Archive for January, 2012

Kabul Winter Snows |Photo|

January 29, 2012 Comments off

Afghanistan receives a huge amount of snow during winter, with some melting, freezing and staying in areas. Once that melts the water runs into rivers, lakes, and streams. Images taken in January 2012

Rich culture, delicious food and stories from Afghanistan

January 29, 2012 Comments off

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Afghanistan has a wide varying landscape allowing for many different crops. Afghan food is largely based upon cereals like wheat, maize, barley and rice, which are the nation’s chief crops. Afghanistan is well known for its grapes.

The Anthropology of Food is an analysis of food in culture.  While the primary purpose for food is nutrition, it also has a cultural dimension by which people choose what they eat not only by flavor or nutritional value but by cultural, religious, economic, status and environmental factors.  – These pages are a supplement to Anthropology of Food, Food Science and are a collection of sampler recipes providing only a taste of each country and perhaps some information about the history and culture behind each cuisine.  

Due to the nature of the topic, some selected sites may have a commercial element as well as excellent information.

Popular Afghan dishes:

  • Palao (Traditional Rice dish)
  • Mosh Palao
  • Shorba (Afghan Soup)
  • Do Pyaza
  • Mantu (Meat dumplings)
  • Kofta (Meatballs)
  • Kichiri
  • Qorma Sabzi
  • Baunjan (cooked Eggplant w/Potatoes and Tomatoes)
  • Bendee/Baumya (cooked Okra w/Potatoes and Tomatoes)
  • Heeknusb (Hummus)
  • Ashak
  • Aush (hand made Noodles)
  • Baghlava
  • Bolani (Afghan Flat Bread or Crêpe)
  • Chapli Kabab
  • Shor-Nakhod (Chick Peas w/special toppings)
  • Naan (Afghan Bread)
  • Afghan desserts:
    • Gosh Feel (Pastries)
    • Halwa
    • Shir Berinj (Rice Pudding)
    • Ferni
    • Kadu Bouranee (Sweet Pumpkins)
    • Jelabi
    • Maleeda, Khajoor

The type of food served in Afghan cuisine is quite unique. It has been well documented that the foods, tastes and spices of Afghan food are a rather tasteful blend of the regions that surround Afghanistan. Unlike food from it’s neighbors to the east, the spices used in Afghan dishes, are neither too hot nor pungent, and in contrast to it’s western neighbors, Afghan food is not bland. In fact may western travelers find the foods of Afghanistan a perfect blend of exoticness and good taste.

Cooking and food has a very important role in Afghan culture. Unexpected guests might be seen as rude or an imposition in western culture, but not in Afghan culture. Guests are revered and even in families, people often just drop in with little or no notice and to not have food for them would be unheard of even in the most spur of the moment situations. Coming away from an Afghan table hungry is simply never happens, no matter how little preparation time the host has.

The types off food served are also symbolic for example Qaabuli Pallow is the crown of Afghan cooking and served to special guests or on special occasions such as weddings. Letee is served to new mothers because of its easy on the stomach yet high nutritive value. Dogh is best enjoyed on a hot summer’s day and Mahi is served during Nowroz (New Year). Even eggs are prepared in a special way so that a guest is well nourished when they wake up. Afghans also believe food is elemental in nature, and can produce hot or cold, or be neutral in the body. Food is well appreciated and even has special meaning as stepping on a piece of dropped bread is considered sinful.

Afghans take great pride in their cooking and are very happy to see everyone full and satisfied. Afghan cooking is not about exact measurements, and many of the ingredients can be substituted to achieve a similar taste. The amounts of all of the spices can be adjusted to suit your individual tastes. No two Afghans prepare the same dish exactly the same. Creativity is another element that contributes to the wonderful medley of flavors that make up Afghan cooking. Prepare these recipes with love and Nosh-e- Jaan, or good eating.

 Find More About Co-Related Afghanistan Culture Food

World Report 2012: Afghanistan

January 23, 2012 Comments off

Armed conflict with the Taliban and other insurgents escalated in 2011, but Afghanistan’s military allies made it clear they were intent on withdrawing troops as soon as possible, with a deadline for Afghan national security forces to take over from international forces by the end of 2014. Rising civilian casualties, increased use of “night raids” by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and abuses by insurgents and government-backed militias widened the impact of the war on ordinary Afghans. Stability was further undermined by a political crisis following parliamentary elections and panic caused by the near-collapse of the country’s largest private bank. The Afghan government continues to give free rein to well-known warlords and human rights abusers as well as corrupt politicians and businesspeople, further eroding public support. And it has done far too little to address longstanding torture and abuse in prisons and widespread violations of women’s rights. In 2011 support grew within the government and with its international partners for a negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban, given waning international willingness to continue combat operations. However, moves toward a peace agreement proved difficult with several false starts, the killing by the Taliban of a key government negotiator, pressure from Pakistan for a key role in the process, and lack of trust and differing priorities among the government and its international partners. The possibility of an agreement raised fears (and, reportedly, re-arming) among non-Pashtun communities, who are concerned about an alliance between the government and the Taliban. It also renewed grave concerns that human rights, especially women’s rights, would be bargained away in the negotiation process. Flawed parliamentary elections in September 2010 led to fallout that, in 2011, threatened to seriously destabilize the country. Following the certification of election results by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), President Hamid Karzai took the unprecedented step of creating a special court to review the results. After street protests in Kabul and eight months during which parliament was immobilized by uncertainty, the special court disqualified 62 members of parliament out of 249 seats. A compromise in September 2011 resulted in nine members of parliament being removed. The Armed Conflict The armed conflict escalated in 2011. The Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO) reported that opposition attacks increased to 40 a day in the first six months of the year, up 119 percent since 2009 and 42 percent since 2010. ANSO also reported a 73 percent increase since 2010 in attacks against aid workers, which included a fatal mob attack—sparked by the burning of the Koran by an American pastor in Florida—against a United Nations office in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Insurgent attacks reached previously secure areas including Parwan and Bamiyan as the war spread to many new parts of the country. Civilian casualties rose again, with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recording 1,462 conflict-related civilian deaths in the first six months of the year, a 15 percent increase since 2010. Some 80 percent were attributed to anti-government forces, most commonly caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Most IEDs that the ISAF encounters are victim-activated devices detonated by pressure plates, effectively antipersonnel landmines, which the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty—to which Afghanistan is a party—prohibits. The death of 368 civilians in May was the highest monthly toll since UNAMA began tracking figures in 2007. The use of “night raids” by international forces—nighttime snatch operations against suspected insurgents widely despised by Afghans because of their infringement on family life—increased to a reported 300 per month. While pro-government forces succeeded in reducing the number of civilian deaths directly caused by their operations, more could still be done to protect civilian lives. The NATO mission aimed to train a 134,000-strong police force and 171,600 soldiers by October 2011 to replace foreign forces. But the effort faces serious challenges, including attrition, insurgent infiltration, and illiteracy and substance abuse among recruits. In multiple incidents, trainees attacked and killed their international mentors. One in seven Afghan soldiers, a total of 24,000, deserted in the first six months of the year, twice as many as in 2010.There are concerns that the buildup of the armed forces is moving too fast for necessary training and vetting, and that the size of the force will be financially unsustainable. In an effort to combat insurgency the Afghan government continues to arm and provide money, with little oversight, to militias in the north that have been implicated in killings, rape, and forcible collection of illegal taxes. As part of its exit strategy, the United States is backing “Afghan Local Police” (ALP), village-based defense forces trained and mentored primarily by US Special Forces, which have been created since 2010 in parts of the country with limited police and military presence. In its first year ALP units were implicated—with few consequences for perpetrators—in killings, abductions, illegal raids, and beatings, raising serious questions about government and international efforts to vet, train, and hold these forces accountable. A campaign of assassinations of public figures by the Taliban in the north and the south seeks to destabilize the government. Prominent figures killed included the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Haidar Hameedi; a northern police commander, Gen. Daud Daud; and President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, a key southern powerbroker. Shifting power structures have led to the appointment of individuals implicated in serious human rights abuses, including Matiullah Khan as Uruzgan police chief and Abdur Rezaq Razziq as Kandahar police chief. The Taliban and other insurgent groups continue to target schools, especially those for girls. The Taliban also use children, some as young as eight, as suicide bombers. Detainee Transfers Torture and abuse of detainees in Afghan jails in 2011 led the ISAF to temporarily suspend the transfer of prisoners in eight provinces. Abuses in these jails documented by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan include beatings, application of electric shock, threats of sexual assault, stress positions, removal of toenails, twisting and wrenching of genitals, and hanging detainees by their wrists. Inadequate due process protections for detainees held within the parallel US-administered system and for those prosecuted under Afghan law following US detention also continue to be a serious concern. Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls Attacks and threats against women continue, frequently focusing on women in public life, school girls, and the staff of girls’ schools. The incarceration of women and girls for “moral crimes” such as running away from home—even when doing so is not prohibited by statutory law—also continues to be a major concern, with an estimated half of the approximately 700 women and girls in jail and prison facing such charges. A government-proposed regulation in 2011 would have prevented NGOs from independently operating shelters for women and jeopardized the existence of Afghanistan’s few existing shelters. Afghanistan at present has 14 shelters, each able to house an average of around 20 to 25 women and their children. This does not meet even a small fraction of the need in a country where an estimated 70 to 80 percent of marriages are forced and 87 percent of women face at least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage in their lifetimes. Although the regulation was significantly improved following strong domestic and international criticism, it exemplifies the hostility felt by many parts of Afghan society, including within the government, to women’s autonomy and ability to protect themselves from abuse and forced marriage. Weak Rule of Law and Endemic Corruption Afghanistan’s justice system remains weak and compromised, and a large proportion of the population relies instead on traditional justice mechanisms, and sometimes Taliban courts, for dispute resolution. Human rights abuses are endemic within the traditional justice system, with many practices persisting despite being outlawed. For exampleBaad, where a family gives a girl to another family as compensation for a wrong, continues even though it is banned by the 2009 Law on Elimination of Violence against Women. Prison overcrowding is extreme and increasing at an alarming rate, with the number of prisoners increasing from 600 in 2001 to 19,000 in 2011. Following the escape of 476 prisoners from Sarposa Prison in Kandahar, the government ordered the transfer of responsibility for prisons from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Interior, despite international concerns that doing so would increase the likelihood of abusive interrogation and lead to gaps in training, management, and oversight. Key International Actors For many international actors, particularly the US, a desire to bow out of what increasingly appears to be an unwinnable war has entirely overshadowed concerns about human rights. Activists’ demands that negotiations with the Taliban not imperil human rights, especially women’s rights, have been met by bland international assurances that any agreement would require the Taliban to commit to respecting the constitution. Such promises are of little use when many in Afghanistan, both government and insurgent supporters, interpret the constitution as elevating religious principles over international human rights obligations. The Taliban has in practice shown no willingness to respect international human rights laws and norms. Internationally supported efforts to promote human rights, civil society, education, rule of law, governance, and access to health care are imperiled by declining international aid. Aid budgets are expected to decline precipitously in 2012. The looming date of 2014 for withdrawal of most international troops—which is advancing against a backdrop of rising civilian casualties particularly from insurgent attacks, increased use of “night raids,” abuses by armed groups, and persistent human rights violations—begs the question of exactly what kind of Afghanistan the troops will be leaving behind.

Source : World Report 2012 By HRW – Afghanistan

Downloadable Resources

1 ) World Report Chapter – Afghanistan 2012 PDF

2 ) World Report Chapter – Afghanistan 2012 PDF ( Pushto Translation )

Afghanistan: Little Progress on Rights

January 23, 2012 Comments off

World Report 2012: Afghanistan
The snail’s pace of human rights improvement over the past year heightens anxieties about Afghanistan’s future. Basic rights are still not a reality for most Afghans. The country suffers from abuses without accountability, lack of rule of law, poor governance, laws and policies that harm women, attacks on civilians, and corruption.
Brad Adams, Asia director

Afghan women protest against street harassment in Kabul July 14, 2011. © 2011 Reuters


Conditions Dire, Especially for Women

January 23, 2012

(New York) – The dire human rights situation in Afghanistan showed few signs of progress in the past year, raising serious concerns about the future, Human Right Watch said today in its World Report 2012. While progress was made in Afghanistan in several areas, the general population and women in particular suffered from the widespread lawlessness and abuses by the security forces and armed groups, Human Rights Watch said. International “donor fatigue” and the planned drawdown of international troops in 2014 raise the prospect of further deterioration and backtracking in key areas. “The snail’s pace of human rights improvement over the past year heightens anxieties about Afghanistan’s future,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Basic rights are still not a reality for most Afghans. The country suffers from abuses without accountability, lack of rule of law, poor governance, laws and policies that harm women, attacks on civilians, and corruption.” In its 676-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the formation of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report. In Afghanistan, women’s rights are of particular concern, Human Rights Watch said. Since the defeat of Taliban rule in 2001, Afghan women have taken on more leadership roles, as members of parliament, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police officers, soldiers, civil society officials, and human rights activists. But many have been targeted for threats and violence. Ordinary Afghan women lack many basic protections, Human Rights Watch said. The Taliban and other armed groups attack and threaten women, frequently focusing on women in public life, school girls, and the staff of girls’ schools. The government incarcerates women and girls for “moral crimes” such as running away from home – even when there is no statutory prohibition. Infant mortality and maternal mortality remain among the highest in the world, with one in ten children dying before age five, and a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes approximately every two hours. Under-age marriage and forced marriage are widespread. Recent reforms, like the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, have largely failed to improve the lives of ordinary women, as the government is not enforcing its provisions, Human Rights Watch said. Afghanistan’s justice system remains weak and compromised, and a large proportion of the population relies instead on traditional justice mechanisms to resolve disputes. Corruption in the courts and police have cut off many Afghans from justice. The January 2012transfer of Afghanistan’s prisons to the Interior Ministry reversed an important 2003 reform and increases the risk of torture of prisoners. Documentation in 2011 of systematic and widespread torture in Afghan detention facilities shows the failings of past reform efforts. Human rights abuses are endemic within the traditional justice system, with many practices persisting despite being outlawed, including baad, the practice of handing over a girl to another family to resolve a dispute. The Afghan government and its international allies have not addressed the longstanding security problems created by abusive regional commanders and militias, Human Rights Watch said. Regional commanders who have been implicated in serious abuses benefit from US military support to strengthen their control of local populations at the expense of human rights. A US-supported “Afghan Local Police”program has a created a new kind of local militia without sufficient training, oversight or accountability. US plans to triple the size of the Afghan Local Police heighten concerns that this force will worsen the security situation. The Afghan government has repeatedly squandered opportunities to hold government or militia leaders responsible for abuses committed under their command, Human Rights Watch said. The 2005 Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice has never been implemented, and no serious efforts have been made to prosecute high-level officials for corruption and other abuses. No progress has been made on seeking accountability for abuses committed before late 2001, whether during the Soviet period, the civil conflict of the early and mid-1990s, or the Taliban period. “Afghans want justice and an accounting for the abuses of the past,” Adams said. “Yet the Afghan government and its backers, particularly the US, have not only ignored these calls but empowered the same warlords and power brokers who brought the country so much pain. Accountability is an important element of a lasting peace.” Conflict-related abuses are a daily reality in many parts of the country. During the past decade, thousands of Afghans have suffered as a result of violations of international humanitarian law by insurgent forces, militias, and Afghan government and international forces. The Taliban and other insurgent forces have committed widespread violations, in particular bombings that target civilians, and other attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilians. The Taliban have also used children as young as 8 years old as suicide bombers. All sides have mistreated people in their custody. Large areas of the country, especially the south, are now held by insurgent forces, who frequently violate human rights. Other areas are lawless zones in which no real governance exists. Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government to make human rights a top priority and on Afghanistan’s international partners to make a long-term commitment to support human rights, the security of the population, and development in Afghanistan. “The Afghan government needs to recognize the link between respect for human rights and the security of the population,” Adams said. “The government and its international partners should redouble their commitments to supporting accountability, justice reform, women’s rights, education and health, and civil society.”


YES Fighting online piracy is important!

January 19, 2012 1 comment

Fighting online piracy is important. The most effective way to shut down pirate websites is through targeted legislation that cuts off their funding


The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) have been making headlines, but what are they, exactly? Here are the facts.

By Jared Newman, PCWorld


The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act are getting more negative attention, as major websites such as Wikipedia plan to protest the bills with blackouts on Wednesday. Even Google will join the action, with a link on its homepage explaining why the company opposes the legislation.

But what are SOPA and PIPA, exactly, and why are tech luminaries lambasting legislation aimed at stamping out copyright infringement? Read on for a full explanation.

SOPA and PIPA: The Basics

Media companies are always looking for new ways to fight piracy. They’ve tried suing individual users, getting Internet service providers to take action against subscribers, and working with the U.S. government to shut down domains based in the United States. But none of those actions can stop overseas websites such as The Pirate Bay and MegaUpload from infringing copyrights, or prevent Internet users from accessing those sites.

Enter SOPA, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PIPA, in the U.S. Senate. Both bills are aimed at foreign websites that infringe copyrighted material. The bills are commonly associated with media piracy, but may also apply to counterfeit consumer goods and medication.

Originally, both bills provided two methods for fighting copyright infringement on foreign websites. In one method, the U.S. Department of Justice could seek court orders requiring Internet service providers to block the domain names of infringing sites. For example, Comcast could prevent its customers from accessing, although the underlying IP address would still be reachable. This ISP-blocking provision was a major concern among Internet security experts, and both SOPA and PIPA have dropped it.

The other tool would allow rights holders to seek court orders requiring payment providers, advertisers, and search engines to stop doing business with an infringing site. In other words, rights holders would be able to request that funding be cut off from an infringing site, and that search links to that site be removed. The site in question would have five days to appeal any action taken.

Although the House and Senate bills are similar, SOPA is the more extreme of the two. It defines a “foreign infringing site” as any site that is “committing or facilitating” copyright infringement, whereas PIPA is limited to sites with “no significant use other than” copyright infringement. More details on SOPA and PIPA are available through the Library of Congress website.

Arguments for and Against SOPA and PIPA

SOPA and PIPA: Just the FactsOpponents of SOPA and PIPA believe that neither piece of legislation does enough to protect against false accusations. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues, provisions in the bill grant immunity to payment processors and ad networks that cut off sites based on a reasonable belief of infringement, so even if claims turn out to be false, only the site suffers. “The standard for immunity is incredibly low and the potential for abuse is off the charts,” says the EFF.

Meanwhile, sites that host user-generated content will be under pressure to closely monitor users’ behavior. That monitoring already happens on larger sites such as YouTube, but it could be a huge liability for startups, the EFF argues.

Some progressive pundits have argued that media companies are trying to legislate their way out of what’s really a business-model problem. “As we’ve seen over and over again, the most successful (by far) ‘attack’ against piracy is awesome new platforms that give customers what they want, such as Spotify and Netflix,” TechDirt’s Mike Masnick writes.

SOPA and PIPA supporters argue that prophecies of a broken Internet are overblown. Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, writes that SOPA clearly defines infringing sites based on Supreme Court holdings and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and requires rights holders to follow a strict set of rules when trying to get payment cut off to an infringing site. False claims, Sherman argues, “can result in damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees.”

Sherman also points out that previous actions against infringing sites, such as the MGM vs. Grokster case in 2005, triggered similar doomsday predictions from the tech industry, yet digital music innovation has flourished since then.

Who’s for SOPA and PIPA, and Who’s Against?

SOPA and PIPA: Just the Facts

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is the author of SOPA, which is backed by 31 cosponsors in the House. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) wrote PIPA, which has 40 cosponsors in the Senate. ProPublica has a visualized list of supporters in both the House and Senate.

The White House has expressed concerns about the bills in their current state, writing in a statement that “any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.”

As for outside parties, the list of SOPA supporters consists mostly of media companies, including record labels, TV networks, movie studios, and book publishers. Some companies with an interest in fighting sales of other counterfeit goods, such as beauty-product maker Revlon and pharmaceutical company Pfizer, also appear on the list.

Opposition to SOPA and PIPA is strong in the tech sector. An open letter to Washington speaking out against the legislation was signed by founders of Craigslist, eBay, Google, Mozilla, Twitter, and Wikipedia, among others.

In the middle are companies at the intersection of media and technology. Many video game publishers have stayed silent on the matter while their trade group, the Entertainment Software Association, supports the bills. The Business Software Alliance originally supported the bill, but withdrew its support after deciding that the legislation went too far. As for Apple and Microsoft, which are both BSA members, the former has not come out publicly for or against SOPA or PIPA, while the latter now says that it opposes SOPA “as currently drafted.”

Where Are SOPA and PIPA Now?

Both bills have taken a hit in the last week, as their authors have decided to remove the provisions that require Internet service providers to block the domain names of infringing sites. SOPA, which has yet to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee, is reportedly stalled, as lawmakers continue to work on the bill. Representative Darrell Issa (R-California) has proposed an alternative bill that is far more narrow in its focus.

Voting on PIPA, however, is scheduled to begin in the Senate on January 24.

UPDATE: (2pm ET 1/18) Now two U.S. Senators are withdrawing their sponsorships of PIPA. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, wrote on Facebook that although he has a strong interest in stopping piracy, “we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.” Senator Roy Blunt, of Missouri, also bailed on the bill, writing on Facebook that “the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”

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The Purpose of Education – Critical Pedagogy for the Democratic Society

January 17, 2012 Comments off

The Purpose of Education – Critical Pedagogy for the Democratic Society Education has been immersed in conflict for decades. John Dewey in 1938, after twenty years of experience with the progressive schools and twenty years of criticism of his theories, wrote.

“It would not be a sign of health if such an important social interest as education were not also an arena of struggles, practical and theoretical. . . It is the business of an intelligent theory of education to ascertain the causes for the conflicts that exist and then, instead of taking one side or the other, to indicate a plan of operations proceeding from a level deeper and more inclusive than is represented by the practices and ideas of the contending parties. . . .It means the necessity of the introduction of a new order of conceptions leading to new modes of practice.” Or to a raising of the consciousness of present conditions and insight into needed/desired changes. Many of the conflicts surrounding education are the result of multiple points of view as to the purpose of education, the definition of knowledge, and the arguments over which knowledge or whose knowledge is of most worth. Ira Shor echoes John Dewey: For over a century, mechanical factory models of teaching and learning have been at war with critical, interactive education. This paper will take the position that the purpose of education is to enable individuals to reach their full potential as human beings, individually and as members of a society; this means that these individuals will receive an education which will enable them to think and act intelligently and purposefully in exercising and protecting the Rights and Responsibilities claimed by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the American Dream. When we look at the big picture – Society – we see schooling not as a neutral island separate from, but as an integral part of, Society. Those in power make decisions which directly impact students and teachers daily – from salary decisions to materials to certification standards to testing. One cannot deny that education is political. Critical Pedagogy is education; it is political. Critical Pedagogy is a pedagogy designed for the purpose of enabling the learner to become aware of, conscious of, conditions in his life, in society, and to have the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to be able to plan and create change. It is consciousness-raising. Critical Pedagogy, as does Critical Theory, strives to help one see the true situation, often being a form of oppression resulting in decreased freedom, and to help one understand that this can be changed – in other words it reveals possibilities, the learner is able to discover the possibilities and then act on them. Some say that it is not the responsibility of the school or of teachers to do this. But Critical Pedagogy does NOT recommend that the teachers impose upon students their (teacher’s) beliefs about what is, what is wrong and what could be. That is exactly what Critical Pedagogy is opposing. “The tendency to form attitudes which will express themselves in intelligent social action is something very different from indoctrination, just as taking intelligent aim is very different from firing BB shot in the air at random with the kind of vague, pious hope that somehow or other a bird may fly into some of the shot.” Rather, it is intended to allow the student realization that he is not powerless. It is intended to enable the student to think critically, to make decisions, to take action, as opposed to either passively receiving and adopting canonized modes of thinking and living which serve to maintain the status quo, or being alienated from society and schooling because the student’s experiences, culture, voice, and beliefs are different from those of the school. The student is unable to make those vital connections between what he is supposed to learn and his own experiences, which was one of the main tenets in John Dewey’s theory of education. Dewey explains that there is an intermediary between aimless education and education that indoctrinates and inculcates. “The alternative is the kind of education that connects the materials and methods by which knowledge is acquired with a sense of how things are done and of how they might be done; not by impregnating the individual with some final philosophy . . . but by enabling him to so understand existing conditions that an attitude of intelligent action will follow from social understanding.” John Dewey defined an undesirable society as one which internally and externally sets up barriers to free intercourse and communication of experience. He further stated that a society which makes provision for participation for the good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is democratic. “Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.” Thomas Jefferson declared, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 stated “Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the people . . . [are] necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties.” The Ordinance of 1787, wherein the state of Virginia ceded the land northwest of the Ohio River to the United States, Article III states “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Our country was founded on the positive value of change. Heed the words of Noah Webster in his new speller appearing in 1783; he opens his new book with these words: The author wishes to promote the honor and prosperity of the confederated republics of America, and cheerfully throws his might into the common treasure of patriotic exertions. This country must in some future time, be as distinguished by the superiority of her literary improvements, as she is already by the liberality of her civil and ecclesiastical constitutions. Europe is grown old in folly, corruption and tyranny – in that country laws are perverted, manners are licentious, literature is declining and human nature is debased. For America in her infancy to adopt the present maxims of the Old World, would be to stamp the wrinkles of decrepit age upon the bloom of youth and to plant the seeds of decay in a vigorous constitution. American glory begins to dawn at a favorable period, and under flattering circumstances. We have the experience of the whole world before our eyes; but to receive indiscriminately the maxims of government, the manners and the literary taste of Europe and make them the ground on which to build our systems in America, must soon convince us that a durable and stately edifice can never be erected upon the moldering pillars of antiquity. It is the business of America to select the wisdom of all nations as the basis for her constitutions – to avoid their errors – to prevent the introduction of foreign vices and corruptions and check the career of her own – to promote virtue and patriotism – to embellish and improve the sciences – to diffuse a uniformity and purity of language – to add superior dignity to this infant empire and to human nature. These words express hope, dreams, and possibilities as well as a thorough criticism of the past and of what is. What kind of men and women were able to think these thoughts, write these words, and commit to the actions they chose? Men and women who knew how to think critically, and men and women who were much more than basically literate, men and women who were not afraid to speak out and question authority, who valued what they considered to be their inalienable Rights – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. What kind of men and women will it take to see to it that these goals are upheld and to ensure that this country, this society, stays on course as it changes? The men and women needed are those who know how to think critically, who have courage, and are able to think, read, write and speak critically. Contemporary thinkers are addressing the issue of democracy. John Rawls writes: Now the serious problem is this: A modern democratic society is characterized not simply by a pluralism of comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines. No one of these doctrines is affirmed by citizens generally. Nor should one expect that in the foreseeable future one of them, or some other reasonable doctrine, will ever be affirmed by nearly all, citizens. Fenstermacher supports Rawls’ view. He explains that Rawls founds his problem on the acknowledgment of difference, on the growing legitimacy of pluralism, on the burgeoning of special interests, and on the impact of postmodern thought on our views of knowledge, morality, and politics. Fenstermacher’s concern is a “serious skepticism about e pluribus unum – and calls for us to figure out whether it is still possible to have unum in a world that is so importantly and purposefully pluribus. If this problem is to be confronted and resolved in a manner consistent with the tenets of a liberal democracy, we must prepare tomorrow’s citizens to understand it and come to grips with it. To do this successfully, we cannot merely select some of our citizens to do this work, say the well-off and politically savvy, for this problem is about the rights, privileges, and identities of everyone. If not everyone is involved in its resolution, it is unlikely that it will be resolved at all.” Rawls has defined a situation wherein the members of each and every comprehensive doctrine must seek and find a common basis for preserving union. Fenstermacher sees only one way to make such a situation possible: prepare all the people to undertake this search and resolution. “Education is the only way I know to do that.” Henry Giroux says it so well . . .”We want to argue that part of the growing crisis in public education centers around the declining competence of students and others to effectively interrogate and communicate ideational content. In other words, in jeopardy is not merely the ability of students to be creative, but the very capacity for conceptual thought itself. Moreover, since democratic social, cultural, and political forms depend on a self-motivated and autonomous public, the precondition for which is critical thinking, the crisis at hand may be the very survival of democracy itself.” Dewey had the same concerns in 1958 when he wrote “Only as the coming generation learns in the schools to understand the social forces that are at work, the directions and the cross-directions in which they are moving, the consequences that they are reproducing, the consequences that they might produce if they were understood and managed with intelligence – only as the schools provide this understanding, have we any assurance that they are meeting the challenge which is put to them by democracy.” We live in a society which is continually evolving and yet, somehow, it has become generally accepted that schooling should not change. Many still hold expectations that what “used to work” remains appropriate. But we are not the same, we are different. The world is different. Does one refuse to wear a pair of new shoes when one pair is worn out or outgrown? It doesn’t mean the old shoes are bad, they just don’t serve their purpose any longer. Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy are based on the premise of continual change. Perhaps Critical Pedagogy will help us to prepare the citizens of tomorrow for the inevitable changes they must meet.

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January 14, 2012 1 comment

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