Category Archives: Education

American Politics, British Diplomacy and Buddha’s Intelligent Inquiry-Kalama Sutta

If I have not read Kalama Sutta by the age of 16 years, I  may have, to begin with, would have been caught up and swallowed by the rationalist (almost nonfunctional today in this irrational country Sri-Lanka) deliberates.
There are 13 qualifications, one has to apply if one is an open inquirer.
So read Kalama Sutta before reading this.
I ended up as an independent thinker, never believing anything what the white man said.
We were under 500 years of foreign invader influence, it is probably inbuilt in my system not to believe them and probably many Sri-Lankan of today have lost that inbuilt defense we had, especially the politicians and political refuges who leave and become prisoners of conscience.
I can dispense with British easily.
In about 6 months in Britain, I realized that what they say is not what they mean.
That included medical men too.
This is at ground zero level where most of us end up in Britain.
In diplomatic level they do it in a professional manner and unlike the ordinary British who survive on a meager salary, they are paid very well.
How better or brazenly one can lie while blazing a blue-collar and tie is the standard of British Diplomacy, at all levels.
They do not mean what they say.
Only people who can beat them in the game are Americans.
(Compare President Bush and PM Blair relationship)
I have had limited association with the Americans and it took many years of rational and independent analysis, only after leaving them though, to get the correct  assessment and true picture of what they really meant.
See how Obama came into power with full-scale liberal views and end up as a stubborn personality and not listening to people power but continuing what Bush did better than what Bush would have figured it out but pretend to the whole world he is different.

Unlike British there are some genuine and stupid Americans too.

Otherwise they would not have elected him for the first time.
If they elect him for second time my above genuine analysis would be confirmed without any doubt or contention.
Polls as at present prove that I am right at this point of time.
Unlike British they pay well for your services.
I do not know how one is paid under President Obama.
I am not interested who should become the next American President, let the stupid and brilliant Americans decide it.
But they are well advised by me to read the Kalama Sutta before voting next time round.
Coming back to America and American politics, they are not a benevolent society.
Obama pretended to be benevolent to the masses but he is truly benevolent  to the rich.

Chrysler bail out is one object lesson.
They have the capitalist mentality at all levels and success depends on how much one is prepared to get returns for initial investment.
Good examples are Microsoft and Speculators.
Now that Microsoft is having a nose dive, Apple is trying to get into that niche.
I-pads and educational material that they are planning to copyright are trying to swallow the stupid Americans in one stroke.
They propagate the universal truth which a myth by all standards, more educated one is and more one spends on education, more productive one is when employed.
But no education standards were necessary to get the bail outs.
The standard is how bad an American fails in his or her business. 
What ever the voters may say they always win and many a small Americans will have to foot the bill. 
In this context, Amazon did an amazing and wonderful thing by introducing Kindle Fire (selling below cost price) and creating http://www.createspace.com, in this big business world of Education and the hold that the publishers have on writers.
They are all out to kill this experiment.
Amazon is a successful business empire.
There is nothing wrong with it.
But at least in education Amazon’s vision is somewhat benevolent.
American politics who ever who becomes the next president will kill this endeavour  in its budding stage.
I hope I have not jumped or triggered the America gun mentality.
Time will tell what I say now will be right or wrong.
It is tilted towards ipad and Big Apple and not towards Amazon’s effort.
If Apple wins it is a disaster for the entire world of education.

Ten or more steps of my own

Ten or more steps of my own

I have taken some bold steps (decisions) in my life from my childhood and that had come good, when I reflect on them. Some of them cannot be mentioned here.

I was a keen observer of nature and people around me and learned to be bold and fearless.

Most of my teachers except who taught me Sinhala and English were mediocre.
I often wondered how they ever became teachers especially science.

1. One bold step was not to believe teachers especially in science.
That was a very scientific decision by itself.
I had the knack and keen power of observation and problem solving ability. For example I believed anything can be grown on our be soil, be that it may, seeds or yam or runner provided I water them regularly. My father was not a farmer but he was a keen gardener (which he learned from a burger gentleman0. Except potatoes I could do that on my own but could not figure out why I could not grow potatoes (those days potatoes came from UK and I did not know that they put chemicals to inhibit sprouting and made sure seed potatoes were never given to us. I discovered this many many years later. This is how western countries help us).

2. I decided never to ask scientific questions (why potatoes could not grow) from my teachers (knowing very well they will give a wrong answer to shut my mouth).

3. I decided to do science and one day I decided not to go to the school I was attending abruptly (there were many other reasons and flashes of them I have expanded elsewhere) and that was a very bold decision. Finding a school teaching science was difficult but i eventually found one (there was another story behind this I would not enlarge upon).

4. I decided not to proceed with cadetting even though I was the leader in my old school (I was thrashed by the teacher / principal three times in the new school but I stood my ground). I took part in all other sports except cadettting (reason should be obvious and there is / was a worse form of ragging which included sexual for the young).

5. New school was no better in teaching science and I made the decision to do D.I.Y learning science (thank god there were two Foreign libraries stocked with old science books in Kandy then).

6. Due to harassing by teachers I decided to walk out of the science class and asked permission from the principal who thrashed me for not joining cadets. He eventually acceded (I still thank him for that help) to my demand (man with military training) knowing my will power.

Little he knew that others will join me later.

7. We decided to work towards a common (first exercise in group work) goal and entire university in the first attempt (both Bio and Maths). Eventually all of us did pass and none from the class who attended normal class.

They thought we (me especially) had gone bonkus.

8. Next decision was to get rid of all the science teachers in one go (Boomi Puthra was one of them) and get some decent ones. By this time I have forged some connections with science school inspector who was very helpful.
Proof of the pudding was that nobody from the normal class passed.
Some teachers feared me more than the principal and I was a good cohort for him.

9. We never went for tuition classes and we never got involved in giving tuition to others except my cousin brother who eventually became an engineer. He failed all his subjects in “O” Level and till he entered the university he was under my clutches.

10. Next decision was to get rid of the compulsory government service act that we had to serve (IMF would love this) for six years and never to join the government service except university (semi-autonomous institution and not a government per say).

The way things are happening and developing in the university now leaving that is also not a big decision for me.

Rest that followed is history.

I suppose nobody should try these methods now since all the systems including schools in this country are very poorly managed by over 100 of ministers and ministries.

There is no half way house for us now as the saying in English goes.

How to Freeze a American Credit Card

It is very difficult to be a very SMART credit card user.

About 12 years ago when I returned from sojourn abroad and decided not to go back in spite of the many risks involved (including losing my life on public transport or in a public place like Central Bank of Ceylon-now it is no more public, it is almost private where few cronies make all the decisions, or while watching a cricket match) in Ceylon. 

I had six credit cards and a small saving abroad.

Unfortunately those cards were international and one can use it in this country in spite of the war.

I was without a job and was not hunting for a job wanting to take a welcome respite since the sojourn abroad was lot of work covering for three local doctors who did not want to work where I worked but was a beautiful, place now almost wretched by the recent earth quake.

I was enjoying the welcome respite but I could not resit the indulgence with the credit cards.

One day when I looked at the credit balance abroad and the amount of money I owed and the interest accumulated, and it dawned on me I may not survive even a year.

That night I took all the cards and cut them in half and went to sleep.

I have made a few smart decisions in my life and very many structurally poor decisions (including returning to my mother Lanka and watching absolute corruption at all level including schools, health sector (both public and private) and electioneering.

But this was one of those SMART decisions.

I could foresee the credit market collapse (but not so soon though) even though I was not a financier.

The decision was to live within my means and not bloated like the mega politicians on credit loans from abroad.

I have some information for you how to FREEZE your Credit Card that you got the other day, thanks to the Lifehacker International for sharing their wealth of financial advice with me.

They are as follows

1. Take the card in your hand and oil it with some Sri-Lankan butter and wrap it with a tin foil. It may be useful to swipe a strong magnet over it to demagnetize the inner foil.

2. Buy 12 plastic containers that fit in inside the other and gradually become smaller that would have the capacity to hold a small piece of fish cake sold at Rs.100/= in a super market food stall-For example Majestic City.

3. Now put the credit card nicely foil covered in the inner most container and place other containers on top of it. By doing this you are going to save on the electricity, bill .
The innermost will have the coolest air trapped which cannot escape and the outermost will have the warmest air.

4. Now switch on the freezer and put the lowest cooling rate and place the credit card containing cartooned cartoon deep inside the freezer compartment and put all the reused or rotten food you eat on top with few onions and garlic to sanitize the rotten food.

5. Now you have to pay your electricity bill with cash and not by credit card.

This way you can Freeze your card till you become old enough to say good bye to this world.

Do not forget to put a note inside stating that “I do not owe the bank any money”.

This will stay put and a STATUS SYMBOL for your name since you may the only one under the hot Sun in Sri-Lanka who does not owe anything when you died.

All the rest are pawned for another 60 to 100 years by our caretaker politicians.

Full politicization of our Universities

I saw a long narration about my Alma Mater (University) which was probably written in malicious political intention and this is in no way an attempt to engage in a debate with the writer or answer any issues raised. But regret to say without the points I am raising here are not included in that essay, it cannot be taken as an academic exercise. I will leave it to a politically oriented person to address those issue academically. The points I am raising here could be used as a base.

I will put them in concise and precise manner since an average reader has no time to read long essays.

There is a little scientific but not political bias here.

I try to be in chronological order but not in logical order and the reader can assemble in logical order he wishes to.

The bottom line is politicians without vision and education principles are ruining all education including university.

First that come to mind is Monty (Late Monty Gopallawa who was the Governor in Kandy) Affair.

Monty is a good friend of mine and good philosopher and I have no intention of incriminating any malice or disgrace to him, his father or his family except highlighting the wrong decisions made by the then education minister and only he is culpable of the grandiose mistake.

I must state here when I heard about the Monty’s demise I wrote a verse (sent to a paper but they did not publish it) and publish it in the web and it is still there. Only other person I have written a verse is our late Kadhiragarmar. That is to put in perspective the way I admire both personalities.

The story we have heard was that Monty did not have the required marks to enter the university. Then the minister gave orders to lower the marks of entry to accommodate Monty. In that process the candidates up to that point mark had to be taken in to all the universities. The universities did not have the proper infrastructure to accommodate the numbers involved and the race course adjoining the Colombo university was used as temporary shelter.

This was the beginning and I think the year was 1965.

Lot of things happened after that and in 1965 (may be later) police was called in to settle a dispute and police baton charged and one student had serious head injuries and he completed his academic studies with me many years later.

In 1968 Army was stationed in the Gymnasium with political motivation and what followed was nasty and I was there to witness it.

Then in 1974 on wrong (a racial issue) advice the practical examination for science subjects to enter the science streams were stopped.

Then Science Streams were made to be taught in mother tongue (Swabasha) and that was the death knell for outside world of scientific knowledge.

Between 1974 to 1976 (I need to be corrected here-I had left the university by then) another blunder was made by introducing area basis admission scheme but not on merits. This is of cause the violation of the rights of the student who obtained requires marks. They should be compensated in some academically acceptable way for this arbitrary politically motivated penalization.

In 1975 or 1976 we had a death of a student (I was a witness as a doctor in Kandy OPD) shot by police, a single bullet at short range.

We did not have a proper Vice Chancellor it could have been a Competent Authority (politically appointed, I believe) that was running the show.

In 1977 the UGC (and the act) was established leading to full politicization and the Chancellor and Vice chancellor were made on political affiliations.

There are many more blunders in our education and one of the biggest is when a wrong decision was made there was no discussion or and no attempt to correct it even when it was realized that the decision was not made on education principles but on political grounds with short sight.

These thing happened not in isolation but with connivance of academics who go for high seats and become stooges of politicians.

Down the ages with political intervention we manged to cancel the University Entrance Examination conducted by the University independently.

University has no choice in selecting the students they wish to have in their various faculties.

It is a game of lottery or lotto which is unprecedented unlike in universities abroad.

For over 60 years we did not have an Education Minister with some distant vision or understanding of real needs and I have a feeling the way we select our representatives we never will have..

There are lot of lapses in this summary of events but I will wind up with a down to earth story.

I had served six years of service and I wanted to go abroad.

For GMC registration I needed my degree certificate. I had applied it five years ago and when I inquired about it the registrar told me that they do not have money to buy the special paper for degree certificate ( imported probably from UK).

I could not wait and I was not bothered about the special paper and told the registrar I need a certificate authenticated by you and the vice chancellor, that is all what I want.

Finally with some persuasion, the vice chancellor agreed to give such certificate pending the original.

My father received the certificate many years later when I was abroad (I may be the only one who has two certificates for the same degree) and he kept it in his safe possession without telling me. He of course fell sick and was ill for a long period of time and his memory was gone. Then many years later after my father’s death my sister who had some of his precious paper belonging dumped them in a garage of my other sister.

One day I was looking for some old memorabilia in the garage, may be my father’s stamp album and some of his photos (one gone missing by that time) and I found my MBBS (Ceylon) Certificate, top part eaten by white ants.and bottom part still legible because of the quality of the print material.

It may be at least 20 years later I saw my original certificate.

Quite and outstanding achievement of mine.

I have two other outstanding achievements.

I decided not to attend any convocation for my life in Ceylon. Our convocation was canceled indefinitely for many years because they could not buy the paper to print certificates. We never had it. Some of my friends mostly Tamil are coming home (they are all over the world) in April for a get together and I need to remind this fact to them.

I never took a photograph with the degree paraphernalia (cloak).

But I still remain as a teacher of young adults who need direction.

Making amends and Friends

I find present day young persons live very detached life.

True they have cell phones.

They have portable MP players and lot of gadgets in their possession to keep occupied in lonely engagements and attachments but when it comes to making friendships they find it difficult to make meaningful relationships.

I wonder why?

They also lack the humour what was inherent in our time and in our youth.

We had very little aspirations but we worked hard probably seen how our parents we struggling without complaining. That generation always enjoyed a joke and they always carry some sense of humour even in an unfamiliar situation. Probably I also acquired some of them even though my external appearances were made to look like serious.

I hated bulling and I was always on the side of the underdog. Having seen very poor people and having grown up with them in early years relating to them and sharing what little we had was no problem.

Making friendship was no problem.

In fact everybody was a friend. We were secure with each others company.

Moment I moved into the urban situation for schooling I found a very distinct contrast and making friends was difficult. From the beginning it was antagonism and friendships were not spontaneous.

It was just getting the 10 or 11 players in the filed to play cricket. Who bats first was difficult to decide. We had to draw lots. Often we never get the chance to play since one who bats somehow outlast the interval. No retiring!
It was always fielding and when we go to bat somehow we tend to get all the nasty deliveries. So we were weeded out and most of us gave up cricket but I continued to take part in athletics which was a solo effort.

The rat race was evident in a subtle form and image building was going on at the expense of friendship.

The accent was different in the city.

As we grew up we out manoeuvered all these difficulties and became smarter in the academic fields. What we could not mange in the field (I think it should have be the other way round) we managed in the class room.

After a year or of roughshoding I was beginning to come to term with the city life always keeping my semi-urban background and make more and more friends and becoming bit popular.

We managed to meander through the rough patches but unfortunately this situation seems to be much worse today.

In private tutories children almost kill each other for a seat. Bulling is there in a subtle form and this trend continues to the campuses and the rat race continues.

Talking to them in group activities I begin to discover the followings.
1. Loneliness
2. Inability in making friendships
3. Difficulty in working in groups
4.Isolation in religious, ethnic groups. and schools of their entry
5.Frustration
6. Often not communicating these difficulties
7. Sadly lack of humour

This makes them to go for affairs with the opposite sex often dating back to their relationships probably initiated (not new) in school days. This coincides with the severance of the parental control.

I find this as a very abrupt approach.

I tell them you must make lot of friends before jumping into long term relationships.

I tell them first casualty is losing the few friends you already have.

The next casualties are your freedom and hobbies.

They find it difficult to comprehend my argument.

Then I ask them can you count the number of friends with the fingers in your hands and can you count them after 5 -10 years later and remember what I said.

True friends do not drop one by one each year.

They remain true through thick and thin.

They are not counted by the number of years, the number of years add to them.

Better make some friends now before it is too late.

Urbanization has its own casualties.

No true friends.

This is evident when we see how we treat cats and dogs.

Dogs needs friendship more then humans.

Everyday, I see a dog (looked a crossed with a good breed) in front of the hospital bus stop. This dog has no place to go. Come rain, come sunshine he is always there. No shade for cover, soaked in water with little fur. Many a times I think the fellow is dead but the next morning I see him ambling.

This us a drudgery for this poor sole but he goes on without a friend.

The other day I found a cat mauled to death probably by the owner’s dog but owner took no notice of the dead for three days. The particular dog for some reason is also very poorly treated without friends.

I cannot blame the dog for its behaviour.

So my argument go little further, if you cannot make friends please do not rear cats or dogs.

We are now very poor making friends with 30 odd years of hate, anger and war mentality.

Politicians are still firing this theme.

It is time we invest on a course in schools teaching “how to make friends” and make it compulsory instead of regular competitive examinations.

Raindrops on Coconut Palm

I asked some of my students to list 10 important points about coconut tree as a creative thinking exercise and I couldn’t get anyone of them to think it as related to mother nature.

Then I told them we are the only animal species on planet earth who behave like aliens.

The coconut tree purifies the water and present us a drink superior to saline that we inject as a life support in an emergency. In the second world war it was used as saline substitute when things were in short supply.

It gives us water to drink.

It clears the carbon foot print of ours by taking in CO2 and releasing out O2.

The two most important things animal life need for its survival but yet we forget to mentioned them but obsessed with coconut milk and coconut oil.

Why?

We tend to think we are the only important living animals on this planet.

We are the only selfish animals on this planet.

That is true and will remain true for the current century unless we open ourselves to creative thinking and awareness of our mother nature.

We build houses.

We build roofs to protect us from rain and sun.

If we take the plant kingdom.

The story is different.

It lives by the day under sunlight but rest by night but never sleeps.

It takes rain as survival god never complains if there is snow or frost

They are in constant touch with nature and the air currents of change and wind

They are in harmony with all physical elements.

Remain and stay put for another day come sun or rain what it may.

 

When rain drops fall on the roof and runs through the gutters it makes a constant and a big racket and and I even  find it difficult to sleep at night.

But when rain drops falls on tree tops and leaves there is no rackety pitch.

We only hear the wind blowing but raindrops hardly make a noise. They gently touch the leaf surface and trickle down gently to the soil. No big gush and the roots soaks in as much so that the water that seeps through is clear.

But on a rainy day in a city we see all rubbish and mud that comes out of the gutters and finally minor floods all over the place till the rain ceases.

There are no tress with roots to soak the extra water.

Coming back to coconut tree it leaves take the water in a peculiar way not sen in other smaller leaves. The peculiar way it handles water make it and excellent covering for roofs and thatched coconut leaves that used to cover the village huts did not make a big racket on a rainy day but the asbestos sheets that cover us now are totally different and alien to mother nature.

Mind you the coconut tree takes all the shocks of thunder and lightening too.

If not many of us would be dead by lightening.

The golden rule was not to rest under a tall tree in a thunder storm.

None of these came out of my students’ creative thinking exercise.

What the hell the education system is doing to them in schools and university?

I do not know.

It is said that even in America in the first two years in the university they do not gain any extra incites or creativity.

Why?

Education is now a money spinner.

No more creativity left in it now.

Make money when going is good but leave the students without opportunities.

Coconut Tales of Tail Spin and the Windshield of Whirlwind

Coconut tree which lives over 50 years of productive life sometimes more than 80 years if left untarnished by human activity lives behind a tell tale story of the weather beaten life.

If one looks at a human face at 80 (eighty) it leaves behind a sad tale of wrinkles but never leave behind the tale of destruction he or she has caused over his or her life time, leave alone the junk that is collected and left behind.

On the contrary, the coconut tree tells us all the rough times it has had over the years, if we look at the way the trunk had twisted and turned against the air current around it, it bears the true tale of forbearance.

What a contrast?

In fact it can tell the exact time of the last grand cyclone it had managed to withstand on its own.

Unlike the humans they are a barometer of wind currents of today and tomorrow.
If one looks at its leaves, the gentle rustle they create with the wind and how it raises a rhyming tune with some alarming whirring of a whirlwind, foretelling a thunderstorm that is about to land is something we have taken for granted but never given thought in any scientific manner.

We take it for granted that the water is abundant but at the same time pollute it in every possible way from Adams peak to the sea.

The same story is true for the coconut tree.

It is vandalized to the stem and we cry hard only when the coconuts go high in price but never cared to listen to its story and the windshield it creates on a daily basis.

My observation days back to my childhood inquiry not necessarily based on any scientific themes. If I wanted to fly a kite I look at the coconut trees and their leaves and then bring out the kite if I consider the conditions are favorable.

Then I go to a place where I can get the kite over the coconut trees quickly and off I go with the wind.

I never paused to think what a service it does as a wind breaker.

This little piece is to finally put to rest and peace of my mind with the wind physics (theory) of biological nature and facts which I call the biophysics of coconut saga.

I should have done this decades ago!

Not only the coconut tree stands to the wind upright but it divide the wind to upstream high and a downstream gentle for us to live in peace. This we forget when we chop it for fast growing development and consumption as timber.

It is the scene of coconut trees that touches my heart when the plane lands at Katunayake. It was strikingly beautiful 30 years ago but now we see s few coconut trees near the airport and the sudden thud of landing.

The landing is also not as smooth as it used to be.

I even go to the extend of saying that the planes used to land smoothly due to the coconut plantation driving the unnecessary tailspin and head wind currents well above the plane as it touches down making it easy for the pilots to land.

Think about it this as food for for thought for scientists who are hell bent on discovering new source of energy along with foot prints of destruction.
I wish our veteran pilots do some study on this keeping in mind those who were on service during the second world war II might know it better than the present day autopilot youngsters.

Coconut tree is a wind breaker and a windshielder.

Of course it will provide its trunks to climb when the next tsunami comes if we start growing thousands and thousand of them around our beaches instead of constructing polluting hotels that divert the sewerage to the sea.

This is my wishful thinking but I am sure more trees will be down to move the fast development trends of our political mights.

Good Bye my friend windshield and welcome thy whirlwind of destruction in the name of construction!