A call for a culture of critical thinking

Abstract: South Africa's neglect of its children is damaging its global competitiveness... As highly developed as we humans think we are, we still retain elements of mammalian instinct, the strongest of which is to protect our young, even if it's at the expense of our own lives. Ironically, it is this mammalian instinct that defines one of the cornerstones of our humanity - it is considered abhorrent, even inhumane, to willfully subject a child to abuse, or to neglect its cries for help. It's helpful to bear this in mind when examining South Africa's ranking in global competitiveness. Every year the WEF (World Economic Forum) publishes the Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the competitiveness landscape of a list of countries around the world according to twelve key indices. This year that list of countries totals 148. The report draws on an extensive spread of

The Crusades on our playgrounds?

Abstract: There is something that could threaten to tear apart even moderate Muslims and Christians - a potential battlefield on our children's playgrounds... Ever heard of Pollokshields? I doubt it. In fact, I doubt if anyone outside of this suburb of Glasgow has ever heard of it. And yet it may be a defining player in Islam's relationship with the West that could have repercussions in South Africa. I have just returned from the UK where the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoon debacle is still making the news. In a country that boasts a press that is legendary in its tenacity and sovereignty, the British press has been remarkably restrained. Unlike some of their European counterparts, they refused to publish the 'offensive' cartoons. Their moderation had nothing to do with censorship though. Like South Africans, the British are sensitive towards offending different

Preparing our children for war

Abstract: Ever stopped to think how you may be emotionally and psychologically preparing your children to fight?... Every day, without knowing it, we prepare our children for war. We do things and we say things that prepare them mentally and emotionally to fight. We do this calmly, even rationally; and we do it because we love them and because we think we're doing the right thing. Have you ever asked your 8-year old child what is his or her political affiliation? Are they an ANC supporter, or do they identify more with the centralist liberal ideology of the DA? Perhaps they consider the ANC sell-outs, and yearn more for the fiery rhetoric of the SACP? Of course, you're not going to ask them because they're far too young. How is an 8-year old supposed to understand the subtle and twisted shifts in politics? Besides,

The state of science journalism in South Africa

Abstract: In a country racked by violent crime, political infighting and scientific ignorance, the quest of the science journalist mirrors that of a famous Greek mythical hero... According to Greek mythology, Prometheus, a titan, forged mankind from clay, and knowing that mankind needed fire to survive, he lit a torch from the sun and brought it to Earth. Zeus considered the fire stolen, and was so incensed he punished Prometheus - an immortal - by having him chained to a rock, and a giant eagle tear at his liver every day. It's a myth imbued with themes of discovery, bravery and loyalty; but the bringing of knowledge, represented by fire, to mankind, is why the analogy of Prometheus is used by the University of Stellenbosch's Professor George Claassen to describe the state of science journalism in his country. Prof Claassen is the popular archetype of

Remember your equations?

Abstract: A measure of worth for a leader lies in simple equations... There's a simple test to see if a person in a position of leadership has got what it takes to make effective decisions - ask them to explain the following equation: F=ma. If it's got you stumped, it's no use skimming through the myriad business management books collecting dust in your office; you won't find it there. You'll have to think back to when you were a lot younger. During the late 1990s I was part of a company that designed and presented science shows at schools and science centres. I've lost count of the number of schools I visited, but suffice to say I became something of an odd fixture in science education, pacing the school halls in my red lab coat crawling with plastic spiders, carrying my black box plastered