Nov 302012
 
Maintaining industrial harmony is very important to Singapore, particularly because public transport is one of the essential services so we have to take it in a very serious manner,” she added.

The bus drivers have a genuine concern: their Malay colleagues have a different contract than them. Yet, they are doing the same job with the same job description. This is discrimination by race / nationality. It means bus drivers’ contracts are neither equal nor equitable. Yes, SMRT should step up and ensure these complaints are handled in an appropriate manner via appropriate channels. But I genuinely wonder: is “industrial harmony” — that is, ensuring that public transport is running — more important than equality between humans? Is it more important than racial harmony?

Jan 212011
 
When an instructional day is relatively short (about 5 hours per day), after-school activities are very important. In Finland, there is a specific national strategy to address out-of-school time.

I’m so *tired* of all the comparisons of other nations’ school systems to those in the USA. Don’t people get it? The USA’s entire democratic and governmental make up cannot be compared to any others, because there is no other country in the world that operates a democracy the way the USA does! Every other country that people desperately look to for “solutions” or “take-away lessons” has some kind of unified nationalism going on — something which does not exist in the USA because of the unique power given to the individual states — something Americans seem very proud of and eager to point out at any given opportunity. The United States are not united!

The USA is also not a socialist democracy. Education, therefore, is NOT regarded the same way as it is going to be regarded in socialist or… (gasp!) communist countries. By virtue of being capitalist, it is nearly impossible to espouse the same values about education as a communist or socialist country — the philosophies just do not align.

So please can we stop with the “Let’s-Look-to-This-Country’s-National-System-To-See-What-We-Can-Do-Better” posts? The USA is not a country with a homogenous population. It’s not a country where citizens pay upwards of 40% in federal taxes. It’s not a country where national needs trump state needs. It’s not a country where the common good trumps the individual good (hell naw!). In my opinion, looking to countries where all of these things exist will do little good at solving the bigger problems of education in the USA. The solutions involve either thinking very creatively about the current situation in the USA – and applying different strategies to each state, or to change the entire country’s philosophy and move to something more socialist, nationalist, and unifying… and we all know *that* last option ain’t gonna happen.

Can you *imagine* if someone at the US DoE pushed forward a “specific national strategy to address out-of-school time? Can you imagine how people would react?

Feb 112010
 

Kentucky Becomes the First State to Adopt Common Standards

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The Kentucky board of education voted unanimously this morning to adopt the common standards. It’s the first state to do so. And it did so even before the first public draft of the K-12 standards has been issued. (Nonpublic drafts have been circulating among state officials for review.)

The fact that the United States *don’t* have common K-12 standards is mind-baffling. Hooray for Kentucky. But considering it’s 2010 and they’re the first to adopt them, how long do you think before the other 48 states, 2 territories and 1 district join in?

2020?
2035?

I’m willing to take bets.

Feb 102010
 
  1. It is wet and therefore messy. This is not the "fun" kind of fluffy snow that makes for good skiing, tobogganing, or snow-angels. This is the snow that is dense, heavy, packed, disgusting, and basically turns to slush the minute you touch it.
  2. New Yorkers have no snow-etiquette! Today I was ambushed from behind in a snowball fight started by strangers in Washington Square Park who clearly don't know that real snowball fights require at least a 10 metre radius from The Line. Sheesh. Someone get these people some winter sports lessons! Here's hoping they all tune into the Olympics next weekend.
  3. New Yorkers — and especially taxi drivers — do not know how to drive in slushy snow. They haven't yet figured out that perhaps you CANNOT make that turn so tight because there is a foot of snow lumped next to the curb, and yes, you will get stuck. Which leads me to…
  4. People don't shovel or plow here! What the heck?! I would have thought that in a litigation-friendly state like New York, that people (especially businesses) would be out there shoveling like the dickens. Not so. On my hour traipse through the Village and SoHo just now I'd estimate that roughly 35% of the sidewalks were cleared. This makes walking especially difficult.
  5. New Yorkers are rude in the snow. This perhaps is related to Reason #2. I have always defended NYC against the stereotype of rudeness that exists by non-New Yorkers, because my experiences for the most part have been that New Yorkers are friendly and willing to help out. Until today, that is. In the snow, no one moves over on the sidewalk to let you pass by on the dry side (despite the fact that it may just be you and one other person on the sidewalk, because really, there aren't many people out there). In the snow, people fight over taxi cabs on the street corners. In the snow, people cut you off to get in the doors at CVS. When it's snowing, people scowl when you sit down in the empty chair next to them at Starbucks. I mean, I don't like the snow either, y'all.. but at least I still have my manners!
Nov 262009
 

Thanksgiving: A time when people are meant to be grateful/thankful/feeling fortunate for all that they have in their lives. By definition, it is a time when people express gratitude.

According to my conversations with American friends and Wikipedia’s article on American Thanksgiving:

  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is one of the country’s time-honored traditions.
  • Many Americans also traditionally watch or play football on Thanksgiving.
  • Shopping on Black Friday is also a tradition for many Americans, who hit the shops hoping to find the best deals before Christmas.

Is it just me, or do none of these events have anything to do with being grateful and spending time with family and friends? I’m not intentionally being critical or negative about American traditions, but it seems ironic to me that the biggest American secular holiday is traditionally celebrated by doing things that have nothing to do with loved ones or gratitude.

Or is it called something else? Is this irony? paradoxical? I’m an English teacher and I’m not even sure how to categorize this…

Mind you, considering that America is founded upon principles of capitalism, independence, and — let’s face it — consumerism, perhaps these events (all corporate-sponsored, to be sure) are especially appropriate for Thanksgiving.

 

 

(… has anyone ever asked the American Indians what they are thankful for? do they even celebrate Thanksgiving?)