Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Community Building for Gentrification

(photo: Sean R. Watson)

Gentrification has destabilized and upended many communities across the world, creating conflict with preexisting populations, and raising land values and costs of living. Longtime residents find it difficult to remain in their beloved neighborhoods, and as neighborhoods morph, they are faced with the decision of whether to stay or leave. These residents may harbor resentment towards new residents, and communities many times unravel. 

Chipping Norton, a market town in West Oxfordshire, England, is faced with this same problem. It’s a special case for two reasons though: the town has an effective longstanding community newspaper that voices public concerns, activities, and achievements, and the town has melded with gentrification, rather than divide. The town can add some insights to create solidarity not just in towns, but neighborhoods in cities.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

8 Visionary Cities from the Past

I think it is fun to suppose the technologies that will  transform the cities we live in. Within a short span of time tools from science fiction works have become realities, and cities have reached unprecedented densities. I thought it would be curious to revisit the visionary cities of the past to see what we think of our progress.

These visionary images depict tall and interconnected buildings, and whilst current thought in urban planning and strategy favors walking cities, they are mostly mobile cities through ground and air transportation. Some of these vehicles are communal, and others are manned by individuals. No matter the variations, visionaries of the past predicted increased technologies, and complex urban planning.

Century of Progress Expo, 1933

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Technology's Ability to Empower Top and Bottom Students

In an ideal educational model the student to teacher ratio would be as close to 1:1 as possible. Ancient universities like Cambridge and Oxford still use a one-to-one tutorial system to develop student criticality, and many parents similarly hire tutors to help their children excel in advanced classes. In an imperfect model, tutoring can be used to account for the model’s shortcomings. With standardized tests stratifying student results, portions of the population are identified as candidates for federally subsidized private tutoring. While this one-on-one instruction is valuable, current technologies can perhaps offer more far reaching, accessible, and interactive instruction. This in turn has the ability to break-down grade levels, raising bottom students as much as top ones. A practical understanding of these concepts comes from personal experiences as a private tutor, as detailed further.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cheat Sheet to Creating a Strategy

For  thousands of years strategies have been used to achieve defined aims. Whilst Sun Tzu applied strategy to military operations in sixth century BC, Machiavelli detailed political strategies at the heart of the Italian Renaissance. These are probably the most widely recognized strategists in history, but each individual can count themselves strategists also as they apply their resources and influence to achieve their objectives. In his book, Alanbrooke, David Fraser defined strategy for military application. Whilst effective for military use, it  also provides opportunity for application elsewhere. Whether strategizing a business move, beating a rival basketball team, or determining balance between work, family, and leisure, the procedure of his definition can add insight to accomplish aims. He writes:

'the art of strategy is to determine the aim, which is or should be political: to derive from that aim a series of military objectives to be achieved: to assess these objectives as to the military requirements they create, and the preconditions which the achievement of each is likely to necessitate: to measure available and potential resources against the requirements and to chart from this process a coherent pattern of priorities and a rational course of action (1982, 215).'

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PDF - Great Habits for Students' Online Use

Google For Education has tweeted several interesting things the past few days. They tweeted a PDF this morning I thought important as I encourage my students to use the internet for educational purposes. After they finish our program, they receive a tablet. These tips provide great guidelines to aid their online habits.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The USA: Lacking a Comprehensive Narrative for Cohesion

In response to events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cornel West detailed the class war and racial war against black and brown youth in the United States (Mr News Center 2014). Whilst these racial groups have lower average annual incomes (Perlberg 2013), and at times undoubtedly encounter racial profiling and prejudice, they also experience the greatest capability for democratic participation, and are the most represented in all levels of government in history. Current discussions on racial equality hover over mainstream prejudices, unfair treatment by law enforcement, and income gaps. I argue that the US’s nation-state narrative excludes portions of the country’s population, black and brown Americans included, but concepts from Latin America’s history, specifically Brazil, can provide insights for improved dialogue.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How technology can be used even further in education

Clayton Christensen's book, Disrupting Class, is eye-opening. In this book, Christensen identifies the reason why technology has not made more of an impact upon education despite massive funding. He states that the lack of competition, being a public service, is part of it, and that a mother and child much of the time will have performed the same assignments, switching out a typewriter for a word processor, or in other words, the technology has innovated, but not the way it is used. It is very unlikely much if anything has improved in schools since Christensen's publication, it is actually more likely things have gotten much worse, but changes are happening elsewhere. I would like to point to a personal example as a tutor for under-performing students to demonstrate a step forward. I will detail the strengths and shortcomings of the program, then indicate some solutions that can be made there, and more broadly.

Common Core is a step backwards. This is what I meant by saying that things most likely have gotten much worse. There are many complaints about the program, but the complaint here is that it is not student-centric. By that I mean that the different learning styles students possess are placed within standardized measures, and students with different learning styles than taught or tested are placed at a disadvantage despite their potentials. The third party tutoring service I work with is a good step towards student-centric learning, but much more can be done.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Glue that Binds the USA

It dawned on me as I watched a clip of Cornel West speaking about gaining equality between marginalized groups that there is a similar process occurring in the United States as one I saw in Latin America, specifically Brazil. In colonial Brazil, the Portuguese divided territories longitudinally and somewhat proportionally. These became the country's states. Each state had separate demographic and racial ratios, which gave the states various cultures, religions, and histories. The southern states are more prosperous than the northern and northeastern states. The northeastern states are typified in literature and film by the plight of their citizens. This has worked as a narrative against economic activities in the south, and against its capital, Brasilia. These differences made it difficult for many of Brazil's governors to see a reason for broader national government. What was the glue that held its citizens together, and what would keep them together? Citizens could very well feel no national ties, and have no reason to identify as Brazilians rather than Curitibano (from the state of Curitiba), Nordestino (a northeasterner), or even Carioca (from Rio de Janeiro). This glue ultimately rested upon its strength of population diversity, and the syncretism of cultures, religions, and thoughts. Brazil has gained very strong national identity. The United States faces a similar dilemma, but not as simple a solution.

18th century Map of Brazil

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How fortunes are Made in the Same Way They Used to be Made, and Possibilities From It

Economics are very different, and much more complex than the 18th century Scotland Adam Smith observed. This was addressed in my previous post. Smith observed the foundation for the industrial revolution being set, which would complicate what he observed further with an explosion of mechanization. The inequality between those that benefited and lost out in this revolution is stark, and is due to individual's means and timing. Those that owned first grew wealthy, and those that did not were placed at a disadvantage. The industrial revolution has given way to the technological revolution, and the same rules apply.

In the United States, our industries have largely been offshored. They have gone to locations with cheaper labor, and lower corporate taxes. The US labor force has thus had to adjust to either the service sector or technology sector. These sectors are many times the same thing. This has provided a new surge of wealth as technological innovations have changed the way everyday life is led. This has created the same results as the industrial revolution, very wealthy individuals, and those placed at a disadvantage. Compounding interest is a historical process predating the industrial revolution, but new fortunes have been amassed that have resulted in huge income inequalities between the owners of tech companies and everybody else. Billionaires have been made without the benefit of large bank accounts.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Self-interest in proportion

I have given some some thought to economics in relation to the Cheat Sheet for Understanding Society I posted earlier. This came from a good objection Rob noted about the damaging effects of big business upon the self-interests of individuals. I would like to explore this idea further.

Adam Smith identified a quality in humankind's nature when he described that individuals are set out to fulfill their self-interests. One question that arises is what type of government best suits this nature? With Smith's Invisible Hand at work, 'the private interests and passions of men are led in the direction which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society.' A government that expects each individual to follow after self-interests, but recognizes that competition between individuals requires trust, would thus be expected to not intervene much in citizens' lives. This is why capitalism and small government are complementary.