New Initiatives in North America for Cultural Education
Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 7:00 p.m.
New York: The two-day conference of Tibetan associations in the US and Canada concluded Sunday evening with a resolution to fundamentally revise the Sunday School curriculum and text books in order to make them appropriate to the special needs of children growing up in the western cultural environment.
Organized by the Office of Tibet at Tolstoy Foundation in upstate New York, the biennial conference brought together 37 representatives from 19 out of the 29 Tibetan communities in North America. In addition, there were about 20 observers and helpers.
Tenzin Chonden, North America’s elected deputy to the Tibetan Assembly in Dharamsala, India, sat through the entire proceeding, answering questions and sharing his views on the issues raised.
Veteran members of the community–i.e., those who have worked many years for the community and attended some of the earlier conferences–delightfully noted the unprecedentedly large number of young delegates this time.
One participant observed that the robust young turnout at this conference should perhaps be seen as heralding a new era, one in which the Western-educated new generation will come forward to assume key leadership roles.
The younger generation, as a matter fact, is the main issue dealt with by the conference.
Like all diasporic communities, Tibetans exiles everywhere have had to grapple with the challenges of raising children in an environment, where modern education of the host country needs to be married happily with the cultural underpinnings of Tibet’s Buddhist value system.
For years, larger Tibetan communities in North America have run Sunday schools to achieve this.
However, the participants of the conference felt that Sunday schools needed a fundamental change of curriculum and text books in answer to the peculiar needs of children growing up in the western hemisphere.
As a first step to this end, the conference decided to organize a retreat of representatives from Sunday Schools; language experts and teachers from universities in the US and Canada will act as resource persons during the retreat.
The retreat, it was decided, would lead to a new curriculum and then text books.
Once this is achieved, zone-wise orientation workshops will be organized for the teachers of Sunday schools.
The conference also addressed a number of other issues, one of which was to organize at least one major political-awareness-raising discussion a year by every association.
The conference decided also to organize a long-life offering ceremony and teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama either in Canada or the US.
The goal of the long-life ceremony is to express Tibetan people’s gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has dedicated his whole life, and indeed every fiber of his being, to the cause of Tibet and its people’s happiness.
Presidents of all Associations will be ex-officio members of the long-life ceremony committee.
Three members, namely Dr. Tsewang Ngodup of Minnesota, Lhundup Amdo of Capital Area Tibetan Association and Tashi Namgyal of Seattle were elected as the co-ordination committee and entrusted with the responsibility of requesting His Holiness’ time to give the teaching and accept the proposed long-life offering.
–News report filed by the Office of Tibet, New York
(www.tibet.net is the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.)