Sunday, 23 March 2008

Child Artists - Prodigies Or Fodder For Pedophiles?

There are a surfeit of reality programs/contests geared for kids on TV these days. There are also a number of kids who act/dance in TV serials and movies.

I have a few basic issues with child performers and their overall development as human beings, after being thrust into the limelight at a young age. But at the end of the day, their parents are their custodians should be taking care of the mental development of their children.

Coming to the singing and dancing contests, most of the judges do try to be gentle with the children, but some of them are quite rude and fancy themselves as the Indian answer to Simon Cowell. This is terrible for the self esteem of young children who have not yet developed the coping mechanisms of dealing with negative comments directed at them (especially on National TV)

A friend of mine in the advertising industry, told me of an audition they had called for, a week ago in Bombay. It was on a week day during school timings. More than 5000 parents turned up with their children. Obviously the company could not see them all on the same day. The parents whose children did not get a chance on Day 1 were prepared to come back every day of the next week and longer, if it meant getting their child a chance to audition. Not a chance to act, not a chance to be in a movie, but the chance to audition. They were willing to have their child miss school for over a week for a chance to audition for a silent role in an advertisement.

My mom would have turned down Karan Johar or Yash Chopra themselves, even if they had guaranteed me or my siblings a leading role in their upcoming movie, if it meant missing even half an hour of school.

Parents these days are trying to push their children into the limelight too soon. We do not have much data on grown up child stars in India. But look at Hollywood. With the exception of the Olsen twins (who also had their weight problems) which of the child stars has emerged as a balanced human being ?

In spite of all this background, my main issue is with the kind of performances that some of these children are being coerced into displaying here in India.

They are dancing to item number songs. 6-12 year olds dancing to the steps of Helen or even worse - Rakhi Sawant and her ilk. Rakhi is old enough and smart enough to know what kind of effect her jhatak mataks & clothes can have on the adult male population. What do these little ones know and why should they know it so early in their life?

Look at the kid in the "cutting-shutting" paint ad. She was memorable for being what a normal 7 year old child would be. So why is the media trying to con us into believing that 6 year olds are old enough to be dancing as vamps and item girls? Why are they sexualizing young children?

The US has a long history of child beauty pageants and an equally long history of pedophiles who follow the child beauty pageant circuits. Mental health experts almost all agree, that exposing young children to the sordid world behind the glamor is completely unhealthy for their well being. And the end result of making children dress, dance and act like adults makes them easier targets for pedophiles.

Agreed we do not have a well documented history of Indian pedophile cases. The only ones that make the news are when foreigners abuse children under the guise of orphanages or children's homes. But that does not mean that pedophilia doesn't exist in India.

The actions of these children is perfect fodder for the appetites of pedophiles. They even look obscene to the general public (I hope its to the general public and not just a minority of people like me)

So why are these children doing this? Is it pressure from parents or from the media to be all grown up and dance like a vamp? Or is it because the Shiamak Davar dance classes makes them seem OK? - His dances choreographed for children are reasonably age appropriate, but he sometimes has a couple of children dancing with the older members of the troupe and performing the same steps as the 20+ year old troupe members.

Fortunately Javed Jaffery tried to bring about a voice of sanity in an episode that I watched today of Sansui Boogie Woogie - he is the first Indian celebrity who I have heard talking about age appropriate steps. But he wasn't strong enough in condemning this practice. As the celebrity anchor on the biggest launch pad for dance talent in India, he could afford to be much more stronger on his disapproval of some of the steps.

I hope parents begin to see sense some time soon. They are always going to try to live out their own dreams through their children - that isn't going to change any time soon. But I do hope they stop turning their children into adults before their time.

Published on

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Oasis - Online Education

Printed in This Month's CSA Magazine - OASIS visible online in plain text format at @

Online Education

By Karishma Pais (Kim)

Are you a trailing spouse? Have you followed your husband to Egypt because his job brought him here? Do you find you have a lot of time on your hands once your husband leaves to work, the driver takes the kids to school, the maid does the cleaning/cooking, and the gardener the gardening? Then maybe it’s the right time to get that degree you always wanted or research an area you have been interested in. Because lets face it, there’s no time like today, with the conveniences on an Expat life in Egypt, to get started in this direction.
The AUC has a School of Continuing Education (SCE) that allows you to take courses in subjects as diverse as Management and Education to English Language. The SCE provides certificate programs, non-credit term-length courses and variable-length customized courses to fulfill the continuing education needs of individuals and organizations in Egypt and the Middle East. Classes are held in the evenings twice or thrice a week in each 12 week term.
62.3% of the student population is male while 37.7% is female. 95.4% are Egyptians and 4.6% with other nationalities. The educational background of students is roughly split between secondary education (47.5%) and bachelor’s degrees (45.3%), with 7% of the population below secondary education level.
But if evening classroom sessions don’t fit into your schedule, you can always consider online education which is a type of distance learning.
Distance Education dates back to at least 1728 when an advertisement in the Boston Gazette advertised that Caleb Phillips- Teacher of the new method of Short Hand was seeking students for lessons to be sent weekly.
The University of London was the first university to offer distance learning degrees, establishing its External Program in 1858.
Electronic learning or eLearning is a term used to refer to computer-enhanced learning. The worldwide e-learning industry is estimated to be worth over 38 billion pounds according to conservative estimates. Developments in internet and multimedia technologies are the basic enablers of e-learning.
In 2006, nearly 3.5 million students participated in on-line learning at institutions of higher education in the United States. The Sloan report, based on a poll of academic leaders, says that students generally appear to be at least as satisfied with their on-line classes as they are with traditional ones. According to the same report, about two-thirds of the largest institutions have fully online programs. Online education is rapidly increasing, and even online doctoral programs have been developed at leading research universities.
When choosing an Online Degree, what you need to watch out for is Accreditation, to ensure that the program provided by the institution meets acceptable levels of quality. In the area of online education, it is especially important to avoid diploma mills that offer fake degrees at a cost. If you are looking for a valid online degree, you should make sure you obtain proof of accreditation from a regional or national/specialized accrediting body. For example, the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is recognized as the accrediting organization for online degrees in the USA.

How to get started:
Choose the area/topic that you are interested in studying/researching. (You could get a degree in almost anything: Archaeology, Art History, Alternative Medicine, a Teaching Degree, Law or even an MBA.)
Google for the website of the University/Institute you would like your degree from. You can start with this list if you like:

Then check if they offer a course to your liking.
If they do, sign up.
If they don’t, look for another institution or another course.
It’s truly that simple.

Costs vary across Universities and Courses depending on duration and topic. For instance UCLA offers a one week course in Writing for 125$ and a course on Principles of Accounting for 525$.

The good thing about online courses is that they are totally flexible.

  • You decide which time of the day you plan to catch up on your course work: early morning, when the baby is napping or after you get back from work. Anyone can take these courses at any time.
  • You don’t have to spend time or money on commuting to classes.
  • Your geographic location is not a constraint.
  • You set your own learning pace.

The potential drawbacks are that:

  • You need to be self motivated to complete your work on time. It’s very easy to slack off when you are setting your own pace.
  • There’s a lack of face to face interaction, everything is online in virtual classrooms. Auditory Learners may not be very comfortable with the visual medium of instruction.
  • You miss out on the social aspects of classroom training and traditional classes.
  • If your course requires practical sessions in laboratories, online learning is no substitute.

If after reading this article, you are considering online education, you can be assured that it will work well for you as long as you have reasonably good computer and internet skills and are self-motivated.

To get you started, here are some websites that will help guide you in the right direction with more specific information about courses.

Happy Learning!

Oasis Magazine, March 2008


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