Archive for March, 2018

How successful academic write

March 25, 2018

Successful academics write; academic success is measured in terms of the writing that is produced. Helen Sword’s book Air & Light & Time & Space: How successful academics write is a very good read – for all the academics and those who have academic ambitions!

The Sringeri-Kanchi holy wars

March 2, 2018

The passing away of Jayendra Saraswathi sets Sriram thinking about (the hilarious, in retrospect) holy wars!!


Political freedom and London

March 2, 2018

London supplied answers without asking questions. There were no restrictions on who could come into the country: no passports or visas required, no need to prove that you had means of support. Nobody could be forced into military service. Nobody could be jailed merely for saying or writing something against the establishment. Nobody got extradited on political grounds. Freedom turned London into Europe’s beachcomber, collecting refugees washed up by waves of political change: (…) Britons took patriotic pride in the country’s role as “an asylum of nations,” a beacon of liberty.

Maya Jasanoff in The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a global world. I am aware of the contribution of immigrant scientists to the growth of American scientific establishment during the second world war. I was not aware that Britain has its share of immigrants too.

Random thoughts — based on some newspaper reading!

March 1, 2018

Jacob Koshy in The Hindu  — today:

The common thread in these palliatives is that an enormous work load is the cause of stress among schoolchildren and halving the syllabus would translate into fewer hours of course work and cramming. This fails to acknowledge that the culprit is a system that encourages mindless cramming as the dominant indicator of ‘learning’.

Thus, Mr. Javadekar only seems to be the latest in the line of establishment figures signalling that the government will not work towards fixing the blood-sport that examinations are, where the loss or gain of a mark can mean children are forced into careers they have no inclination or aptitude for, and at its worst drive young people to suicide.

I do agree that mindless cramming is a problem and that our examination system does indeed need fixing. However, the criticism about the syllabus is equally valid. Some time back, when I happened to go through the +2 chemistry textbook, it looked more like an undergraduate textbook. In addition, if the portions are less, there is less to cram.

Shiv Vishvanathan writes an ode to dying languages — in The Hindu — today:

Development and the institutions of development like school mutually guarantee the disappearance of minority languages and dialects. A school generally teaches in a majority language. The pithiest critique of such schools was made by the Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy, who said India is a country where the illiterate worker speaks five-seven languages and the convent schoolchild speaks one.

I think in India we can do so much more for maintaining lingusitic diversity. My favourite idea is the one about starting Indian Institutes of Languages — may be in one in every state / union territory, to begin with — and populate them with faculty members drawn from all over the country. The model of building one country based on one language is a western notion. We should strive for building one nation tied together by multiple languages!