Monthly Archives: October 2012

Educating Malala

October 18, 2012

By Jasmin S. Kuehnert
In a blog I wrote several weeks ago, I mentioned the new law passed by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that bans women from 70 plus majors at colleges and universities in the country. The new law has sent angry shock waves throughout the country as young women search for an alternative course of action in pursuit of higher education.

You see, the Islamic Republic of Iran never expected that its mandate of providing access to higher education to both men and women, it would be women who would be flocking to universities. As the number of women attending universities in Iran surpassed those of male students, the country was suddenly faced with a highly educated, career-minded, and politically aware female population, the likes of which were never imagined by the government. Today’s university graduate female in the Islamic Republic of Iran is able to support herself, may choose to postpone marriage, move out of the family home to rent her own apartment with other single female college graduates, travel and engage in discourse concerning protecting women’s rights. This sudden surge of highly educated and globally aware women must be a terrifying thought for a government hell-bent on keeping women in second/third class status. So, what better way than to address this so-called problem, by stopping women from pursuing higher education, or at least for now, from having access to over 70 fields of specialization. After all, an ignorant population is easier governed than an educated and awakened one.

If the Islamic Republic of Iran can justify its new law on whatever reason it sees fit, it is of no surprise, though sickening and heartbreaking to stomach, to hear of the brutal shooting of Malala Yousufzai by Taliban militants. To the Taliban, education as we know it is anathema to their religious and philosophical doctrine and an educated female must be the pinnacle of all that is depraved and immoral. The more ill-informed and unaware, the more docile and pliable the populace, the more easily manipulated and kept in check and exploited.

By Tom Schnabel
It’s funny how the mind creates unexpected associations. When I read about Malala Yousufzai, the 14 year-old Pakistani who was shot in the head by Taliban militants, I thought of two plays I read in college. The first was by Gerhard Hauptmann, an 1892 play called The Weavers. In it the weavers are displaced by industrial factories, go on strike, are beaten down and go mad. The last line was “life doesn’t make sense anymore!”

The other play was by Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco, called Rhinoceros. It dealt with totalitarianism, and in it everybody was turning into pachyderms except the hero, who cries out at the end (I read it in French so that’s what I remember) “Je ne capitule pas” — I won’t surrender.

Sometimes the world doesn’t make sense. The thought of a teenage girl being shot for her activism in championing girls’ right to get education is completely abhorrent. When I first wrote these thoughts down, she had a 50/50 chance to live. Thank goodness she wasn’t murdered. She is in Britain now, but the Taliban has vowed to finish the job, and already men purporting to be relatives have been trying to get into the hospital. Fortunately it seems like the MI6 and hospital security is onto them, but nothing is certain.

Malala is a symbol of freedom and courage for all women and for all of us. May she fully recover and remain safe from this truly totalitarian, ignorant, and blasphemous plot.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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Filed under Education, Human Interest, Politics

Adversity and Ingenuity: Partners in Creation

October 11, 2012

Human beings have shown amazing ingenuity in fashioning musical instruments, often in less than ideal conditions. Many of these instruments were conceived and designed by people at the bottom of the social spectrum, most of whom were slaves in the Americas. Here are four examples that demonstrate amazing creativity by people who managed to make very distinctive music:

1) Cuba: Claves
The claves, or rounded hardwood sticks, were fashioned from pegs used by slave shipbuilders in Havana and Matanzas. The rapacious Spanish had built so many ships to ferry trade (and slaves) in Seville that their forests were depleted. So they moved the shipbuilding to Havana, where the abundant forests offered superior hardwood. Hardwood supplies guaranteed ample ship production, and during construction pegs from Havana’s forests were used fasten the boat parts together (nails would have rusted and not been strong enough anyway).
Some smart slave workers picked up some pegs, hit them together, and there was the magic sound that has helped fuel the percussion section of great tropical Latin orchestras ever since. All this from discarded scraps left on the ground.









2) Trinidad and Tobago: Steel Drums

A similar phenomenon occurred in Trinidad and Tobago, where the big oil companies would discard large oil drums and let them rust. Sometimes the groups were named after the oil companies; a famous pan orchestra was called the Esso Steel Orchestra.
But the genesis of steel pans actually started long before the industrial revolution mandated the need for and production and distribution of oil. During the French Revolution of 1789–according to Wikipedia’s entry on steel pans–slaves working for French planters in Haiti and Martinique emigrated to Trinidad, before the British arrived. The West African slaves were not allowed to participate in Carnival, so they created their own parallel carnival festival, called canboulay. They used bamboo and other wooden sticks, beating on frying pans, trash can lids or whatever they could find. In 1880 percussion music was banned by the British colonial authorities.
Later, during the 1930s, however, finding discarded oil drums plentiful and cheap, black Trinidadians started using those. Steel bands became famous, a popular Carnival staple, and a magnet for tourists as well.
What is amazing here is that the instrument they crafted from a crude, dirty oil barrel became such a refined and sophisticated instrument. These instruments could play a three octave chromatic western scale. Today steel bands play music by Miles Davis, Beethoven, Brubeck, and Bach. I have recordings of both Handel’s and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, performed by a large orchestra of different-sized drums.
Whoever would have thought scrap metal could produce such a magical sound, one used in carnival celebrations ever since.










3) Brazil: Berimbau

The distinctively Brazilian berimbau actually descended from archers’ bows used by the pygmy hunter-gathers in Eastern Congo. When slaves went from Angola and Congo to Brazil, they re-fashioned these hunter’s bows, attaching a gourd and enlarging them. It is a most distinctive twang, and has been featured in northeastern Brazilian music, in capoeira, the martial arts dance, and the great Baden Powell and poet Vinicius de Moraes wrote a beautiful and famous song named after it.










4) Brazil: Forró: Triangle
I don’t know if the Brazilians in northeastern Brazil knew about the use of the triangle in European orchestras or as an instrument used to summon cowboys to dinner in western movies, but after the British started building railways in the 19th century, they left a lot of scrap iron around. Some enslaved blacksmith (Brazil only ended slavery in 1888, later than any other country) took some of this scrap metal, and beat it, shaped it, tempered and tuned it. The triangle has been used in Brazil ever since, especially in Pernambuco state, forming 1/3 of the rhythm section found in local bands (the other two instruments are the sanfona, or button accordion, and the surdu, or large drum).









These are just four examples of human ingenuity applied to music. There are countless other equally imaginative and remarkable examples in the other arts and sciences. It’s a phenomenon that distinguishes us homo sapiens and an occasion to celebrate our creative intelligence and endless imaginations.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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Filed under Human Interest, Innovation, Music, technology

Importing Grade Inflation? – Credential Evaluation Economics

October 04, 2012

balance scale

Are you helping import grade inflation from abroad? Many colleges, universities and licensing boards in the U.S. unknowingly encourage artificial inflation of international students’ grades by accepting questionable credential evaluations. This is a troubling issue to many comparative education researchers because of the way the foreign credentials evaluation industry works in the U.S. Let me explain:

Because many U.S. institutions refer international applicants to credential evaluation services, the true de-facto standards for analyzing foreign academic credentials are shaped by each U.S. institution’s decision about which evaluation services to accept. For many years, U.S. institutions and evaluation services successfully self-regulated in this environment, sharing and comparing research and creating a generally consistent standard for evaluation decisions. However, while the number of international applicants is growing, the self-regulated balance in U.S. credential evaluations is becoming increasingly threatened.

In recent years, a small number of evaluation services, including at least one very large provider, have started to deviate significantly from generally-accepted evaluation decisions in ways that seem blatantly more “generous” to certain groups of international students. While an evolving understanding of comparative education does require some disagreement among the community, a private entity’s dramatic shift towards evaluation results that inflate U.S. degree and grade equivalency recommendations appears to be motivated mainly by short-term financial profit.

Here’s the problem – if U.S. colleges, universities and professional licensing boards decide to accept evaluations from providers that inflate students’ degree recommendations and grades, the dishonest evaluator will win! Of course students will flock to an evaluation service that recommends consistently higher levels of education than its competitors. Consumers should always be able to shop around for lower prices or better service, but students should probably not be able to pay for artificially inflated credential evaluation results.

So what’s the solution? U.S. institutions need to be more cautious when accepting foreign credential evaluations. Colleges, universities, licensing boards and others should be very comfortable with an evaluation service’s personnel and methodology before accepting their evaluations. Additionally, currently accepted evaluators should be periodically reviewed to ensure continued best practices.

Here are two very helpful resources : “Guide for Selecting a Foreign Credential Evaluation Service,” by the NAFSA: Association of International Educators and “An Admissions Office’s Guide to Foreign Credential Evaluations” by the Association of International Credential Evaluators.

Most reputable evaluation services have not compromised the integrity of their evaluation methods, and some evaluators such as the members of the Association of International Credential Evaluators even make concerted efforts to share research and form consensus decisions. My company, Credential Consultants, is promoting evaluation consistency by collecting and organizing comparative education research as a comprehensive resource for those in the community. I encourage admissions officials at U.S. institutions to reach out to evaluators and get to know the people behind the “due diligence”. Many of us are happy to answer questions and get to know you as well.

Drew Feder
Acting President & Co-Founder
Credential Consultants, Inc.

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Filed under Credentials, Education