Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hope and Education

(A staff Devotion I presented in September of this year)

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
But now faith, hope, love, abide in these three; but the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13; 11-13

As I thought about this devotion today I was struggling. I just couldn’t seem to find a way to express what I wanted to say. I couldn’t even articulate it to myself. Then, yesterday a book order arrived for the professional development room and this book “Hope and Education” was right there near the top of the box. And as I read this book yesterday I knew what I was supposed to say.

I don’t know if the guy who wrote this is a Christian or not but the first three people he quotes are Saint Paul, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant so I have my suspicions that he is. At any rate, this book is about hope. But not giving students hope but on becoming an educator who lives in hope. What I find so striking about this is that David Halpin applies Biblical principals and then Christian theology to a secular school. He even says that the virtues of hope, faith and love are essentially supernatural in nature and not something that exist in the temporal world! So teachers according to him, in secular schools, should practice Christian virtues. Let me rephrase that; his argument is that the spiritual virtues of faith, love and hope are supernatural virtues that must be applied in a secular setting and that teachers should diligently cultivate these in their lives regardless of their religious affiliation.

He then takes it a step farther and talks about hopefulness as not being merely the belief that things will improve but of hopefulness being a way of using the past, in the present to influence the future. Being hopeful is not a passive attitude but a lifestyle. It is a worldview, one that we should pass to our students. Part of this is to defeat the enemies of a hopeful lifestyle?

1. Cynicism; by cynicism we do not mean simply a person who questioning. We mean the person who is never satisfied with any answer. These are the people who tell you not to start because the odds of success are so small as to make it not worth the effort to try.
2. Fatalism or those who do not believe they can succeed is the second big enemy. These are the teachers who believe they are doomed to fail no matter how hard they try. Not that we sometime mustn’t try when we know we can’t succeed but that no enterprise will ever succeed
3. Relativism assumes there is nothing to look forward too. It just doesn’t matter because it doesn’t make any difference. I found this one particularly interesting in that he provides a damning critique of the current curriculum ideas promoted by many Post Modern educational writers. If all cultures and outcomes should be equal then who cares?
4. Fundamentalism and Tradition. These are not impediments to hope in the sense that all tradition and fundamental beliefs are to be abandoned but rather when they put excessive limits on what we can hope for they become evil things. I think that this is a particularly prevalent one in Hong Kong because we have all heard people here say “I can’t do that because nobody ever has.”

Talk about a Wow moment! This was one for me.

But he stops there and he shouldn’t

While, in some respects what we call a school can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, I think we give the Greeks more credit than they deserve. What we call a school is a Christian invention. In fact, all of the major movements in education were begun by Christians. Public schools as we know them, they first appeared in the Byzantine Empire, Special Education it was started by Christians. What about kindergarten and early childhood education? Oh, you bet Christians started that. Pedagogical reforms that brought about the modern classroom, Horace Mann, a Christian was the first to introduce them. Teaching girls as well as boys? Yep, education regardless of gender got started by Christians. When you look around the world you see schools in every land and nation. They are a testament to Christianity’s influence. Yet, poll after poll shows teachers are hopeless and depressed about their profession. How can this be? How have we lost our hope as educators? Why is it that when teachers’ around the world are surveyed they generally are the profession with the lowest moral?

We can argue some of the reasons but I feel it is because they have lost that hope that education is founded upon. We have lost the hope that our students are part of God’s plan. We have, or so it seems to me substituted tolerance for love, expediency for justice, curriculum for education and knowledge for wisdom. Are we satisfied with providing more facts with less meaning?

So, I’d like to encourage you today to be hopeful, to live in hope. I’d like to encourage you to let your hope allow your past, to influence your future and to salt your present with praise. Allow your students to know that you believe that God does have it under control; that all good and precious gifts come from above. That while we are yet desperate sinners we are all the more saved by grace. Don’t impart simply facts, knowledge or data to your classes today. Impart hope. Live in hope.

Stop. If hope is that important then consider a moment that Paul says of faith, hope and love that the greatest is love.

Maybe we can look at the place love plays in education another time.

If you’d like to read the book “Hope and Education; The role of the utopian imagination” by David Halpin it is in our Pro-D library (370 HAL)

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sometime does other things

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh Goody! Is it my turn now?

I am a little bit of a disgruntled employee right now. I was hoping to be promoted to the administrator pay scale when my next contract comes around and found out that is not going to happen because my department is being reorganized in a way that will forestall my argument of being an administrator. The job will not change but I will be struck at the top of the pay scale and not qualify for housing because of my wife's job. I don't really work for the money, we have enough, but I still feel rather like a jilted bride. I've put in 11 years for this school and have done a good job. And honestly, my job is about 80% administration. I deserve the jump in pay. The school I work for is a bit odd in Hong Kong because it does not take government funds and is supported completely by tuition and gifts from wealthy do-gooders who want their name over a door somewhere. (Not that there is anything wrong with do-gooders wanting to do that. Indeed, I wish there were more do-gooders to do that!) But, that means that my salary is actually lower than the equivalent position in a local school. I don't make the 80K or 90K a month like teacher at HKIS or CIS. With the economic downturn the school board are feeling pinched and are in a cost cutting mode. I can understand that but I don't have to like it.

This morning the really-pretty-very-smart-hard-working-loving-looks-25-years-younger-than-she-is Chinese wife and I were talking about the Bozo's (Apologies to real clowns) who make up the District Council and LEGCO in Hong Kong. Near the end of this conversation I said "You know, District Councilors make more than I do and it is considered to be a part time job. I've thought about running in the past. Maybe I should quit (The unnamed international school) and run for a District Council seat. I could work it 1/2 time. I'd have a shorter commute. Nobody would ask if I wanted to coach basketball. Plus, I'd make more money and have more fun all at the same time."

The wife was politely non-committal as to the merits of that plan.

But, if I read this article right then some of the various bumblers are going to quit and effectively call a special election. That means, unless I misread, no-incumbent. Amazingly, I am qualified to run for these district council offices, though not LEGCO unless I give up my US passport.

I may have to think about this. The history of politics is littered with the forgotten names of people who thought they knew better. Causeway Bay is international enough though that an English speaker with broken Cantonese could have a chance to win but would still be at a disadvantage versus the Cantonese speaker with broken English.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who would run if drafted and serve if elected

Top 10 List

I have a sort of list that I carry around in my mind of 10 inventions or ideas that have actually made our lives better rather than worse. It is a fuzzy list with items falling off and being added as the mood strikes me but normally looks something like:

10. Ball Point Pens - If you've ever had a fountain pen you'll understand.
09. The bicycle - The perfect urban transportation machine
08. Plumbing - both for sewage and fresh water delivery
07. Mechanical or chemical energy - Electrical, internal combustion engines, turbines and such
06. Telephones (Excluding cell phones)
05. Refrigeration as the agent of air-conditioning and to preserve food
04. Canned foods
03. Modern Medicine - especially vaccines & antibiotics
02. Air travel
01. Paper - and the associated printing presses it enabled

I also have a list of technological inventions or ideas that I believed have harmed civilization far more than they've helped it:

10. Cellphones/Mp3/diskman/walkman type things - Zombies-R-Us
09. Television - Encourages us to be lazy
08. Electric Can openers - the ultimate symbol of a decadent society
07. Socialism - Has killed more than 800 million people since 1917
06. McDonalds - God how I wish I had a Big-Mac and fries right NOW!
05. Computers - It seems to me they often make more work than they save.
04. Automobiles - A major cause of social alienation but oh so convenient
03. Motorcycles & Scooters - I think cars are less of a menace.
02. The Environmental movement - Only communist kill more people
01. Public education - More on this one later

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Sincere Thank You

I was alerted today to the fact that the persons over at Hong Kong Blog reviews had listed this blog in their recommended category.

I had been aware of them for sometime and found it somewhat disconcerting that they were evidently unaware of me. Though to be fair, I have thought for some time that the only people who ever read this blog are people still hoping that Nancy Kissel gets out of jail as some of them see me as an advocate for her. (I'm not by the way)

I think I finally sent them a link a couple of months ago; but I can't remember, maybe they just finally found me. I had always assumed they'd put me down at the bottom of the barrel category. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised.

Thanks guys for the kind words. I enjoy your site as well.

I guess I need to post more.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks his style is more "Conspiratorial" than "Colloquial"

A Rock and a Hard Place

I have harped pretty incessantly about the way the HK government is continually knuckling under to the overlords in the Beijing. However, I am not sure that I can be critical of the local officials in this case.

The guy was traveling under fraudulent documents which makes him a criminal.

Now, if he'd been living in the UK or the US or France or Taiwan and the PRC had kidnapped him back to China or poisoned him then he'd have my sympathy. If he'd used his forged documents to go into China to try and start a revolution and then got caught and died like a man then he'd have my respect.

As it is, he comes across looking like a sneaky little wimp rather than a person working for a freer China. Whatever the family issues were they should have taken a back seat to making China a freer place.

How dumb is it to try and sneak into China to see your family if you are wanted by the Chinese government?

There are all sorts of ways he could have contacted his family. I'm sorry, I don't see that the local athorities had much choice in this.

He should have stayed away if he was not prepared to pay the cost of getting caught.

But maybe the Hong Kong Standard misrepresents what happened.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who doesn't use a fake passport

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dumb, Dumber and Hong Kong

The story linked to in the title has been in the news here for about a week.

I don't know what bothers me the most about it; the fact that a developer is doing this or that buyers fall for it. But, it sort of makes sense when you think of the way they figure square footage here. The really-pretty-incredibly-smart-looks-20-years-younger-than-she-is Chinese wife and I own a flat in Causeway Bay that if you count the floor tiles is 811 square feet. However, in the world of Hong Kong real estate it is a 1200 to 1500 square foot flat. So, I guess calling the top floor of a 46 story building the 88th floor is par for the course here.

Maybe the government should get the real estate developers to solve some of our other problems the same way by re-measuring other areas in Hong Kong using the property developers system of counting and measuring.

If we measured roads the same way we measure flat size then all roads could be re striped with an extra lane. This would alleviate the need to build more highways

If we measured sidewalks the same way then suddenly we'd have more pedestrian areas.

All the buses could become triple Decker's and have three seats per side rather than two without any crowding at all.

School classroom size could be reduced by 30% and the teachers would still have a bigger classroom.

Here is the biggie. The Civil Servants will really like this one. The government could put a 100 square meter block of land up for auction and call it a 125 square meter block of land. That would instantly increase revenue from land sales by 25%.

Just think of all the problems we could solve if we measured everything the way that Henderson Land, China Chem, Cheung Kong, Sung Hung Kei and the other builders here measure apartments. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Of course we could have a population that refuses play into the hands of dishonest developers and a government that protects its citizens from fraudulent business practices and that would be more wonderful still.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger with Sarcasm dripping from his keyboard

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The AFT are anti-education goons

I don't normally delve into US political issues but this is an exception.

I have really come to despise the way the left is waging a progressively (did you catch that pun) open war on freedom of speech, religion and assembly. This is the exact opposite of everything they will tell you they stand for.

AFT you are, in my opinion, a bunch of thugs. Many of your members are probably illiterate. None of them should be in a classroom.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is a teacher but refuses to join a union

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fruits and nuts

Did I miss something here?

Long Hair Leung is throwing plastic bananas at THBT. Why?

In the US calling an Asian person a "Banana" (Yellow on the outside white on the inside) is a a racist and derogatory term.

Long Hair could have a place in the political conversation in Hong Kong. However like many far leftist he cannot see that his desired end does not justify his means.

He just needs to move to Cuba or somewhere where they already have a people's Paradise.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who would rather not talk about Long Hair Leung

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unsafe at anyspeed?

Yesterday I witnessed an accident between a bicyclist and a pedestrian. I’m sure this has happened many times before but it got me thinking about some things.

This accident happened on a dedicated cycling path, really a road for bicycles going north towards Tai Po Market from where I work in Sha Tin. This is a quite busy cycling area with lots of people on it at all hours. As the only road going the same way is a freeway it is a really nicely thought out way to make the eastern New Territories somewhat bicycle friendly. But there is a sidewalk and a public park area just beside the path that accesses a causeway along the ocean where people fish or walk or look at the gorgeous view.

I was on my evening ride puttering along at about 25K an hour and was passed by a guy on a full race rig Cannondale road bike. He was in the drops. Pumping the big ring and passed me like I was standing still. I actually thought “My, God, if he doesn’t look where he’s going rather than stare at his front tire he’ll kill someone.” Well, about 3 or 4 minutes later I rounded a bend and saw him T-bone and old woman who had stepped out into the cycling lane. He just nailed her. I mean he knocker her across the other lane and into the bushes. She didn’t get up. He went over the bars and landed face first on the concrete ripping the front out of his team replica jersey.

I stopped to render some first aid. I called an ambulance for the old woman who was unconscious and asked the rider in Chinese if he was all right. He replied in English that he was not badly hurt and then started swearing at the old woman he’d just T-boned. Before the police could get there he picked his bike up and just zoomed off at 45K per hour again. I couldn’t help thinking “I hope your fork snaps” as he left. I then had to convince the police when they showed up that I was not the one who’d nailed the old woman.

Here are the questions I thought about on the rest of my commute home: Granted the old woman was where she shouldn’t have been but the rider was going way, way to fast for the conditions he was riding in and was, in my opinion, more to blame. Especially in his total lack of any compassion for the person he nearly killed. Part of riding safely is anticipation and he could have avoided this accident with a little less speed or a little more attention to the road in front of him. Indeed, most of the blame for this was his. I ride that track everyday almost and have never hit anyone. But there are lots of really unsafe riders on this path and even more pedestrians and joggers on it when they shouldn’t be. So, should cycling areas like this be patrolled by bicycle police to both keep pedestrians off them but also to ticket unsafe riders? What about a speed limit for bicycles on paths like this? Should riders be required to pass some sort of licensing test as do automobile drivers before they are allowed on the roads? What about an annual inspection of bicycles like autos have to go through to ensure they are safe and in good working order?

Lastly and this is the one that people are not going to like, Are full race road bikes safe to ride in a setting like this? I see these guys all the time with their head down, in the drops with no view of the road in front of the bike beyond about 18 inches. As the bars have continued to go lower over the past 15 years this problem gets worse. Has the: stiffer, lighter, more aero, and faster mantra created a generation of not only dangerous riders but bike designs that are so extreme that they cannot be safely ridden outside a rice? I don’t even think I could tilt my head back far enough to see down the road on a typical bike made in the last 5 years. You can’t drive a formula 1 racer on the street because they are unsafe in general traffic. Have full race road bikes reached the point where they are unsafe, at amost any speed around other bicycles and pedestrians? I am afraid, in many cases the answer may be yes. The question is what, if anything can be done about it?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao