Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking
This article appeared in the recent issue of Scientific American magazine.

Critical Thinking Is Best Taught Outside the Classroom
Critical thinking is a teachable skill best taught outside the K-12 classroom
By Dennis M. Bartels
The link to the magazine could not be established. Hence original article is being posted here for TF USA affiliates!

Critical Thinking Is Best Taught Outside the Classroom
Critical thinking is a teachable skill best taught outside the K–12 classroom
By Dennis M. Bartels

A democracy relies on an electorate of critical thinkers. Yet formal education, which is driven by test taking, is increasingly failing to require students to ask the kind of questions that lead to informed decisions.
More than a decade ago cognitive scientists John D. Bransford and Daniel L. Schwartz, both then at Vanderbilt University, found that what distinguished young adults from children was not the ability to retain facts or apply prior knowledge to a new situation but a quality they called “preparation for future learning.” The researchers asked fifth graders and college students to create a recovery plan to protect bald eagles from extinction. Shockingly, the two groups came up with plans of similar quality (although the college students had better spelling skills). From the standpoint of a traditional educator, this outcome indicated that schooling had failed to help students think about ecosystems and extinction, major scientific ideas.
The researchers decided to delve deeper, however. They asked both groups to generate questions about important issues needed to create recovery plans. On this task, they found large differences. College students focused on critical issues of interdependence between eagles and their habitats (“What type of eco-system supports eagles?” and “What different kinds of specialists are needed for different recovery areas?”). Fifth graders tended to focus on features of individual eagles (“How big are they?” and “What do they eat?”). The college students had cultivated the ability to ask questions, the cornerstone of critical thinking. They had learned how to learn.
Museums and other institutions of informal learning may be better suited to teach this skill than elementary and secondary schools. At the Exploratorium in San Francisco, we recently studied how learning to ask good questions can affect the quality of people’s scientific inquiry. We found that when we taught participants to ask “What if?” and “How can?” questions that nobody present would know the answer to and that would spark exploration, they engaged in better inquiry at the next exhibit—asking more questions, performing more experiments and making better interpretations of their results. Specifically, their questions became more comprehensive at the new exhibit. Rather than merely asking about something they wanted to try (“What happens when you block out a magnet?”), they tended to include both cause and effect in their question (“What if we pull this one magnet out and see if the other ones move by the same amount?”). Asking juicy questions appears to be a transferable skill for deepening collaborative inquiry into the science content found in exhibits.
This type of learning is not confined to museums or institutional settings. One of the best examples is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in which the eponymous host expertly shreds political, commercial and scientific-sounding claims in the press by using numbers, logic and old video. The Maker Faire, which conducts techie do-it-yourself projects, has reintroduced the idea that our learning is richer for our mistakes: D.I.Y. experimentalists get stuck, reframe the question and figure things out.
Informal learning environments tolerate failure better than schools. Perhaps many teachers have too little time to allow students to form and pursue their own questions and too much ground to cover in the curriculum and for standardized tests. But people must acquire this skill somewhere. Our society depends on them being able to make critical decisions, about their own medical treatment, say, or what we must do about global energy needs and demands. For that, we have a robust informal learning system that eschews grades, takes all comers, and is available even on holidays and weekends.

This article was originally published with the title What Is Your Question?.
s M. Bartels is executive director of the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Weekly qata’a

This was said last year and I don’t remember I sent it to the forum before. However, after digging out of some papers on my desk I found it and hope it is a soothing reflection of love.


عشق منت کشے شوریدہ جنوں رہتا ہے

حسن مشتاق ِ نگہ لطف ِ جنوں رہتا ہے

اک گرفتار ِ محبت کو شب و روز اشرف

وصل و فرقت کا دل آشوب فسوں رہتا ہے

Mirza Ashraf

A Justification for Taxation

A Justification for Taxation

Syed Ajazuddin

Taxation is one of the most important parts of any society. Taxes have been collected by governments ever since the beginning of civilization. A tax is defined as a financial charge levied on an individual or legal entity by a state or nation. Failure to pay this charge is punishable by law. According to Black’s Law legal dictionary, a tax is a pecuniary burden laid up an individual or property to support a government. An economist view on taxes is that a tax is a transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector and without references to any special benefits received.

Though taxes are an often overlooked aspect of society, they have oft created more conflicts than some more controversial societal problems, for example religion. In ancient days, often the largest cause of war was the levying of taxes from kings and aristocrats. In 1215, the Magna Carta was written in order limit the power of King John, who had begun imposing taxes on the Barons. In 1776, the American Revolution was mostly fought over the heavy taxes that the British Empire began to levy, creating the famous slogan “No Taxation without Representation”. Gandhi started the movement against the Salt Tax in 1930, which lead to the eventual removal of the British from the subcontinent. Even today, while many believe that the bickering in Congress is due to partisan politics, the issue of taxes have created some of the most heated ideological battles in this nations history. Taxes have become an integral and decisive part of our everyday lives; but what purpose do they serve and what are the most efficient and fairest forms?

Goal of Taxation

The main goal of taxation has generally been to generate revenue for a government. As society as progressed however, taxes have also been used more to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, and have also been used in order to influence the behavior of people. Welfare, food stamps, and subsidized housing would be some examples of redistribution of wealth. Taxes on things like cigarettes and gambling, and also tax deductions on things like owning a house and having a spouse are examples of where taxes are used to influence the personal lives of people.

Direct and Indirect Taxes

Taxes come in two basic forms, direct and indirect. Simply stated, a direct tax is a levy on income, property, or wealth. This includes income tax, corporate tax, payroll taxes (Social Security), poll tax, zakat, jayzah, and more. An indirect tax is one that is levied on goods and services rather than a person or corporation. Examples of an indirect tax would be sales tax, excise duty, and import duty.

The key difference between a direct tax and an indirect tax is that while direct taxes can be adjusted for the individual circumstances of a person, indirect taxes are imposed on the transaction and entirely disregard the circumstances of the taxpayer. This makes all indirect taxes regressive, as they begin to have a larger impact on your total percentage of wealth as you make less money, as the poor tend to spend more on consumer goods relatively to the wealthy.

Indirect taxes are often criticized for displacing the economic theory of equilibrium. It acts as an additional factor in supply and demand and disrupts the balance between the two.

Progressive, Regressive, and Negative Taxes

A progressive tax is a direct tax where the tax percent increases as your income or wealth is higher. Progressive taxes place more tax incidence, or tax burden upon the wealthy, while having less burden on the poor. The concept of a progressive tax is an ancient one; Plato advocated for a progressive tax and so did Adam Smith. Smith writes in his Wealth of Nations “It is not very unreasonable for rich to contribute to public expense, not only to the proportion but more.”

Some arguments against progressive taxation are that its not equitable, there becomes a difficulty in collection in some countries, there is the risk of capital flight, and it can potentially lower economic growth due by creating less incentive. Also, many Libertarians view a progressive tax as a violation of equal rights to citizens.

A regressive tax is generally uniform and the tax rate goes up if disposable income goes down. So because the poor have less disposable income, even though they have the same tax rate on sales tax, relatively they are paying more on the tax than someone who has more disposable income. Advanced countries have attempted to reduce the inherent regressive nature of sales tax by exempting basics like food and clothing.

A negative tax is actually a type of progressive tax because when a person’s income goes down the rate of tax goes lower, even into the negative. This means the government actually pays you money if your income is below a certain point, essentially welfare. This type of tax can eliminate the welfare trap and creates more incentive to work; the progressive nature of the tax discourages people from staying on welfare which is actually currently encouraged in certain circumstances.

Taxation in Religion

No major religion has a detailed or comprehensive tax system, but almost all of them have some command to pay taxes. In Christianity, when Caesar imposed taxes on Jesus, he said “render to Ceasars things that are Ceasars and render to god things that are gods.” (Mark 12:17) Judaism similarly stresses the importance of paying taxes.

Islam, while not having a prescribed system of taxation, the Khalifia’s did impose different kinds of taxes. Zakat is more a redistributive measure of Islam, and while loosely may fit the definition of a tax, since it is not mandatory it shouldn’t be considered a tax. Though some people might consider it mandatory with the punitive aspect coming in the next life. Abu Bakar did actually mandate Zakat, which would make it a tax, but the next Caliph’s did not follow his lead. Currently only Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a legislatively required Zakat, but other Muslim countries do have a voluntary Zakat which the government issued. Jayzah was a tax that was imposed on non-muslims but was essentially the same as Zakat. Sometimes the Jayzah was kept below the Zakat, in order to discourage conversion to Islam, an example of taxes being used to influence people’s behavior. Khiraj was a tax issued by Umer that was imposed on arable land.

Types of Taxes

Income tax—————————–Progressive and Direct
Capital Gain tax———————-Progressive and Direct
Corporate tax————————-Progressive and Direct
Property Tax————————–Progressive and Direct
Land Tax——————————-Progressive and Direct
Wealth Tax—————————–Progressive and Direct
Sur Tax———————————Progressive and Direct
Gift Tax———————————Progressive and Direct
Customs——————————-Regressive and Indirect
Value Added Tax——————–Regressive and Indirect
Excise Duty—————————Regressive and Indirect
Sales Tax——————————Regressive and Indirect

Taxation History of Pakistan, India, and USA

In ancient times, most taxes in India were regressive except for the land tax which used to be proportional and somewhat progressive. The great Indian philosopher Chanakya (Kautalia) first proposed the concept of a progressive tax in 370 BC, but no significant progress was made until the enactment of the Income Tax Act of 1922 by the British Government and the establishment of the Central Board of Revenue in 1924. The British also created the appellate tribunal in 1939 which was adopted by both Pakistan and India.

India replaced the Indian Income Tax Act of 1922 with the Indian Income Tax Act of 1961 but also added a wealth tax and gift tax in order to place more tax incidence on the rich.

Pakistan also followed India’s example and added a wealth tax as well as a gift tax, as well as replacing the Indian Income Tax Act of 1922 with their own version in 1979.

The United States history of taxation can be best described as pre and post 16th amendment. Article I of the Constitution states that the “Federal government can levy taxes but only to proportion”. This meant that the government couldn’t impose capitation, poll tax, or head tax unless in proportion and must be uniform throughout the United States. From 1861 to 1894, more than 60 bills were presented for an income tax, and a bill was finally passed in 1894 call the Revenue Act of Wilson Forman Tariff. This act imposed a 2% flat tax on income over $2000 (Today it would be about $56,000). This was one of the first reforms from Congress which illustrated a growing concern of some of the wealthiest Americans consolidating too much power in the absence of direct taxes.

This act was overturned by the Supreme Court however as a violation of Article I of the Constitution. Congress responded quickly by passing the 16th amendment on July 1909, and it quickly was passed by enough state legislatures as well. The 16th amendment gave congress to tax from any source and without proportion, finally allowing for a progressive tax.

Ever since the passage of the 16th amendment, the rate and exemptions within the income tax have changed drastically. In 1913, $3000 of income was exempt, ($66,000 in today’s value) and only 10% of people were actually subject to the tax. In 2010, only $9350 was exempt. In 1985, the interest group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) was founded by Mr. Grover Norquist, who’s main goal was to reduce tax revenue to only 8% of GDP. The mission statement of the ATR is “Government’s power to control one’s life drive’s from its power to tax”. Norquist is a Harvard graduate and married to a Kwaiti Muslim and is a cofounder of Islamic Free market institute with Khalid Saffuri in 1988.

How to Measure Tax Incidence

In recent years, many economists have been developing complex mathematical equations in order to create indexes that measure where the actual tax burden lies. One of these indexes is called the Plato index, developed by professor M. Fitzgerald of the Oxford department of international development, which measures tax burden by combining income distribution and tax pressure. The Plato index is defined as a ratio of direct tax revenue to the gross top quantile household. (Top 20% of households) The worse that the income distribution is the higher the tax yield should be. Plato’s best value would be 21%; UK is the closest with 20%, US at 16%, Argentina is at 2%. Developed countries tend to fall in the 15-20 range, developing in the 10-15, and underdeveloped in the 2-7. the Organization of economic co-operation and development (OECD) encourages poor countries to evolve direct and progressive taxes and reduce indirect and regressive taxes. Keeping the balance between the two will reduce poverty and also reduce dependence on foreign aid.

The Gini coefficient is another model used by economists to determine the income inequality of a country. The higher the coefficient, the higher the inequality of income within the country. Countries in Europe have coefficients around .25-.35, while the US as a coefficient of around .45-.49, and developing countries in Africa have coefficients of over .60.


Taxes aren’t simply numbers and percents that are changed around on whim to generate revenue, they pose philosophical, ideological, and goal oriented questions.

Ultimately in my view, countries must increase the progressive nature of their tax codes, as even most wealthy and developed countries are below the equilibrium. In poor countries, severe inequalities exist in income, and the best way to create a fair tax burden is to have direct progressive taxes which place the burden on the wealthy as opposed to regressive indirect taxes which place more burden on the poor. Furthermore, taxes should not be used as a means to manipulate human behavior; the sole purpose of taxation should be economic, it shouldn’t cross over into the personal realm. Tax incentives such as mortgages, 529 savings accounts, child credit, marriage, sin taxes, luxury taxxes, IRA, 401K, tax holidays, etc should be removed as they attempt to coerce people into certain behavior my providing monetary incentives.

Fascinating Facts about Japan

Fascinating Facts about Japan

Shared by Wequar Azeem

1 – Did you know that Japanese children clean their schools every day for a quarter of an hour with teachers, which led to the emergence of a Japanese generation who is modest and keen on cleanliness.

2 – Did you know that hygiene worker in Japan is called “health engineer” and can command salary of USD 5000 to 8000 per month, and a cleaner is subjected to written and oral tests!!

3 – Did you know that Japan does not have any natural resources, and they are exposed to hundreds of earthquakes a year but do not prevent her from becoming the second largest economy in the world? –

4 – Did you know that Hiroshima returned to what it was economically vibrant before the fall of the atomic bomb in just ten years?

5 – Did you know that Japan prevents the use of mobile in trains, restaurants and indoor

6 – Did you know that in Japan students from the first to sixth primary year must learn ethics in dealing with people –

7 – Did you know that the Japanese even though one of the richest people in the world but they do not have servants. The parents are responsible for the house and children –

8 – Did you know that there is no examination from the first to the third primary level; because the goal of education is to instill concepts and character building, not just examination and indoctrination. –

9 – Did you know that if you go to a buffet restaurant in Japan you will notice people only eat as much as they need without any waste. No wasteful food.

10 – Did you know that the rate of delayed trains in Japan is about 7 seconds per year!! They appreciate the value of time, very punctual to minutes and seconds

11 -. Did you know that children in schools brush their teeth (sterile) and clean their teeth after a meal at school; They maintain their health from an early age –

12 – Did you know that students take half an hour to finish their meals to ensure right digestion When asked about this concern, they said: These students are the future of Japan