Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Painting & songs of France in great transition

The revolutionary and also counter-revolutionary upheavals in France, triggered off by the historic storming of the Bastille, 'lasted for many years. Liberty Leading The People was painted by ( Ferdinand Victor ) Eugene Delacroix ( 1798-'1863 ) to commemorate an uprising in 1830. Two still passion'-stirring songs were also composed at that period of earthly transformation, namely La Marseillaise and La Internationale. In 1790, 'British MP and writer Edmund Burke released Reflections on the Revolution in Franch to criticise the epoch-making revolt in 1789. German philosopher and political economist Karl Marx remarked that Burke was essentially '"a bourgeois stooge of the English ruling class".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

French Revolution in Dickens' very great tale

The French Revolution in 1789 was used as the historical backgrounds for Charles Dickens' very famous novel, A Tale Of Two Cities. 2012 is the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of the great English novelist who also penned 'The Life Of Our Lord' for his kids' private education. Now, the once well-kept book is available publicly as one of the many fairly well-liked books in the modern English'-speaking world on earth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Enlglish-language books on changes in Europe

The French Revolution in 1789 opened up a new chapter in the history of Europe. Why '? 'What were the cumulative causes of the upheaval '? what were the immediate triggers '? 'Who wanted it and who did not '? What were the intended or unintended consequences '? 'What were its impacts on other countries in Europe and the world ? David Thomson's Europe Since Napolean ( London, Penguine, 1966 ) offers some pretty powerful insights into the 'actions and reactions in the historic event. Professor Eric Hobsbawn's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 analyses the period of upheaval' in modern Europe from a Marxist perspective. Hobsbawn, 'who remarked at a recent BBC interview on the economic crisis that "'capitalism has nothing to do with responsibility'" and it is only concerned with growth and making profit, also authored The Age of Capital: 1848'-'1875 as well as The Age of Empire: 1875'-'1914. His new book is How To Change The World': Tales of Marx and Marixism. Modern people have to read more than one book to answer questions in life or solve problems to better themselves and'/'or their societies.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Europe's journey from antiquity to modernity

During the Middle Ages in Europe, the ruling and dominant ideas were derived from theology. However, with the rediscovery of philosophies as well as emergence of social sciences and humanities, people began to be more pluralistic in their methods of reasoning and able to probe their societies and the world at large '( both physical and social )' with more than one concern and perspective. Finally, the old idea that one cure'-all book could answer all questions and solve all problems ended. In a modern society, 'even scientists can be questioned or challenged, in rational and civil ways, for the betterment of the human condition, as no human being is divine or'/ and can claim the monopoly of truth.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Masters in scientific & technological progress

The development of science and technology without any nourishment of arts and culture could be detrimental to the society and its people. It is human beings who ought to master science and technology as to allow science and technology to lord over human beings is very scary. Intense affection or hatred for 'persons', whom one has never met in his'/'her real life, through the cyberspace is a contemporary example of people being subject to control by' tools of science and technology. Obssession with computer games or social media is another example. Any society which strives to find a balance for the development of its science and technology on one hand and arts and culture on the other would not displace sites of cultural heritage or'/'and approve projects which could endanger precious human lives in the name of ''progress''.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Science & technology in Europe's rich history

Science and technology in Europe has not developed in seclusion from the general context of changes ( and continuities ) in its civilizational history. Norman Davis' Europe : A History ( Oxford, 1998 ) offers just such an useful guide in one ('fairly thick') volume for those who, after seeing the trees, want to take a look at the wood in order to broaden their understanding as well as contextualise their specialised fields of knowledge. In spite of the current financial crisis, economic disstress and social tension, the scientific culture and technological base in the motherland of Western civilization on earth are still pretty admirable.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rating of French painting in M'sia unclear yet

British author Peter Mayle''s 44-page sex education book, 'Where Did I Come From has reportedly been banned "'to guard moral values'". It is not immediately clear how is the very famous French painting Liberty Leading The People assessed 'or' rated by official censors in Malaysia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Development in Middle East & debate in M'sia

Regional relations and development in the Middle East, in the form of Israel's existential legitimacy, has again become a fairly popular point of political debate in Malaysia. Scholar Shanti Nair''s great monograph Islam in Malaysian Foreign Policy could assist younger journalists and commentators, who may need a historical context to locate the issue. Dr. Kamarulnizam Abdullah''s book, 'Politics of Islam in Contemporary Malaysia '( Bangi, Penerbit UKM, '2003 )' also provides valuable views. What have changed ('in Malaysia, the Middle East and world at large') since the publication of these two books '? 'What remain unchanged '? What ought to be changed '? What ought to be kept and maintained ? Asking and answering these four questions can help all of us to grow.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another main point for studies of Middle East

Besides the 'continuities and changes 'in the Middle East, 'there exist also the similarities as well as many differences between the Muslim-predominant societies and states in the Middle East on one hand and those in other regions and'/'or sub-regions of the world, on the other. It is important for students in the area of interest to ask and answer the question': what are the factors that account for the differences ? Like it or not, 'the state of flux in the Middle East is going to impact, in various ways, 'on the rest of the world in several decades to come. For example, the increasingly hostile relationship between Israel and Iran has put India, 'which keeps ties with both, in a difficult position. An emerging ''Cold War'' in the Middle East could also impact on India through its tumultuous neighbours, namely Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dr M.K. Rajakumar on science as a way of life

In 1983, Dr. M.K. Rajakumar ''( 1932'-'2008 )'' presented a lecture very strikingly titled Science as a Way of Life at the Symposium on Science in National Development in the Serdang campus of the then Universiti Pertanian Malaysia '( since re-named Universiti Putra Malaysia ). 'It is an inspiring reflection and the note is now included in Tan Pek Leng''s An Uncommon Hero: M.K. Rajakumar in Medicine & Politics ('Petaling Jaya, SIRD, 2011). Certainly, it is still worth reading and reflecting on as our country is facing a crisis of sharp decline of interest in science among a huge number of teens and youths 'in the educational system. Educated in the 'hard science' of medicine, Dr. Rajakumar further self-improved with ''soft sciences'' as a political leader and social activist.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Forces for continuity & change in Middle East

For students or non-specialist enthusiasts of the history of the Middle East ( also known as West Asia ), who also follow current events, it is essential to find out the continuities and changes in the region. 'Also, it is important to ask and answer the questions': What are the causes of continuities? What are the causes (and consequences) of changes ? Why do some countries in the region ( like Egypt ) change faster than other (such as Sauds' Arabia) even though they share the same faith''? Why is Iran more determined ( 'and perceived to be more successful' ) to develop science and technology than, 'for example, 'Sauds' Arabia ?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2,000-year history of Middle East in one book

Besides Peter Mansfields' A History of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis' one-book The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Year can also serve to deepen and also broaden non'-specialists' understanding of the region 'that would be very newsworthy for many years to come. With the foundational knowledge provided by scholars like Mansfields and Lewis, 'we can digest better news from the Middle East on global television and international radio programmes as well as newspapers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

'Soft sciences' also vital for national progress

While 'hard sciences' such as physics, biology and chemistry are fairly important for constructing a productive economy, social sciences and humanities or 'soft sciences' are also very vital in developing rational mindsets as well as reasoning faculties to identify, 'analyse and solve societal problems for progressive betterment of the human condition. As public intellectuals, teachers as well as students of social sciences and humanities can serve to improve the quality of public discourses.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gov't in M'sia to broaden review of education

Reportedly, 'the Federal Government has broadened the review of the educational system to "all subjects". Besides the decline of interest in science, the accuracy and'/'or balance in history books used in schools and universities have also been fairly widely questioned, as more and more ''stories'' 'have surfaced from memoirs published in recent years and as more and more people have easier access to university'-'grade ideas or knowledge of the world in this fascinating age of cyberspace.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gov't forms committee for science education

The Federal Government has reportedly planned to establish a Special Committee to study Malaysian teens' and youths' decline of interest in science which is said to have reached a "critical" and "worrying" level. How long should the people expect the special committee to complete its study ? Would the findings of the special committee be published ?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Views of youngsters on study of science vital

Why I love science and have decided to study it in my school and' / or university ? Why I love science but have decided not to study it ? 'Why I dislike ( or hate ) science '? 'Why I dislike ( or hate ) science but still study it ''?' These are the issues our teens and youths should speak up from their experience ( and older people should listen very patiently ) in the 'national exploration on the 'critical drop of interest 'in science. Nowadays, voices of teens and youths are very vital in policy-making. Of course, many old or older people also have observations as well as perspectives, 'gained from rich experience, to share with youngsters.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

M'sian drop of interest in science widespread

Interest in science 'has critically declined not only 'at the tertiary level of education, but also secondary schools in Malaysia. 'Besides the real need to understand why many youths are not interested in the studies of science subjects, 'it is also very necessary for educators of science and concerned citizens to know 'why some other love it 'and also have chosen to pursue it at their secondary and tertiary stages of learning. Certainly, 'all earthly phenonmena and trends have to be examined or studied scientifically 'from both its negative and positive dimensions. As the lack of or decline in interest in science is always multifactorial all over the world in different times in history, 'there is, therefore, a need for an interdisciplinary approach to find a more holistic remedy. In other words, 'the current trend in Malaysia is not as simple or one-dimensional as " English-or-Malay ? " '('as the medium of instruction').

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Hear also youths' views on science education

Why has younger students' interest in science subjects declined in our society ? There are already some observations offered by older people but it seems there is also a pretty pressing need to hear the views of youths. Some may really love science and would have chosen to study it 'but have found job prospects not as promising as other disciplines.

Monday, February 06, 2012

India strives for balanced growth in economy

The high rates of growth 'in India in the past twenty years or so must have accelerated many socio-cultural changes in the fairly well-known center of ancient civilisation. But, there is a school of thought among development economists that there is a need to balance GDP-defined growth with other socio-economic indicators like the Gini Coefficient. As PM Manmohan Singh pointed out in very clear language earlier this year, providing children with sufficient nutrition is a now a challenge. Dr. 'Singh also called for scientific breakthrough in India''s agriculture and expressed concerns over the current condition of science 'as well as mathematics education 'for younger people of the secular republic.

From Mauryan Empire to democratic republic

How has India changed from Mauryan Empire to a modern, republican as well as secular democracy ? 'What elements of antiquity have been preserved and discarded in the long process of change ? What are the promises and challenges of the present polity ? 'These are the central questions whose explorations can help the world to comprehend India even better and with greater depth, as no society or country is static.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Book on early history of India from Singapore

A new book on the early history of India, published in Singapore, 'was recently launched in Kuala Lumpur. Nowadays, the 'Little Red Dot' has been publishing quite a lot of research-based and no'-nonsense books which would contribute to rational understanding of the multi-cultural societies and socio-historical contexts on both sides of the causeway. All books which have been distributed in the public domain, including those in and from Singapore, 'can be reviewed from a range of views and also with due respect given to 'other' peoples' cultures and faiths.

Report: UK economy to face recession "soon"

While the United States has shown signs of economic recovery, 'it is feared that the United Kingdom 'is heading toward a recession soon. UK has already slashed expenditure on its monarchy and the military but it is hosting the Olympic Games from 27 July to 12 August, 2012. The deeper fear, however, is the territorial breakup of the 300-year old political union in 2014 if Scotland opts for independence in a poll.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Obama sees signs of economic recovery in US

Reportedly, President Obama said that the US economy is recovering. Meanwhile, many people 'in the West 'continue to discourse or reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the capitalist system. 'Within the English-speaking universe, London remains the intellectual hub of the debate as there are still 'public intellectuals who understand the world-historic analysis of Marx in depth and pose intelligent and intelligible arguments 'as theses or antitheses in an ongoing quest for syntheses.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Malaysia reacts to drop of interest in science

Reportedly, 'the Federal Cabinet is concerned over the critical drop of interest in science and is attempting to find ways and means to solve the problem. 'Whether the efforts would be felt, 'imagined or claimed in some quarters as yet another Jewish/Zionist conspiracy or Marxist-'Leninist plot to undermine their belief-system is yet to be observed. As for Malaysians whose mindsets are positive, 'we should contribute more ideas for the revival of interest in science among younger ones. Our media, 'whether mainstream or alternative, 'should provide more platforms for scientists and science teachers to present analyses and views on current affairs 'with scientific and technological dimensions to stimulate public or societal interest in science in real'-life settings. Certainly, time and tide waits for no man in this fast-changing world.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Warm Thaipusam greetings for teachers & all

Wishing all Hindu teachers, 'relatives, 'neighbours and friends Happy Thaipusam. May this colourful festival bring joy and happiness to all.