Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 1st, 2016

 

This why Finland has the best schools

 voice of happiness

William Doyle. March 26, 2016

The Harvard education professor Howard Gardner once advised Americans, “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States.”

Following his recommendation, I enrolled my seven-year-old son in a primary school in Joensuu. Finland, which is about as far east as you can go in the European Union before you hit the guard towers of the Russian border.

I wasn’t just blindly following Gardner – I had a position as a lecturer at the University of Eastern Finland for a semester.

But the point is that, for five months, my wife, my son and I experienced a stunningly stress-free, and stunningly good, school system.

Finland has a history of producing the highest global test scores in the Western world, as well as a trophy case full of other recent No. 1 global rankings, including most literate nation.

Children in Finland.

Children in Finland. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa

(kids do better when they are allowed to wear multi-colored cloths?)

In Finland, children don’t receive formal academic training until the age of seven.

Until then, many are in day care and learn through play, songs, games and conversation. Most children walk or bike to school, even the youngest. School hours are short and homework is generally light.

Unlike in the United States, where many schools are slashing recess, schoolchildren in Finland have a mandatory 15-minute outdoor free-play break every hour of every day.

Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning. According to one Finnish maxim, “There is no bad weather. Only inadequate clothing.”

One evening, I asked my son what he did for gym that day. “They sent us into the woods with a map and compass and we had to find our way out,” he said.

Finland doesn’t waste time or money on low-quality mass standardised testing. Instead, children are assessed every day, through direct observation, check-ins and quizzes by the highest-quality “personalised learning device” ever created – flesh-and-blood teachers.

In class, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and daydream from time to time.

Finns put into practice the cultural mantras I heard over and over: “Let children be children,” “The work of a child is to play,” and “Children learn best through play.”

The emotional climate of the typical classroom is warm, safe, respectful and highly supportive.

There are No scripted lessons and no quasi-martial requirements to walk in straight lines or sit up straight.

As one Chinese student-teacher studying in Finland marvelled to me, “In Chinese schools, you feel like you’re in the military. Here, you feel like you’re part of a really nice family.” She is trying to figure out how she can stay in Finland permanently.

In Finland teachers are the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors, in part because they are required to have a master’s degree in education with specialisation in research and classroom practice.

Our mission as adults is to protect our children from politicians,” one Finnish childhood education professor told me.

“We also have an ethical and moral responsibility to tell businesspeople to stay out of our building.” In fact, any Finnish citizen is free to visit any school whenever they like, but her message was clear: Educators are the ultimate authorities on education, not bureaucrats, and not technology vendors.

Finland delivers on a national public scale highly qualified, highly respected and highly professionalised teachers who conduct personalised one-on-one instruction; manageable class sizes; a rich, developmentally correct curriculum; regular physical activity; little or no low-quality standardised tests and the toxic stress and wasted time and energy that accompanies them; daily assessments by teachers; and a classroom atmosphere of safety, collaboration, warmth and respect for children as cherished individuals.

One day last November, when the first snow came to my part of Finland, I heard a commotion outside my university faculty office window, which is close to the teacher training school’s outdoor play area. I walked over to investigate.

The field was filled with children savouring the first taste of winter amid the pine trees.

“Do you hear that?” asked the recess monitor, a special education teacher wearing a yellow safety smock.

“That,” she said proudly, “is the voice of happiness.”

William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright scholar and a lecturer on media and education at the University of Eastern Finland.

Los Angeles Times

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/this-is-why-finland-has-the-best-schools-20160324-gnqv9l.html#ixzz44Syaj6BL
Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

 

 

Vladimir Nabokov’s Passionate Love Letters to Véra and

His Affectionate Bestiary of Nicknames for Her

Vladimir Nabokov became a sage of literature, Russia’s most prominent literary émigré, and a man of widely revered strong opinions.

The most important event of his life took place when at 24 he met 21-year-old Véra.

She would come to be Not only his great love and wife for the remaining half century of his life, but also one of creative history’s greatest sidekicks by acting as Nabokov’s editor, assistant, administrator, agent, archivist, chauffeur, researcher, stenographer in four languages, and even his bodyguard, famously carrying a small pistol in her purse to protect her husband from assassination after he became America’s most famous and most scandalous living author.

By Maria Popova

So taken was Vladimir with Véra’s fierce intellect, her independence, her sense of humor, and her love of literature — she had been following his work and clipping his poems since she was nineteen and he twenty-two — that he wrote his first poem for her after having spent mere hours in her company.

But nowhere did his all-consuming love and ebullient passion unfold with more mesmerism than in his letters to her, which he began writing the day after they met and continued until his final hours.

They are now collected in the magnificent tome Letters to Véra (public library) — a lifetime of spectacular contributions to the canon of literary history’s greatest love letters, with intensity and beauty of language rivaled only, perhaps, by the letters of Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis and those of Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera.

Véra and Vladimir Nabokov, Montreaux, 1968 (Photograph: Philippe Halsman)

In July of 1923, a little more than two months after they met, Vladimir writes to Véra:

I won’t hide it: I’m so unused to being — well, understood, perhaps, — so unused to it, that in the very first minutes of our meeting I thought: this is a joke… But then… And there are things that are hard to talk about — you’ll rub off their marvelous pollen at the touch of a word… You are lovely…

[…]

Yes, I need you, my fairy-tale. Because you are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought — and about how, when I went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of its seeds.

[…]

See you soon my strange joy, my tender night.

By November, his love has only intensified:

How can I explain to you, my happiness, my golden wonderful happiness, how much I am all yours — with all my memories, poems, outbursts, inner whirlwinds?

Or explain that I cannot write a word without hearing how you will pronounce it — and can’t recall a single trifle I’ve lived through without regret — so sharp! — that we haven’t lived through it together — whether it’s the most, the most personal, intransmissible — or only some sunset or other at the bend of a road — you see what I mean, my happiness?

And I know: I can’t tell you anything in words — and when I do on the phone then it comes out completely wrong. Because with you one needs to talk wonderfully, the way we talk with people long gone… in terms of purity and lightness and spiritual precision

You can be bruised by an ugly diminutive — because you are so absolutely resonant — like seawater, my lovely.

I swear — and the inkblot has nothing to do with it — I swear by all that’s dear to me, all I believe in — I swear that I have never loved before as I love you, — with such tenderness — to the point of tears — and with such a sense of radiance.

Vladimir’s letter to Véra from November 8, 1923

After a charming aside professing that he had begun writing a poem for her on the page but a “very inconvenient little tail got left” and he had no other paper on which to start over, he continues in his characteristic spirit of earnest lyricism with a sprinkle of disarming irreverence:

Most of all I want you to be happy, and it seems to me that I could give you that happiness — a sunny, simple happiness — and not an altogether common one…

I am ready to give you all of my blood, if I had to — it’s hard to explain — sounds flat — but that’s how it is. here, I’ll tell you — with my love I could have filled ten centuries of fire, songs, and valor — ten whole centuries, enormous and winged, — full of knights riding up blazing hills — and legends about giants — and fierce Troys — and orange sails — and pirates — and poets.

And this is not literature since if you reread carefully you will see that the knights have turned out to be fat.

But Nabokov makes clear that his feelings supersede the playful and expand into the profound:

I simply want to tell you that somehow I can’t imagine life without you…

I love you, I want you, I need you unbearably… Your eyes — which shine so wonder-struck when, with your head thrown back, you tell something funny — your eyes, your voice, lips, your shoulders — so light, sunny…

You came into my life — not as one comes to visit … but as one comes to a kingdom where all the rivers have been waiting for your reflection, all the roads, for your steps.

Young Vladimir and Véra Nabokov by Thomas Doyle from ‘The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History.’ Click image for more.

In a letter from December 30 reminiscent of Lolita’s famous opening line, he writes:

I love you very much. Love you in a bad way (don’t be angry, my happiness). Love you in a good way. Love your teeth…

I love you, my sun, my life, I love your eyes — closed — all the little tails of your thoughts, your stretchy vowels, your whole soul from head to heels.

On the one hand, the half-century span of Vladimir’s love letters to Véra do follow the neurobiological progression of love, moving from the passionate attraction that defines the beginning of a romance to the deep, calmer attachment of longtime love.

On the other, however, they suggest that the very act of writing love letters can help sustain the excitement and passion of a long-term relationship, countering what Stendhal called the “crystallization” that leads to disenchantment.

In fact, in 1926 — three years into the relationship — Nabokov, a lifelong lover of wordplay, enlists an especially endearing strategy in infusing their correspondence with passionate sparkle.

While Véra is at a Swiss sanatorium to regain weight she had lost due to anxiety and depression, Nabokov begins addressing her by an increasingly amusing series of nicknames — no doubt in part to amuse and cheer her up, in part to live up to his earlier assertion that she “can be bruised by an ugly diminutive,” but also possibly as a language-lover’s creative exercise for himself, a playful daily assignment of sorts.

The traditional terms of endearment opening his earlier letters — “my happiness,” “my love and joy,” “my dear life” — give way to a loving bestiary of nicknames, inspired by Vladimir and Véra’s shared love of animals.

Among his addresses to her that summer are “Sparrowling,” “Pussykins,” “Mousie,” “Mymousch” (after the Russian for “monkey”), “Mothling,” “Roosterkin,” “Long bird of paradise with the precious tail” (in a letter that closes with “Goodbye, my heavenly, my long one, with the dazzling tail and the little dachshund paws”), “Fire-Beastie,” and the especially wonderful “Pupuss,” which Nabokov parenthetically explains as “a little cross between a puppy and a kitten.”

In one letter from June of 1926, he opens by addressing Véra as “Mosquittle” and, after reporting on how his work is going, gushes:

My tender Mosquittle, I love you. I love you, my superlative Mosquittle… My sweet creature… I love you. I am going to bed, Mosquittle… Good night, my darling, my tenderness, my happiness.

In one letter that would no doubt have embarrassed the very private Véra (who destroyed all of her own letters to Vladimir), he addresses her by “Skunky” — a nickname itself far from offensive in the context of his already established warmth of adoration and its menagerous manifestations, but one that may have mortified Véra by the venereal basis for it that Nabokov’s naughty closing lines imply:

Well, Skunky, good night. You will never guess (I am kissing you) what exactly I am kissing.

But jest aside, it’s worth noting here what a true masterwork of linguistic craftsmanship — in the true Virginia Woolfian sense — these letters are for translator Olga Voronina.

As if it weren’t daunting enough to translate the man who reserved rather ungenerous words for translators, Nabokov’s love of wordplay and his penchant for untranslatable words render his quirky animal-inspired endearments especially challenging.

But even his favorite standard endearment lacks for an English equivalent. Voronina writes in the preface:

Most often, he prefers to call his wife dushen’ka, literally a diminutive of the Russian word dusha (“soul,” “psyche”). It would have been possible to translate this word as “darling” (our choice), “sweetheart” or “dearest” (options from a discarded pile), had the writer not bedecked it with other tender adjectives: dorogaya (“dear”), lyubimaya (“beloved”), milaya (“lovely,” “sweet”), and bestsennaya (“priceless”).

We used “dear darling” a few times in spite of its sounding too alliterative, resorted to “beloved darling” rarely, tried “sweet darling” once or twice, and once (April 15, 1939) had to go along with “My beloved and precious darling.” Unfortunately, even that baroque phrase does not fully convey the fretful and persistent affection of the Russian “dushen’ka moya lyubimaya i dragotsennaya,” with its one and a half times as many syllables and with the adjectives coming cajolingly after the noun.

In some cases, readers simply have to accept it as a given that Nabokov did not use his tenderness sparingly.

And that’s precisely the point — the true gift of these letters is how they immerse the reader in a soul-warming bath of Nabokov’s tender and exuberant love, not only for his wife but for literature and for life itself.

What John Updike once wrote on the jacket of Nabokov’s Selected Letters, 1940–1977“Dip in anywhere, and delight follows. What a writer! And, really, what a basically reasonable and decent man.” — is even more vibrantly true in Letters to Véra.

UN names Israel: World’s top human rights violator

On March 24, 2016, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) wrapped up its annual meeting in New York by condemning only one country for violating women’s rights anywhere on the planet – Israel, for violating the rights of Palestinian women.

On the same day, the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its month-long session in Geneva by condemning Israel five times more than any other of the 192 UN member states

By Published March 29,

Najat Rizk shared a link.
The United Nations: the most evil country in the world today is Israel.
foxnews.com

There were five Council resolutions on Israel.

One each on the likes of hellish countries like Syria, North Korea and Iran.  Libya got an offer of “technical assistance.”  And countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and China were among the 95 percent of states that were never mentioned.

No slander is deemed too vile for the U.N. human rights bodies that routinely listen to highly orchestrated Palestinian versions of the ancient blood libel against the Jews.

In Geneva, Palestinian representative Ibrahim Khraishi told the Council on March 24, 2016:

“Israeli soldiers and settlers kill Palestinian children. They shoot them dead. They will leave them to bleed to death.”

And in New York, Palestinian representative Haifa Al-Agha told CSW on March 16, 2016:

“Israel is directing its military machinery against women and girls. They are killing them, injuring them, and leaving them bleeding to death.”

Operating hand-in-glove with governments and the U.N. secretariat are the unelected, sanctimonious NGOs, to which the UN offers free facilities and daily advertisement of “side-events.”  In theory “materials containing abusive or offensive language or images are not permitted on United Nations premises.”

In practice, in Geneva the UN permitted handouts that claimed Israel “saw ethnic cleansing as a necessary precondition for its existence.”  (What’s so abusive in this statement?)

A film accused Israel of sexual violence against children and “trying to exterminate an entire Palestinian generation.”  (Every day, Israel news announce the detention at night of dozens of Palestinian kids)

(In fact, over 60% of Palestinian youth must enter the revolving doors of administrative detention for longer than 6 months, on No charges. Just tactics of humiliation and indignity)

Speeches focused on the 1948 “catastrophe” in which a “settler colonial state” was established on Palestinian land.

The New York CSW-NGO scene included a film set in in the context of Israeli “oppression” and the “tear gas of my childhood,” and statements analogizing the experiences of Palestinians to today’s Syrian refugees.

Picture these real-life scenes:

In Geneva’s grand U.N. “Human Rights” Council chamber, 750 people assembled, pounced on the Jewish state, broadcast the spectacle online, and produced hundreds of articles and interviews in dozens of languages championing the results.

On the ground, Israelis are being hacked to death on the streets, stabbed in buses, slaughtered in synagogues, mowed down with automobiles, and shot in front of their children. (Now, these lies are abusive terms)

At the New York’s UN headquarters, 8,100 NGO representatives gathered from all corners of the globe, in addition to government delegates, and watched the weight of the entire world of women’s rights descend on only one country.

On the ground, Palestinian women are murdered and subjugated for the sake of male honor, Saudi women can’t drive, Iranian women are stoned to death for so-called “adultery,” Egyptian women have their genitals mutilated and Sudanese women give birth in prison with their legs shackled for being Christian. (These States never claimed to be democratic and abiding by western laws or giving the image of any western civilization)

Isn’t it about time that people stopped calling the U.N. a harmless international salon or a bad joke?

The poison isn’t simply rhetorical.

One of the Council resolutions adopted last week launches a worldwide witch-hunt for companies that do business with Israel – as part of an effort to accomplish through economic strangulation what Israel’s enemies have not been able to accomplish on the battlefield.

The resolution casts a wide net encompassing all companies engaged in whatever the U.N. thinks are business “practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises.”

And the toxicity is self-perpetuating. Acting at the beck and call of Islamic states and their conduit – French Ambassador Elizabeth Laurin and Council President Choi Kyonglim selected Canadian law professor Michael Lynk as the newest U.N. “independent” human rights investigator on Israel.

Lynk’s qualifications?  He has likened Israelis to Nazis, and challenged the legitimacy of the state of Israel starting in 1948 as rooted in “ethnic cleansing.”

All of this played out in the same week that Europe was reeling from the Belgian terror attacks.  Petrified or already vanquished, no European state voted against this onslaught of U.N. resolutions against Israel.

Germany and the United Kingdom occasionally abstained, while France voted with Arab and Islamic states on all but one Council resolution.

Here we are just 70 years after World War II and Europeans believe that they can license this vitriol against the Jewish state – the only democracy on the front lines of an Islamist war against human decency – and the consequences can be contained to the Jews.

Even as the converse stares them in the face.  Two days after the Brussels attacks, Islamic states rammed through a Council resolution slyly labeled “Effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights” that was actually so anti-human rights even Belgium was forced to vote against it.

As for the United States, the Obama administration has been the Human Rights Council’s most important supporter.  Though the U.S. is currently in a mandatory one-year hiatus — after serving two consecutive terms — President Obama plans to bind his successor by running again in the fall for another three-year term that starts January 1, 2017.

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Note 1: Even Azencot, Israel army chief of staff, expressed his disgust of how the Israeli soldiers have been behaving: Discharging their machine guns on kid girls, simply because they were carrying scissors in their bags. How about this video that shows a soldier achieving an injured Palestinian kid in front of ambulances and passer byes?

Note 2: The UN has issued scores of condemnation of Israel illegal settlement in occupied Palestine. Israel never considered the UN condemnation as worth issuing and continue its settlement plans as if it is Non of its concerns. Wouldn’t you, Bayefsky,  label this behaviour settler colonial state?

 


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