OLPC Educational Goals y Otras Hierbas

   
   
   
   
   
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Let's begin with a warm-up test on what the OLPC should be about. Choose the right answer out of each pair:

  1. Developing Countries parents want their kids to take pictures and write down their thoughts
  2. D.C. parents want their kids to learn English

  3. I'd say music creativity is essential for every kid to to be educated in
  4. I'd say grammar and spelling is essential for every kid to be educated in

  5. the biggest challenge to development is widespread corruption
  6. the biggest challenge to development is that children don't get to explore, experiment and express themselves
Look for the official answers on "Content" on the wiki seems almost like an afterthought. The 'educators' list is pretty much inactive.

The main problem that our Matter of Education has to deal with is to actually give chances to kids to achieve their giftings beyond what their current educational system can offer. OLPC, and/or other such initiatives are to be the "bridge" that have-nots can take to get what the "haves", well, have.

To solve learning inequity is our community's duty.

Humor me for a minute and let me take the easy ones out of the way. Writing and language arts are life skills. Those who struggle with these will find their inability to communicate according to convention makes them less effective trainers, leaders, teachers.

OLPC, as currently exists, incorporates Language Arts training? No. Should it? Yes. English is the de facto lingua franca that connects ideas and ideals in our world in our day. The role that Latin has in the previous sentence is the role that terms and expressions in the English language have in every other language now, especially in matters relating to science, technology, manufacture, business.

If you don't depend on it outright, your speech and notes are peppered with it. Besides parent, teachers and administrators want to have better English training for the kids and even themselves. Is it part of the current OLPC? No. Should it be? Yes.


An anti-corruption tool?

Corruption Management

This is clearly my favorite trainable skill. Just as in the more popular field of risk management, it is unlikely that corruption will ever be totally eradicated. Even in such paragons of development and civilization as Scandinavia and the Netherlands it will rear its ugly head from time to time. The real issue with corruption worldwide is that it is arguably the number one factor that establishes, serves and protects injustice, abuse, exploitation, and ultimately poverty and all its children.

Aid for development that is not fighting corruption is often its very life, what makes corruption thrive. The canonical water well project with ineffective accounts, where most pumps end up sold away and the last one turns out to be "owned" by the village chief, not only denies water to the village but also reinforces patterns of successful dishonesty, without even gaining any goodwill for the donor country.

I believe that we can agree that corruption has to be fought, by all means available, especially education. Yet, if the general trend I have perceived is anything, I suspect there isn't much support for doing it with the XO. One argument that will be parroted is that this is the One Laptop per Child, and corruption is a grownup thing.

Refuting this notion is easy. First, corruption is everybody's problem. Next, corruption breeds in untruth, sheepish compromise, and bullying/abuse scenarios, and none of these is age-dependent. We clearly can and should develop suitable training resources on the XO to learn to recognize truth and also to prevent bullying, a real problem in many places.

To learn to stand up with what is truth is harder. I haven't yet found anything that beats experiential education done right, which sadly is quite high maintenance.


An easy button will not help

The XO is for grownups too

Early corruption avoidance should be addressed among kids. Yet the most important point is to recognize, accept and implement grownup-directed training and content in the XO - of course besides better and more for kids themselves.

This, among others, for the very obvious reason that the home XO might be the only twenty-first century educational tool that will enter many a hut, cabin or hovel, and quite a few community leader's homes. And hopefully, the XO will be the one that is not held hostage by the corrupt shackling a people.

Finally, this is simply something that needs doing. As such, it is really deeply irrelevant if the OLPC has right now corruption management as an educational goal, because it doesn't matter how many of those green thingies a country buys or is given, doesn't matter how much international aid it gets, neither whether missionaries, teachers or volunteers move in.

What matters is that we turn this training into a priority, fast track OLPC project. As long as corruption is not addressed an its endemic rule broken, there is no chance a people will develop and become what it can become, respect the environment and hold its own to protect itself, treat its sick, raise its young unto righteousness, and generally make true that having faith in better times ahead is real, rather than empty, meaningless fiction.

Yamand├║ was teacher in several countries for over 15 years and wrote a book on Uruguayan Education.

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13 Comments

Firstly, please accept my congratulations on your vision and your energy.

I am not sure that English is as widespread as you claim. I would like to argue the case for Esperanto as the international language, after pupils have learned through their mother tongue.

Take a look at www.esperanto.net to see what I meab.

Best wishes.

Bill, I have traveled widely in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and never seen any interest in Esperanto but universal interest in learning English.

Esperanto may be a lovely language but there is minimal interest in it globally from my experience.

Great post Yamandu

I agree that corruption is a terrible problem that holds back development and brings all sorts of unnecessary injustice and suffering. That said, I am quite puzzled as to how you think olpc could help fight it. You give one link to a very nice table on recognizing propaganda. That would be useful if the problem was that people had been propagandized into believing that corruption did not exist in their societies. However, I think you will find that people in such societies are quite aware of such corruption, and regularly denounce it, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

If you know of effective programs by which ordinary citizens can eliminate or reduce corruption, you should point them out. However, the problem here is that corruption is generally not a superficial problem, but deeply rooted into the basic structures of society. In particular, it occurs when the central government does not serve the interests of the people, and so the average citizen must turn to kinship and other special groups to meet their basic economic, security, and esteem needs. The problem is that this whole dynamic is self-perpetuating, in that in this form of social organization there is a competition as to which group will control the government, and the group that wins the competition, generally through violence, uses it to run the government in a way that benefits itself, and so everyone is forced to rely on their kinship group and has no loyalty to the government.

It is very hard me to see how to overcome this problem. However, what olpc is trying to do in the long term is an end-run. Corruption means, among other things, very poorly functioning education systems. Olpc is producing software and hardware which makes it possible for children to learn much better in poor classrooms or even learn to some significant degree with no classes at all. It also has the long term goal of making the hardware so cheap that families can buy the laptops themselves, without having to go through the corrupt and dysfunctional educational system. I am not certain that this is going to work in the long term, but I think it has a really good chance, and certainly a much better one than any other plan I am aware of.

Eduardo, you do hit so well the nail on the head it's not even funny. You are totally right. OLPC cannot fight corruption now.

This is because OLPC is (right now) about constructionism. Fighting corruption needs content, needs tools for training people. Though I must admit that Bitfrost has a nifty anti-corruption element as a non-disclosed feature. I don't know if I should even talk about it, but since the powers that be want to eliminate it anyway, at least it gets in the open.

The good news is, there's people working on trainig tools as we speak, dedicated volunteers. Moodle, Drupal, etc, on the server. The bad news is, there's few of them, they get scant funding if any, while constructionism get most of what's available. This, as we are told OLPC is about to adopt another legacy model.

Would you think Haiti will benefit from anti-corruption training? I would think so, as would also my own country. Yet there's no word any of the $3 G OLPC has for that country besides a truckload of G1G1, has any of this earmarked for corruption management training.

There's much more to this, but I have to go fix my '95 car that seems to be giving up the ghost. Be back soon.

Eduardo,

You writing is excellant on education. Forget corruption. I want to see a XO in the hands of every child. I have lived in two developing countries and taught subsistence farmers in 17 more. I know the value of their children having a XO after getting my own [G1G1]. NN will never accomplish this by dealing with corrupt governments. He can accomplish it by selling them to unliminted numbers of people like me who wanted to get 150 of them and allow people I know personally take them to various countries to schools they are helping. OLPC/Brightstar refused to sell them to me.

Thank you, Eduardo, for opening a segue for what actually Corruption Management Training looks like. I hope this answer gets us to share ideas. Please do correct me as you see fit.

I do not have a complete answer, and do not know of any effective program existing. I could point o gazillion cooperation / international aid programs that are part of the problem. Why they don't seem to get it, I don't know. There might be great ones, I just am ignorant as to how to find them. The link goes to an educational game with interesting possibilities, not at all a complete program. Hmm, educational game = XO? We could do worse than starting right there.

A further starting point is basic accounting and transparency. The great enemy of corruption is accountability, both in terms of keeping good tabs of where the money and resources go, and of making such information public. When people, local people, international people, anyone, are given a real chance to look at the books, then cooking them just cannot happen in anything like the measure it happens right now. So a twofold training, which is easy to set up as programmed instruction via Moodle or whatever: 1), to /recognize/ when things are OK, when they are fishy. How to call the shots, when to notice the king is nekid. A necessary segue is what to do in such case, which is not an easy answer when corruption is so widespread that free press is non-existent. 2) basic accounting practices. Start with a simple 3-column ledger, income, expenses, balance. Most people overseas have never ever seen a check, much less have a checking account (for this reason this is a requirement for a visa to the developed world pretty much anywhere - quickly winnows out the undeserving ones :-( . Now, if the village has learned (via XO) that 1) having an account system is a Good Thing, and this information should be open to all and 2) how to use such an accounting system, you have killed right there an enormous proportion of petty corruption. When those people expect it from their governments, then the rich countries with the poor people suddenly find their wealth and maybe can use it, and that can deal with a lot of the big corruption

By the way, if you do this you will find many, many enemies. Where corruption has taken root, as you very well point out, it is widespread. Kinship is the way to go, and people "tolerate" inordinate amounts of corruption on the hope of eventually become the ones gaining from it, and will keep silent waiting for their chance. I've seen it happen, and have even felt the temptation to play the game myself when living there. In that climate such a paradigm-changer concept is not welcome.

So we have a choice. Either we attack it, or else we become part of the problem. There are many feel-good concepts we can recur to, but there is a strong feeling and some evidence already that XOs will just be a band-aid unless we change the priorities.

I agree with the end-run approach, at least as theory. Yet we're so far from that, and with no real priorities that touch real needs that we might just never even breach a gap, this one or any other. I differ with your opinion that "Olpc is producing software...possible...to learn much better". Based on what I have seen, I do not believe any sort of actual learning in what really matters can happen under the current parameters. See the beginning of my article for my stand on this.

Ken: There is one circular issue I see in NN's distribution model that agrees with what you say. The countries that need (a completed) OLPC are the ones less likely to want it, so they are the ones that will not get it, so change will not happen, so...

Finally, Eduardo, thank you. I do admire your honesty in admitting not being certain as to whether this (OLPC) will actually work. We need more people like you that will grow over delay and denial. And I do strongly, vociferously, totally agree with you that our Matter of Britain is the best plan. Ever. It just needs to be better, much better, to have even half a chance to change the world for real.

Ken,

"He can accomplish it by selling them to unliminted numbers of people like me who wanted to get 150 of them and allow people I know personally take them to various countries to schools they are helping. OLPC/Brightstar refused to sell them to me."

You keep repeating this in various posts but, clearly, that's not what you told us in the original post [1]. I thought they were perfectly happy to sell you the 100 you requested but you objected when told that from the sale proceeds another 50 will be donated by OLPC to the country of their choosing. You response?

"I told them that we will purchase them based on our requirements; not OLPC. We will buy the 100 if they will ship us the extra 50 [we pay postage], also.
Otherwise, we are not interested."


[1]( http://www.olpcnews.com/people/negroponte/anybody_home_at_olpc.html )

Yama, the error you seem to be making is that you assume that corruption continues simply because people don't recognize how corrupt their countries are. I am saying no, that is wrong, they are quite aware of the corruption.

I think you need to do some basic research on the sociology of corruption and why it happens in the first place. Two books I would recommend are, The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, by Andrew Bard Schmookler, and, focusing on Arab culture, The Closed Circle, by David Pryce-Jones.

Yama,
I think the error you are making is that corruption disappears in an educated population. As an US citizen I can assure you that that's not the case. We have internet access and 24/7 news and we're still bombarded with propaganda.

Ken,
would 100 XOs at $300 still be your preferred solution? You seem to have an issue with the 50 going to a charity not of your choosing, would it be a problem if they had never mentioned the other 50?

delphi,

I believe Ken's issue is he wants to aquire as many educational tools as possible with limited resources and OLPC insists on using his resources for their own purposes.

The disconnect is that Ken's and OLPC's (publicly stated) purpose is, at root, the same - get laptops into the hands of kids to facilitate learning. Yet OLPC explicitly states they would rather no children get laptops if 1/3 do not go where they say.

OLPC seems to think that cutting off it's nose to spite it's face is a half-measure - they want to get rid of the face entirely.

Two points I am trying to make:

1) corruption can be managed - not eliminated - through education, in a similar *approach* as risk management, obviously with different *content* and delivery method.
2) OLPC has a unique chance to change the world by making a priority of this. A cut in corruption of 50% in any given nation is not just that much money saved - it's an exponential benefit to the whole country, as democracy actually becomes possible, self respect flourishes, basic services are provided as needed... Several points about OLPC are exactly where this can be done: saturation, reaching to the neediest...

Corruption will _not_, in a thousand years, be curbed by exploring and creativity, however much construction happens that way. Choose your priority as to content/tools to ship with the XO, get moving or out of the way. With saturation and good training, 50% is really not that impossible.
BTW, I do believe that constructionism is great, when we have taken care of bigger fish. Another BTW, Sugar could do this just fine, no need for XP. M$ hasn't exactly been at the forefront of corruption mitigation either.

Yet I know my chance to influence OLPC corporate policy is about 0%, actually probably in the negative, since it is obvious I am a guy uncomfortable to be around (_nobody_ wants to actually _hear_ that the king is naked), but I just had to say it. A man gotta do what a man gotta do, as John Wayne was wont to say.

@Eduardo
I am so sorry you misunderstood me. I don't think I said anywhere that people do not _know_ their countries are corrupt. They sure do, and often those who know it best are waiting for their turn at the trough. The problem is that those who would want to change things have no tools to do anything about it, and there's so few of them, because most people are uneducated that there's a different way that is better. Education, the right kind, is still the key. Thank you for your reading recommendations. I respectfully differ with your opinion that they can help a iota, unless those learned gentlemen are actually developing programs to curb corruption, which is what I would want to devote some of my time to, hopefully not alone. Res, non verba. As to reading, you may want to try Galeano's "Venas Abiertas", yes, it's dated and definitely biased, but nonetheless an interesting take on why things are like they are. I definitely do not share that author's pessimism or recipes, but it's seen as gospel by many fellows down south.

@Civilian, disappears, no; gets mitigated, yes. In South America we gallows-joke :-( that the difference between our politicians and American ones is that when someone plants a crop in the US, politicians come later and pick the choicest fruit. When someone tries to plant a crop over there, politicians come, take the seed and sell it. Of course it's an exaggeration, but then it's consistent with some reports.

The canonical village pump project comes from
www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/IMG/pdf/MAE_BOLIVIE_annexes.pdf

mattd,

"I believe Ken's issue is he wants to aquire as many educational tools as possible with limited resources and OLPC insists on using his resources for their own purposes."

All the 'donate' programs [1] have at their core OLPC's rising funds to finance some of their pilot programs - I don't think people demanding 'at-cost' price is reasonable as there's no way for OLPC to 'police' were the acquired laptops actually end up (although I'm aware of many G1G1 donors donating *both* laptops). Regardless whether one agrees with that policy (and with time, as there's no precedence to what they're doing, I'm sure it will be further refined), Ken saying that "OLPC/Brightstar refused to sell them to me." is just manifestly false.

[1] OLPC - many ways to give
( http://laptopfoundation.org/participate/givemany.shtml )

Yama, thanks for bringing up this issue. I think it's hard for us first-world types to even understand the corruption issue, let alone address it. We have too little experience with corruption.

@Bill Chapman: mi ne konsentas ke infanoj de malricxaj nacioj devus lerni Esperanton, cxar al ili Esperanto ne estos speciale utile. Tamen, peti ilin lerni la Anglan sxajnas al mi malafable, pro gxia malfacileco. Mi havas ideon desegni lingvon iom kiel la Anglan, sed facilan preskaux kiel Esperanto, por ke, se oni lernus gxin, oni pli facile povus lerni la Anglan poste. Tiam, la OLPC XO povus havi en gxi traduka softvaro, kiu povus traduki inter la Angla kaj la facila lingvo fidinde. Kion vi pensas?

But if a person needs to learn English at any point in life, it's best to learn it when young. Hence, OLPC is a good place to put English training software. Heck, children are so good at languages, maybe they could learn Esperanto and English both :)

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