The Purpose of Law

The need for law is the need to make a man a certain kind of man; to make a society a certain kind; to make a system a certain kind. It says that the man, or the system, has a potential/tendency to decay, deteriorate, or dissipate energy wastedly; to attain to an undesirable state, one that flows from the opposite of truth or the accepted facts.

What are we really doing when we make laws for our children and ourselves?
Every law that the government produces makes a statement, not just of what is legal, but also of what we should aspire to: how it wants us to be. Law is a codification of the ethics (imposed rules) of our existence, citizenship, and residence.

The purpose of law is to make the perfect man; the purpose of law is to make the ideal citizen; the purpose of law is to make the ideal society. But the ideal does not exist where the law exists, otherwise there would be no need for law.

If full love ruled, then perfection would be real. Husbands, fully love your wives, and wives, your husbands. (Love for your children is implicit in loving your spouse.) Imperfect people leading ideal lives.

So the law functions to train one’s conscience. Your conscience is the arbiter of personal convictions. Convictions which may be of truth, or falsehood in the guise of facts or feelings. The law trains us, like the media tries to do.

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Happy Birthday Évariste Galois

Happy Birthday Évariste Galois

A ‘few’ years ago, I ‘explored’ a mathematics seminar on Galois theory at university. Though they spoke English, I knew I would mostly hear mathematical Greek. But for a few Greek words that filtered into the English language, I would’ve left there grasping nothing but the atmosphere of mathematicians having high fellowship with one another; it would’ve been only an anthropological experience.

I recall Vague pictures of a four year old hand trying to span an octave while playing a piece on a piano. That was on CNN, years ago; a little maestro in the making. He made the octave in two steps, and it was beautiful. That wasn’t the ideal, or the perfect, but he went around the task excellently like children know to do well. He must have had, at the very least, a good teacher, and some motivation.

(And we praise children for their efforts, above and over the results they yield. As they grow older do we come to focus on results far above effort?)

“I had given to Moscow high school children in 1963-1964 a (half year long) course of lectures, containing the topological proof of the Abel theorem.” That was a statement by V. I. Arnold. These students, I suppose, were teenagers like Évariste when he started writing fantastic mathematical statements about our reality. A good teacher with the right perspective and proper organisation can teach some ‘high-end’ university level courses to high school kids.

High school is currently designed as a preparation and ‘selector’ for tertiary education. As currently formatted in Nigeria and many other countries, it has relatively little merit by itself. Enough university courses could be ‘downgraded’ to high school level when we think about it. Why not skip the ‘preparatory’ period, for amenable programs, and send the children straight to the degree.

If we say that high school education need not be a prerequisite for some university courses or degree programs, we mean, for example, that one could go from primary school to an MBA in six years tops. (Teeneage years better spent?) This is more easily workable if we have truly knowledgeable teachers; who can actually help the young ones learn, and who see and assert that high school students can handle more than the current standard.

Topology doesn’t sound like something that currently features in the regular high school curriculum. You’d more than likely find it at university only. But they can learn it and a few other big things earlier. It now perhaps depends on whether thats in a (direct) route to were they want to be.

Abraham Lincoln is said to have said that we’re only as happy as we want to be; it is in the same spirit to say that we’re only as knowledgeable as we want to be. But the right guidance and motivation is helpful and serves to accelerate progress. Kids would be smarter if we trained them to be smarter. (There’s a saying that an husband and wife parent a child, but the whole community raises him.)

Galois’ work in his early years are one reminder that teenagers could be trained to handle ‘much’ more than the certified curriculum designed for them. While Évariste was an outlier, that he did what he did as a teenager is telling. And there are many other examples. V. I. Arnold’s teaching Topology to high school kids says that it’s more a matter of organisation and presentation than difficultly for the age-group or grade.

Born October 25, 1811, he died about 20 years later with a legacy that was said would fill only 60 pages. For the significance of his works, Évariste Galois’ sixty pages were worth a PhD and more.

pS:
To find out more about Galois’ interesting life, visit:
www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/

Reconfigured Higher Education

Imagine an MBA tacked onto a one to two-year preparatory/preliminary programme to form a new first degree to which secondary school graduates may be admitted. You’ve then got an ‘advanced’ business degree without missing much (or anything at all) from not having a ‘first’/bachelors degree. Won’t companies that employ MBA’s want to recruit these graduates?

What sometimes we call advanced may not need lengthy prerequisites for the average Joe to grasp.

Now, see a high-school graduate take a two year preparation programme followed by a PhD. He/she could be done in five years. This isn’t hard to imagine for some present PhD programmes. Which ones could this most easily apply to?

For many degrees in engineering, I think it isn’t too hard to tack a two-year preparatory/preliminary programme to a traditional masters programme to form a new ‘specialised’ first degree.

What I’m saying, essentially, is to strip off most of the ‘extraneous’ courses and focus! While they might be helpful, they aren’t ‘important’ to the point where they mustn’t be done away with. These may all be offered as optional. And since the large MOOC platforms already offer a lot of these helpful, and sometimes very interesting side courses, we could let the children pick from a list to do on their own time; for credit perhaps.

Reconfigure high-school education? Certainly! And more radically too.

#education #tertiaryEducation #MBA #mastersdegrees #firstdegrees #bachelorsdegrees #engineeringEducation

Better Clever than Brilliant

It isn’t the brilliant people that get the best results,
It’s the clever people that do.
Brilliant, is what we are;
Clever, is what we do that is wise.
But, neither, is who we are,
Even though we might be brilliant and/or clever.

If you have to choose between the two,
Choose between the two:
To be both brilliant and clever.
Neither precludes the other;
For both can be learned.

What we do can make us look brilliant, or not so;
What we do is what makes our lives.

It is the job of parents to bring their kids up into cleverness;
It is the job of ‘education’ to help make everyone cleverer;
It is the job of him who can see ‘truthly’ to follow cleverness.

Where is the place for brilliance in life?
Where is the place for brilliance, or beauty, in a ‘good’ life?

Footnote:
I hope the sense of ‘truthly’ makes sense. What ‘normal’ word could’ve been sufficient?

The University of Babylon (Circa 600 BC.)

International students were blue-blooded, i.e., of the nobility. Children of celebrities and senators, perhaps.
The entry criteria stressed health and physical appeal, intelligence and breadth of knowledge, vitality and the ability to communicate effectively.
This university was to churn out high-level civil servants (apparently with ready jobs).
The curriculum included language learning and culture studies.
Everyone was on scholarship and very well fed.
The duration of the degree was three years.
There was a final test by the king. It was also an employment interview.
Some graduates had much more substance than magicians; they got the top positions.

What’s the difference between then and now? Do you know any universities that have similar admissions criteria as above. Do we imagine a cross between auditions for a competitive sports club, supermodel school, the debate society, and a bookworm band. We’d certainly prefer to look for the ready made, well-rounded individual, that would very likely make us proud tomorrow. Experience matters to our reputation. Since we can only take in so many, and even fewer with scholarships, it’s best and just to go for the best of the best.

The statements above came from:
“Then did the king give word to Ashpenaz, the chief of his eunuchs, that he should bring in, of the sons of Israel, even of the seed royal, and of the nobles, youths in whom was no blemish, but comely of countenance, and skilful in all wisdom, and possessed of knowledge, and able to impart instruction, and who had vigour in them, to stand in the palace of the king, and that they should be taught the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed them the provision of each day upon its day, out of the delicacies of the king and out of the wine which he drank, and so to let them grow three years, and, at the end thereof, that they should stand before the king. … and, in any matter of wisdom and discernment as to which the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the sacred scribes—the magicians, who were in all his realm. (Daniel 1:3-5,20 from The Emphasized Bible by J. B. Rotherham published 1902)

Asides:
Were the Chaldeans a learned people, in general; like the Swiss.
Liking Nebuchadnezzar: he could hold his own on the battlefield and the classroom.

MOOCompetition and a Future of Education

Udacity.com [From swashbuckling Americans with a niche: programming and then some]
Coursera.org [From swashbuckling Americans again: the gamut]
Edx.org [Ivy leagueX and friends]
Futurelearn.com [The British have come, with Coursera part B]
Iversity.com [From German/Europe’s quest: expanding horizons]
Edcast.com [Another American vision: knowledge networks, expanding horizons]

And there are others.

The MOOCompetition hots up because there’s business and pride inside it.

In their own zones are:
Prageruniversity.com [Honourary mention: they simply make sense]
Saylor.org [Special mention: Visionaries]
Uopeople.edu [Special mention: should work with Saylor; same direction I think]

Side thoughts:
A teacher should have income such that he can teach for free.

The degree or diploma (nanodegree?) is the natural evolution. Further on, there may come a point in the future when a degree, as we know it now, would become irrelevant.

The various platforms could inter- or co-accredit their courses like saylor.org essentially does. They could then grow to award ‘full’ degrees if a user can show they’ve completed certain courses from any of them within a specified period. Forming a cartel would raise the bar for new entrants and/or encourage some would-be competitors to join them instead.

Why attend one university when you can cherry-pick courses from an assortment of providers and still get a degree. I think European universities have done very well here.

Society does not seem to value liberal arts education enough in the early years. Restore the Trivium and Quadrivium to our consciousness.

Why do we want to see and feel the presence of teachers and co-students; to relate with them in their physical presence. Beyond accreditation, expert assessment, and recognition, there’s more to brick-and-mortar universities; just like there’s more to reading a real book than an e-book. Something allied with our humanness.

While we engage with the content of a book, we engage with the book itself. However, an e-book has only content; there’s no unique substance that we can attach it to. The nearest substance is the devise we use to read it, but that has no link to the content of the ebook, so that there’s an anchor for memory, emotion, and relationship missing. And not just counting that, with real books, we read reflections of light and not the projections of it as is common with most devices. Eassier on the eyes I think; it hurts to look directly at the sun.

What would we be losing by killing ‘brick and mortar’ universities. Do they need to up the ante to retain those courses with distance learning competition, and/or focus on those that could more easily survive distance learning, or join the evolution…. Ride alongside it; the competition, and the emergence.

How I think I learned English

There was a time, while growing up that I wouldn’t go to church because I wanted to watch TV; there was a time, in those days, that I listened more to/for what they had to say on TV than… And while acknowledging the contributions of my teachers and classmates in primary school to my ability to speak English, TV really made a difference. It was language learning by immersion; It provided all the examples we needed to build sufficient intuition for English, and without stressing the technicalities of the language. The child was immersed in TV.

Now, I may not recall most of the technicalities, but I speak like I know enough of them. Truly, and regardless or language, the explicit knowledge of the rules of sentence construction, grammar, meaning … is irrelevant to fluency.

What we had on television, then, was innocuous compared to today’s childrens’ and teens’ programming; even perhaps more helpful intellectually. This reminds one of the evolution of the swim suit and bikini.

So, sated with cartoons, series TV, and some network news, we grew.

These were some of my TV teachers (the regulars, not exhaustive, perhaps incorrect/misspelled titles):
Sesame street, Captain cave man, jumbo, jabberjaw, Scobby and scappy doo, Some mothers do have them, Knight rider, Inspector gadget, Dempsey and Makepeace, the love boat, Matlock, CI5, Jacko, The avengers, The new avengers, Jake and the Fat Man, Moonlighting, Jemima Shaw investigates, Tom and Jerry, Ovide and the gang, Superted, The ‘A’ team, Another life, Samurai X, Voltron, Thundersub, G-force, Speed the racer, Danger mouse, Atom ant, Allo allo, The wonder years, Hanna Barbera cartoons, The Adventures of tom sawyer, famous five, little women, Domby and son, The adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, Muppet babies, fraggle rock, ghost busters, family matters, the cosby show, the Jeffersons, a different world, the fresh prince of Bel-air, Roger Ramjet, Different strokes, Fawlty towers, Chips, The Amazing Spiderman, Dukes of hazard….

Nigerian:
Tales by moonlight, Cock crow at dawn, Behind the clouds, The new masquerade, Basi and company, Jagua, Ojo Ladipo theatre group’s Aluwe, The NTA news (of the time), Checkmate, Samanja ….

The functions of the university.

Wikipedia says that the word ‘university’ comes from a Latin statement that basically means ‘community of teachers and scholars.’ The idea of the university, as currently expressed, also existed millennia ago. The university of Babylon existed at about 600 BC, and they had a 3-year programme that taught language, culture, philosophy, law, justice, and administration. It produced civil servants. (Daniel 1, Bible.) The ancient Chinese and Indians were advanced in learning and thought and it may not be much of a stretch to consider that they might have had institutions of higher learning in the form that they exist today.

Developments in science and technology, evolution of commercial society, and confusions of morality and justice, are changing the times. These events are prompting the review of the university, its relevance, methods and means of instruction, and curricula. If we treat certificate awarding professional bodies as institutions of higher learning that promote homeschooling and alternative instructional associations, then, the place of the university (hardware, brick-and-mortar) becomes clearer in the mix of competing institutions and changing industry values.

You don’t need a university degree to become a certified professional in some industries (aviation, accounting …), but you need to have gone through a process somewhat akin to attending a university (residential or distance learning). They are all thus universities of different sorts in the mold of the institution of higher learning.

Let’s frame this question for ourselves to answer: why should the traditional university continue as it is now for another millennium (even with the evolution of instructional means and methods, and the changing perceptions of qualification and learning today)? To whom does this matter, and to what?

The following is a view of what universities are and do today, and why brick-and-mortar should continue. Nothing detailed.
1. Learning facilitation and knowledge transfer (teacher to scholar, and vice versa).
2. Certificate Authority (like Comodo, confirming a website is the website it says it is…). The university certificate affirms that a person has successful gone through a specific learning/training/development process, and by implication has specific knowledge.
3. Self/passion/vision/spouse discovery and character development.
4. Knowledge discovery and dissemination (Research and associated publications, and knowledge transfer to society, aka industry.)
5. Exclusive social and business network (from personal networks to student clubs/sororities/frats, and the alumni community).

Items 1 and 2 (and perhaps 4) may be regarded as the essentials. And we can arrive at the following conclusions about the relative importance of the functions availed some stakeholders:
The most important for the student (scholar) is item 1 above.
The most important for the lecturer is item 1.
The most important for society is item 2.
The most important for the university is item 5.

That students exist for teachers and vice versa is self-evident. The university exists for its scholars and teachers, itself, and for society. All of them beneficiaries of the system they make. The human, face-to-face, interaction involved in the above list and as created by the intello-socio-physical university environment is very important for students’ development, and for the university to continue brick and mortar.

The university performs academic, certification, and social/civic functions for the person and for society. Society may need or just want you to have your degree; either way, it benefits if you do, and it would assume you’re enlightened. It would gladly ask you, before granting you certain specified benefits, for your diploma (or other acceptable proof of successfully completing a particular course of study). The accredited or recognised institution delivers the proof on a piece of paper.

A continual flow of people go through universities with various hopes and dreams to become private/public servants and leaders/managers. Servants in that we all ‘serve’ (at least ourselves) in some capacity after the degree or diploma, and regardless of any correlation or otherwise with what we studied. This is perhaps a reason universities are (or should be) more than academics or research, for the teacher, the scholar, and the university administration.

After one steps off the campus (real or virtual) or signs out with that very important piece of paper, what should one have assimilated by that time? What should have happened to him (to build him), and what should he have happened to (or achieved). To create this atmosphere and learning process makes the individual a ‘better’, ‘selectively experienced’, and ‘richer’ person. This where the physical university experience (in contrast to distance learning) may have a niche as they necessarily provide valuable structured and unstructured physical presence interactions.