educational institutions’ institutionalised exclusion

Those of you who follow Humans of New York​ are familiar with the Mott Hall Bridges Academy story (Vidal, his principal Ms Lopez and the Harvard visit). They went on the Harvard visit recently and the dean asked the scholars to “Please consider Harvard” because the school needs to expand outside its comfort zone (ie. rich white men). Then a HONY reader made a comment that captured the inequity/injustice of the US higher education system so concisely that I thought I’d share it here:Read More »

immer noch viele barrieren

Mangelnde Willkommenskultur vergrault ausländische Studierende – MiGAZIN (Migration in Germany)

Ich habe einer Bekannte die folgende Frage gestellt: Warum versorgt Deutschland vielen ausländischen Studierenden finanzielle Unterstützung (über Löschung von Studiengebühr), aber gibt sich wenig Mühe, die Absolventen in den Arbeitsmarkt einzuführen und dadurch im Land zu behalten? Studierenden kosten viel und steuern wenig (wirtschalftich) bei. Das ist ein teueres Unternehmen.

Und die Bekannte meinte, das ist doch der Plan und die Investition. Die Ausländer erweben Kenntnisse (und Gefallen?) von deutsche Kultur, ziehen zurück nach Heimatland um, und werden gute Botschafter, die irgendwie Brücken zwischen die zwei Ländern schlagen. Ich weiß nicht, ob eine solche Auslandspolitik so wirksam ist.

Tja. Ich wünschte, Deutschland würde mir nicht “Wo kommst du her?” fragen sondern “Schön, dass du da bist!” sagen.

measuring responsibility and leadership

Lady Justice (c) Tristan Henry-Wilson

Today I received this in my work email inbox: OECD states cut emissions too slowly.

For anyone who watches the news, this is hardly groundbreaking. For those of us working in environmental justice or international development, we’ve seen graphs and diagrams ad nauseam depicting the earth’s trajectory vis-a-vis greenhouse gas emissions based on different scenarios and data. They have the same story: The planet – and, therefore, humanity – is doomed because we’re not doing enough to rein in emissions.

But who, exactly, are ‘we’? Read More »

national education

Regardless of the outcome of the current protest over National Education, education will only get more, not less, National in the coming years. Who knows, maybe HKers will finally realise what a great weapon critical thinking skills are against propaganda-posing-as-textbooks and friggin teach their kids how to wield it. All right, that may be too hopeful. I just can’t help but think that, come 2047, when the HK public will have no more say in anything, least of all school curriculum, the ability to think critically would really come in handy.

You know the old adage: tell a student what to think, teach her for a day. Tell a student how to think, teach her for a lifetime…

vote swap and plurality rule in a representative democracy

I’m putting this online on the very off-chance someone will read this (1st challenge), have an idea of how to form it into a thesis question (2nd challenge) and leave me a comment (3rd challenge):

I’m interested in electoral systems and voting rules in general. As you probably know, the plurality rule in a multi-district country can produce some interesting results that may not be desired in a representative democracy – for example, a false majority or a Condorcet loser.

These results have been observed in the past three decades in Canadian provincial and federal elections. In response, citizen initiatives have sprung up: not only referenda for electoral reform, but also grassroots voter initiatives with the aim of preventing false majorities.

I’m particularly interested in a strategy of vote swapping, which goes beyond strategic voting. The idea is to strategically pair up with a voter in another district and swap votes with them, and the strategic pairing means one of the two votes will count towards voting someone into parliament. Compare this to sincere voting, where both votes may be wasted, and strategic voting, where you are not voting for your most preferred candidate/party.

How it works is that a swing district voter (Voter A) whose first choice is not in the top two of her own district is paired up with a non-swing district voter (Voter B) whose first choice is in the top two of that swing district. Voter A agrees to vote for B’s first choice if B votes for A’s first choice.

Vote swapping is a citizens’ initiative that has appeared in the 2011 and 2008 Canadian federal elections as a second-best response to the undesired results of first-past-the-post, in the absence of electoral reform. One of the volunteer organisations, called Pair Vote, pairs people up online. In last year’s federal elections, there were over 7500 voters registered and a recorded 3500 votes swapped, not including unrecorded swaps and swaps done over different channels. Proponents argue it has been a game changer in deciding some districts.

The strategy contains elements of gerrymandering, as voters who feel their vote doesn’t count because of the first-past-the-post system alter, in a sense, their district.

This phenomenon appears to be a practice of non-binding commitments and trust.

Another interesting question is under what circumstances voters would prefer vote swap to strategic voting. In other words, is vote swap a Pareto optimal strategy? Possibly, if certain rules and assumptions are made: at a minimum, the exclusion of Conservative voters, and that non-Conservative voters have a general preference of ABC (Anything But Conservative).

a wake-up call

Today was one of those cool, windy, cloud-covered days so reminiscent of Vancouver. I read a moving paper titled ‘When Denial Has To End‘, written by the founder of the charity I intern at. It was short, just 7 pages, and easy to read, about how we’ve been turning a blind eye to the environmental consequences of our actions for decades despite numerous wake-up calls, and now the challenge is to move from a global non-community of competitive individualism and materialism to a global community of sharing within natural boundaries (aka this planet). Lol and I remember much more from it cos I wrote the blurb that went on the homepage and tried so hard to get the wording right…

It was very real and moving and inspiring, which uncoincidentally also sums up this entire organisation. Things to look into:

  • feed-in tariffs
  • special drawing rights of the IMF: how to create new money to fund transition to renewable energies without creating inflation

The overarching message I’m getting is that existing funds and existing institutions just won’t do any more because they were created in and for a world of non-satiation and unlimited growth. We cannot rely on the existing politics-soaked money and business-as-usual institutions to carry us into a new era of sustainable existence.

And while I instinctively try to compartmentalise my intern life from the rest of my life, perhaps this time it doesn’t have to be. For example, Professor Straubhaar, who teaches me 5 hours/week, is involved somehow in talks with us about funding, and his name came up at lunch today – apparently he was in a radio interview. And somewhere on the website – or maybe in the paper – the exact words ‘individual and collective decision-making’ came up, which is exactly what my study program describes as its academic focus. What I’m trying to say is that I believe so strongly in what this place does that perhaps I don’t need to separate the two lives. Why can’t my academic interests align with work interests align with personal interests?

This weekend is the Phil&Econ block seminar, and I am screwed. Have done NO work for it, and I’m supposed to give a 30 min presentation/lecture plus lead a 20min discussion. DEAD.