the relationship between educational institutions and students are very insightful. The centre of their attention is the influence of student’s economic class on the quality and content of education received. But more importantly, class continues to influence and determine the quality and nature of an individual’s life beyond and after schooling years. In other words, the three authors posit in three different ways that economic class that an American is born into predetermines their course of life. The rest of this essay will flesh out this thesis.

The essay titled The Educated Global Citizen or Student Global Consumer? raises several important questions about the culture of education that has come to be accepted. Far from the ideal notions of education that the founding fathers of the nation envisioned, what we have today is the corporate takeover of schools and academies. The concept of advertising and sponsored programs have become so . . . Read More

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The key traits of North American Indian culture which flourished before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1492

The simplistic version of history suggests a primitive/tribal way of life for indigenous Americans. Such a simplification detracts from the community a rich, ecologically informed culture, as well as an egalitarian social organization. The first chapter in the book by Roark, Johnson and team attempts to flesh out a complete picture of North American Indian culture before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

One of the key characteristics of Native Americans is their unique genealogy, which derives from African and Asian populations. Although this connection is not the most intuitive, anthropological studies using genetic markers have substantiated this understanding. In the late medieval period, they were believed to have adopted a hunter-gatherer mode of life. It is an important revelation, for everywhere else in the world agriculture and urbanization has already become entrenched. Bison was a great stock prey during the time as the ecology of the Great Plains suited it . . . Read More

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Compare and Contrast Paulo Freire and William Brickman

Both Paulo Freire and William Brickman stand as giants in the field of education. However, their views and concerns hardly ever converged. While Freire’s basic focus was the relation between education and socio-economy, Brickman’s scholarship was on comparative education at the international level. It is fair to say that these two areas are worlds apart. Yet, the work of both thinkers is integral to modern thought on education. Their theories and views continue to influence contemporary education professionals.

One of the major focus areas of Freire’s work was the role of education in maintaining the existing social order. In other words, he sought to answer the question of how the oppressed in society continues to remain so? If the purpose of education is to enlighten, and in consequence, liberate the individual, then why are human relationships ripe with domination of one party over the other? It is a fair question and the answer lies in the way content, structure and . . . Read More

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Summary and Reflection of ‘Future of Medicine: Perfection and Beyond’ (Chapter 3) of Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

The chapter takes the reader through an imaginative journey of medicine in the future. Although some of the possibilities proposed appear like material from a science fiction novel, they are based on emerging scientific breakthroughs. One of the themes discussed in the chapter is the increasing mastery of human beings to ‘play God’. Evolving new technologies allow the medical professional to perform astounding feats of genetic engineering. This could happen at various stages of life – from neonatal to palliative. With this capability, people can augment their life spans, develop immunity to various viruses and even thwart cancer using nanotechnology.

In chapter 3, Michio Kaku makes predictions and depictions of future of medicine in all its possible manifestations. We read of ‘nanobots’ that would operate at sub-molecular levels in dealing with infections and diseases. The author also envisions advancement in stem cell extraction and utilization, whereby, new organs . . . Read More

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Steven Johnson’s ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’

Summary and Reaction to Chapter 3 (The Slow Hunch) of Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’

The main argument in the chapter is that great innovations are due to accumulative processes rather than spontaneous ‘eureka’ moments.  Almost in any major technological or scientific innovation of modern times, the break-through was made possible by the robust base built by accrued prior knowledge.

A key idea put forward by Steven Johnson is that of ‘convergence’.  This is the process of the gradual accumulation of information, concepts and their interrelationships that are precursors to the occurrence of ‘insight’. Although the decision to synthesize and analyze them is that of an individual, the fundamental facts and concepts can be fetched from a disparate range of sources. To this extent, though great innovations are not one-off events of brilliance, they are the result of ‘collective intelligence’. Collective . . . Read More

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Connections between human trafficking and environmental destruction

The connection between human trafficking and environmental destruction is not obvious at the outset. But a closer scrutiny of human trafficking reveals how it does lead to the degradation of the environment.  When we study the life and works of luminary figures from past to present, they all acknowledge the centrality of human liberty for cultural progress.  Since the upkeep of our environment is a reflection of our cultural values, the link between human freedom and environmental conditions is established.

Saint Vincent de Paul’s words of divine wisdom offer guidance as to how we should consider human freedoms. In the theological context of his counsel, de Paul equated human freedom as the liberation from worldly attachments and desires. He said, “Naturally, everyone loves his freedom, but we must beware of this as of a broad road that leads to perdition.”  (De Paul) Since the moral preoccupations during his lifetime were about sin, salvation and redemption, his . . . Read More

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‘Social Death’ and ‘Possessive Individual’ according to Grace Hong

Grace Hong’s essay titled ‘The Possessive Individual and Social Death: The Complex Bind of National Subjectivity’ offers numerous insights into historical social constructs.  Focusing on the evolution of American history since the time of the Declaration of Independence, the author charts a cogent description of how the socio-polity resisted progressive changes.  The book is focused on women of color feminism and the culture of immigrant labor. But prior to arriving at their specific discourse, a broader framework of understanding is laid out. Hereby, two important terms are introduced by the author.

Possessive individual traces its origins to the framing of the constitution, whereby, only the propertied white males of the new country were accorded citizenship.  Not only were blacks (who were slaves at the time) were excluded, but so were women and a large section of white male population. The privileged minority of propertied white men enjoyed laws that . . . Read More

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Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas and philosophy in The Tipping Point, as they apply to Occupy Wall Street Movement

Malcolm Gladwell has attempted to create a unique style of scholarship that navigates between science and popular culture.  As a result he has earned the wrath from both quarters.  For example, scientists accuse him for being simplistic or lacking in rigor. On the other side, commentators from mainstream media accuse him of bringing esoteric scientific concepts to popular discourse. Yet, his book The Tipping Point has sold more than a 3 million copies.  His other titles such as Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), David and Goliath (2013), etc, continue to fascinate and provoke in equal measure. Despite the controversies surrounding some of Gladwell’s inferences, his ideas and philosophies have become assimilated into popular discourse. It is an interesting exercise to study how the most important social movement of recent times – Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) – measures up in relation to the author’s theories. This essay endeavors to perform the same.

The Occupy . . . Read More

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The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement: Consensus and Divergence Among Scholars

Two Categories of Biomedical Enhancement (BME)

Even within the field of human biomedical enhancement (which is as yet at a theoretical stage) there are two categories.  The first are common or corrective enhancements which aim to set right a deficiency (acquired congenitally or through life events) in a human individual.  The second are radical or strategic enhancements which are aimed to give a competitive advantage to the individual undergoing the procedure.  Both Allen Buchanan and Nicholas Agar reject radical enhancements.  Whereas Agar’s thesis is somewhat accommodative of benign and remedial forms of enhancement, Buchanan’s is more pessimistic.[i] Hence the subject lends itself to numerous dimensions of ethical inquiry[ii].  As is often the case with major debates within science, the community of scientists are divided into two camps.  The two camps are not necessarily antagonistic and in sharp opposition to each other’s . . . Read More

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The Soundness of Selective Biomedical Enhancements

Enhancements are Integral to the Evolutionary Process

Buchanan raises a few valid points in support of selective enhancements. He argues that enhancement is an integral feature of human existence[i].  For example, there are over-the-counter memory enhancement pills that many use. Nobody blinks an eye, let alone bring ethical considerations, in this case. Likewise, one could even argue that basic education (literacy and numeracy) in itself endows an individual a marked advantage over someone who cannot read or count.[ii] This advantage is so profound that it has a bearing on critical parameters like life expectancy or quality of life.  Such ‘enhancements’ are no different from those that are likely to be accomplished through the modern scientific methods of genetic engineering[iii]. Moreover, as Buchanan cogently states, even the natural process of evolution through natural selection is one of continuous enhancements. These enhancements, though, . . . Read More

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