Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WARNING (UPDATE -- patched! see below on getting it . . . ) -- Security flaw in Internet Explorer versions 6 - 11 that can compromise a whole system . . . US Homeland Security Dept

UPDATE, May 2 -- patched!
(Looks like, check here.
MS suggests using 

automatic updates, cf. here.)

Yesterday, I ran across this warning, via Yahoo News:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised computer users to consider using alternatives to Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer browser [ -- NB: the popular software for going on the Internet that has a blue E on its logo similar to the one in the picture, depending on version --] until the company fixes a security flaw that hackers have used to launch attacks.

The United States Computer Emergence Readiness Team said in an advisory released on Monday morning that the vulnerability in versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer “could lead to the complete compromise of an affected system.”
I would suggest first exporting bookmarks/favourites and setting up a second web browser. Firefox, Opera, Chrome or a similar top tier browser will do. 

Until further notice, Internet Explorer should be avoided. (UPDATE May 2, get the patch NOW.)  END

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The homosexualism debate comes to the Caribbean -- answering Mr Paul Sankar's March 30 2014 article in MNIAlive

A few days ago, I ran across the following short clip at the Montserrat/Caribbean news-mag site, MNIAlive.com:

Human Rights vs Religious Rights. Which Side Are You On?
 Paul Sankar
Human rights should always come before religious rights. Religion is not the truth anyway. Just man made stories used long ago to keep the sheep in line. Do you agree with me and if so why. If not, why not?

 Now, unfortunately, in the Caribbean, we too often tend to confuse being "simple" with being sound and also too often slip into being simplistic rather than sound and clear. From this, it is but a short step to swallowing huge and barbed assumptions and taking up ill-understood positions driven by winds and waves of manipulated opinion and the cunning craftiness of wily schemers.

(For details, kindly cf. the short note on straight vs spin here, and that on straight thinking here.)

In the comments following, I will show how, unfortunately, that is just what is happening here.

First, the obvious subtext of this short article is that "human rights" is code for the homosexualist agenda in our region, and the "religious rights" under challenge have to do with the longstanding moral objections to sexual perversions that are enshrined in the Bible.

It is in that context that we must further understand the dismissive assertion "Religion is not the truth anyway," as both implying dismissal of the reality of the inherently good Creator-God who sanctions morality (indeed, is its foundation), and the dismissal of the core gospel message rooted in the prophesied passion, redemptive death, burial and witnessed resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ as a "myth."

In short, this one-paragraph article is a classic example of the calculatedly destructive, toxically laced, loaded complex question that embeds a raft of damaging assumptions and accusations.

Let us now answer it, point by point, starting with the headline:

>>Human Rights vs Religious Rights>>

(NB: If you need more depth, here is a KF blog series on this subject, written in reply to an article in Jamaica's Gleaner last year. Likewise, the wider issue of Government, liberty -- vs license -- rights and the roots of modern democracy is addressed here in context. )
1 --> This first begs a question by contrasting" human" and "religious" rights, with obvious intent to curtail or even crush the latter. (This is a declared agenda of homosexualist radicals and fellow travellers, seen now in how they are campaigning to rob people who object to attempted homosexualisation of marriage, of their employment/busineses. Literally, boxing bread out of their mouths.) 

2 --> But in fact, the first modern Bill of Rights, the ten amendments passed with the US Constitution in 1789, were in large part motivated by the concerns of dissenter Baptists, over their basic rights.

 3 --> That is why the first amendment recognises and protects freedom of conscience and worship, with a cluster of associated rights that are now usually seen as a cluster of classic core human rights:
[FIRST AMENDMENT]  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 4 --> Notice, how it first gives the federal congress no jurisdiction to set up a Church of the USA (by contrast with the Church of England or that of Scotland), and restricts it from interfering with freedom of conscience and worship. THEN, it identifies a list of activities commonly associated with religious practice, and similarly protects them: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, and petition for redress.

5 --> Indeed, the ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights were in response to . . . petitions for redress of grievances. Conscience-driven concerns on freedom to worship, speak out, publish views and teachings based on their understanding of Scripture, assemble in worship to God, and the like.

6 --> So, immediately, the attempt to sever "human" and "religious" rights fails, fails in a way that exposes an agenda to crush the human rights of people motivated by reverence for God and by consciences guided by scriptures understood as coming from God.

7 --> So, the next part of the headline also collapses:

 >>Which Side Are You On? >>

8 --> The side of the right, a pivotal concern when one claims to have a right. 

9 --> That is, one needs to ground a claim to a right, on its being in the right. Otherwise, all reduces to a politically backed contest of wills in the end driven by the nihilistic notion that -- there being no other foundation for morality --  might and manipulation make "right."

>>Human rights should always come before religious rights. >>

10 --> This first assertion of the actual article shows the agenda that the headline has already made all too plain.

11 --> However, it surfaces a basic question, what is a right? And like unto it, why should we take "rights" seriously?  

12 --> The simplest, soundest summary I know is: a right is a binding, morally based claim for respect and fairness; rooted in our accepted inherent dignity and worth as human beings.

13 --> In the classic words of the second paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776, which the later Constitution written signed September 17, 1787 sought to flesh out:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .
 14 --> Self-evident truths are such that, once we understand them, we will see they are true as to attempt to deny lands in immediate, blatant absurdity. And that self-evident MORAL truths exist can be seen from a test case on the right to life:
It is self-evidently wrong to kidnap, rape, torture and murder a little child, and if we see such in progress it is our duty to do all we can to rescue the child from his or her tormentor.
15 --> Plainly, there are unquestionable, foundational moral truths.

16 --> But then, we face a challenge, the IS-OUGHT gap. For, if we OUGHT to do A and refrain from B, why? Then, why again. In the end, we will see that unless there is a foundational IS in the world capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT, morality and rights boil down to pretty words covering up a bare-knuckles battle of wills . . . might and manipulation make "right." The nihilist's cynical credo.

17 --> But in fact, we know from cases like in point 14 above, OUGHT is real, undeniably so. So, there must be and is a foundational IS for the world who properly grounds ought. 

18 --> Atheists, materialists (whether dressed in the lab coat or not) and fellow travellers may not like to hear this, but it is so: there is just one serious candidate to be the IS who grounds OUGHT -- the inherently good Creator God. That is why the US Founders so simply but powerfully declared:
 We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . . . (For a more detailed working out, cf. here on in context.)
19 --> So also, rights cannot properly be severed from morality, and in particular, the moral order for human sexuality . . . the underlying issue at stake . . . cannot properly be severed from its Creation Order purpose, e.g. as aptly summed up by Jesus:
 Matt 19:4 . . . Have you never read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united firmly (joined inseparably) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder (separate). [AMP]
20 --> In short, marriage, the act of marital union and its natural procreative function, cannot properly be taken out of the naturally obvious Creation Order and associated mandate to populate and wisely manage and tend the earth. So also, that which twists marriage and the act of union out of that context is inherently disordered and harmful, of which there is in fact abundant evidence. 
(Cf. here and here. The first, "My Genes Made Me Do It," addresses on scientific and logical grounds, the commonly held idea that same sex behaviour is genetically stamped and "natural." It is not. And, contrary to another common talking point, it is quite changeable -- though the change process can be a life-challenge. One that those caught up would be well advised to take up, not least because of the evidence of severe and disproportionate health risks. Also -- on the damaging distortion of marriage under colour of law, equality and justice, cf. Girgis, George and Anderson here, and on the linked assertion of a "right" to marry a person of the same sex, cf. here. [In fact, as no-one owes anyone a duty to marry him or her, marriage cannot be a right, it is a responsible freedom pivoting on mutual agreement within reasonable limits such as closeness of pre-existing biological/familial relation.] It is worth clipping Girgis et al in their landmark paper:
[T]he current debate is precisely over whether it is possible for the kind of union that has marriage’s essential fea‐tures to exist between two people of the same sex. Revisionists do not propose leaving intact the historic definition of marriage and simply expanding the pool of people eligible to marry. Their goal is to abolish the conjugal conception of marriage in our law [F/N 10] and replace it with the revisionist [--> i.e. homosexualised] conception . . .

[F/N 10:] Throughout history, no society’s laws have explicitly forbidden gay mar‐riage. They have not explicitly forbidden it because, until recently, it has not been thought possible . . . [T]raditional marriage laws  were not devised to oppress those with same‐sex attractions. The comparison [to racist anti-miscegenation laws that forbade inter-racial marriages]  is offensive, and puzzling to many—not least to the nearly two‐thirds of black vot‐ers who voted to uphold conjugal marriage under California Proposition Eight. [--> Note, the recent public witch-hunt against the then CEO of Mozilla corp., publisher of Firefox browser, for the thought-crime of daring to personally support this proposition, which forced his resignation; a plain case of "your conscience or your job." ]  See Cara Mia DiMassa & Jessica Garrison, Why Gays, Blacks are Divided on Prop. 8, L.A. TIMES, Nov. 8, 2008, at A1.

 [Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, & Ryan T. Anderson, "What is Marriage?" Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol 34, No. 1, p. 250 of 245 - 287.])
21 --> So, rights find their foundation in God, and in fact compellingly point to his reality.

22 --> It is therefore utterly unsurprising that one seeking to overturn morality in pursuit of the promotion of what is inherently disordered would next seek to dismiss the reality of God and the legitimacy of the witness to him found in the Scriptures, the gospel and the churches:

>>Religion is not the truth anyway.  Just man made stories used long ago to keep the sheep in line.>>

23 --> This, frankly, is a smear.

24 --> The reality of God as foundation for rights and their requisite, morality, we have already spoken to and linked on. We only need to highlight the bankruptcy of the commonly promoted alternative, evolutionary materialism dressed up in the lab coat. For instance, here we see prof. Richard Dawkins (ret'd.), in a well known 1995 Scientific American article:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 - 85. Emphases added.]
25 --> That is the general ideas context in which Ruse and Wilson said:

Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will  . . . In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external groundingEthics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. [Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991.
26 --> Likewise, we must not let it slip that in his 1998 Darwin Day keynote address at University of Tennessee, Cornell University professor of the History of Biology, William Provine plainly stated:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . [Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract).]
27 -->  In short, we need to have it hammered home and clenched over that it is not just a "cynical dogmatic religionist's say-so" that raises the issue of the inherent amorality of evolutionary materialism, the evident driving force behind Mr Paul Sankar's article. Not at all. Instead, we must recognise and acknowledge the actual publicly declared implications of a worldview built up from the assumption that matter, energy, space and time interacting by blind chance and equally blind mechanical necessity are all that there is to reality. So declared, by leading advocates of the system of thought.

28 --> Where, indeed, it is obvious that blind matter, energy, space time and forces of chance and necessity have no purpose and can confer no value to the detritus tossed up by the throws of the dice that happen to have had our number come up. Accordingly, such adherents -- unless they are borrowing a sense of purpose and value (often, unacknowledged or even unrecognised . . . ) from our civilisation's historic Judaeo- Christian foundations -- think that we live in a world of blind struggle to survive and reproduce, with no reasonable expectation that others owe us duties of care to respect rights.

29 --> And, similarly,  this actually undermines the foundations of the very rationality and knowledge that such advocates boast of. That is -- demonstrably -- evolutionary materialism is self-refuting. 

30 --> A simple way to see that is to note the following clip from the famous evolutionary theorist J B S Haldane:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
31 --> In short, the very appeal to rights implies that -- contrary to the lab coat clad teachings of evolutionary materialism -- we live in a world where OUGHT is real and that requires a world-foundation IS capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT. The only serious candidate is Him with whom ever so many are eager to have nothing to do with: the inherently good Creator God and Lord of the world before whom we will each have to account.

The 64 AD fire in Rome, for which
Christians were falsely accused by Nero
32 --> We must also answer to the cynical dismissal about made up stories meant to gull and fleece the flock. For that, let us first hear the parting words of the apostle Peter, about to be crucified upside down on a cynically false accusation of setting fire to Rome in 64 AD invented by the demonically mad and perverted Nero, seeking to divert suspicion:
2 Pet 1:13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,[h] to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]
33 --> This is the final word of the leading witness from 500+, not one of whom could be intimidated to recant, not in the face of dungeon, whips, fire, sword or worse. And this 55 AD summary, from the apostle Paul -- whose gravestone reads: Paulos, apostolos, mart -- sums up that testimony that Mr Sankar (who bears the name of that apostle and martyr) would dismiss so cavalierly:
1 Cor 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
  • that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 
  • that he was buried, 
  • that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and 
  • that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 
  • Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive [c. 55 AD], though some have fallen asleep. 
  • Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me . . . 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. [ESV]
34 --> Here is a video that aptly addresses associated challenges and questions, which we would find it profitable to view:

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel from Slaves4Christ on Vimeo.

(And, for more details, cf. here on in context.)

35 --> From the same letter, this report gives a warning but also a strong hope to those enmeshed in various life-dominating entangling sinful patterns of life, including homoseual conduct:
1 Cor 6:Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [ESV. Cf here on how this can be applied to life rescue and transformation.]

36 --> Plainly, the dismissal by Mr Sankar is ill-founded and ill-advised.

>>Do you agree with me and if so why. If not, why not?>>

37 --> I disagree, for cause as shown step by step above. END 


PS: The following links may also prove to he helpful:
Answering the porn-perversion agenda: 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

KF Blog Pamphlets

A list of KF blog pamphlets has been added to the right hand column of the blog layout, including the two new ones on economics and education:

KF Pamphlets (post series, etc.) slide shows and demonstration courses

I trust these will prove to be useful references. DV, more to follow. END

Friday, April 25, 2014

KF Blog Education transformation post series pamphlet posted online

As the KF Blog continues to create reference pamphlets, the post series on education has been turned into a PDF pamphlet, here.

The in a nutshell is:
It has been said that education is a great antidote to poverty, as the productive capacity and outlook fostered by education help to transform personal and social prospects through equipping us to live and produce in more sound ways. Just so, we must come to understand that the most precious, most renewable most powerful natural resource in our region is the 2 – 3 lbs of grey matter we each have between our ears, which sound education equips us to use. Where also, the ongoing digital technology revolution opens doors to transform education systems, content and delivery, to make advantageous use of the potential of active, interactive, individualised and customised learning approaches. In turn that equips us to transform our region's productive potential. And so, we must make a study of how to do so effectively, learning the lesson of Psalm 32:9: “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle . . . ”


CF 83 Breaking through to digitally powered education and economic transformation in the Caribbean 3
CF 83a Linking Education to welfare, health, population and sustainability issues 12
BRIDGE Linking in Kondratiev, technology change driven long wave economic change considerations 16
CF 55 Daphne Koller of Coursera on possibilites for web-based distance education 27
CF 55a Spotlighting the Bloom Two-Sigma education effectiveness improvement challenge 37
CF 55b Addressing the readiness to learn challenge with Piaget, Vygotsky, Skemp, Bloom and others 45
CF 55c Addressing learning and mastery in light of the zone of proximal development 58
CF 55d An example: A remedial English Language laboratory 67
CF 55e Another example: Remedial (or first time through) Mathematics 77
CF 55f Injecting digital educational technologies 90
CF 66 The US$ 120 – 150 education-capable tablet arrives 99
CF 68 Bringing the Digital revolution and the tablet to the classroom 103
CF 68b The curriculum transformation challenge 114
CF 69 Bringing Java into the classroom as a computer programing learning language 126
CF 70 Top drawer Tablets may break the US$ 100 barrier 128
CONCLUSION: The big question . . .
I trust these will prove useful as food for thought. END

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Capacity focus, 83a: A footnote on linking education transformation to health improvement, welfare and poverty alleviation/reduction, population management and sustainable development

Main post: here, KF edu series: 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

It has been said that education is a great antidote to poverty, as the productive capacity and outlook fostered by education help to transform personal and social prospects. Likewise, on the whole, the educated, by and large tend to eat more healthily and live generally healthier lifestyles. Similarly, the education of girls tends to promote a significant reduction in birth rates (though, sometimes that goes too far, to below replacement levels leading to problems with having enough people of working age to support the elderly).

India's eighth five-year plan sums up aptly, even eloquently -- with particular reference to the dilemmas of a subsistence peasantry that has grown to the point of saturating land and other resources . . . and with echoes enough on urban blight and poverty too:
Rural poverty is inextricably linked with low rural productivity and unemployment, including underemployment. Hence it is imperative to improve productivity and increase employment in rural areas. Moreover, more employment needs to be generated at higher levels of productivity in order to generate higher output. Employment at miserably low levels of productivity and incomes is already a problem of far greater magnitude than unemployment as such. It is estimated that in 1987-88 the rate of unemployment was only 3 per cent and inclusive of the underemployed, it was around 5 per cent. As per the currently used methodology in the Planning Commission, poverty for the same year was estimated to be 30 per cent. This demonstrates that even though a large proportion of the rural population was "working" it was difficult for them to eke out a living even at subsistence levels from it . . .
These glorified commonsense truisms  and harsh realities already tell us that there are are significant links among education issues, poverty reduction, health and social welfare. Also, that education and linked social welfare and health matters impinge on and are affected by population/demographic characteristics.

All of which tie in with economic forces, trends and factors, and on the impact of a society on its environment.

That is, we again see how strongly, how inextricably the three key environmental domains -- bio-physical, socio-cultural and economic and policy -- interact.

Where also, in much of the region, we face a challenge of the country and the town, such that development now needs to be increasingly decentralised from major urban centres so that people will not feel compelled to leave the countryside to seek their fortune in the town. Proverbially, if unchecked, that tendency reduces the countryside to idleness, and creates urban hardship and decline.

Which, in our region, hands over an open invitation to the illicit drug barons. 

Thence, we see criminalisation of significant slices of the population, associated rise in violence and vice, epidemics of drug addiction, corruption of civil officials, of the security services, of the business community, and even of government. 

Thence, potential destabilisation of a whole society.

And so, surely, it is cheaper to invest in education, civics, civil society, sustainable development and legitimate economic opportunities now, rather than in fighting a debilitating civil war with the drug barons and their urban street gangs and rural protection squads later.  (It is to be noted that, globally and regionally, more than one guerilla uprising . . . Marxist, Maoist or Islamist makes but little difference . . . has ended up as in effect drug lord muscle with an ideological side-line.)

But then, my cynical alter-ego kicks in. First, the costs to improve education, welfare, civics etc are up-front and often go to groups that are at the margins of power; by contrast, when -- later on -- you are confronted with a crime, gangs, vice and violence crisis, you have to find money enough to keep it in check. Machiavelli's ghost whispers again, that political disorders (here, including the economic and the strategic) are as hectic fever: at the first easy to cure but hard to diagnose or recognise, but if at length for want of early diagnosis and prompt treatment the course of the disease becomes obvious to all, it is then far too late to cure.

And, yes, my father taught this to me; I shudder to think of the price he paid to try to warn ahead of time those who seem to have been deaf to reason. The Psalmist, as always, is ever so apt, here speaking in the voice of The Great Jehovah:
Ps 32:I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you. [ESV]

Let us never underestimate the value of sound, godly understanding built up through diligent learning and discipline, and associated wisdom and prudence.

In short, we are back to the old Negro College fund promotion: if you think education is expensive, wait till you see the ultimate price of ignorance (and neglect).

As one key step in that investment, digitaliation of education opportunities allows for the education factor to be steadily decentralised, especially given the power of wireless technologies and linked network economics. 

Summed up, the relevant economics is that once a network is set up, getting a new participant costs but little, and it is obvious that a cellular network of towers costs much less than one based on either poles and wires or underground conduits and wires. Though, it makes sense to run fibre optics backbones, to carry long-haul heavy traffic and to cover urban areas. Wireless local area networks are now almost trivial to set up also. And, given the digital subscriber line revolution and the spread of cable TV, once such networks exist, broadband web access can be piggy-backed.

Thus, there is a potential to spread networks across the region and wider world. The trick is to harness them for sound education transformation, rather than allowing almost pointless social media, distractive entertainment and porn, as well as rumours and ideological rhetoric to prevail.

If this is joined to a focussed programme of rural upliftment and targetted population, health, welfare, civics and sustainability policies, that can make a positive difference.

Some of that is quite basic -- to the point that we may take it for granted. 

For instance, let us look a bit closer at our tourism industry.

Only a few generations ago, the territories of the region had a reputation as disease-riddled tropical death traps, not at all the sort of tropical paradise that we love to portray in our tourism advertising.

Yes, our tourism product is not a "natural" result of the undisturbed Caribbean environment.

The difference from disease riddled death trap to tropical paradise was made through generations of basic primary education and linked public health interventions and control of vectors such as mosquitoes, flies and rats. 

After some decades of that effort, tada . . . courtesy the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism:

So again, education is a key.

Howbeit, it does not stand by itself in isolation. 

Which, is the message of sustainability. END

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Capacity focus, 83: Breaking through to digitally driven mass customization-based education transformation in the Caribbean as a key to genuinely sustainable development

Rather than being in ordinary recession (A)  so that
demand injections can pull us up towards the "natural
capacity" of our economies (B), we seem to be near
point B, where further injection lends to rise in price
level with growth now resistant to injections even with
significant unemployment of resources
. We seem to
be caught between supply shocks (e.g. oil prices)
and the destructive side of creative destruction.
Our capacity to supply has to be renewed
and extended (C), starting with education for
the globalised, web-connected digital world

One of the pivotal conclusions from our recent exploration of the Caribbean's macroeconomic picture is that our economies seem to be caught up in stagflation: stagnation with relatively high unemployment of resources (especially labour) and significant inflation. 

Indeed, just a few days ago I heard on Antiguan radio, how the Prime Minister there countered the assertions of the opposition that unemployment was something like twenty percent, by saying that statistics just in hand point to only ten percent. And in other cases where the reported statistical numbers may be lower, one is led to ask how many not being counted are discouraged workers, or are sufficiently under-employed as to be effectively unemployed. 

Where also, it is fairly clear that many of our older economic mainstays are in serious trouble [or have outright died . . . e.g. Sugar in much of the region], and major new sectors have not sufficiently emerged as buoyant, growth driving bases for onward development. So, once tourism hit a wall come the oil price surge and financial crises from 2008 on, or construction or something like that also hit a wall, splat.


The key first step to a real remedy for our dilemma, then, is that we must first understand that there are two key types of economic stagnation, as at A and B in the figure

Type A is the familiar recession or depression; type B, is stagflation.

Where, in stagflation, we have stagnation (growth stubbornly slows down) with a tendency to inflation, and may well also be on the wrong side of the gales of creative destruction that are always blowing through an economy. Where also the gale's effects are drastically enhanced in what seems to be an ongoing long . . . Kondratiev . . . wave trough as new technologies break into the economy and force drastic structural change. (Cf. the KF pamphlet here if you need some familiarisation.)

As an illustration, let us look around us.

We will immediately notice that all across our region, we have become consumers of digital technologies, but -- with all due respects to our region's engineers, computer programmers and web or multimedia developers --  not so much, producers of digital technologies.

And yet, digital technologies are not only increasingly pervasive but are the most dynamic sectors of the world's economy, and it is clear that linked mass customisation of goods and services is threatening to break up accustomed patterns of production and consumption

Mass customisation?

Mass customization is a marketing and manufacturing technique that combines the flexibility and personalization of "custom-made" with the low unit costs associated with mass production. Many applications of mass customization include software-based product configurations that allow end-users to add and/or change certain functionalities of a core product. Sometimes called "made to order" or "built to order."  . . . .  Joseph Pine II's 1992 book "Mass Customization: The New Frontier In Business Competition" describes four types of mass customization:
1. Collaborative Customization - where companies work in partnership with individual customers to develop precise product offerings to best suit each customer's needs.

2. Adaptive Customization - where companies produce standardized products that are customizable by the end-user.

3. Transparent Customization - where companies provide unique products to individual customers without overtly stating the products are customized.

4. Cosmetic Customization - where companies produce standardized products but market the products in different ways to various customers.
It is not hard to see how ICTs allow the customisation to fit customer wishes, and adaptation of manufacturing to flexibly produce items while using lean inventory management systems.

By and large, across our region, we are simply not ready for a world increasingly dominated by this sort of information and smart process-driven highly efficient production and delivery. Whether of goods or services.

Where also, we must realise this directly speaks to a certain key strategic service that is also in a lot of trouble across our region: 


1 --> Our education systems are largely based on a mass-production, one size fits all factory age model, as they are largely based on standardised curricula, with standardised scope and sequence, delivered by a sage on the stage, at a standardised pace, such that the "bright" are often held back, and the "slow" -- a revealing word -- are gradually increasingly marginalised, failed and more or less written off and shunted aside.

2 --> Even when digital technologies have been introduced, too often this has been . . . if your case is exceptional, give fervent thanks . . . just to more effectively carry out this industrial era strategy: technologies and equipment being dumped on staff, schools and students alike without a carefully developed transformational vision or strategy expressed in carefully worked out curriculum transformation. 

3 --> Where, we now need to pause and think again, in light of the Bloom Two Sigma challenge (usually, posed as a "problem"):

4 --> What this diagram illustrates, is that individualised tutoring has the empirically demonstrated capacity to push the mean of a population of students up by two standard deviations (hence "two sigma") relative to standard, sage on stage lockstep techniques. And also, there is a large cluster of more interactive, more active and somewhat customised/ individualised approaches that are able to capture a good slice of that two-sigma jump.

5 --> The "problem" being that it has not been cost-effective hitherto to implement such a change in approach.

6 --> So, to a significant extent what our grading schemes measure is the mismatch between student needs, student motivations, student potential and the mass-production models of education that have been dominant over the past several generations. Ouch.

7 --> The ethical challenge posed by the waste of potential and the frustration and pain inflicted on ever so many should motivate us towards change in a world where a strongly emerging trend is . . . mass customisation, digital technology driven adaptation of goods, services and associated production processes to efficiently address customer needs.

8 --> Where also, we need to appreciate the principle of the ultimate resource, namely that:
The most precious, most vital, most valuable, most flexible, least limited, most renewable natural resource in the world lies in the two to three pounds of grey matter we each carry between our ears.
9 --> Yes, in our brains. And right behind our brains come the five-pronged appendages on the ends of our arms -- our hands. Thereafter, our centres of motivation, determination, decision and effort -- our "hearts." The 3H factors.

10 --> Thus, the Hayek Triangle of investments for productive transformation have to start with the 3H factors, and thus need to address education transformation and linked population, welfare, health and socio-cultural issues and challenges:

11 --> But also, in a mass customisation era, they rapidly need to target how best to apply digital technologies to transform curricula in ways that enable capturing much of the two-sigma advantage. (Which, BTW, then allows us to focus better on the remaining few percent who do face major challenges.)

12 --> Does this mean tossing overboard the focus on core primary and secondary level knowledge and skills in the "three R's" . . .  "reading, writing, 'rithmetic," then basic science, languages, history, Geography, civics, etc?

13 --> Nope. 

14 --> First, it means finding individualised and significantly automated interactive ways of mastering core materials, core because they are common and/or foundational to other learning.

15 -->  Then, it allows for extensions in balanced ways that target identified talents or inclinations -- with sufficient breadth to balance depth. 

16 --> This points to Tee-shaped curricula, here shown as especially relevant to secondary studies:

17 --> As a first step, I have strongly suggested modularisation and coherent alignment of curricula based on half term long modules of perhaps five to six weeks duration. This will allow for a better organisation of the scope and sequence of requisite knowledge and skills, leading on to actual digitally driven individualisation and customisation:

18 --> Within this general framework, and in light of sound sequencing of knowledge, concepts, skills, techniques etc, and careful diagnostic testing, modules can be adapted to the needs and aspirations of students. In some breadth exposure cases, the modularisation also allows choosing brief exposure to useful topics without having to devote a full year of study in a "subject slot." 

19 --> We are already seeing customisation. Multiply by the power of digital technologies, and we create resources that can then be used in quite flexible ways in learning, assessment, organisation, administration, etc.

20 --> Where, in particular, the Tablet PC revolution brings to bear a lightweight, affordable, flexible and powerful platform. Especially where such tablets can be used with keyboards. For instance:

21 --> Then, add in the mass of thousands of educators across the region, and at once we see that a huge, rich resource can be jointly developed.

22 --> And, that immediately points to the creation of a large digitally pooled base of educational materials.

23 --> Where also, computer programming and linked onward knowledge, skills and applications will be pivotal in creating a future workforce able to contribute to drastically increased and up to date productive capacity in our region. This, in a context where the 2012 Furber Royal Society Report pointed out that to secure the UK's future competitiveness, computer programming -- not "IT" . . . too often, aka how to use MS Office applications -- needs to become a core subject starting at PRIMARY level, with deeper exposure in secondary level.  Let us listen to Dr Furber:

24 --> This needed transformation points, onward to transformation of the knowledge and skill base of our workforce, and to encouraging, incubating and helping to finance promising new enterprises and industrial clusters.

25 --> Thus, across time, moving our region to the creative side of the technology change driven creative destruction process. In large part, through the mass customisation of our region's education systems.


Thus: if not now, then, when? If not here, then, where? If not us, then, who? END