Saturday, August 26, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
How public education cripples our kids, and why
This is an extremely good essay on compulsary education.
Education is definitely high on my list of areas
to address in the philanthropy I engage in.
In India I am routinely impressed by the intelligence
and vitality of the street children. Many children well
under 14 are holding down what seem to me serious jobs
with integrity and self respect. On numerous occasions
I have found myself negotiating on equal footing with an
8 year old about the cost of a wooden chess set or pair
A quick and wistfull sentiment I sometimes feel is
"wow, this kid is so smart, just imagine what he could
do if he went to school"
Im coming to believe that these kids may be so bright
and self assured compared with their american counterparts
because they don't spend their days in total boredom isolated
from any real (risky) interaction with the world.
I recently visited a school set up in a rural area here in India
where some very nice buildings had been constructed to provide
education to the local village children. The classrooms
were nice, the teachers seemed as competent as my own had been,
and watching them give sample lessons to the kids reminded me of
everything I hated about school.
As I engage in this process and try to 'help'
I need to be careful that I don't propogate some of the worst aspects
of my culture and background.
People at work talk about the gurukul system that used to be popular here
Monday, August 21, 2006
1 billion people
600 - 700 million people still live in the villages
over 500 million people are under 25
in bombay there is a large population of well spoken
well educated people graduating from college in media
studies without specific prospects. typically they start
working in a BPO or call center for 10 - 15k rupees / month
(250$ - 350$) which is seen as a pretty good salary for someone
just out of college but has limitted opprotunities for
i have recently hired a couple of guys from these schools
to help me put together video blogs. they are very
excited as they can see the potential of internet TV to
change everything, and it is an opprotunity for them to be
a part of something very big.
the first vertical
we are going after is documenting the lives and works of people
dedicating themselves to service. http://swajana.blip.tv there are
many other ideas for videoblogs that we want to produce as we train
up a crew of people in the skills and culture necessary.
towards this i am trying to establish something like a node101
hub near the university district here in Pune, and then later in
central bombay where some of the larger schools are. this is
where the people working with me will operate from, and we
will also teach workshops on video blogging and other useful
technologies, and then recruit interns and eventually employees
to work with us.
so, in this way i think we can rapidly and inexpensively ramp
up a large population of cool kids trained in video production if
we can come up with vertical categories to produce video
blogs for that could generate at least enough thru advertizing
to cover our operating costs.
thru our ngo video blog project we have connected with a number
of interesting groups so far.
one is the digital studyhall project http://dsh.cs.washington.edu/
their goal is to produce a massive library of video education materials
that can be used to augment the inadequate education generally available
to the worlds poor. there is a massive amount of work to be done in this area.
another group we've met with is a very large ngo that was
started soon after independence by a friend of Gandhi. They
provide medical, educational and vocational services to villagers
they have a number of exciting projects going on focused around
three goals of teaching rural farmers sustainable and effecient
agriculture practices, developing non-farming employment in the
villages, and developing and educating the youth in the villages.
thru these objectives they hope to stem the flow of young people
from the relatively sustainable lifestyles in the villages to the extreme
poverty of the urban slums.
i have this notion that we may be able to train a large number
young people in bombay and pune to create video and basic
websites, and then connect them with different
villages where we can create videos of many stories out there
including documenting the history of the skilled artisans. we
would follow this up by developing simple ecommerce sites
enabling people to sell their crafts online.
i really like the idea of training the kids of people who came
to bombay to create video and work effectively with technology
and then sending them back to the villages to work on using
these skills to make money and improve the quality of life for