Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Indian academy of sciences vs UGC

The Indian academy of sciences has started a project called Women in Science about which I have posted long ago.
They are trying to form a database of women who are not in a scientific career after an MSc or PhD.
Being in science is defined as working in a research lab, or teaching post graduate students.
By that definition, those of us who teach undergrads are not in science.
Then why does the UGC want college lecturers to get a PhD in order to get their UGC scale of pay?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

my soap box

I have yet to figure out why so many parents fail to see the harm that can arise out of putting a 11 year old boy in a school that is housed in a block of flats, has no games, no singing class, no art class, no drama competition, nothing.
Why, they are told by their teachers that languages are a waste of time. Now, if your kids are going to join the holy place IIT, how do they think the children will read all those tech papers w/o a command over a language?
The teachers have never been in an IIT campus. They would be shocked if they did.
One of the coaching gurus here(he is REVERED, not just admired), believes girls must not talk to boys. In fact, since his classes are at 4 am, one of the girls' parents arranged for her to go to the classes with a neighbour's son. What depravity!! how can she travel from home to class with a BOY? Has he ever seen girls and boys in an IIT campus?
The students must not wear sweaters (at 4 am in winter).
They can be slapped if they do not get the problems right.
All this and the total lack of interpersonal skills make these children very vulnerable to failure. They are totally crushed when they do not get into a med college / IIT as the case maybe. They develop such a sense of failure taht many attempt suicide.
I have had one or two such kids every year in my class.
First year a girl hung hersel from the fan
Then a boy who cried to me that he is a failure
then there was the boy who became psychotic, showing me his marks card saying "See I have passed ma'm" when it clearly in capital letters said FAIL. he did this for three years and then I don't know what happened.
A girl who cut her wrists
a boy who sat through class smiling benignly, laughing to himself, till parents realised and took him to a psychiatrist.
A girl who tried to OD on sleeping pills.
The list goes on..there are some whom I don't know about....some suicide attempts too.
Currently I have a boy who cannot remember the instruction...." go and add dilute HCl" long enough for him to walk three steps to his lab bench. He too smiles benignly through my class until once in a way he shouts in anger. He told me he is unable to do salt analysis because his stars are bad currently.
Hence I get very angry at the mention of coaching classes for young children.
A bit of coaching for a 11th and 12th class child who has had a normal life till the 10th class is fine, but to be "coached" for the entire duration of schooling is the sure recipe for failure or worse, mental illness.

Monday, 23 November 2009

organic food

I just read a blog about organic food being a fetish....
Some people do take to organic food as a fetish--all nice and as God made them ---like people who believe that anything natural cannot be bad ---they tell you "but it is herbal so can't have side effects" if you don't approve of some medication. They've probably not seen dhatura growing in vacant plots, or nightshade or why, even potato fruits(I've never seen them, but I believe they are deadly).
The farm fresh idea is not the point. It's the harm the chemical pesticides do (They are ironically organic chemicals usually) . The fertilisers that have been used for decades have made many soils saline. The yields have now started going down. I have talked to farmers who have shifted to organic practices and they claim that shifting to organic farming intially gives lower yield, but after three years, the yields are comparable to what they got before and of course their input costs are much, much lower.
It is also true taht farming itself is not natural..it is a process of genetic modification. But that kind of GM is done over a few centuries or thousands of years and the duds or dangerous outcomes get discarded...maybe after a few casualities over the thousand years. What is dangerous is not evaluating risks over at least two generations of humans before certifying it as OK. I can't remember the name of the drug, but some drug was found to be safe for women, but it was later found that if taken during pregnancies, their daughters had some kind of gynaec defects which was naturally discovered only after 20 years. Same has been found about smoking http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=85432.
So evaluation over two years is not good enough.
But we do need GM to enhance food production --only done carefully.

talking to myself

A couple of weeks back, in my family blog, we had been writing about whether any of us talks to himself/herself. I was happy to see most of my cousins do. I frequently do and the only fear I have is taht some passing student may see me muttering to myself...can you imagine the field day the student community will have with that? There would be a skit about me in the next farewell party if these students had been the kind who come up with skits (they are not,thankfully) . which brings me to my favourite soap box.
Students after their spell in these Intermediate college/concentration camps, don't even joke amongst themselves. Many have forgotten how to laugh, I think.
Only normal youngsters are those who went to CBSE/ISC schools without the engg/medical coaching.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Indian Institute of World Culture

Quite close to Gandhi bazar in Basavangudi Bangalore is this beautiful place called the The Indian Institute of World Culture. I owe a lot to that institution. It faces a park. Often on my way back from college, I would stop there and read in their library. They had a wonderful collection of books. I truly grew up intellectually thanks to this place.
http://www.ultindia.org/indian_institute_of_world_c.html

Saturday, 21 November 2009

blogs

You have to be a woman of leisure or a procrastinator in order to to read and write blogs. I am the latter.
I read blogs everytime I sit down at my computer, switch on my modem with the firm resolve to look up material on say--- XRD of NaCl or organometallic compounds of cadmium to update my lecture notes. I then end up with no change in my lecture notes......what the heck! if they were good enough for my last batch of students, they are good enough for this batch.....
The thing is, you can voice any opinion howsoever banal or vapid, or profound or controversial on your blog without any one condemning or contradicting you until you have finished what you wish to say.
You would think being a teacher, I get enough opportunities to hear my own voice.
True.
However, I still like to voice my views or write down my thoughts without worrying about whether anyone is listening.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Great minds

What makes me write this, is the realisation that great minds start working at an early age and need to be nurtured, not by others, but by the person himself/herslf.
I have always felt that our schools do not nurture the thinking child. That is true for most part. But a truly great mind, the real genius, does not need nurturing from outside. The person somehow finds ways to whet his own curiosity and ways to improve his skills. I obviously won't know how, but that it happens, I am sure. This is because they go to the same schools, same colleges as others who end up as bank clerks or office managers, but go on to do Nobel work.

http://reflections-shivanand.blogspot.com/2009/10/missed-physics-nobel-2009-narendra.html

A boy gets his path breaking idea in school, sticks to it through college, and ends up working on it for his PhD, and gives teh world a miracle.....light through a pipeline!!
Such minds do not need the school physics teacher, or the incompetent college lecturer!!

Monday, 9 November 2009

When I was a small girl, I used to feel a nameless dread when I looked directly up at the stars at night (those days you could see a lot of stars in the sky even in urban areas). I was not scared if other objects were in my field of vision. It used to make me feel deeply lonely...as if I lived alone on one of those stellar objects. The feeling passed after a few years. Then quite recently, in my middle age, I felt a similar fear at the thought that time was unidirectional. ...that you can't go back in time, filled me with the same dread....not just because I will die sooner or later, but at some other level. The fact that you cannot go back and forth in time is scary, but at the same time, would I like to be transported back and forth erratically? I dont think so.

There is a novel by Fred Hoyle called "October the first is too late" that I had read in my college days. The book has anidea that is comforting in this situation. I try to convincce myself that it's very likely that time can also be accessed in a nonlinear fashion....why not? It's comforting to think that.

BTW, the novel is no literary masterpiece, but a very interesting idea, from what I remember of it.

When I was a child, festivals were fun. They were about good food, perhaps new clothes, some token praying (from the kids' point of vie...