Great response to “Twitter saves lives in Mexico”

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After 16 days of being published, my article “Twitter saves lives in Mexico” continues to be within the Top 5 “Most popular articles” on Americas Quarterly. Read the article here.

Thanks to each and every one of you who’ve made this possible by forwarding, sharing, retweeting, etc. the article to your friends and colleagues. I am humbled by the great response and it makes me a lot more accountable for future articles. I do hope you continue reading my posts on my AQBlog feed at http://americasquarterly.org/user/2149

Thanks for checking them out! Here’s a quick list of my participations on Americas Quarterly (from last to first):

Cool.

 

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Mexico Lowers the Bar on Education

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico Lowers the Bar on Education” http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2606 , published on Jun 23rd, 2011.

Please feel free to visit and comment.

Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

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It’s a common challenge in all of Latin America: run-down public school systems are insufficient, inadequate and outdated. Specifically in Mexico, negligence regarding education has widened the divide between the nation’s poorest and richest, leaving little hope for children graduating from public schools actually making a name for themselves and growing out of poverty. Mexico spends a larger portion of its GDP (about 5 percent) than countries like Uruguay, Chile and China, but it’s not about the amount of money spent. It’s the quality of education provided.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education (SEP) continues taking one step forward and two steps back in this regard, mainly hindered by its inability to negotiate with the ever-combatant teacher’s union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE) which has become a mob of ramblers who’ve taken education hostage. 

The most recent news regarding the eroding quality of our school system is an agreement reached by the SEP and SNTE on filling new teaching positions. This year the Ministry of Education and the SNTE (led by Elba Esther Gordillo) declared that candidates will be eligible to become teachers if they pass a meager 30 percent of questions on the Examen Nacional de Habilidades y Conocimientos Docentes (National Test on Teaching Skills and Knowledge).

Ironically students in Mexico need to get 70 percent or higher to pass each subject. This, however, does not seem to bother José García, a member of the Comisión Rectora de la Alianza por la Calidad de la Educación (Guiding Commission of the Alliance for the Quality of Education) of the SNTE, who blatantly defends the policies. “It’s the students who need to show they know to subject matter, not the teachers,” he says. Crazy as this may sound.

As if having a 30 percent pass grade for teachers wasn’t enough, candidates now receive a set of guidebooks to help them prepare for the test. The fact that this information is readily available online, allowed me to dig deeper into the subject and find matters to be even worse.

On the one hand, candidates are not screened from criminal records. The only documentation requested for eligibility is their university title or proof of having taken a final professional exam (depending on the grade they aspire to teach), their voter card, the CURP (a registry number), and completion of a couple of forms.  These are people who are going to have unsupervised access to our children with a lasting effect on their development. You’d think somebody would want to look into their backgrounds, right?

Moreover, it is practically impossible to fail the National Test. To cite a specific example, a high school math teacher’s exam consists of 80 questions, 20 of which are actually about math. The exam is divided into four sections: curricular content (actual subject matter), scholastic competencies, logic, and ethics. It is understandable that you would want to evaluate skills to teach, think and have a moral conscience. However, the way the exam is now set up (only requiring the candidate to have the right answer on 24 of the 80 questions) a candidate to a math teaching position could score zero on subject matter and still have a very good chance of being eligible to teach it. 

Add criminal deviance and a skewed view on ethics into the mix and guess what? He can still make it if he has logical thinking and just a little bit of scholastic skills!

Each question in the exam is followed by four possible answers, one of which is correct. Does it take a genius to point out that just based on simple probability candidates are going to get 25 percent of the answers right? It seems all we’re asking our future teachers to contribute is an additional 5 percent of brilliance (or luck).

It is no wonder that regardless of the amount of money being poured into education (and seeped through corruption into the unions), our students are less and less prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.   

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Jesus was a hippie

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Here’s a great song by Soul Asylum you’ve probably never heard. Why? Because it was a hidden track in an album that very few of us bought. After the 90’s, Soul Asylum niched and the mainstream likely only remember them as the guys who sang “Runaway Train”, but their music remained awesome. You can find “Fearless leader” as a hidden track to “Slowly Rising” in the album “Silver Lining.”

Sorry for the crappy animations, it’s the only version I found online.

Father’s Day

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I noticed people made more of a big deal with regards to Father’s Day this year than the last one. Did you get that as well?

People certainly spent more on gifts this year (goes to show the economy is slowly recovering). Here’s a secret: Dad doesn’t need you spending his/your money on a big gift. He’d be happy with any of the following:

• One day of controlling the TV remote
• One hour of not having to hear “Daaaaaaaaad, Billy hit me. You need to ground hiiiiiiiiiim!”
• Respect for his down time with his beer-drinking buddies
• Those magic words “Dad, I just got a full scholarship which will cover my tuition from junior high to college”

Happy belated Father’s Day, guys.

News flash: Twitter makes Weiner quit

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News flash, as published by the NY Times just minutes ago:

WASHINGTON — Representative Anthony D. Weiner, an influential Democrat who had been considered a leading candidate to be the next mayor of New York City, said Thursday that he was resigning from Congress following revelations of lewd online exchanges with several women.

“I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused,” Mr. Weiner said, adding that he had hoped to be able to continue serving his constituents. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the distraction I created has made that impossible.”

[…]

Mr. Weiner tried to deliver his brief statement in a restrained manner, but struggled to be heard above the din of the hecklers, some of whom shouted vulgarities and one of whom called him a “pervert.”

[…]

The scandal erupted last month after a photograph of Mr. Weiner wearing tight-fitting underpants was sent to a college student in Washington State. Mr. Weiner denied having anything to do with it, but during an emotional news conference on June 6, he admitted to having sent the image and to having had inappropriate online exchanges with at least six women.

[…]

Please share this link

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Ok, this one is serious you guys. I don’t normally do this, but I think this one is worth it. Please do forward, re-post, retweet, post on your facebook or just talk about this with your friends and family. As the video says, it takes 10 minutes.

Thank you for visiting.