Posts tagged Socrates

Leadership and Education…after a month long hiatus

I didn’t expect I would write on this blog again once home in the U.S. However, I have great quotes that Kazakh students have written saved up on my computer that I just could not ignore.  As an educator for over 30 years, I think it is absolutely important to keep writing on these issues about education that concern Kazakhstan deeply.  Education, according to Sir William Halley, British newspaper editor and broadcasting administrator should reflect this: “Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”

While I taught in Kazakhstan in the last three and a half years, both in Almaty and Astana, I not only filled my students minds with facts but also hopefully moved their hearts.  I hope that the leaders of the westernized universities in Kazakhstan would understand the following quote attributed to an unknown author: “Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers, not their minds.”  However, those administrators in universities throughout Kazakhstan are driven by Soviet practices which they learned in pedagogical institutes many years ago.  Sadly, they are teacher-centered in their approach as administrators and many are sorely outdated to keep up with the speed of the 21st century. I would like to remind them and my former students what Socrates knew:  “In every person there is a sun.  Just let them shine.”  Today’s Kazakh and Kazakhstani students are told over and over again they are the future of Kazakhstan but their own educators are not about letting them shine as individuals with their God-given strengths and talents.

The following is what one Kazakh student wrote, which encouraged me:  “I like reading.  One of my favorite books is “Abai” by Muhtar Auezov.  Abai was a great Kazakh poet, he lived in 1845-1904.  He exposed human vices, such as greediness, covetousness, duplicity, laziness, etc. in his works.  He did a lot for the enlightenment of Kazakh people. In his book Auezov describes Abai’s life, his experiences and difficulties he faced.” I need to find and read this book by Auezov in the U.S. if it has been translated into English, I doubt it though.

Finally, a British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying the following:  “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”  I think the following piece written by an informed Kazakh student about leadership is on the same, right track when she wrote about Olzhas Suleimenov.  If only there would be some champions to push to the public awareness about human trafficking.  That is today’s “nuclear sites” in rural Kazakhstan and other poorer countries in Central Asia:

“I would like to refer to one of the bright examples of leadership from Kazakh history, Olzhas Suleimenov.  He is known in Kazakhstan and other countries for his political activity, poetic works and anti-nuclear activity.  His name became known worldwide in 1989, when he led the movement called Nevada-Semipalatinsk.  It was aimed on closing nuclear sites in the Semipalatinsk area of Kazakhstan. He showed outstanding leadership skills during this movement.  It is really difficult and dangerous to rise against governmental machine of power and defend rights of people, who became victims because of nuclear testings in the region.  People were talking about closing nuclear test sites, but only to each other. 

And only Olzhas Suleimenov called people to fight for their rights.  Olzhas Suleimenov is a person who ideally suits the word “effective leader.”  First of all, he knew what he was going for.  He knew the risks, aims and he know that people would follow him.  At the same time, he worried for the future of his nation, he believed that people should fight for their rights.  He showed responsibility towards people and was brave enough to fight for their rights.  These qualities deserve admiring of this person and striving to follow suit.”

 

 

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Boston Weather, Hospitality and a Talk on Reading

Who ever said that Boston people aren’t helpful or polite to strangers?  Yesterday it was sleeting and coming at such a slant that I was prepared to be warm with layering my clothes and about to use a bag to shield myself in the mile and half walk.  The bellman at the hotel suggested I use an umbrella, so once that was checked out to me, I was good to go.  I wish I had taken a photo of this HUGE, black umbrella, it certainly protected me.  I felt especially warmed by this man’s help in complex, downtown Boston. Just doing his job at the Radisson, I guess.  Later the weather cleared up and after all day at TESOL, I walked over to Boston Commons to do some shopping at Macy’s.  I was turned around several times but again Boston people were more than helpful to get me to my destination.  Photos will follow.

Yesterday I wanted to take in Tufts University own linguist, Maryanne Wolf.  When you have a conference in Boston, you don’t have to fly in the main speakers, they are right in the near vicinity with all the universities Boston is known for.  I was told a figure yesterday that there are 200,000 students in Boston, 25,000 of whom are international students.  Not surprising that this is a mecca for the brightest and the best from around the world.

Ms. Wolf seemed a very smart woman, she talked so fast I had a difficult time keeping up with her in my notetaking.  I’ll just give the most salient points that she made, that which I understood from her linguist’s jargon.  When I arrived she had on her powerpoint something about Proust.  However, this quote from Pascal I did get down: “There’s nothing new under the sun, but there is rearrangment.”  She said that kids nowadays are immersed in the digital media 7 hours a day.  When she was summing up her talk she got back to how this may not be such a good thing.

Ms. Wolf said there is no such thing as an ideal reading brain. We were not created or meant to read but to speak and listen.  She used an audience participant in front of the 1,000s who came to hear her talk and asked her to visualize the word she spoke.  The Chinese woman was a bit confused by this question and with the cameras were right on her she hesitated to answer, so someone from the audience shouted out what they thought was the correct answer.  The point is that with polysemy, there are more than one meanings to certain words. The word or object Ms. Wolf asked for was “pea” or it could have been the letter “P.”  Her point is that there are many times that we have a familiarity with words but they may have  a different context such as the word “bat.”  Could be the flying rodent, the club to hit a ball or the verb to hit the ball.  She mentioned that one little 5 year old boy added, “to bat one’s eyes.”  So you have multiple meanings to one word.  If you know the context, you can read quicker.  There are different parts of our brains that are functioning differently depending on whether we see the letter P or the object pea, as a little green vegetable.

She related about another instance where a Chinese man knew how to read and speak in Chinese fluently.  Also, he was fluent in English but when he got a tumor on his brain, he was no longer able to speak in Chinese because it affected the function of his linguistic abilities in that area of the brain and so he could only speak in English which was in another area of his brain.  Ms. Wolf said that the brain can rearrange itself in multiple ways in order to read.

She also used another example of asking a 5 year old what’s the first sound of “cat.”  Talking from a linguist’s point of view she really was after the phoneme but a 5 year old will typically say “meow” as the answer to her question when she is really looking for the “k” sound.  It takes the child 2,000 days to gain the same insights in the development of reading.  She said that it is terrible that in Boston there are parents hiring tutors for their 3 year olds so they can be “outliers” and they are being pushed too fast, too hard.

She said that Tom Selleck in the movie “Three Men and a Baby” defends why he is reading to the baby, “because the baby loves the sound of my voice.”  That’s it, we should read to the children so they can put it together with the letters they see on the page and the objects that they are visualizing with the story.  They learn that in English we read from left to right but in Chinese it would be up and down and right to left.  The concepts are built in the children who are read to and it matters to them if you skip a page.

When considering “Language Expression” a child in the home of a professional parent will have heard 50 million words whereas a child who grows up in poverty on welfare will hear only 15 million words by the time they reach school.  A working class home will have heard about 32 million words spoken.  Therefore, there is Word Poverty.

Ms. Wolf asked the audience to pronounce three words:  “Periventricular; Nodular; Heterotopia.”   Bottomline, the more you know about a word and its separate parts, the faster you will read it.  She said that the timeline of an expert reader means that you will have a Proustian moment with the words you read.  You will need time to think about what you are reading first with each pause between words.  “We need to read fast enough so we can have time to think our own thoughts.

Wolf talked about students who were labeled dyslexic were really kids that had different brains and 30-35% of today’s entrepreneurs had childhood dyslexia.  We haven’t learned how to teach reading to the child right.  Now with the digital age the young students who are learning words are in this mode of “suspended distraction.”  They have no time to think through the meaning of words, everything is given to them where they don’t have to think on their own.  They are surfers of knowledge now and it is not efficient.

Socrates feared that print would give the illusion of truth and create no ambition in the young beyond the superfluity of knowledge.  Ms. Wolf quoted someone else as saying: “How horrible it would be that the very intellect that created the Internet would be destroyed by it.”  She ended on a more positive note that it is good for the brain to know and understand two languages.  Goethe said that in order to understand your own language, you must learn and understand another.  She advocated bi-lingualism.

I spent the rest of my day in the Technology Pavilion learning more about TOEFL with TOEIC, Criterion, Lexile and many other good sites.  What fun to end it with Elizabeth at the TOEFL Spring break party they sponsored.  We got zany sunglasses and ate pizza and chips.  After that I went shopping and walked around Boston Commons.  More photos to come.

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Central Asian Thoughts on Education

Education is so important in order to move ahead in the world and Kazakhstan has an ambitious goal to achieve a status in 20 years where they would be ranked among the top 50 developed nations.  I have seen the Kazakhs make strides from what this country inherited nearly 20 years ago when the former Soviet Union collapsed.  Many people are working on this new university in Astana and I marvel at the speed with which it is being put together.  Many hours of hard labor are coming up, but the groundwork has been laid, we are pressing ahead.  Space and time, space and time, space and time, a new dimension is being envisioned. I believe the Kazakhs will succeed because they have both the space to build and have been around for a long time.

I saw an expression the other day that I think is appropriate about space and time:  The British think that 100 miles is a long distance, Americans think a 100 years is a long time ago.”

Ropo Oguntimehin “Education is a companion which no future can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate it and nepotism can enslave.”

“Good teachers teach, but the best ones inspire.”

“Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.”

Thomas Carlyle “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

“Education costs much, the lack of education costs much more.”

Socrates: “Who wants, searches for the reasons, who wants, searches for ways.”

Albert Einstein: “Only a life for others is a life worthwhile.”

“Your actions speak so loud that I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”

“Once upon a time there lived a man who was deeply respected and incredibly rich, but really unhappy.  And one day he decided to turn for help to Solomon, who was fairly considered one of the wisest men on Earth.

When the man came, he found Solomon looking at fish in the pond, and then he complained, “Oh Solomon, I am in confusion, every new day of my life is like the previous one, I cannot distinguish dawn from sunset and I do not feel happy anymore.”

Solomon fell to thinking for a while and answered then, “A great many people dream to be in your position, live in such a gorgeous house and own all the riches you have.  I wonder, what dream do you have?”

A bit hesitating, the man answered: “In the beginning, I dreamt about my releasing out of slavery.  After I had been released, I wanted my trade to be of great receipts.  But now, it seems to me, there is already nothing to dream about.”

“A man who has not a dream can be compared with the fish, splashing in this pond” Solomon said, “Fish also cannot distinguish what day it is and if it is sunset or dawn.  All the days of fish existence are the same and they do not know what happiness is.”

After these words, he added: “But unlike fish, you locked yourself in your “pond” by your own will. If there is not any good purpose in your life, you will roam your house and when the time to die comes, you will realize that you idled away all your life.  And on the opposite, if you have a certain goal, your life will fill with excitement and fervour…”

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Proverbs and Sayings about Education – Part II

“You must be the change you want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Also somewhat similar quote: “Give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.” By Madeline Bridges from Belmont University.

Motivational speaker Dr. Alan Zimmerman is credited with the following quote: “Some people dream of accomplishments while others stay awake and do them. Maybe analogous to the Russian proverb perhaps oft quoted during the Great Patriotic War: “One man cannot be a warrior on a battlefield.”

Kazakhstan suffered much during the Second World War, the following quote “Who has never tasted bitterness, knows not what sweetness is.” Another quote more hopeful about travelling abroad: “The world is a book, and the person who stays at home reads but one page.” This quote was either coined from Shakespeare or St. Augustine, I would guess the latter since he lived before Shakespeare did. Great quote in any case and I guess I have read several pages with my travels to different countries over the past 30 years.

Those quotes which concerned teaching and learning, a topic near and dear to my heart, is the famous one attributed to Socrates who admitted: “I know only that I know nothing.” Another by Joseph Joubert is: “To teach is to learn twice.”

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