Making The Grade in The Impossible State
An Phung is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. She has contributed to NYTimes.com, Patch.com and City Limits. She also spent time reporting in Indonesia where she covered stories about the country's growing illicit drug trade. An graduated from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
Follow me on Twitter @anhaiphung
What is the Big Idea?
Step into a classroom in North Korea and you will find very little that differs from a classroom in New York City - chalkboard, rows of desks, chairs, desktop computers and bulletin boards full of text and pictures. But stay a little longer and you might notice something amok about the curriculum.
"In North Korea today, the average student doesn't know that a man has landed on the moon because that would connote that the United States had done something that was incredibly successful," said Victor Cha, Asia adviser for former President George W. Bush.
In Cha's new book The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, he notes that North Korean students learn grammatical conjugations by reciting "We killed Americans," "We are killing Americans," "We will kill Americans." They learn math with word problems that add and subtract the number of dead Americans.
Watch Victor Cha talking about education in North Korea:
What is the Significance?
North Korea's education system breeds students who are insecure and belligerent towards the rest of the world. This will be a problem as reunification between the North and the South is imminent, "and I think for many in South Korea, the United States, China and elsewhere, we have to start preparing for this," says Cha.
"I think that North Korea is now sort of reaching the end of its rope," Cha told Big Think. "It is one of the last remaining regimes from the Cold War, in fact, probably the last remaining country of the Cold War era, and it is now going through a third generation leadership transition to someone who’s not really ready for the job."
The majority of North Koreans, however, won't be able to seamlessly incorporate themselves into a unified Korean society because of the large gaps in knowledge.
"Massive educational reform and retraining will be needed to make this transition happen." Cha writes.
North Korea's claims of a 99 percent literacy rate and 96 percent enrollment is highly suspect.
When East and West Germany reunified, 80 percent of those in the east had to undergo retraining in order to function in the newly unified economy. The gaps between the two Germanys were not nearly as great as those in North and South Korea.
"The unified Korean government will, at least for some time, have to deal with a greatly stressed social service system, providing high levels of educational, unemployment, and health-care subsidiaries, and will have to watch out for potential social disorder such as increased rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, or crime," Cha writes.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
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