Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I taught our "Build and Fly" session to the 5th graders at Chiragh Grammar today. I do have a soft corner for this school, but I must admit that I am very impressed by how attentive the children are. They are definitely not used to visitors coming and showing powerpoints and videos in class, so my coming was a very novel experience "a golden day in my life" as you can see from the pictures below. I was more impressed by how they listened to every word I said and retained the information. I wonder why there is this difference!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I taught our "Build and Fly" session for 6th, 7th and 8th grade at Chiragh Grammar School. I started off by asking how many of them knew what an engineer did. We always ask this question when doing sessions in the US and usually we get 1 or 2 children (regardless of age) saying that an engineer fixes cars. In this class no one said anything. I started prompting and asking if they had heard the word engineer and everyone said yes. I think its indicative of the general Indian education system (which is changing though) that doesn't encourage too much analysis. I also think that maybe the drive to become engineers and doctors is not as prevalent in the lower income levels as in the middle class.
Anyway I explained that all engineering is redesign (Paul Yarin's definition) and we moved on. The average designs were pretty similar to what we see in the US and students were just as scared of trying new methods and making mistakes. We had roughly the same percentage of students with unique airplane models. The only difference was that they were all way more docile, innocent and respectful. This enabled the learning and teaching to be really easy and meaningful.
I wonder if there is a way to make children analytical, give them the ability and freedom to question and still have them be respectful and innocent. Maybe there is some middle ground.
Monday, January 5, 2009
I was born and brought up in India and go back every year. I am very familiar with most of the scenes that were portrayed. What shocked me was that I had become very desensitized to the whole problem and that it took an unrealistic (although amazingly crafted) movie to get me to think about the problem.
I appreciated the spunkiness in the movie and that the director didn't focus on making the audience walk away feeling guilty, but rather walk away with a sense of purpose - how do we fix this problem.
Here are some links that I checked out after the movie:
Article in the Time magazine about working children
India's Railway Children
It is the most heart-rending thing you can watch, read or think about and I think that is why one does get desensitized to the issue or else you wont' be able to get through a single day.
The movie did reinforce my commitment and dedication to my mission in life - support the underdog, give them a chance, live your life to the fullest and help someone else do the same, make your time on earth count.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
There is a wonderful little book by Churchill (one of my heroes) on painting. He started painting at 40 and was actually very good, winning many awards (under an assumed name). This was in addition to winning the Nobel prize for literature and being the prime minister of UK in very tough times. Way to multi-task!
Well, I like to paint too and I have done very little since Iridescent began. With the economy the way it is, I needed a way to de-stress and protect my stomach ulcers, so I began again. I love Japanese woodblock prints and here is my little attempt at learning from the masters (Kawase Hasui, 1883-1957). At least my cat admires it.
Here are some of my favorite passages from Painting as a Pastime. Please get it and read it!
"Change is the master key. A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it,
just in the same way as he can wear out the elbows of his coat. There is, however, this difference between the living cells of the brain and inanimate articles: one cannot mend the frayed elbows of a coat by rubbing the sleeves or shoulders; but the tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts."
"Broadly speaking, human beings may be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death. It is no use offering the manual labourer, tired out with a hard week's sweat and effort, the chance of playing a game of football or baseball on Saturday afternoon. It is no use inviting the politician or the professional or business man, who has been working or worrying about serious things for six days, to work or worry about trifling things at the week-end. As for the unfortunate people who can command everything they want, who can gratify every caprice and lay
their hands on almost every object of desire for them a new pleasure, a new excitement is only an additional satiation.
It may also be said that rational, industrious, useful human beings are divided into two classes: first, those whose work is work and whose pleasure is pleasure; and secondly, those whose work and pleasure are one. Of these the former are the majority. They have their compensations. The long hours in die office or the factory bring with them as their reward, not only the means of sustenance, but a keen appetite for pleasure even in its simplest and most modest forms.
But Fortune's favoured children belong to the second class. Their life is a natural harmony. For them the working hours are never long enough. Each day is a holiday, and ordinary holidays when they come are grudged as enforced interruptions in an absorbing vocation.
Yet to both classes the need of an alternative outlook, of a change of atmosphere, of a diversion of effort, is essential. Indeed, It may well be that those whose work is their pleasure are those most need the means of banishing It at intervals from their minds."
~Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime