Saturday, May 29, 2004

Relfection after 5 days in my practicum:
It is Saturday morning and my feeling on Thursday afternoon has become reality, I have got a cold or flu. This week has been interesting but I really do need to think about the implications of my observations now and set a plan for the following week.


# A week has gone by and I haven't much except thoughts to show for it. That means that I better get good mileage out of these thoughts for the time being, and planned to be more productive in the following weeks.

# Despite her experience and my limited experience, I think that my supervising teacher's teaching has a lot to be desired. Examples of poor classroom management abound. Two examples I will cite:

In order to do one-on-one maths and reading testing, she has repeatedly given the class loose instructions to play with some things while she works. Within 5 minutes naturally the class is doing all the things they shouldn't be doing. She yells at the top of her voice "HOW DARE YOU! MY HEART IS SORE!". In lectures, we learn that if you give poor instructions it is your mistake if the kids get diverted. I think this makes sense. Having useful activities available and prepared would be the best way to go. During planning for day of lessons, it is obvious that if you are doing 1-on-1 work then you need something to engage the other students. Getting them to play is not productive for them, and gets the kids all excited.

Another case during the one-on-one testing, was when she asked the child being tested "What number comes after 7?", quickly a student who "should" be playing with something else, comes running up and says "8!" before the child being tested can speak. Again, "HOW DARE YOU! GO AND SIT BY THE RUBBISH BIN!" So the child goes and sits by the rubbish bin and the teacher, who hasn't specified when the child will come back, forgets about him during the testing. After a while, I walked over to him and asked him whether he knew why he was being punished. He didn't. I explained it to him and asked him if he was ready to behave, to which he nodded his head. I let him join his classmates again. If someone doesn't know the reason for which they were being punished, it doesn't stand to reason that they will learn anything at all from it and will probably either resent the teacher or have a reduced self-image.

# Being that I am not impressed with the habits that have been drilled into them, I do have to bear in mind that I will need to be doing some assessments with them. So, I need to have a sense of control, otherwise when I am observed by people at the University it will not be a pretty demonstration. I read a book to them "The Story of the Gingerbread Man" but at the same time experimented with a few instructional techniques and I have some reason to think in that small, low-risk environment, I held the classes attention and controlled the less controllable students. But that is only a start, and I will need to build up for more challenging instructional tasks.

# Compared to the last school that I went to for practicum, this school has put little thought into how they will accommodate student learners. At the last school, students teachers had a guided tour by the school, a powhiri welcome and a proactive mentor who arranged times to meet with us (a requirement for which they get paid for by the University). The mentor at Avondale didn't seem to know that he had to meet with me, even though presumeably he gets paid to do so. And when we did set a time, Friday afternoon, he found that he was busy with the staff socialising event and cancelled it.

# The talented students are really talented. The behind students are very behind. We have several ESOL children, one from Russia also has some developmental problems. I had to find out the other ESOL students by observation. Two of the young polynesians were recent immigrants. It challenges a preconception of mine that Polynesians at the school would all be born here and hence have good English.

# I am not sure how well I will be by Monday, and I may have a sicky that day just so I have recovered sufficiently.

That's all for now. There are a few other thoughts that lie beneath the surface of my memory, so maybe I will append this later.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Malcolm in the Middle has been a favourite programme of mine for a few years. I once thought it was some stupid series copycat series, when I first heard of it and could never be bothered watching it. But one of my language students told me about how funny it was in one class, which eventually lead me to try watching it. I've been hooked since. It is a superior version of Wonder Years. Far more creative, diverse in direction techniques, yet centred enough to be endearing.

One of the hidden themes, I would say, is almost a Yin-Yang kind of reality, where under normal peaceful external conditions the family is chaotic, but when they resolve their issues, the world becomes chaotic. In the episode I just saw, the family came home early from their fifth regularly timed vacation to find the whole neighbour was holding the fifth annual Neighbourhood fair. It turns out everyone else covertly planned it at this time to exclude the most disliked family in the neighbourhood.

The parents didn't mind this, "Hey, there is always someone that everyone hates. If it wasn't us, it would be some minority group! Don't be so worried about what other people think, you're born, they hate you, you get worried about it, you die. Why do that?"
"Mum, is this meant to make me feel happy?"
"Why does everything need to make you happy?"

They took part in the fair with gusto, and suddenly all their neighbours found they weren't all that bad... but on finding out that their previous united object of hate was no longer realistic, a chain reaction of disagreements and accusations erupted amongst everyone else dividing them and causing everyone to leave the fair in mutual acrimony immediately (the fair was desolate in moments). It was only the neighbourbood's disliking of them that made them so united. And then the family could do what they want.

"I'm gonna put dogs on the ferris wheel!"

Gotta love it... Funnier than Simpsons (which is kinda dragging) and Whose Line is it? (which seems rather repetitive with the current host and not rotating guests). Scrubs is OK for light crazy humour too.
Day Three review of my practicum:

On Monday afternoon, I felt energetic after my first day. I thought that was odd as I usually find myself drained upon leaving a teaching setting. Tuesday afternoon, 3:05pm and I felt as flat as the proverbial pancake. I had taken two guided reading groups, and saw my maths lesson turn the usually raucous class into a tremendously raucous class. I did try to maintain order, and I believe some learning was done, but once I had done all that I could, I quickly gave the reins back to the reliever teacher.

Wednesday, I had a more effective reliever teacher who was quite keen for me to learn from how she did things, and she was quite a proficient teacher in my estimation. I did more guided reading but otherwise just interacted with the kids. I felt less run down than Tuesday. Needless to say, I have been hitting the chocolate again to get me through.

Tomorrow, the regular teacher should be back. Hopefully I get to see her current methods of giving directions and getting attention and order. That is one thing that gives me some explanation for a lack of classroom control. Teachers must install some cues to get the classes attention or to bring them to the mat etc. In the schools I attended, the clapping "tah, tah, tah-teh-tah" was a signal for you to drop everything you are doing, copy the clap and then pay attention to the teacher. But each teacher has their own way. The Tuesday reliever did that ever-so-familiar clap yet the students didn't stop at all. They must have thought she was amusing herself. Once I get a hold of her cues, then I will have the commands to orchestrate the lessons I need to do for my assessments and then some.

This school doesn't have the spirit of my last practicum school, or a feeling of professionalism that I like. My last school felt so on to it yet collegial. Avondale however, is just a friendly staff, that is all you can say. There are advantages to it, in my last practicum school, it was hard to really mix with the people, they had their cliques but were experienced and could discuss issues with you. At Avondale, I don't feel left out, I can just start talking to someone about anything.

But their professionalism seems lacking, exemplified by my current supervising teacher (a huge contrast to my last supervising teacher). This supervising teacher, although sick, should have had at least prepared something. Instead we have muddled through two days of essential education for students at an important stage of their learning. That kind of neglect is abhorrant to me. I remember when I was sick at my language school, I still faxed in lesson plans and objectives, directions and all that I could to not leave the reliever in the lurch. In retrospect, that might be because I am possessive of my class, and desire control, and would hardly ever want some person to wander in and subvert my intended lessons.

In some ways, this leads me to thoughts of culture and values in schools, which is an awfully convenient pivot considering a presentation I will be doing soon for AIESEC.

So 3/24th of the way through my practicum, I march on.

Monday, May 24, 2004

It has been a while since I last posted, with good reason too, I have been preoccupied with every sort of thing. I am rather preoccupied now too but rather centred on one-thing for now, which is rather pleasant.

I have been placed for my practicum at Avondale Primary School, a year one class. The teacher who is supervising me fell sick with the flu but dragged herself to work so not to leave her student (me) welcomeless. She gave up the fight and went home at midday but in tha time I was there, I could already see that she wasn't the best teacher to learn from. But her absence tomorrow will herald the beginning of my attempt to practice as much teaching as I can. I am in the zone.

I have had my first taste of teaching year one (those turning 6 in this calendar year), which was intriguing. They are undoubtedly adorable but missing some rather basic conceptions. They struggle to write numbers (3's backwards). They cannot guess words. Some don't seem to know their alphabet at all (the one's that don't just guess, <"My. What letter does that start with? Mmmmmmm". The student points to "f", then "c"... etc>.
One of the most fluent orally has little number or letter knowledge (he burst into life telling the whole class about what happens when a woman gives birth, rather vivid!). I also saw some of the potential trouble students did have a thirst to learn. There is also one Ethiopian boy whose reading ability (and apparently his maths ability) are extraordinary, he read a reasonably advanced book for that age group and read it cover to cover aloud with very little prompting.

So anyway, with my supervising teacher ill, and a reliever who is fine with me taking control of some aspects, I have put a fair bit of effort in tonight so I have preparation to be experimenting tomorrow.

Maybe I am in a honeymoon period... Anyway, I will update with how my efforts go.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

It is cool to Koorero

Teenaa koutou katoa.

Ko Daniel ahau. Ko Ngati Pakeeha te iwi. Rua tekau maa whaa taku tau. Ko Susan raaua ko Warren aku maatua. Ko Brenda raaua ko Joanna aku tuaahine.

Noo reira, teenaa koutou, teenaa koutou, teenaa koutou katoa.

I am learning te reo Maaori, so I thought I had better see how much I can remember and actually produce a few sentences, the above being a self-introduction. I made a discovery that was obvious to many people. That is, I have access to the newly started Maaori channel. I had thought I needed a SKY aerial. So, on the advice of a classmate, I watched Koorero Mai, a programme designed to teach te reo Maaori. Boy, did it go fast! I think I learned a lot, and also got some listening practice as well as added to my stock of words.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

I want to change the world. I do. I want to be a lot active in the way I live out my life so I crystalised my current mental state as the following...

Books and changing oneself or the world
(this might be a little messy - I may have suffered a paradigm shift between the beginning and end of writing)

I have probably read more recently than any other time in the last 5 years. That being said, I have often had a rather negative view of books (for various reasons).

Right now, I just have negative thoughts about books that try to change your life or change the world. Books could outline how to do something, but in the end I think that it usually just results in a lot of head-nodding and no action. Reading is usually too passive for me. I think that knowledge comes from books, but wisdom (I think there is a distinction) comes from learning as you act in every action of your life (this has become a tenet of my recent life).

It is fine to read "Dance like no-one is watching" but to do this is actually a process that is done in action and developed, not just read and done. To dance like no-one is watching, you would need to address your self-confidence, your self-image, your self-consciousness, your dancing self-efficacy (a term from a social cognitive theory, meaning confidence in a particular skill, "Can I pull it off?" feeling), and find the real purpose for why you dance (perhaps one of the most important). These are not resolved by reading. By actively widening each of these aspects in every action you do is what is most important. Only then can you "Dance like no-one is watching".

There are many self-help/new-age save the world books out there. Some have a vital heart but malformed limbs. The intention is there but they do nothing, change nothing. I am starting to have the perhaps not completely unfounded opinion that self-help books are literary drugs, making those who read feel good. Chicken Soup for the Soul is typical. Empty platitudes that inspire good feelings.

Probably my perception of all art affects my view of books and writing. I see the process as more beneficial to the writer than the reader. I love writing, and sometimes entertain ideas of publishing, but it would probably be more as a personal attempt to develop my ideas. So reading someone else's enlightenment should be secondary to breaking down your barriers to greater wisdom.

There have been some books in history that have changed the world. Right now I can only think of one person who by writing a book changed anything (for good or bad):

Karl Marx's "Das Kapital". His ideas changed the world (better or worse). But in his life he was an activist too and he did have a good advocate in Engels. He was attempting some sort of leadership too. Hitler wrote a book too "Mein Kampf", but he backed that with very firm leadership (probably the greatest mover in his success). Most strong leaders don't necessarily leave books. I think most religions were only sustained by the actions of their figureheads and not the actual texts themselves.

A Chinese philosopher, Zhuang-zi, wrote a story to say how reading other people's thoughts might not get the "real message".

Translated by Patricia Ebrey:
Duke Huan was reading a book in the hall. Wheelwright Pian, who had been chiseling a wheel in the courtyard below, set down his tools and climbed the stairs to ask Duke Huan, "may I ask what words are in the book Your Grace is reading?"

"The words of sages." the Duke responded.
"Are these sages alive?"
"They are already dead."
"That means you are reading the dregs of long gone men, doesn't it?"
Duke Huan said "How does a wheelwright get to have opinions on the books I read? If you can explain yourself I'll let it pass otherwise, it's death!"

Wheelwright Pian said ''In my case I see things in terms of my own work. When I chisel at a wheel, if I go slow the chisel slides and does not stay put; if I hurry, it jams and doesn't move properly. When it is neither too slow nor too fast I can feel it in my hand and respond to it from my heart. My mouth cannot describe it in words but there is something there 1 cannot teach it to my son and my son cannot learn it from me So I have gone on for seventy years, growing old chiseling wheels The men of old died in possession of what could not transmit. So it follows that what you are reading is their dregs."

I agree with this. Except a writer whom you have no contact with is as good as dead. Guidance from someone is essential. Zhuang-zi is dead so I guess these are the dregs of dead men. Zhuang-zi didn't write it, his followers did.

To make people move, you don't need a book passively giving them the ideas.

So if books don't change the world, what does the world need? You need a person to lead.
So if books don't change people, what do people need? You need a person to guide and aid reflection.

These of course are more difficult but rather more profound for me.

Leadership is a way to change the world. History proves it. Napoleon and Gandhi didn't write books. The former just needed to be in power and that seemed to make armies strong. The latter was too busy doing things like fasting and leading. I have been inspired by recent observations and an event (NZWA) for what I personally think leadership requires but that is another message. That still needs a bit more time for me to ruminate on the verbal cellulose in the paddocks of my brain.

Mentorship seems logical for a person to develop. It seems that in the rather individualistic society in which I live that deaing with our personal life planning our by ourselves to be foolish. Planning could always benefit from a different perspective. Would your physical training do better with a personal trainer / running buddy or by your own solitary efforts? Are you more likely to adhere to your plan and goals if you have had a witness who will remind you of those promises, or those made to yourself? It seems obvious. Why am I only discovering this now...?

Wouldn't the real benefit of a book come from reflection with someone, some planning and goal setting based on your conclusions? If you did read "Dance like no-one was watching" and were inspired and thought that that was what you wanted to do, wouldn't it be better to think about it concretely and objectively?

The concept of being interactive with a book's text is mindblowing. Maybe the problem lies in my own mind that takes reading books was the purpose in itself.

Writing also suffers in that it is distant from those you are trying to move. Compare an e-mail, to a letter, a letter to a person encounter. What would move you heart, mind and body to act in a new way that someone advocated, would save the world? E-mail has words but sometimes seems to lack soul. Letters have soul but sometimes lack the face. In AIESEC, we were often told that when cold-calling we should not discuss things on the phone or elaborate too much. If we give them information on the phone, they could easily just say no and hang up. If there is a meeting, then it is harder to hang-up, and also you have a bond created in meeting the person.

To have a leader is to have someone with the message burst from their every word and action. You can see their vitality and passion and it brought people along. See old clips of Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr. and Churchill. Their demonstration and words changed history and changed people. Come to think of it, have all the compelling, strong orators gone, never to be seen again?

If a person has written a book that inspired you, and they are not leading a movement to actively go out and change anything, nothing may happen of it.

So, I think I need to re-evaluate my mode of constructing the process that define the course of my life and actions. I will do that this week.

Okay, that's all. Anyone who wants to offer any thoughts of what I am trying to express, tell me and we can have tea (on me). Later.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Playing chess at a reasonable level has many facets that non-players might struggle to undestand (like any skill perhaps).

Before you get to that level, there are the fundamentals, which themselves are quite difficult; knowing the pieces and their moves and value, having awareness of the whole board so that if one of your pieces can be taken, you prevent it. Later more complicated "future" awareness develops so that tactical tricks can be avoided. After this, most players have a little plateau because you have the tools to play but how do you go about getting that end result: checkmate. Perhaps a few basic attacks were learnt in developing the basic skills but mostly these are futile against players who are beyond the basics.

So then, ideas of strategy come into it, how to start the game (opening, a chess players' serve) , techniques nearer the end of the game when pieces are few (endgame) are slowly absorbed so that the game starts to have structure and almost a sense of predictability.

Most of the above is knowledge-based. Then comes where the brain-power is really required. Calculation into the future is a skill that takes a long time to master. You need to organise your thoughts into a logical order, then use your imagination to move the pieces on the board in your head.

Watching a good chess could be more engaging than looking at art (Xin will argue of course). Art tends to have one surface to admire and maybe some context or meaning embedded there. Just like a classical music symphony, there are themes on the surface and maybe a setting or feeling that it wishes to invoke.
Chess, however, has invisible symphonies, and implicit ideas in every frame. Every move the chess player makes is just one of the many choices that were analysed, with multiple responses and possible counter-responses and so on and so forth. Each position has so many potentialities, only one of which is lived out, but all of the arrays of variations and possible lines contain drama, complexity, unbridled aggression and staunch, creative resolute defence.

When I was at the peak of my chess interest, I could stare at a position for days and find new ideas and complicated lines. I have done that again recently too. One such position I found so many interesting aspects that I was compelled to write them all down (in chess notation). I still missed the best line! (which was pointed out by my friend Paul). Again recently I have been playing another chess friend Aaron. One game, although a little dry at first livened up into a double-edged struggle, with the advantage see-sawing between white and black. The end position could have been forefully drawn by either white or black (boths sides could "perpetual check" or check the other king for enternity which is decided as a draw) but also both of us had a chance to win or lose. I didn't like my chances so sacrificed a rook to force the perpetual check.

Despite it being error-ridden (he should have won and perhaps so should have I), it was a delightful game with a lot of hidden variations.

That is the joy of chess.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Ever since my return from Malaysia, I have only once had a decent night sleep (the first night back's record-breaking 10 hour sleep). Most of this sleep-deprivation hasn't been forced on me (except for one night's essay-writing). Today, I bought the Listener because of an article about sleep-deprivation and this has motivated me to shift my sleep-time closer to the 11pm mark. This means a cut-down on chess-related procrastination, maybe frequency on blogspot and more early afternoon essay writing.

In passing, I might buy the listener more often. It seems to be my kind of magazine. It has good topics and doesn't have dumbed down language. It also seems to have a more level-headed perspective (I dislike Time magazine for what felt like tabloid-journalism on it).

Anyway, with less than 50 minutes before bedtime (and I am quite tired), Oyasumi~

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Two themes have collided in my brain today.

I returned from Malaysia just a few weeks ago. One of the observations I made while there is how little involved the Malay population (indigenous people to Malaysia) and the immigrant Chinese and Indian population (their ancestors mostly immigrated there many hundred years ago) are. I stayed with mostly Chinese company and I noticed a slight prejudice against Malays in terms of their culture, intelligence and other aspects. This being said, the Malays are in power and noticing the disparity in quality of life, academic achievement and wealth, the Malaysian government has positive discrimination in favour of themselves. This is an interesting contrast to New Zealand, which also has some policies that favour the Maori, but whose government is mostly controlled by the "immigrants". I might do some research on the extent to this positive discrimination in Malaysia just for comparison sake.

Anyway, the one aspect I am focussing on is intelligence. We just had two lectures on Gifted Children and discussed intelligence and now we are talking about behavioural problems and then Maori academic achievement. A Malaysian Chinese girl in my class commented that Malays' intelligence is lower for genetic reasons, and that it was observable that Maoris also had dark skinned and were in a similar situation. I mentioned to her, that in NZ most people would consider this racist. I didn't think it being genetic was the case, or at least didn't think that it could be proven.

Instinctively, most liberal minded people in the western world freeze up at the implication that intelligence or achievement is decided by genetic factors. Of course, it is conceivable that it is this way. This mixes with the fate issue and self-determination issue of course. ("If your achievement doesn't come from your genes, where does it come from? If it comes from your environment, then you are just fortunate that external factors beyond you have made you be successful and intelligent etc.") But let's not get sidetracked.

I mentioned to her about the situation with the Maori people, that with their lower achievement and discipline problems (in comparison to other ethnic groups), it could be said by some that they "had lower intelligence". But this could be due to the effects of colonisation, being subjected to a few cycles of poverty, and a foreign education system that they had to adapt. It is hard to put a reason to the phenomenon.

However, Malays (in English that does have a horrible homophonic ring) did not suffer as much the brunt of colonial life like the Maori did. They would have experienced the same oppression from the Dutch and British that the Indians (often taken from their homeland as slaves) and the Chinese (who were used as manual workers) yet still they are quite behind their ethnically different compatriots.

The only thing I could really think for this is that there are cultural differences in terms of their attitude to education (which could be said for Maori too). Chinese have long put emphasis on education and I think Indians do too (although I am not as familiar with them as I am Chinese people). It is easy to consider that some cultures are more inclined toward education and working in professions. Some cultures could be more hardworking too (although the corollary of saying this is that perhaps some cultures are lazy, which is something I find hard to say). But then, soon as I emerge at this end of the discussion I thought that that assertion ("of other cultures being more education-minded or industrious") could be viewed as "racist" too.

I am a liberal-apologist at the best and worst of times. This is another issue that I think will crystalise better in my mind when I have more exposure to the lives of Maori and Pacific Islanders and maybe Malays too. It is too easy to think for a long time without actually having direct experience.

Passing view: What do you call an Indian living in the US? (you can answer that). Also, we saw a dated tape on aquatic education (swimming) where one game was "Cowboys and Indians". Our teacher-teacher commented that you have to call this something else now, of course.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Another dream with menacing animals. There were huge, friendly, spindly spiders (though not as big as the Lord of the Ring spider, was Sheila its name?) and also a menacing lion. The lion offed a rather stupid lamb or goat that surrendered so meekly (to the slaughter!) which gave me and some other person a chance to run for it, behind a hedge. Not sure if we fooled the lion or not.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A few months ago, GeoCities decided to dismantle my 5-year-old website. I hadn't been using it much or altered more than a few dozen words on it in the last few years so maybe I was asking for it. When friends who visit my site noticed and told me, and I found it was not a technical problem, I wasn't that sad. There were some things that were certainly gone forever but it wasn't a big loss to me personally. Now, I am starting a new ambitious project, a more complicated labyrinth of ideas.

Just last night, my girlfriend Xin told me she had saved some philosophy pages from my old website (back then when she was obviously "checking me out", she had even hacked into my directory and found files I didn't even have presented on my website, that were not complete) and she sent them to me today.

It is curious to look through because I had forgotten the things that I have written but suddenly think: "I agree with this guy a lot!"

Anyway, here is an excerpt of a story I started writing in 2000. I had written all my ideas in stories then. It is a discussion between an enthusiastic Christian (Devon) and an agnostic guy who masquerades as a homeless person (Davisun):

Devon enthusiasm picked up suddenly with a conception of a new idea, "OK well let me ask you another question then. You admit that you are, in terms of reality, a blindman. Why would you seek to tell people anything about the world. Like the phrase goes, it would be like the blind leading the blind. Why convince people of their blindness or maybe, to put it another way, pull them into a strange sort of voluntary mypoia?"
"Tis' true that I would probably admit that I am blind, and cannot necessary acknowledge much to be true. So what is there for one to do? Well I chose to philosophically sit down and not bother to think about the hard stuff unless the whim should come to mind. Running around willynilly, however, trying to get to a place that one has heard about, but has to charge into the darkness, following a scent, denying one's blindness, now what is that? They might step on a few people, trip over and hurt themselves, knock other people off their respective blind rushes to really GET THERE. Or maybe they don't, they might walk around in confidence. I dunno that is other people. I am thinking, why not sit, maybe flag a few people down to sit by the road side. Being low to the ground so there is no fear of falling. Being still and calm, so no risk of bumping into things. Do you not think that you are also blind to some degree?"
Devon turned his eyes toward the group that sat across the park from him to ponder for a moment. "Yes, I would say that I am. Which is why I would say we need guidance. I would regard the Bible as a map to find the only thing that can lead me, namely God and Jesus. I guess I should add the manditory joke saying, 'And then I saw the light'."
"But can you also say that despite the guidance you have fallen down or stood on people?"
"Of course, to be human is to err. We all will sin in our lives at some stage. Even if you metaphorically say that you are sitting down I don't see how you can claim to avoid such either though.", Devon questioned.
"If you think of it from my point of view, I don't need to. Give me an example of how I could fall? Give me an example of how I could stand on someone?"
"For you to fall... To fail in your studies."
"How is that to fall?"
"How is it not to fall, why is it that you study?"
"Because I enjoy to learn. Regardless of failing, I still learn. How is that any more a failure than not being able to eat all of what is on your plate. There is no requirement to it.. unless you consider what someone has chosen as a standard to be taken as your goal. As it is, because I enjoy to learn it is no problem to pass exams. I like to learn things not for the exams too. If I didn't it do well that would be just the same as my tennis game or my squash game. I love to run around whacking the ball although I might never beat my friends who in turn might not be the greatest players themselves. What is there to compare? There is nothing to fall from."

Just an excerpt. I liked it anyway.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Hmmmmmmmmm... I am terribly left-brained, aren't I!
Another lateral rant. Indirectly linked to my idea of responsibility.

The following is something I noticed yesterday in class. We were learning about the legal implications of teaching. Things that seemed small but specific, some seemingly odd but with a potential reason. Anyway, here are three of the legal implications that we were told. Which do you think received the most surprise/annoyance by student teachers?

(a) Being told we couldn't write student's full names on their art work
(b) Being told we couldn't show let any other student know the results of other students, or putting stars on the wall to show achievement of some.
(c) Being told we're not allowed to show videos in class or video more than 3% or 3 pages of a book.
(d) Being told, if we wanted to keep anyone in after 3pm we needed to give parents 1-2 days notice.

Chosen yet?

Well, even though all of the above seem to be rather odd, it was (c) that caused the most murmur and discussion. I don't know what made people particularly annoyed in particular but this is one rule that I am in favour of, or at least believed it was an obvious rule.

Even though we have all been raised in a capitalist society, I don't think people really understand the implications of being in it. People produce things for us to buy because of a desire to make money. The society as a whole will produce most of the multifarious things we want and need because they want to earn money. Movies, videos and books are all produced (and priced) with consideration for how many will be sold and how much profit will be produced.

The outrage of not being able to use videos seems to be the same desire that makes people buy illegally copied music, internet distributed music and CDs. People see this as a right, and actual prices are a "rip-off". The way companies fund the wonderful people who create music, write books and make movies is by selling it and licensing it out.

Maybe somewhere there lies a "honesty quotient" for a market. That is a number that reflects the degree of honest purchases and the the leakage through illegal actions and selling. The leakage quotient would be used in pricing legal copies. The ironic nature of the system is that the "rip-off" price is high because of the illegal leakage of profit that would otherwise go to the creators of the goods. People who take illegal copies are harming those that don't.

In the end it is more or less a "prisoner's dillema". If everyone bought and acted legally, prices would be lower. If some people cheat, the legal price needs to be higher harming those who are honest. If everyone cheated, then there would be a collapse and there would be no goods for anyone to use as the creator would not be making a profit.

Maybe we have an implicit understanding in society that there are understanding, obedient, moral people in society who will always buy legally so that means that we can allow illegal copies or illegal use of rented goods. That since there is someone who is doing the buying, then it is OK to buy illegal copies. Not many people would know any friends or acquaintances who have been fined hugely or put in prison for buying an illegal movie. The consequences as fierce as they might be, are not "real" in anyone's eyes.

Back to showing videos in school, movie companies specifically license out videos for personal use and outline the places that such can be shown. All of these things are built into the price structure of videos, books and DVDs. Even in our particular context, we are receiving money for educating and we are exploiting the creative works of someone else to do it without recompensating them. When we copy books for whatever reason, we are using what

The next time you complain about the cost of textbooks, software, music, maybe think about this. It is only your own personal interface with your values that you can come to the conclusion of whether you will or won't buy or not buy. I know I have bought and was thinking of buying things that were not legal copies (NZ$3 on a Coldplay album, $5 on a DVD) on my last overseas trip to Malaysia.

But I am not at all surprised by legal implications and I will have to do more thinking to see how this will change my actions in the future.