Saturday, July 14, 2007

Freedom In Educational Institutions

Respected Judge/s and Fellow Contestants, I will support the motion that "Restrictions of Student's freedom in Educational Institutions is harmful for Innovative Learning".

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT IS EDUCATION'S HIGHEST GOAL Independent thought "is the most important lesson any educational institution can teach; the most important message any student can learn." Principals, teachers, parents and society in general must be actively committed to a curriculum that promotes free thinking and open questioning consistent with the ideals of a democratic society.
Expression is instrumental to the development of cognitive structures and higher-order cognitive skills. Learning to be innovative requires much more than thinking--it also entails extensive listening, speaking, reading, and writing in which ideas are advanced, exchanged, and evaluated. Schooling should provide students with such opportunities to be innovative and to engage in higher cognitive operations.
Freedom of speech necessarily includes the freedom to express one's ideas despite their unpopularity. Student thinking about any particular matter may be quite different from the official curricular viewpoint.
Education is the practise for adult life. While practising, students will often fall short of intended goals by misunderstanding, misapplying, inaccurately analyzing, poorly creating, and erroneously evaluating the subject matter on which they are working. If they are to derive benefit from this practise, students must be able to make errors without fear of punishment. Institutions must therefore have some tolerance for error--and for student speech.
Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the school or college gate. I would like to quote a statement about why it is so important for young people to be aware of, and concerned about, constitutional rights.
One of the great concerns of our time is that young people are disillusioned by our political processes and are disengaging from political participation. It is most important that our young become convinced that our Constitution is a living reality, and not just some document for lawyers and lawmakers to haggle over.
The values of free speech and privacy have been fundamental to Democracy. Privacy encourages participation and enhances its quality by allowing individuals the space within which to formulate their individual thoughts and opinions. Privacy allows people to question conventional wisdom and to seek their own answers. Invasion of privacy destroys dignity and personhood. My conception of the right to privacy is something that has a "spiritual value". This includes the"right to be left alone" and also asserts the individual's "independence, dignity, and integrity." In cases of intrusion into privacy, the core of the invasion is a "blow to the individual's dignity and an assault on his/her personality." Privacy therefore becomes a means of conferring and confirming personhood.
And with this I will end my case.

Research As A Career

"If you want to leave your footprints on the sands of time you must not drag your feet"- President Abdul Kalam
"If you think you can or if you think you can't, you are right"-
Henry Ford
"Eyes cannot see what the mind does not know"--- Anonymous

All of us, every day of our lives, are faced with having to make decisions. At critical times, such as at the end of our college education, every path we can take seems to close many doors even as it opens another, and the pressure that we and others impose on ourselves to choose well can be disorienting.
If you are considering applying to do higher studies, many questions pop up: How flexible is research as a career option? Will it lead to a satisfactory job in financial terms? How good is research as a career option if you plan to pursue it in India itself? As a step to a career in the technology industry (that is, joining a company as an engineer after MS or PhD), a background in research is certainly very valuable.It is now widely acknowledged and accepted that, amongst the factors of development, mastery of science and technology (S&T) is perhaps the most important. This has become all the more imminent with the global shift towards a knowledge-based society and economy. It is therefore necessary that the best Indian brains take up science and technology as an academic profession and perhaps research as a career. There is thus an urgent need for a national level initiative and movement to popularize S&T.
Doing research is also the only way you can quench your intellectual thirst. If after serious assessment, of yourself and other factors, you have concluded that you want to take up research as a career, let me congratulate you! Research is a truly rewarding career for those who are fascinated by the beauty of ideas.
Why get into research?
There are many opportunities for innovation, creating new technology, and designing and developing new research prototypes and products, in areas ranging from the most mathematical and theoretical to the most experimental. Researchers are members in a community of scholars and innovators.

Researchers are as different as the research they do but certain attributes seem to help promote research success. It helps to be:
*curious about the whys and hows of things
* persevering in your approach
* an independent thinker and worker
* creative, disciplined and focused when you need to be.

Research can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying career. Facing, managing, and eventually overcoming uncertainty is a powerful experience, as knowing that you have contributed something to the body of knowledge in your discipline that no one has ever known before.
Research is both an art and a science: It requires you to know your subject and to know yourself, to have knowledge of the mechanics of solving a problem, as well as a feel for what is promising and what is not.
For many people, the experience of conducting research provides an opportunity to grow not only as a researcher, but as a person, in a deep and substantive way, and is well worth the commitment and effort.

AJai Ravi Kesavan

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Clouds Came and Took My Mountain

From my window I had the view of this mountain. The tallest one you will ever see. I took such a liking to it that I named it after myself.
Days would pass by where I would just sit and stare at my mountain. Observing the beautiful view and drawing inspiration from it. I'd dreamed of conquering it. I'd write stories and poetry about it. Yet, somehow it always seemed so distant.
Nobody had ever climbed that mountain which left me very curious. People were always talking about other mountains that they'd climbed and based on their stories of adventure I'd formed my own for my mountain.
I knew how it would look from close, how it would feel, how it would smell, how the fruit on top would taste and I could also hear the sounds the birds, animals and the wind would make on it.
But I never got to venturing there on my own. I was too small. I lacked the courage and the expertise. I still had my dreams though.
Time went by. I left home. I got trained to climb other mountains besides other things. Some I succeeded in. Some I didn't. However there was always this feeling of emptiness inside me for not having attempted my own mountain.
I returned home once for the holidays. I got to my room and opened my window to find my mountain covered in clouds. Fortunately the clouds were not too thick and you could still make the outline of my mighty mountain.
I left home with a slight heaviness in my heart in not being able to take in the full view and splendor of my mountain. But I couldn't waste too much of my time on that. There were still more mountains laid out before me to climb. None of which was my own. Time was passing fast and I thought to myself "I'm never going to get a chance to climb my mountain."
I came back home again after my preliminary trainings. Now was the time to make a decision on the route I was going to take…. The mountains I was going to climb. There was really only one route and one mountain. But I didn't dare bring that up! It was far too foolish.
I looked out my window again. This time all I could see was clouds that were thick, dark and monstrous. My mountain was gone, so to say, behind the wall that this cloud had put up. Everything was covered including the sun. It was a storm. The strongest storm I had ever seen.
Many days went by but the weather remained the same. The clouds were there blocking my view. I wanted to have at least one final view of my mountain before bidding adieu.
Finally I could wait no more. So I went out braving the storm to see if I could at least have a glimpse of my mountain in any way. I caught a glimpse. But I wanted to see more so I took small steps on the route to my mountain.
After walking a while suddenly I heard this loud roaring thunder. I realized that it was actually the roaring thundering voice of the clouds and it told me to go back. It told me I had no business trying to look for my mountain which it claimed as its own now. It was a direct warning. I hesitated in moving forward. I confess that I actually took a few steps back right then. Curiosity got the better of me and I pressed forward.
The storm got worse. I'd made the clouds really angry. The rain was relentless and the strong winds nearly swept me of my feet. The pathways I would find would be buried under a mud slide or would be blocked by huge boulders that would have fallen along the way. Trees got uprooted. Vision was bad and moving forward was a real tedious task.
Quite often I'd have to take unused roads to make my way through. Then there were the floods which would just sweep me away and deposit me some where far off my path.
There were times I felt that I'd been through enough and I should go back. But I couldn't. Not without having a look, a good look at my mountain.
I finally reached the foot of the mountain and I strained my neck trying to take a look at the peak. I was happy that I'd made it this far. One look at that peak though and I knew what had to be done next. I had to climb that mountain.
Just then I heard the thundering voice again. It said- "Young man, go back while you can. This mountain is hard to climb and I will make it harder still. Its slopes are steep. One slip and you will come crashing down. I will not allow you to take my mountain."
I sat there on a rock wondering what to do next. Time was running out now as it always does and always has and always will. If I went back I still might be able to salvage something by scaling some other mountain. I closed my eyes and all I could see was the mountain peak. I started climbing.
The going was good initially. Suddenly the clouds came again and in all their ferocity. I had trespassed into its territory and I was going to be prosecuted for it. There were land slides again and I found myself over and under them. A tree would come crashing down my way. All the wild animals would chase me in a desperate measure for food in the storm. Boulders would suddenly fall from the sky. Little rivulets suddenly became more forceful and would sweep me away if I didn't grip tight. Every now and then I'd have to go back a few steps and find another way to climb up again. I was hungry, tired and got very little sleep.
The peak was getting closer. And every moment I spent on the mountain made me happier. There were many difficulties. But I was in love with my mountain. And in love those things don't matter.
Then one day I got up in the morning to find the clouds covered my mountain peak. I could no longer see the top of my mountain. Sometimes the cloud cover became so thick that it was difficult to see straight ahead. Often I'd hear the clouds blasting out it's warnings of dire consequences if I proceeded any further.
The cloud cover on the peak became a permanent fixture. So I didn't know how much of a climb I had left. But I kept climbing.
While passing by a stream I noticed that my mountain was eroding. Slowly but surely my mighty mountain was going to disappear. I tried to stop it but I realized there was nothing I could do.
The clouds were a little friendlier now. I think they figured out I was a tough guy and they liked me for it. It was never said directly. But I always got the hints.
The voice said- "young man, do not worry about the erosion… it's but a natural process. Your mountain will go in to making many other mountains for the generations that will follow… that is the cycle of life"
I smiled at that moment and I was both grateful and thankful to the clouds. Clouds can never really take a mountain. Mountains are too strong and mighty for that. Clouds can cover mountains. They create the illusion.
All the hardships and difficulties put in my way had actually helped me develop the skills and character for my climb. With a grin on my face I returned to climbing.
I was almost there. The air was thin. The body tired with effort. Clouds still covered the top. Suddenly I found that I'd completed my climb. And that instant the clouds disappeared and I stood on top of the peak of my mountain.
And I saw what no one else had, has or will see.
I had the most incredibly beautiful and breathtaking view!