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Showing posts from February, 2010

Why is David Cameron losing it?

In a few hours, David Cameron will deliver a make-or-break speech in Brighton to the Conservative Party faithfuls. It is ironic to note how political cycles run: Only a few months ago, we talked about Gordon Brown fighting for his political life in the run up to his speech to labour party faithfuls in Brighton. The world seems to be coming a full circle.

If opinion polls are any indication, this election seems to be slipping away from Cameron's grips. Oddly, the news from Downing Street has only got worse, but still, it seems, the British public is steadily started giving Mr Brown the benefit of doubt. Conservatives are already sounding defeatist, and talk of a hung parliament and the dangers of indecision that brings is the best they can talk about. If such an eventuality does happen, or as Sunday Times is predicting, Gordon Brown can manage to form a minority government, it will certainly destroy the conservative party with some finality.


One can account for such shifting of alleg…

Danish Newspaper Apologises For Printing of Cartoons

Adding a fresh twist to the Sensitivity versus Freedom of Speech debate, the Danish newspaper Politiken, which published the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad with bomb-shaped turban and the like, apologised for any offences it may have caused. In fact, the apology comes after it has reprinted one of the cartoons, originally published in 2006 by another newspaper, after an attempt was made on the life of Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist.

The newspaper which originally printed the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten, criticized Politiken's apology, calling it a 'pathetic prostrating in front of a Saudi Lawyer' which deserves 'the first prize in stupidity'. Kurt Westergaard called it 'a setback for the freedom of speech' and the Danish Union of Journalists called the move 'kneeling before the opponents of the freedom of speech'. Such criticism comes despite the fact that Jyllands-Posten itself apologised for printing the cartoons back in 2006, and the opponents of t…

Education 2.0: What About The Teacher?

I have written about University model changing significantly and morphing into an User Network model, more akin to a library, where learners learn from each other. The reason behind imagining such transformation has obviously been the availability of technological options, and the social trends and imperatives of Lifelong Learning. One criticism I have received of such a visualization is that it pushes the teacher out of the equation, making her extinct and letting Learning Technologist take her place, or at least de-professionalizing teaching into some kind of technology assistant.


First of all, I accept the criticism as valid. In my enthusiasm in writing about the universities as user networks, I almost forgot about teaching, not mentioning this at all. This, however, came from my own background and bias, because my engagement with education was mostly from the administrative and business perspective, rather than teaching itself. Being largely self-taught, it was rather obvious for m…

Education 2.0: Universities as User Networks

The more I think about it, I become more convinced that universities have already started morphing into the User Network model, adopting the role of a guide and mentor to the seekers of knowledge, rather than trying to be the fountainhead of knowledge creation. One may as well argue some of the best research and innovation come out of universities. This is indeed true, and in that function, universities create knowledge. And, I see the universities concentrating more on research function, while morphing their teaching function into a technology-facilitated user network form.

This does not happen today as the universities are expected to meet their social obligations through the performance of the teaching function. The economics of an university is dependent on dispensing education, and research is mostly an area where universities incur costs. The government policy expects the universities to produce a certain number of graduates, in line with the needs of the employers as well as the…

Education 2.0: How The Education Business Model Would Change

I am preparing to write the Open College idea down over the Christmas holidays and hence, doing some reading and review of ideas. There could not have been a better place to start the journey than Clayton Christensen's DISRUPTING CLASS [with Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson], where the effect of disruptive innovation on how education is delivered has been examined.


The book is full of concepts about disruptive innovation and how they are brought to market, and a connecting fable which lets us understand the possibilities and challenges of technology introduction to the market. There are some rather disconnected, but useful stand-alone sections, on Pre-school education and Educational Research for example, but overall the book is a good read and stimulating for anyone interested in the business of education.


The point of this post, of course, is not the book, but an idea contained therein, which requires closer examination in the context of the open college project. This is the idea a…

Israel and The International Order

No country in the world can dare to behave like Israel, not even North Korea. When we lampoon Iran for violations of International Law, we talk about Israel's ability to go and strike within the sovereign Iranian territory at the same time. When we condemn human rights abuses by Burma, we gloss over the fact that Israelis can literally bulldoze homes and people, and also anyone, like Rachel Corrie, who comes in between. We invade countries to stop them from using weapons of mass destruction, but turn a blind eye when Israel uses deadly chemicals on, of all places, UN offices. We are just embarrassed when Israel copies our passports, steals our identities and go across the national borders to carry out political assassinations. We put sanctions against Iran for developing nuclear centrifuges, but keep mum about the Israeli weapons.



If the usual standards were applied, Israel would be world's biggest and most consistent state sponsor of terrorism, the largest arms smuggler, the w…

A Sense of Entitlement: The Enduring Legacy of Tiger Woods Affair

Tiger Woods has finally addressed the TV Camera and said sorry. No questions were allowed and the whole Press Event was a tightly managed affair, but it was still something which opened up the possibilities of his redemption. It will hopefully stop the circus in the media, all the digging of details and speculations more sordid than facts, and the act of saying sorry will start the process of atonement of this very talented individual.

Whether it is right or wrong to let him get away with what he has done is a question for his family and it is best left at that. Those who ponder the moral aspects of allowing a very talented and very wealthy man to use a carefully orchestrated show of penitence to gloss over his past misdeeds, will have a lot to debate on. Yes, it may have been a carefully scripted statement by an army of PR specialists, but that does not take anything away from the pain of standing in the public view saying sorry for private affairs. It may all be a charade, but still …

The Return to Gandhi

Gandhi is fashionable again.

For all purposes and intent, the Independent India discarded Gandhi. He did not matter - in fact, he became almost disruptive - in the politics of new India. He did not agree to the partition, which was the only way to get things going. He almost offered Indian leadership to Jinnah, and blamed Dr RajendraPrasad for the violence against Muslims in Bihar. He stayed away from the celebrations of Indian independence. He was in Kolkata on the 15th of August 1947, doing his usual prayers, and did not even unfurl the Indian flag. He, the father of the nation, was a disaffected, irritable, retired father.

He did not do himself any favours even afterwards. He kept preaching peace with Pakistan. He insisted that Indian government pays its due money to Pakistani government, even when the new breakaway republic already started showing its colours. When things turned worse, he started fasting, creating embarrassment for the Congress Government, and proposed, what horror,…

The Talent Saga

I have just incorporated a company with Talent Management in its name, and almost immediately, Barclays announced a huge bonus for its 'talent' amid a huge public uproar. What's worse, talent's poster boys, footballers in English Premier League, are kind of having a nasty time. You sure love John Terry as a footballer, though he looks older than his 29 years, but when you look at his conduct - sleeping with his best mate's girlfriend behind his back and chasing any busty girl around him despite being safely married to his childhood sweetheart, you wouldn't want to be him. Even worse is Ashley Cole, who is married to splendid Cheryl, who seems to be one of the best known WAGs in England anyway, who would cheat, lie, cheat, get caught and will almost surely cheat and lie yet again.

I am all too aware of the usual argument. Don't try to meet the author whose novels you love! Because people are different in their private lives. They ought to be, it is their priv…

Year of The Tiger and The Century of The Dragon: Jo Owen

I came across this short article by Jo Owen, which is full of facts and insights about China. Written from an uniquely British perspective, this adds interesting historical perspective and points to the world that is to come. I quote the article in full here.
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February 14th marks the Chinese New Year – the year of the Tiger. It is now clear that it is also the century of China. Here are six statistics to make the point: China became the world’s largest exporter in 2009, with 10 per cent of world trade, compared to 9 per cent each for the US and Germany.China beat the USA to become the world’s largest auto maker, producing 13.8m cars in 2009. The UK produced under one million cars in 2009. Two Chinese companies, SAIC and Nanjing Motor bought the rump of Rover. China is the largest foreign holder of US government debt: Uncle Sam owes the Dragon over $800bn. This creates an uneasy balance of mutually assure…

How Real is The Recovery?

This is not a rhetorical question, nor a political one. The question, how real is the recovery, is serious and needs serious consideration not just from the policymakers, who are only too aware of the situation, but also from the media and the general public at large. We have long lived with this motto of 'perception is reality' and the current recession has indeed established the primacy of psychological factors in our economic world, but when we have started seeing the green shoots of recovery everywhere, it is better to set perception aside for a moment and get real.

Yes, because despite all the optimism in the market, the economic problems remain. What we see now are more symptomatic of the problems of the cure applied than of the disease itself, so to say. We are straddled with a big debt everywhere in the Western World, societies which have become accustomed to cheap money and lower interest rates, and unless some serious steps are taken now, it will be a very long time b…

Day 42: Reflections on Power

My thinking is focused on the idea of the state and the role it plays in our life and thinking. I am now onto an interesting book - the Social Construction of Reality - which I have just started reading. The essential thesis of the book is that the 'reality' as we know it is socially constructed, and there is no universal 'reality' as the underlying construct of reality imply.

It is actually a no-brainer in a way, and we have already heard the slogan - perception is reality. But, even that slogan, assumes a fixed reality, something that exists as given, and only claim that an alternative proposition can be found through perception. Besides, the proposition also assumes the existence of ONE reality, so that perception can replace the same. The social construction of reality, however, examines the existence of multiple realities, constructed from various vantage points of horizontal and vertical social positions, which then overlap and pass-off as one universal construct.

India: Need for An Alternative Idea

There are times when I encounter a special book. A book which questions fundamental assumptions of my thoughts, the ideas I took as given. Over last couple of weeks, coincidentally, I encountered not one, but two such books. These, along with various experiences and reflections, allow me to think about the idea of India all over again.

The first among these is a travelogue. BenardImhasly, a Swiss cultural anthropologist and someone who knows India quite well, has written a beautiful book - Abschied Von Gandhi - which I read in its English translation, Goodbye to Gandhi. Beautifully presented, this is an attempt to retrace the footsteps of Gandhi - from Porbandar to Champaran to Sevagram - and reflections on modern India from the vantage point of its Gandhian vision. I must not give the impression that it is a biographic commentary or hagiography in any sense, the author travels to Devdungari to see MKSS and its founder, Aruna and Bunker Roy, as well as to Manipur to meet the heroine of…

Day 39: Private Equity and Training Business in India

I came back to London on Monday morning, and it already seems a long time. Active life has its own value - I have been running around, sorting out my passport and various visas, as well as pushing through the business restructuring issues in India and elsewhere. It is interesting that I was watching a snippet from Donald Trump's recent interview on CNN and he was saying that when you work hard, you get lucky. Something of that sort is already happening with me.

In short, just when I was almost giving up, orders have started coming back. An idea I cooked up in near desperation, setting up employment preparation centres inside universities, is suddenly gaining some traction. There are some new doors opening in terms of business opportunities. Most of this end of recession bounce, and being acutely aware, I am very keen to make use of some of the opportunities. There are some legacy issues which I still have to negotiate - true - but I am much more optimistic about the next 12 to 24 m…

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