Why Democracy?

Today I am blogging at “Why Democracy?” and have just published a post on Democracy in India.

The idea behind the Why Democracy? project appears to me to be to ask what democracy actually means and if it works as advertised, and if not, what are the deficiencies in the real places where it exists, etc. Go check it out.

The Man versus the State

It is not to the State that we owe the multitudinous useful inventions from the spade to the telephone; it is not the State which made possible extended navigation by a developed astronomy; it was not the State which made the discoveries in physics, chemistry, and the rest, which guide modern manufacturers; it was not the State which devised the machinery for producing fabrics of every kind, for transferring men and things from place to place, and for ministering in a thousand ways to our comforts. The worldwide transactions conducted in merchants’ offices, the rush of traffic filling our streets, the retail distributing system which brings everything within easy reach and delivers the necessaries of life daily at our doors, are not of governmental origin. All these are results of the spontaneous activities of citizens, separate or grouped.

Herbert Spencer in “The Man versus the State” (1884)

Thomas Jefferson Class Pictures

During my visit to the campuses of the Thomas Jefferson Institute school at Queretaro and Mexico city, I was asked to address the students. Talk? Me? Of course, I can talk to classes. Been doing that for a while and I must say that I miss teaching. So I am given a pretty hectic schedule of 15 classes. They said that it was up to me how much time I actually spent in each class. I guessed I would talk to them for about 20 minutes or so. As it happened, in each class I took the entire 50 minutes.
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Waiting for the OLPC

Cyrus Farivar has a piece on Slate today titled “Still waiting for that $100 laptop?“. He writes: “Negroponte’s plan to heal the world with laptops is well-meaning but fundamentally flawed. What good is a laptop in the middle of rural Thailand when electricity, much less Internet access, are spotty at best? Rather than getting laptops into the hands of every schoolchild across the world, why not start with an intermediate step? Probably because One Blackboard per Child or One Teacher per Classroom just doesn’t sound as sexy.”

You know, I have been a great believer in the “One Blackboard per School” idea myself and written about it here. Well, as it happened, Cyrus stopped by my place in Santa Clara yesterday afternoon and we had a brief conversation about OLPC and other matters. Today he has a brief report on BBC’s “The World” program on Public Radio International. Near the end, I explain why the OLPC could increase the digital divide. Listen here.

In Mexico

For the past few days, I have been in Mexico. On Monday, on my way from Mexico city to Queretaro, I took a detour and visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan (wiki). I uploaded a few of the pictures of the pyramids.

Yesterday I spent time visiting the school Instituto Thomas Jefferson’s Queretaro campus and a little tour of the city center during the day. Later in the evening, I spoke at a meeting with parents, teachers, and some government officials. The title of my talk was “Education in a Digital Age.” (Will upload the presentation later over here.) The talk was live-cast to the other two campuses of the school in Mexico city and Guadalajara. As half the audience did not follow English, the talk was simultaneously interpreted into Spanish. Pictures of Queretaro and ITJ are here. (Note the announcement poster on the first picture? 🙂 )

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

That image is from a site in Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. The caption to it says: “When Hindu Lord Ganesh came to Ireland he decided to go native, as indeed, he had done when he went to China and Japan. He is accompanied by his servant, the rat, the latter playing the bodran and enjoying a pint of Guinness. The sculpture is 6’4″ high and weighs approx. 4 tonnes.”

Have a pint and enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi. More images from the site below the fold.
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Power, Scarcity, and Corruption

Education in India is generally in dire straits even though some people mistakenly believe that it is excellent from the successes of some ex-IIT non-resident Indians in the US who made piles of money. It is not hard to figure out what is the root cause of the distress of the educational system in India: the near-monopoly control of the system by the government.
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Sept 11, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area

It feels good to be back to the place I called home for much of my adult life. After just a few days it feels as if I had never left the San Francisco bay area, even though I have been living in India for the past four years. Certainly I visit this place frequently enough. Even then the fact that I can pick up a car right after a 12-hour flight and drive 100 kms to a friend’s place is a testament to how much at home I feel here. Driving a good car on excellent roads is a pleasure denied to one in most of India.
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