Posts tagged Oxford

My Students’ Reflections about universities beginnings…

What a treat to have the interim provost Anne come and talk to my class of teachers at the new university today. All nine students had glowing reflections about what was discussed and what they learned. However, I’m only choosing three of those who wrote the most about her half hour talk.  I will use the other student’s quotes tomorrow describing what else we did in our next class after Anne left.

Bota: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, University of Wisconsin…There are a lot of them. Today university is compulsory and necessary part of people’s lives. We all want to get once studied there, to become the students of one of the most excellent, best, prestigious universities. We have all opportunities for good education: books, IT devices, efficient teachers, welfare circumstances, required conditions, what not. And sometimes I have a pity for those who don’t get the opportunities they are given. They waste time, time wastes their body, so they pass without making their change in the world. What we have today is a hard efforts done by our ancestors.
The first first universities, opened in the world, made a great push for the appearance of the other ones. It was a long way with many barriers, constant obstacles. But it still remains to be a long way in the future. A way – to be continued, developed, CHANGED by present people, by youth. And we do it, we are the people who go from ideas to actions.

Ainagul: Before this lecture I’ve never thought about the aspects that made first univeristy in the world either where the first university was built. Today, I’ve learned that the first one was built in Bologna, Italy in 968, and it is interesting to know that at that time first students gathered and “picked up” their teachers, best teachers, from the whole country. And really studies at that university were very different from those that we have today. They were difficult to conduct (without hard copies, pens and even papers)…And the most important aspect was people’s ideas. That’s also interesting to know. Because when we hear a world “university” we think about knowledge, upbringing, students. And now I’m thinking: “really, ideas made the universities, developed them to that level which we have today.
Reflecting on what was said here, I think that I’m really lucky to be born in a country where oil money is used for education and to study where several best universities from all over the world are joined.

Damesh: I love this place more and more. I am very grateful for the chances to meet so many interesting people with incredible background and worth deep respecting. Probably this meeting with Ann from Cambridge University is one of the best that ran so good. I’ve never had any conversation on how the universities were built and why. When she asked what universities are for and what they give I understood that I believe that universities are not ONLY for knowledge. I remembered the saying I read somewhere that education is when a person can handle everything without certain knowledge. I’ve written down some interesting thoughts she told us realizing that I wouldn’t have forgotten them even if I hadn’t written them.
Her thoughts on the future of our university gave me some approval and confidence that we are the ones at the right places. I liked best when she said: “Our university is doing something no university has ever done before, bringing all different parts to be a part of one thing.” And it was really interesting to hear her opinion on English of the countries.
“The same language doesn’t unite us, it divides us from each other. We can say the same thing but mean different things.” [referring to British and American English] I realized that I thought the same way! Sometimes you need someone to say the thing to learn that you think the same way. Very interesting!

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Harvard’s statues on campus and Kazakhstan’s educational vision

Today is Good Friday celebrated in other parts of the Christian world but not in Kazakhstan. They just finished celebrating their annual, spring festival of Nauryz. Seems that some Kazakh students aspire to go to Harvard without actually knowing Harvard’s true Christian beginnings. Walking around with Dasha on the Harvard campus last Sunday (Palm Sunday) gave me a sense of its religious history in Cambridge just next to Boston. The Christian pastors’ zeal, from those who believed in the Great Commission, started Harvard’s seminary but also set the tone for education for centuries to come for American young people. The existing educational choices back in the 17th century meant a boat ride over the Atlantic to the Old Country in order to attend Oxford or Cambridge, so staying in Boston was an option for one’s education made sense.

James Walker, one of the first pastors and presidents on the Harvard campus, is honored with a bust of his head. (see photo) Walker’s quote chiseled in stone below this life-size head perhaps was inspired from Proverbs 8:

“Where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding?

Thou mayest know also where is length of days

And where is the light of the eyes and peace.”

Dasha and I also stopped by John Harvard’s statue that some tour guides at Harvard call “The Statue of Three Lies.” Mainly because John Harvard is depicted as the founder of Harvard yet he was only a contributor of money and his books.  Lie #2 is that Harvard was founded in 1636 and not 1638 and Lie #3 is that the statue is not actually John Harvard but some student who posed as a model for the artist.  The tour guide encourages their listeners to rub Harvard’s left foot for good luck.  I would submit that that is Lie #4, there is no such thing as luck at Harvard.  Most everyone who gains admittance in these hallowed halls of Harvard work very hard or are very smart or both.

That is why I think it odd that some Kazakh students want to go to Harvard as if that is the panacea of all educational ills for them.  I would say that most Americans don’t hold out much hope in getting accepted at Harvard even though they have been under the western educational system for a long time.  I believe getting a western education in any of the other American state or private universities is just as good. It is what YOU put into your studies that is the real test to succeed in life, not getting a piece of paper from some prestigious university that makes all the difference.  We have Bill Gates as an example of quitting Harvard and succeeding in life because he followed his passion.

I think the very bright people know the answers of what the founders of Harvard knew when they asked where wisdom, strength and understanding comes from. I believe there is darkness of the eyes and no peace whatsoever when people pursue education and leave God out.  Have a Good Friday as you ponder my last sentence.

The photo below by artist Phillip R. Goodwin has nothing to do with Harvard, it was painted at the turn of the 20th century.  I just like seeing these two guys paddling as hard as they can in the river’s rapids. Something raw and gutsy about Goodwin’s prints shows early American pioneers and risktakers.  That is what I like about the people I work alongside in Astana, they are all that and more!

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Watched Three and a Half Movies Enroute to Boston

What else is there to do when one is cooped up for a very long time, in a VERY full plane but to watch the latest that Lufthansa has to offer?  I watched three 2009 releases and only one I would recommend for our young audiences in Astana.  That would be the British film titled “An Education” about a young 16 year old girl named Jenny who studies hard to enter Oxford, her dad pushes her to those ends until she meets David.  David is a slick, older man, almost twice Jenny’s age and he shows her a different, exciting side to life from her playing cello, memorizing boring Latin and speaking French.  Jenny’s parents are as taken in by David as she is, until… You will have to watch what kind of “an education” Jenny receives on your own, I won’t spoil it for you.

The second movie that is rather slow moving but it fits the part of a recent widower played by DeNiro is titled “Everybody’s Fine.” He has four children who don’t show up for a reunion at his home so he sets out to surprise them in New York, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas.  (BTW, against doctor’s orders because the dad has a heart condition.)  This movie pulls at the heart strings because he too pushes his kids to succeed like Jenny’s father in “An Education” but somehow his drive backfires on him.  His adult children turn out to not communicate with him truthfully and there are some painful truths we find out by the end of the movie.

The third and bottom of the barrel of a movie is “Pope Joan” or also known as “Die Papstin” which is about a woman who supposedly became pope in the 8-9th century A.D.  It shows the primitiveness of the Middle Ages but also the political correctness of our current age of feminism.  This movie is a pile of horse manure which is right along the same genre of “The Red Tent.”  I won’t even tag that book that I was required to read in graduate school five years ago because it was so awful to read.  “Pope Joan” is impure, adulterated fiction, created in fantasy land to be sacrilegious against the Catholic faith.  I’m sure it must have created quite a stir at the Vatican. But then again, it is a picture so unworthy to be watched that giving it attention is just what the filmmakers wanted, kind of like the “Da Vinci Code.”  Two thumbs down on “Pope Joan.”

Oh, I did watch but did not hear a fourth and very funny movie off of someone’s screen in front of me, “All About Steve” starring Sandra Bullock.  I had seen it before and thought it good for laughs to guess what was being said, her acting is silly and superb.  Now I want to buy the movie “Blind Side” where Bullock won an Academy award for Best Actress, so I can see that movie on my own time.

So, here I am in historic Boston and must discover the town while going to the international TESOL conference.  Many sessions to attend, people to meet and generally taking in the latest in political events in the capital of our great country.  I’m glad I live in Kazakhstan so I don’t have to deal with all the backlash of this latest legislation they pushed through.  I grieve for my country’s Constitution that our great forefathers diligently created to have a balance of powers so that no despot would rule the masses.  It’s only a matter of time…

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