bookmark_borderPost-382: Thirty Pieces of Silver

We use the phrase “thirty pieces of silver” metaphorically in a variety of contexts. I used it today. It is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas for which he was paid that sum of pieces of silver.

I got to wondering how much thirty pieces of silver, ca. AD 33 in the Roman province of Palestine, would be worth in our terms, today; what is a reasonable US-dollar figure to attach to it? I spent some time on this and would propose $10,000 (see below).

From a version of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper; Jesus has told the twelve apostles that one of them has betrayed him. Most are in one or another state of shock or anger. Peter, angry, leans over Judas’ shoulder. Judas, slouched over and looking worried, clutches a bag with unknown contents but about large enough to hold 30 pieces of silver.
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bookmark_borderPost-373: Tank Thinking

I was employed by a think tank for most of 2019.

What is a think tank? Many ask.

I might be able to record some kind of useful insight into the “what a think tank is” question, based on my own experiences this year and by what I know of a few other think tanks I have been able to observe at close quarters in the past few years (sometimes doing some sort of work for them, sometimes just as an observer).

The think tank hired me to do research on Asia; to help with various of their publications and projects, some new and some ongoing, especially Korea-related.

It was a small think tank, not without its problems. I was the most Korea-knowledgeable person there. I was a regular employee, but those of us at low levels were under a contract for a certain period of time.

The best way I figured out for how to describe (to a certain kind of person) what it’s like at a think tank is this: It’s a series of elaborate, somewhat-interrelated, large-scale, long-term graduate school projects. Unlike actual graduate school projects, money flows towards those doing the work.

The above sounds good, I expect. On the negative side, most think tanks are quasi-academic and therefore remain always at risk of falling into the same kind of “jealous guarding of little fiefdoms” problem so often observed in academia. Needless to say, this can sometimes create a negative environment.

Another useful way to conceive of this negative side may be: The think tank as a “team version” of graduate school. For many, graduate school itself is, at least intellectually speaking, an intensely personal experience in which you usually have full creative control over your own work, and in which collaboration, to the extent it meaningfully occurs, is voluntary and limited. I would imagine it would be unbearable, for many people who end up in graduate school, if every assignment they did were decided by committee, with the “committee” being several other, let’s say randomly selected, graduate-student-personalities.

Cartoon by DSFraley

Another complication is the competing ‘layers’ of authority:

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bookmark_borderPost-97: Jiri Mountain Vacation

Today, Friday June 28th, will be my last post in June 2013. I am rounding-out June having made 28 posts. That’s not bad.
Today is also the last day of two foreign coworkers, Matthew R. and Jon. H., both American. I mentioned them in post-93.

This is my last post in June because I start vacation on Saturday afternoon, when a get a bus to a small city near the Jiri Mountain [지리산] area of southwest Korea. I won’t give any details about the trip yet, partly because I don’t yet know what I will do, exactly. I am excited, because this will be first-ever (and perhaps only) “week off” working in Korea. All other so-called vacations have been a day here, a day there. Never more than three weekdays off in a row. After today, I won’t have to teach again till July 8th.

A photo I found of the Jiri Mountains:

Picture

Jiri Mountains [found online]
I will be back “home” next week before July 4th.

bookmark_borderPost-7: No Love for Robot Teachers

Last week’s essay prompt for the high-level students:

Do you agree or disagree:

Robots should replace humans as teachers in the classroom.

I had 27 students complete the essay. Twenty-six opposed robot teachers. Many seemed violently opposed.

The single student of mine who supported robots-as-teachers? A boy in a ninth-grade, born in the fall of 1998, according to his profile on the institute’s staff website. I have not had him in any class before. So far, he strikes me as shy and not particularly  intellectually-curious. His reasons for supporting robots: They are “disinterested” (fair, not taking favorites) and will “always have the correct information”.

 

 

Apparently, there have been some so-called “robots” used in classrooms in Korea for two years now:


The 29 robots, about one metre (3.3 feet) high with a TV display panel for a face, wheeled around the classroom while speaking to the students, reading books to them and dancing to music by moving their head and arms.

The robots, which display an avatar face of a Caucasian woman, are controlled remotely by teachers of English in the Philippines — who can see and hear the children via a remote control system.

I don’t think they actually fit the criteria of being robots, though.