Oct 23, 2010

Education in the 21st Century

The advent of the Internet allows people to engage in a lifelong pursuit of knowledge for example getting a Master's degree online or using the Internet to participate in dialogue and discussion with a community people would have never otherwise had access to. The Internet is also a place where great thoughts can be collected and distributed. To keep up with tradition, here is a collection of thoughts on the pursuit of knowledge. 

-        Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire (William Butler Yeats).
-        Principles for the development of a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Develop your senses — especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else (Leonardo Da Vinci.).
-        A man is well educated when he knows where to find what he doesn’t know (Georg Simmel).
-        All wish to possess knowledge, but few, comparatively speaking, are willing to pay the price (Juvenal). 
-        In all affairs, it is a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted (Bertrand Russell).
-        The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder... Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world (Albert Einstein).
-        The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes (Marcel Proust).  
-        Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me (Sigmund Freud). 
-        Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties (Erich Fromm).
-        Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination (John Dewey).
-        Mistakes are the portals of discovery (James Joyce). 
-        It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows (Epictetus).
-        Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself (John Dewey).
-        Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants (John W. Gardner)
-        It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education (Albert Einstein).
-        Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself (Chinese Proverb)
-        The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him (Niccolò Machiavelli). 

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, 1916).

Almost all critics  thought  the  sigh  to  indicate  regret: “is not  a sigh  of  regret  over  a right  choice;  it  is a  sigh  of  regret  that  both  choices  were  not  possible” (Laurence Perrine, Explicator,  XIX, Feb.,  1961,  Item  28.); according to Eleanor  Sickels  the  poem  is  about  "the  human  tendency  to  wobble  illogically in  decision  and  later  to  assume  that  the  decision  was,  after  all,  logical  and  enormously  important,  but  forever  to  tell  of  it  'with  a sigh'  as depriving  the  speaker  of  who-knows-what  interesting” (Explicator,  Item  28); the  speaker  of  the  poem  is  "one who habitually  wastes  energy  in regretting  any  choice  made: belatedly  but  wistfully  he  sighs  over  the  attractive  alternative  rejected."  (Lawrance  Thompson,  Robert  Frost. Minneapolis, 1959). Then Frost answers to a young girl (Finger 1978)…
"SOMETIME IN  APRIL  of  I925,  while  teaching  at Amherst  College, Robert  Frost  answered  a letter  he had received  from  Crystine Yates,  a young  girl  in Dickson,  Tennessee. According  to  her,  she wrote  Frost  to  inquire  about  the  "sigh"  in  the  last  stanza  of  "The  Road Not  Taken."  Assuming  the  speaker  of  the  poem  to  be  Frost  himself,  she  wanted  to know  whether  the  sigh  meant  that  he regretted  having  chosen  to  be  a poet.  The  following  letter  Frost  wrote in  response  to Ms. Yates's…
Dear  Miss  Yates:
No wonder  you  were  a little  puzzled  over  the  end  of  my  Road  Not Taken.  It  was  my  rather  private  jest  at  the  expense  of  those  who  might think  I would  yet  live  to  be  sorry  for  the  way  I had  taken  in  life.  I  suppose I was  gently  teasing  them.  I'm  not  really  a very  regretful  person,  but  for your solicitousness  on  my  behalf  I'm
your  friend  always
Robert  Frost" 

Finger, Larry L. (1978) Frost's "The Road Not Taken": A 1925 Letter Come to Light, in “American Literature”, Vol. 50, No. 3: 478-479.

Oct 22, 2010

International Conference: Young and the Challenges of the Future

Young & Future
The International Conference Young and the Challenges of the Future will take place November 3 and 4, at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.
Inauguration greetings on behalf of the institutions from: Catherine Margaret Ashton (Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), Androulla Vassiliou (European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth),  Giorgia Meloni (Italian Minister of Youth). Among many leading European scholars in the field, Marisa Ferrari Occhionero and  Olivier Galland – Director of the “Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique” (CNRS) – will deliver the lecture Adolescence: a new age group? (Social-political Participation and Communication Workshop). In the Workshop  “Consumption, Lifestyles and Cultural Patterns”, I will address my lecture Playing as reality: youngsters experience in late modernity.

Oct 21, 2010

Internet connects and isolates… Who you are and where you are still matters (a lot).

Hello “Eclatdesign (do not know your real name). I believe your comment (that I am reporting below) to my post about internet and old people living in the Apennine Mountains deserve a new section.
“There are not only old people living in little towns such as San Marcello, Maresca or maybe... Gavinana. Anyway I know old people that look for cooking recipes on the web, or simply surf the net to read the news or whatever they are looking for.... Internet is useful, it's a big window on the world and what happens there. It doesn't matter where the access point is located or how old is the surfer.... They (even the "olds") are able to use PC! and, finally, internet won't EVER replace direct experience but it is, actually, a quite good compromise...”
Having acknowledged that also young people live in small town such San Marcello, Maresca, Gavinana — although I strongly believe that demographic indexes describe a progressive ageing of the population — and that probably there are both females and males, the public policy in question was directed precisely toward such a limited part of the universe: old people living in the Apennine Mountains. That is what I understood during the TV roundtable. I could have used ‘elder’, I agree with that; for sure I would not employ the quotation mark: age difference — as any difference: social, cultural, political, ethnical, gender, religious etc. — is not a “problem” to bracket out to me, otherwise I should immediately quit my work as professor of sociology.
You stated that elder people, in general, can definitely use the web. I do not have empirical data to support neither your opinion (do you?) nor mine; nevertheless, my experience tells me that, still in general, they cannot (especially in Italy). Then, the point of the post is precisely if old people in the Apennine Mountains can navigate in the internet, which is sure a useful resource for anyone. My question is: who implemented such a policy (with public money I suppose, that is: mine, yours, etc., drawn from the heaviest taxation on labour in Europe), thought about a kind of digital literacy program? Once the digital highway is constructed, do they have the car (PC) and do they know how to drive it? Is there any money left (kind of important point in a time of economical crisis, isn’t it?) in such a policy plan to train older people?
Internet is not “replacing” reality, however it sure has influences on how people experience everyday life that deserve to be studied. Just think about a person who is walking, trying to relax a bit, in the street of Florence, Rome (or Gavinana, Maresca etc.; it does not make a difference: wrong, it does!) with his/her IPhone, constantly “connected” and receiving calls, sms, emails, fakebook etc. Is such instrument influencing the stroll? I believe so; and the point is not whether this is “good” or “bad”, but “how”: we need to interpret reality, virtual reality and the web of meanings and relations spun around the two. And, at the same time, it is opportune to put aside the debate “apocalyptic of integrated intellectuals” (Umberto Eco, Apocalypse Postponed, 1964/1994), towards mass culture and communication, but this is another story.
Internet can be a “big” as well as a “narrow” window open (closed) upon the social world; it depends — as for any communication instrument — on the usage. If, for instance, a person surfs the web not looking for “cooking recipes”, but mainly to watch porn movies (many people do), it sure becomes a huge window, which opens a limitless horizon limited to porn: postmodern pornoscapes, I would name them. Moreover, how is such a practice influencing the socialization process of a 13 years old boy or girl? How is this shaping the development of sentiments, passion, sex, and the relation with otherness in general? Furthermore, the web can connect as well as isolate people. I can think, using some sociological imagination, to social networks and at the same time to a-social networks. I can see web connections as means to promote sane and respectful encounters with otherness, to “love thy neighbor”. However, I can see the web also as an inhibiting apparatus promoting a vicious circle instead of a virtuous one. I can interpret being on line as an active experience or as a passive one, leading to self-absorption, egotism, or (see above) to an “onanistic” attitude toward otherness and reality.
Finally, it does matter a lot where “the access point is located or how old is the surfer”. It makes a huge difference being connected to the web in Sub-Saharan Africa or in Beverly Hills. And it does matter a lot if you are 13 or 80 years hold. This, of course, if: 1) we do agree that reality still counts — apparently (apparently) we do “internet won't EVER replace direct experience”, but I am not sure at all; 2) the “good compromise” you are mentioning is not just your or mine com-promise, dealing with your or mine reality, but if it is a “promise”, a oaths/vow for many people around the world. That is: to transcend oneself to really meet Otherness…

Multiculturalism is a ‘total failure’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to the conservative youth organization of her Christian Democratic Union at an event called the "Deutschland Assembly", said that multiculturalism in Germany had been a total failure: “the notion that we would become 'multiculti' that we would live next to one another and be happy about one another, failed”. Polls indicate that a growing number of Germans believe that too many of the country's foreigners live in what are often referred to as "parallel communities" with little or no connection with German culture. Merkel declares “We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here” and adds: “Subsidizing immigrants isn’t sufficient; Germany has the right to “make demands” of them such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriage”.