Being a lecturer, there’s a sense of horror occupying my mind every time a new semester starts. This feeling, which I believe is also experienced by most of my fellow lecturers, is due to one simple reason: how to convince the students to read a book.
It’s supposed to be a normal thing. Lecturer uses a book to prepare teaching material and student read it before class. As the class begins, they will discuss the material and lively discussion will kick in. Everything seems perfectly fine.
Except it rarely does.
In fact, convincing students to read books becomes one terrifying task for a lecturer. I usually spent 15-20 minutes of my first class trying to persuade my student of how important it is for them to read – juggling my argument from physiological (how it improves your brain cell), emotion (it makes you relax), to psychological (it increases your empathy) perspectives and so on.
This semester, I got additional ammunition: ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). It is imperative, I said, that we read a book because we will have to compete with our neighboring countries, which are definitely hungry to hunt a jobs in Indonesia due to its economical growth prospect.
Everybody was shocked by the attack in Jakarta on Jan. 14 that resulted in the deaths of eight people, including the alleged perpetrators, and dozens injured. Suddenly, Jakarta became the center of the world’s attention.
Terrorism is complicated and sometimes hard to define. Jeffrey D. Simon (1994), for example, reports that at least 212 different definitions of terrorism exist across the world. But from all the hustle and bustle of hundreds of definitions, researchers Alex Schmid and Albert Jungian from the University of Leiden found that “causing fear” is a concept that appears in 51 percent as the main component of terrorism.
As the tragedy was unfolding, emotional messages poured out through social media. People were angry, sad and shocked. But if fear was what the terrorists hoped to inflict, they failed.
Within hours, people took back social media in an act of defiance. People showed solidarity through hashtags, tweets, statuses and even memes. Jokes were exchanged, shared and reshared. Instead of talking about the terrorists, people discussed ordinary people: a satay seller who calmly grilled his wares near the crime scene, police personnel and their good looks, people taking selfies near the blast debris and much more. Some even took to Instagram, selling shoes similar to the ones worn by pictured police officers.
People have hailed this as an example of Indonesian resilience in the midst of terror. For some, this might be analyzed not as an act of bravery, but ignorance. The pessimism, of course, has a legitimate standing. But to see it in another perspective, especially from the Islamic State (IS) movement, which claimed responsibility for the attack, these trivial things can deal a huge blow to their plans to expand their network in Indonesia.
To understand this, we must go back to the beginning of IS. In 2014, the term “femtorisk” was coined by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS). From the word “femto”, a prefix meaning one-quadrillionth, the term is used to refer “a numerically small phenomenon capable of exerting an outsized impact on global politics”.
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The government’s move to ban websites allegedly promoting radical views should come as no surprise. After being bombarded by several extremist-related problems, such as the group of Indonesians who attempted to cross over to Syria via Turkey and the broadcast of videos in the Malay language used to woo Indonesians to join the Islamic State (IS) movement, the government was forced to do something.
I first heard about gaokao when I accidentally stumbled upon an article that showed some photos about it. It was visually attractive and, at the same time–provocative, I guess. When I asked some friends to guess what the photos were about, the answers showed how unfamiliar was the idea of Gaokao for people outside of China. Some said that it is a picture of people celebrating music idols, another said that it was about the bad transportation system in China.
I, too, found the picture amusing. In every country–and Indonesia is not an exception– college admission is a very stressful event. It draws a lot of attention. But, none are like gaokao. Many western media tried to compare it with the SAT as the sole criterion for student to enter universities, but the similarity probably ends there. The stakes, the pressure, the meaning for the society, looks like it was at the entirely different level. Continue reading “Inside Gaokao“→