Third-Grade Fractions

via China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids –

Anyone who’s long followed the Middle East knows that the six most dangerous words after any cataclysmic event in this region are: “Things will never be the same.” After all, this region absorbed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Google without a ripple.

I’m not a big fan of Thomas Friedman, but I think he’s right about this:

China per se is not fueling the revolt here — but China and the whole Asian-led developing world’s rising consumption of meat, corn, sugar, wheat and oil certainly is. The rise in food and gasoline prices that slammed into this region in the last six months clearly sharpened discontent with the illegitimate regimes — particularly among the young, poor and unemployed.

There is also the problem of what he calls the “educated unemployables”:

Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders. That has not been Hosni Mubarak’s obsession.

And in there is a cautionary tale for us – how obsessed are we with teaching fractions to third graders?  Are we going to fall far behind, too?

What We Talked About in Class


via Egyptian protests: How a food crisis is driving a political crisis. – By Annie Lowrey – Slate Magazine


Any number of political and social factors underpins the current unrest in Egypt—and as always, economics figures in. The upheaval has shined a light on two serious problems facing the country: Most jobs pay too little, and most food costs too much.

Like we talked about in class,

Egyptians spent more on food than respondents in any other emerging economy surveyed in the report—about 40 percent of their monthly income, versus about 17 percent for Brazilians and about 20 percent for Chinese and Saudi Arabians.

Why is the price of food so high?  Partly the high cost of fuel – Egypt has to import most of its grain, and partly due to floods and droughts in food-producing countries like Russia and Australia.

Combined with high unemployment for young people, men especially, it’s no surprise that Egypt has erupted.



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