Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: Dumbing Us Down


Book: Dumbing Us Down
Author: John Taylor Gatto
Length: 106 pages
Published by: New Society Publishers
Year of Publication: 2005
Paperback ISBN: 0-86571-448-7

John Gatto is a celebrated teacher of the New York City with decades of teaching experience. He was awarded the New York City Teacher of the Year in 1990 by the New York State Senate where he gave a memorable speech. From the sedate and laid back beginning of life in the river town of Monongahela, he switched to the field of teaching after aborting a fledgling, yet profitable career as copyright writer in advertising (much to the consternation of his employers). His pursuits in teaching were initially set back the baptism he received in one of his earliest encounters with pupils as a substitute teacher where he came close to getting struck by chair by retaliating, jeering students in his class. He almost gave up the field in a few months when he was disillusioned by the pitiful state of affairs in the schools with disinterested students, lackluster teachers and a monolithic regime of powers in control. However, an event in which he featured as a courageous change agent in the life of a distressed young girl and her subsequent admiration for him convinced him to cling onto the field. “That simple sentence made me a teacher for life”

John Gatto wrote this book to publicize to parents and educationists alike that centrally controlled mass-schooling school is the root cause for the malice of the modern day generation. He refutes reforms at improving schools as futile because the very foundation on which the schooling system rests is unnatural and detrimental to real learning.

Dumbing Us Down is a chilly account of a teacher stuck at the crossroads between the demands of his chosen profession and the call of his conscience and integrity. It is a slogan of rebellion against the mass schooling system (and by that token the entire schooling system) It is an inside story of an educationist that reveals the dark and murky side of the schooling system. He is blunt about confessing the “pathologies” spread by schooling system captured and stabs at the beliefs that schooling is education. He questions the very fundamentals of the schools: the confusion spread by the disconnected theories, the abstraction of concepts from real life. He exposes how children become emotionally and intellectually dependent on the grades, the stars, the report cards. How the society is divided into castes and strands by the concept of “classes”. He highlights how the children are deprived on solitude and privacy by the constant surveillance in the schools and shorn of quality time at home by the “extension of the school, the homework”. He argues that the modern schooling system is at the helm of the disintegrated family unit. It separates children from parents and deprives them of meaningful opportunity to serve community and experience life.

Gatto not only highlights the issues but also offers the alternative of a free-market in schools where there is competition and also plentiful choice for the thoughtful; “A free market where family schools and small entrepreneurial schools and religious schools and crafts schools and farm schools exist in profusion to compete with government education”. He stresses the need to return to the core of family unit and strengthening communities. He advocates a 'local' influence as opposed to a global perspective which he states is opportunistic anyways. John Gatto quite reasonably believes that this book has made the required tremors in the sphere of parents. His powerful narrative, convincing arguments backed by historical anecdotes and events lead the reader to question the modern education system

A key feature of the book is short length with eloquent style of writing. It is arranged in 5 chapters of varying length. Some of the content is repeated in chapters because of the speeches he gave at various occasions. The last chapter on The Congregational Principle is too grounded in American history and without much historical or religious background can be underwhelming for some audience. Almost always the book addresses the mass-schooling or public schools in America but due to the similarities can be easily extended to schools everywhere.

This book read is a must for an insight into schooling for anyone who has children or is concerned about them. In fact, so many of our modern problems are associated with schooling that anyone who has concern about human race and would be glad to have read this book.


Parenting Policy (ERDC - PTCC Batch 29)

Generic Parenting Policy
(Group Members: Ibrahim, Shahana, Sharique, Omar, Nida & 1 more sister)
Age 0-2 years:
·         Maximum possible availability of primary caregiver in the baby’s life will be ensured
·         A child-safe physical environment will be maintained during the first 2 years
·         A distraction-free environment will be provided
·         The child and his environs would be kept as clean and hygienic as possible
·         No processed food would be introduced during the first 2 years of life.
·         The baby would be protected for all events avoidable screen time.

Age 2-7 years
·         Maximum opportunities will be provided  to the child to experience nature
·          Ample opportunities of play would be provided to the child
·         The child would be engaged in reflective conversation and meaningful storytelling for transfer of values.
·         Reading opportunities and books would be made available
·         Basic knowledge about Islam would be introduced (Allah, Prophet SAW, Duas, Kalima,etc)
·         Screen time would be kept to a minimum
·         Intake of processed food would be kept to a minimize pro

Age 7-12
·         Formal education would be introduced for basic language and mathematics skills
·         The child would be engaged in meaningful activities as much as possible
·         The child would be consciously involved in meaningful social interactions
·         Basic computer skills would be introduced.
·         Concept of gender and age-appropriate conduct towards opposite gender would be introduced
·         Extensive support for reading would be provided
·         Ample opportunities for observing friend’s circles would be created
·         Knowledge about acts of worship would be imparted

Age 12- 15

·         Parents would consciously move from instruction-mode to suggestion-mode
·         Responsibilities as per ability and gender would be assigned
·         Child would be made stewards of certain roles within the family
·         The child would be provided appropriate means to acquire adequate knowledge about puberty and related matters

Age 15-19
·         Ample opportunities for family engagement an bonding would be created
·         The child would be married off to a suitable match.

Valuable points from the other group:
-          Involve child in voluntary wok
-          Involve child in some sort of social service.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Second Half: How the work day gets split

I work in a technology company. Most of the times my own schedule and plan of work gets interrupted by unplanned aberrations like meeting requests, urgent client or partners needs or assistance needed by colleagues. I keep shoving this to the second half or namely the part of the day that follows the traditional lunch break. Soon I have so much to tend to in the Second Half that I ultimately start to feel overwhelmed. I depicted this in a graphic I created today:

The 8-hour work day and workload


Monday, September 5, 2016

GIT: Creating a new repository from a branch in an existing repository [Command Line]

This guide is for those users who have an existing repository(both local and remote) with one or many branches. They now want to create a new repository using one of these branches in their pre-existing repos. Lets for the sake of discussion call it old_repo

Steps to follow:

  1. Create a remote repository using existing clients that you may have (GitHub, GitLab)
  2. Assuming the remote that the remote repo now exists successfully, lets call it new_repo
  3. Go to a location file system in your file system where you want this new_repo to exist locally
  4. Follow these instructions:
  5. mkdir /path/to/new_repo (eg. C/Users/Omar/git/new_repo)
  6. cd /path/to/new_repo
  7. git --bare init (This will initialize your repository)
  8. Now go to the place of the existing repo
  9. cd /path/to/old_repo (eg. C/Users/Omar/git/old_repo)
  10. Assume we want to intialize the new remote repo with a branch called feature1. Also assume we would name this as master in the new repo
  11. Also ensure that the remote repo you just created is accessible to you via either HTTP or SSH (you can check with your project settings in GitLab or GITHub).For simplicity's sake, I am calling this http://mygit/new_repo.git
  12. Follow the command below:
  13. git push http://mygit/new_repo.git +feature:master
  14. Viola! The git would now take care of the proceedings for you now with something like this:
Counting objects: 2820, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Writing objects: 100% (2820/2820), 3.35 MiB | 259.00 KiB/s, done
Total 2820 (delta 1667), reused 2112 (delta 1167)

Note: Please note that the branch names should exist as well as the remote path should be correct and accessible. Otherwise you may encounter an error such as this one:

"error: src refspec old_branhc does not match any."

If all goes well, you should see a message of this sort:

[new branch]      feature1 -> master

If you found this helpful, your comments would be highly appreciated.

Reference:
With thanks to the answer posted on this link:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

When EasyPaisa is actually Mushkil Paisa - Part 1

Today I got stopped by traffic cops (the White Police as some would call them) at Hassan Square as I turned left towards University Road. I usually keep the following handy lest these be required for rainy days like today:

  1. Original CNIC: Often works like a charm and avoids unnecessary complications associated with photocopies. Furthermore, for Karachites, it is compulsory to carry one as requested by Rangers.
  2. Driving License (also pronounced as Lesance): Goes without saying, is compulsory and a must. Can't think of a driving license chilling at home and while you are prawling the streets in the city in your autmobile, can you?
  3. Original Car Registration Document: This could be the leaf page (recommended) found in your original book or the book itself if the flying leaf is missing. This is almost the 1st or the 2nd thing any cop would ask for. In my case, I carry both as I got my car transferred to my name and the leaf carries the name of the original owner so I need to have the Book as well to show my ownership.
  4. Tax Payment Receipt: This is also very important. Insure the tax is paid in the the period you are driving. Can lead to a Traffic Chalan.
  5. 3rd Party Insurance: Don't know why its important other than saving from a Traffic Chalan
So this ladies and gentleman, is the list of documents I insure are present in the car and on my person to face up to any police contingent in the city. Unfortunately, today my luck ran out as I didn't find the last item on the list above ie 3rd Party Insurance. I tried to talk sense to the traffic police officer who was actually adamant to get me stuck with some sort of a challan. When I mistakenly showed him a booklet that looked like a 3rd Party Insurance, he inquired for the insurance's expiry date(Imagine the length they would go to find some excuse to book you). He favoured me in one account by charging for an offence that cost less, No. 36 which is turning a wrong direction (I noticed this later). Hence instead of Rs.500 for the original offence, I was slated to pay Rs.150 for the reduced offence. 

Now on a Sunday afternoon with few shops open, on a Ramdhan weekend at noon time, I was left with an EasyPaisa chalan to show for my license. Hence began the actual ordeal which compelled to compose this blogpost.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Common sterilization mistakes for bottle fed babies

Breast milk is the best source of nourishment for infants and their is no equal to it whatsoever. However, when for genuine reasons parents resort to infant formula, they quickly  discover another problem. Bottle-fed babies often get their tummies upset and sterilization is a major issue with formula feeding. This can be due to contamination of milk, poor sterilization or several other reasons. There are many articles available on the web regarding common sterilization techniques such as using boiled water, electric sterilization as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages. What I have listed here are the finer issues there are easier to be overlooked regardless of your method. 

Wash hands with soap and water
Before you proceed with sterilization, make sure that your hands are washed well with soap

Also boil formula spoon:
Boiling formula spoon is a good idea specially if the spoon is left out in the open or on top of the lid of the formula's can. 

Completely submerged:
If you are are boiling water to sterilize the feeding equipment, make sure they are completely submerged in the boiling water.

Keep the lid closed:
At the time of boiling, insure that the lid of the utensil is closed.

After taking out equipment,assemble as quickly as possible
This insures that individual components specially the internal ones like nipples don't get bacteria on them. You should assemble them as soon as the sterilization is complete and place them in a safe place as mentioned above.

Use immediately:
Ideally, you should use the sterilized bottle as soon as possible. You can keep them for up to 12 hours if stored in a covered place.

Don't expose the feeding equipment to air till needed
The bottles should not be left out after being sterilized. They should be tucked away in a covered place such as your cupboard or any other place that is not exposed to air. Make sure that this equipment is not unused for more than 12 hours.

Clean and disinfect the work surface used for feeding
The working surface is where you place the bottles and prepare the formula. If the place is not clean and disinfected, there are high chances that the bottle would get the bacteria from there so keep it clean at all times.

Best of luck for a safe and healthy feeding experience for you and your baby.

(Note: I have gathered these points from various resources online and by implementing these measures my son has been bottle fed for over 9 months without any episode of diarrhea)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bothered by cellphone during Salah (prayers)? Here's a solution

Problem

So often the phone rings during congregational prayers in mosques these days that is no more a novelty. Hardly a prayer is prayed these days without an interruption. Inspite of repeated pleas by the Imam Sahib (prayer leader) before every prayer, the trend continues unabated. One possible reason why many people maybe reluctant to switch or put their phones on silent is that they might forget to turn it back on after the prayers. Trust me, this has happened to me so many times that I started to look for a solution. Which I found  after I hit the Google Play. (Note: this works for only for Android smartphones but you can look for similar solutions for Apple, Windows phones as well)

Enter Silent Timer

So the solution I chose was an app that would automatically bring the phone back to normal state after a reasonable amount of time. I am referring to Silent Timer. Yes, the app looks ugly but it does what it says. I know there are more fancy apps out there that also allow scheduling, but this apps simplicity really lured me. All I need to before every prayer now is a simple click and the rest would take care of itself.
Main interface (single screen) of Silent Timer
Hope you try this and pray worry-free. Let us all try to make our mosques and prayer places free from noise pollution and honour them as they are deemed to.