Thank you for reminding us about the sense of awe and wonder which children bring into a learning environment. I’d like to introduce myself to the group – my name is Pritpal Kaur and I am a Sikh. The word ‘Sikh’ actually means to learn and Theodore, your post reminded me that learning is innate – we are constantly learning throughout our lives, from the day we are born right up until the day we die.
Thank you also for giving me an opportunity to contribute to this blog, it’s great to join you all in these enriching conversations. I come from a background of working in education in England and have a passion for interfaith work and volunteering. In September 2015 I met Theodore when I presented on a panel with him and Sean (another of the contributors) at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City entitled ‘interfaith approaches to education.’
I moved to America approximately a year ago and last month I joined the Kaur Foundation as its Associate Director of Education. The start of my journey here in America, has reminded me about the universality and persistence of issues and challenges which individuals and communities face across the globe. These are issues relating to race, religion, multiculturalism, diversity, identity, integration, co-existence, interfaith relations…. and I could go on.
It’s only by proactively pursuing cultural awareness and an appreciation for diversity in homes and schools that we can share knowledge, care for others and be inspired to act positively. It’s exciting to be part of a journey which is trying to bring a positive narrative into American classrooms. All too often the values of acceptance, understanding and appreciation are not nurtured. The opportunities for building enriching relationships and having positive engagements are not cultivated. And the tools for peaceful conflict resolution and having difficult conversations sensitively when issues do arise, are not employed. For example, in March last year, a young Sikh school-boy from Georgia who was wearing a patka (a common form of head covering for young Sikhs before they start tying a turban), took a video on his phone of his classmates bullying him on a bus and calling him a ‘terrorist.’ The video became viral and highlighted the sad fact that the experiences of many Sikhs in American schools involve bullying, hate and fear.
The Kaur Foundation tries to address these issues head-on through education in an effort to create systemic change. In particular, the Foundation promotes cultural diversity and creates awareness of the Sikh identity, heritage and values in the classroom. One article I came across encourages parents to start encouraging cultural awareness and an appreciation of diversity at home, even before children start going to school.
I would like to conclude with a quote from Theodore about the very purpose of education, which to me instills a sense of duty for all educators to create positive change; …’education should also expand their (childrens’) outlook, change the way they look at the world around them and the understanding of their own identity and purpose within that world; it should help them to be more aware of their own assumptions, biases, prejudices, and lenses.’