Monday, 9 March 2009

Is our network flimsy?

Fast technological progress and globalization have made one thing perfectly clear: Advanced training is a requirement for professional success. Nowadays, there are institutions for advanced training that promote programs to enable continual learning. Internet plays an important role in their endeavor. People can participate in advanced training courses worldwide even from their homes.

           Almost all universities in the world have websites and maintain their database updated. As an aspect of modern education, those universities build up their reputation by granting scholarships and by keeping their doors open for foreign students. They also insure a reliable 24-hour-connection for distance learning.

           University portals carry information and give courses on daily, weekly or monthly basis. Apart from the on-the-spot courses, the web-based seminars and video-conferencing are in the center of attention. It is an easy-going e-learning in a virtual environment, at the fingerprints of learners. Age is never a handicap for learners. Neither are time or space.

           The know-how which was topical few years ago is obsolete today. Keeping up with the latest developments in one's field of expertise requires continuing education and the application of acquired skills. This guarantees state-of-the-art expertise and the ability to master theoretical and practical job challenges.

However, some of our universities seem to be lagging behind time and knowledge age. Pop round their sites, make your query… Surprise! All the absurd defects that make netters edgy are there. The pages are slow, the links are broken, the database is obsolete, and the supposed-to-be dynamic forums are not functional…Your query is therefore fruitless and your nerves uptight.

Even the institutions dispensing distance-learning courses are still using snail-mail, and charge the learners high mail service. You don't need to be expert in accountancy to spot the difference if the documents are sent by e-mail. Let alone the waste of time.

 Time is money, and money is wealth. Is this equation a misconception for us? What others think -and reiterate- about us is that we are not time-conscious.

Isn't this evidence that corroborates their belief?

 During the two or three days- to be optimistic- the documents take to reach you, you can do quite a lot of things.  By sending documents by e-mail, they could have saved our time and money.

The snag is not with e-mail connection. The e-mail is hale and hearty but the network is flimsy, the human network I mean. We feel there are still many people who bask in an ocean of misconceptions and don't want to reap the benefits of knowledge age, an opportunity that will not last forever.

 It is high time we embarked on a revitalizing program for every body, came up with a plan of action for tangible progress. There are many people who command a wealth of experience waiting for a chance to excel. Let them have it.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

L'ironie du sort!

 Les seules bonnes copies sont celles qui nous font voir le ridicule  des méchants originaux.

           A maxim of Duc de Rochefoucauld


15 years of toil for Lakhdar, day and night, devotion, diligence, and assiduity. Add whatever you like of that lexis, they will always tally with dad’s persona.

 In the graveyard, the employer was lying at the foot of the employee. That’s what I discovered when I went to the cemetery for a requiem on my father’s soul... 

Cold stones covering dad’s fragile body with a Death Licence Plate showing his last name, his last date of birth and the fresh date of death. A date that is a stop mark for everything he did, for every breath he inhaled or exhaled…

At the foot of my father’s tomb, I read ‘Here reposes Lakhdar…’ My father’s boss lying under his feet! L’ironie du sort, say French people.

That sight gnawed into my peace of mind. Is that Equity in Death? Death is the only ungraduated scale on earth. Wealth, health, honour, power can’t adjudicate you higher. Death is death for everybody. The pharaohs, the kings, the emperors all suffered the same death. There is no death for this and another for that. Filling the sepulchres of old Egyptians with gems did not prevent their rotting.  Mummification was a devious attempt to allocate eternity to human bodies. In the graveyard titles vanish.

From dust to dust, all reduced to dust…How true! An idea  reiterated by all religions. Costumes, jewelleries, social worth cannot ornament your tomb or make it more luxurious.

But, who is lying under the feet of the other? Well, that’s after death but it is still a sign. Father died with no retirement pension, no annuity, no insurance…

I don’t bear anybody a grudge, but follow me and figure out. The D-day, death day, let’s stay here on earth, only a dozen people followed Lakhdar’s ruined corpse. A sully sight… The deluge was that day. Lakhdar’s haughtiness, his arrogance, his prestige, his money  have not driven people out of their miserable habitations to come and honor his corpse. After all, his own children, scattered all over the world have not honored him either.

My father’s procession was a success. All the healthy people in the village came to follow his corpse. The sunny day might have encouraged people to come and have a walk and enjoy the quietude of the cemetery, a luxury they cannot afford on other week days. Some have certainly used it as a motive to leave their workplace. The intention doesn’t matter, villagers will reiterate this to their kids,  “ Kbaier’s procession was like a market day”. (Kbaier is my father)

In the village, you can’t have that crowd save on market days. My father spent more than 50 years working to make ends meet, and left behind him a shabby type of habitation and eleven kids.  

Adapt or die!

The obsessive leitmotiv of today's culture is change, flexibility, updating but also obsolescence…Our ears are bombarded daily with this lexis. ‘Time to change’ is the credo today. Change is shown as the only prospect of life and the sign of viability. However, the change we witness today appears as a waste of time and energy, a derailment from the natural process.


Every now and then, some influential people are coaxed with an idea and surreptitiously make out of it their raison-d'être and defend it vehemently as an absolute truth. No sooner had they started talking about it that it became a trend, an option, a necessary change…with an army of advocators and fervent devotees.


Even in the field of education, shifting from an approach to another is like changing jackets. It is undemanding! Just tailor-make it so that it suits the body, with some quick brush strokes for the make up…it is done.  It looks beautiful, it is fascinating…It is a TREND. Too much ink about it makes it sound and unequivocal.


What was a truth yesterday becomes a fallacy today. The same lips that muttered the hundreds of arguments to defend yesterday's approach falsify it today and torment those who do not abide by the new trend. "The truth has to be defended"; they say. But we know that great talkers are never great doers.


Self-righteous as usual, they require teachers to behave differently with their students. Students are now seen as "full" human beings able to decide, to comprehend, to analyze…Nice words, unquestionable facts, an undeniable truth. 

Weren't they so before? Were we teaching brutes, zombies or extraterrestrials?


The magician waves his wand, cries abracadabra, and zombies turn into humans. How easy! How great! The magician is talented but what about the human-zombies?!


It is not thanks to the magician's contrite heart, that yesterday's zombies will be trained, refined, and cultured into humans. It is the conjuncture of events. It is the bittersweet reality, the winds of change that are sweeping clean all the fortified bastions

To survive, the bastion dwellers --the magician's endeared disciples --have to initiate an adjustment in their thinking, in their behaviour…to convince themselves, and give the illusion to outsiders, that they are viable in this wobbly world.


Those who recall their past are seen as antiquated. But man has the peculiar faculty of calling up again, at least in his mind, the echo of past experiences, of going over them again.

-Isn't it a blessing?

-No, No, No, mind your words! On the contrary, it is a cuuuurse!


We tend to persuade ourselves that life indeed would be dull if there were no difficulties. But deep down we feel that these difficulties are not genuine. They are far-fetched, and sometimes prefabricated. It is a part of the make-believe, to give the impression that there is no gain without pain.


The watchword is: ‘more efforts are required’, ‘Keep them panting’, ‘don’t give them time to think’... It’s a good way to make them mind their own business. Why should they waste their time and energy thinking? Not them anyway.


Each man's belief is right in his own eyes, but when that belief concerns the fate of a nation, it has to be discussed publicly and meticulously. 


The wand of the magician cannot always be righteous. People who find themselves unable to trace the waving of the magician's hand ultimately turn to gullibility. They take everything for granted.

Great! The objective is reached…


A society like this produces spoof scholars and pseudo-thinkers. How true! Those fake figures willingly become the mouthpiece of the magician and propagate his art.  As for the rest of people, it seems they are following many hares at the same time. We know for sure they will catch none.


I enjoyed my pupils’ tears...

Which of these do we see more often, smiles or tears?

Is it a matter of culture or an idiosyncrasy among people to show more smiles than tears?

    Whatever the rationale governing people’s behaviour, it will not spoil the pleasure I’ve had after seeing my pupils’ tears in class. This sounds sadistic and unbecoming of a teacher, but that was the case.

    After 23 years of work, I have finally been gratified with tears. They are not grief tears; they are not farewell tears, either.

In any assignment, I always sneak-peek into my pupils’ faces and examine their looks for the deep down impression they have about the test. This time, I saw tears, real tears falling.

“What’s the matter?”I inquired.

“It’s the boy”, said the girl. “The boy in the text, the story…”

The same answer came from another girl in another row.

   The text was about a little boy who learnt to play music to communicate with his deaf mother. She died that morning, and  with his excellent performance he wanted to have a communion with her soul.

    The empathy the pupils felt with the boy in this story was the best I could expect. It was a genuine feedback, a reaction coming from really living emotionally the situation in the text. It was a delightful moment. How can’t  teachers ponder over it?

    Reading can be therapeutic when we engage fully our brains in it. Wasn’t theatre used to help exit people’s bottled-up feelings? Catharsis… that was it. Why don’t we make use of it for pedagogical purposes? Make pupils inventive while helping them pour out their innermost vibes. An inside-out communication, that would be!!!

    The process will require two things; the first is certainly related to the authenticity of the materials to use. The second should be about the topic itself. The topic should appeal to pupils’ emotions, challenge their opinions and standpoints, push them to respond whether consciously or unconsciously to it.

    For teachers as well as for book designers, selecting the materials-text, picture, listening script... is the crux of the matter. It is the very factor that will increase or reduce the readers’ interest.

    After that rare moment of exaltation I’ve had, credit should be given to those who supply the inexhaustible and ever-renewed resources of the web with genuine stories and case studies. Those resources are appropriate to our class needs as they relate real English and American circumstances.

Gone is the time when we used to glean information from moth-eaten books and magazines.