Saturday, August 6, 2016

Global Citizenship Education: Everyday transcendence

Happy to report that that long-awaited book has been published!  Ordering details are here and I'll be posting excerpts as the year progresses. Enjoying the last days of summer here in the northeast and looking forward to a great academic year!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Global Citizenship Ed book on the way...

I recently picked up a book contract with Routledge so I've been spending all of my writing time on that project, due by Fall 2015! I'll be checking in periodically but will have to limit my blogging til then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Visiting Hong Kong

I had the great pleasure of spending the week with colleagues in Hong Kong, specifically some of the international partner schools along with faculty at Hong Kong Institute of Education. These opportunities are priceless as the provide insights into how other educational institutions and systems work, points for learning that can migrate to my work. I gave two guest talks, one on research related to global citizenship education and the latter on developing a research agenda in education.

Both were highly engaging and led to spirited conversations among participants. In the global citizenship talk, I was given a great opportunity to see how this idea is controversial in different contexts and what makes it so.  I knew that from the scholarly literature along with my own critique--how it can be hegemonic, reinscribe patterns of colonial domination and promote singular visions/versions of a good society. But to hear them in conversations with intellectuals of Hong Kong was a whole different image, one that gave texture and richness to the critique.

We also visited three different schools--all independents that serve either a predominately Chinese population or a blend of an ex-pat and Chinese population. Their programming was quite diverse. In one school the focus was on developing cultural awareness among students through a diverse teaching staff and language immersion programs. In a second school the emphasis was on representing the various perspectives, within and among, Chinese populations and in relationship to the West and more distant neighbors. And in the third, there was a strong service component wherein students learn through experience, from visiting an orphanage to hold children for a weekend to participating in a simulation of being a refugee.

I also had an opportunity to meet with Teachers College alum, always a treat to see how they are doing and the many important activities they take up in the world. As difficult as it is to deal with the comings and goings of a long trip, and the jetlag that accompanies these transitions, I'm reminded of the importance of this work for my own learning and how these exchanges of ideas are vital to continued growth.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hong Kong and Macau

I'm spending the week in Hong Kong guest lecturing at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.  I made a side trip over the weekend to the former Portuguese colony of Macau, which is now a gaming resort. The casinos I could do without but the museum near the ruins of St. Paul's church was terrific and made the 1 hour ferry ride and immigration process well worth the visit. Behind the facade of what was once the church are the ruins that have only recently been preserved during the past 20 years. The museum provided a good, synoptic overview of the history of the island, prior to the Portuguese arrival in the mid 16th Century and as it developed over time from a fishing village to an entertainment venue. The photographs of the earlier period revealed that the Portuguese took the high ground over the port and erected both a church and a fortress. Absent was much discussion of the pairing of church and empire which was typical of how Europeans colonized much of the world and I was a bit surprised how little this was addressed in the museum.

The short ferry ride to Macau was what I expected in terms of the busy waterway and the volume of boats, from fishing to commercial shipping to transportation vessels. It was a busy Sunday according to the ticket agent at the ferry who encouraged me to buy a roundtrip so I would not have to wait on the return.  It's good that I did as there were two hour delays on the return trip. I was approached while waiting to return by two students from a Hong Kong university, who were doing some research about why international travelers visit the city. I think I must have been an outlier as I waxed eloquent about the heritage museum and strongly recommended it to them...once a teacher...

I then went for a first visit with colleagues at Hong Kong Institute of Education who invited me to give a few talks about my research. The institution was founded 20 years ago and it is primarily a teacher education institution though with a robust set of course offerings in liberal arts and sciences. One couldn't help but be  impressed by the welcome they gave---offering me an office, computer access, login, email, lunch, coffee---more than one could possibly want! It reminds me of how little we do on the receiving end for those arriving, something that I must continue to work on...this is what it means to learn globally!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rights of the Child

I'm visiting Moncton, New Brunswick for the International Course on the Rights of the Child hosted by the Universite de Moncton, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Advocate Defenseur and Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates. It is a dual language conference and I'm attending the English section, which includes child advocates from throughout Canada.  I gave a talk about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in the US, particularly why the US signed but never ratified the 27 year old treaty and a state of the field in education on this topic.

The discussions were wide-ranging much of them particularly related to Article 12 of the CRC on the right of the child to be heard, providing them with a voice in matters that affect them directly. The advocates noted that this can cause conflicts with clients since what might typically be considered in the best interest of the child may not be the outcome the child wishes to have. The discussion explored how these interactions can be framed such that the child maintains a voice but may not determine the outcome, though I could sense that this was not viewed as an entirely satisfactory solution for those in the course.
In my presentation I was asked to address why the US has signed but not ratified the CRC (1989), joining only Somalia and South Sudan in their absence from participating. I tried to present a balanced overview of opinions, from the more extreme views about American exceptionalism to more moderate perspectives regarding the belief that the CRC is redundant in the US context. I spoke about the juvenile death penalty issue, since resolved by the ban in Roper v. Simmons (2005), and the group was literally shocked that such a legal provision existed in some states as late as just a decade ago. If you are from the US and wish to join me and many others in advocating for US ratification of the CRC here's the Campaign for US ratification website

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Finally Some Climate Change Action from US

President Obama plans to use an executive order to create regional/state-to-state cap and trade markets for carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, reported this morning by the New York Times. The reduction level is targeted at 30% by 2030. This is a good, moderate step on a problem that demands--an ultimately more dramatic--action. There are good questions about the basic approach, which is essentially a market strategy that socializes the reduction levels acros the industry. It was adopted in some states a few years back and met with mixed results and the legal back-channel employed in the process does not inspire confidence that the US is ready to act. Yet, the symbolism of this announcement is very significant and should not be dismissed simply because it's not all one might hope. His presumed action, anticipated for June 2, will be to make carbon reduction a significant political issue for the upcoming election, and like healthcare, a very complex but necessary one that demands attention.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Global Competence Certificate Program

Extremely pleased to announce our new certificate program in global learning for teachers! 
The Global Competence Certificate (GCC) is the first of its kind graduate level certificate program in global competence education for teachers nationwide. Developed in partnership with Teachers College, Columbia University and World Savvy, the GCC  program is designed specifically for in-service educators who are interested in embedding global learning into their teaching practice and preparing their students for the global reality beyond the  classroom.
The 15-month master’s level certificate program will be taught by Teachers College faculty and renowned educators from across the country. The GCC program has an innovative  learning model comprising three components: online academic coursework that supports the development of global understanding and the skills needed to teach for global competence in a K-12 environment, immersive global fieldwork with  partner institutions from across the globe, and collaborative practice group work with educator participants working in small cohorts to develop a capstone project that supports implementation of global competence education. The first cohort will begin this fall and the application process is well underway. Registration closes at the end of June. This groundbreaking program exemplifies Asia Society’s commitment to developing a cadre of globally competent educators.  
For more information, see the attached flyer or please visit, 
Visit Asia Society ISSN at:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stone Cold Justice

A new documentary film Stone Cold Justice by Australian journalist John Lyons was recently released on the difficult subject of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. The conflict is between the Israeli military and families of teens who are taken into custody because of stone-throwing. The families of the accused allege torture and the Israeli government claims that adolescents/children are not targeted as part of an intimidation campaign. I would recommend the documentary for teachers wanting to provide an updated glimpse, albeit a partial one, of the current situation in the West Bank.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Higher Ed Global Survey

A new survey of university leaders responsible for globalizing efforts indicates some promise and challenges for those interested in higher ed. The International Association of Universities report indicates that while the majority of universities profiled either have or are developing a global strategy, programming directly benefits students who have the financial means to augment their education. And while the report notes that campuses benefit from the increasing knowledge and awareness of the wider world through such efforts, there is a lack of support on the part of funders and policymakers for such programs.

Two insights stand out from this study. First, the issue of global learning as an add-on rather than a staple of education continues to present a challenge. Second and not unrelated is the lack of value generally translates into a lack of funding and therefore access for students without means, those whose learning beyond should be a high priority. Perhaps an outward mobility program for policymakers to encourage support of these efforts is in order. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

UN Talk

I recently spoke at the launch of a new book by Daisaku Ikeda entitled A Forum for Peace. The panel discussion was hosted by the UN Alliance of Civilizations. There is a great deal of attention by UN agencies and related education groups to the substance of education, rather than only issues of access.  This is a most welcome development! Of course access is and remains a vital concern for educators and everyone the world over. But equally important is that which students have access to in their learning. Many groups are being animated by this concern, including the UN General Secretary's Office at the direction of Ban Ki Moon, UNESCO and the Institute of International Education (IIT). The short talk that I gave pointed towards broadening this conversation beyond the 'earn-to-learn' mantra that has become common globally towards a humanistic one that recognizes the unequal and unsustainable footing we have inherited.

Your Excellencies and honored guests.

I would like to begin today by talking about a man who lived a very long time ago in a place far away.  He was known for enjoying the company of dogs more than humans because they live in the moment. This man would visit the marketplace and eat while there, a violation of the rule that governed this place. When asked why he did this he said, "Because I was hungry." This man laughed that  people took the simplistic beauty that the gods had created and always tried to improve it, changes that made life more difficult. Once this man was said to utter a now famous phrase, "I am a citizen of the world."

As you might have guessed, I am speaking about Diogenes, the Ancient Greek stoic who saw very little of the planet, much less than probably every one here, and yet had a profoundly worldly sense of himself. Was he crazy? Perhaps. But aren't we crazy too, to think that we who live in neatly divided countries with sharp borders could somehow come to think of ourselves as sharing a single planet and living as a single species?

I have a few thoughts to share as we transplant this big, ancient idea into our current time. The first question is: Who can be a global citizen? It might seem obvious to say 'we all are' but that would be to ignore that nearly 2 billion of our co-inhabitants, who lack access to basic necessities of life, including water, sanitation, shelter, food and medical care. These conditions make full and free participation in social life and building a planetary commonwealth just a dream as they struggle to survive. A few weeks ago I visited a slum school in Mumbai. Teachers explained that one of the biggest challenges their students have is sharing a very small room with up to 30 other people, often three families.  This does not provide an adequate living standard for learning, not to mention the lack of nutritious food and clean water. Can these children be global citizens? They must if the term is to have any meaning. If we truly abide that life is fundamentally interdependent, than we must live and act in solidarity with all sentient beings.

The second, related question is How does who we are shape what we see in the world? The Jainist parable of the six blind men in a village touching an elephant is a good way to think about this. "This thing is a pillar" said the one who touched the leg while the person who held the tail said, "No, it's a rope".  The person who touched the trunk said, "No, you're wrong, it's like the branch of a tree" while the other who touched the ear said it was a fan. The moral of this parable is that we are always limited in what we see and know and that we should honor what others see and be open to listening and learning from their view. This is profoundly difficult to practice, since we too often listen waiting for an opening to talk, but real listening is  necessary to live as global citizens. And to be open to others such that we might be changed by what we hear.

Lastly, I want to ask, "And now what do we do?" There are so many challenges, from infectious diseases, small arms trading, human slavery, global warming, non-human animal extinctions, and the list grows. I agree with the spirit of Daisaku Ikeda's book, that the UN is an important forum for addressing what needs to be done as a global community. And too we must think about how we  live locally and immediately in our lives to consider, do we act in ways that promote peace, justice and ecological balance? Do our relations with others enact harmony, growth and mutuality? Are we living as global citizens with our neighbors? Do we even know who they are?

I am proud to share what we are beginning to do at Teachers College, Columbia University. We are building a program with two non profits, Asia Society and World Savvy. This is a new graduate certificate program for teachers who want to learn, to think and to do more in their teaching globally. It is called the Global Competence Certificate Program and it will be offered completely online. Teachers will take courses about sustainability, economics, digital media, human rights and project based learning with thought leaders recognized for their expertise in these areas. Faculty will help guide teacher practice while building robust peer groups who will support efforts to translate this into their teaching. Teachers in the program will also spend a few weeks visiting working in a school with their global colleagues in places like Bangladesh, Ecuador and Tanzania during the summer. It is our hope that this effort will help encourage teachers in the US to be more open to the world and more thoughtful about how they live in it. It is our effort to enact this challenging, perhaps naive idea of that wandering man Diogenes over two millennia ago who declared himself a world citizen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"New" NY State Social Studies Curriculum

New York State recently released a new state framework that intends to help teachers and students better align with Common Core Standards (see my last blog post).  The problem, as I discuss in this piece by Patrick Wall for Chalklines of Gotham Schools, is that NYSED missed an opportunity to make significant changes and really reorient the scope and sequence to be richer and more focused on students knowing things in depth rather than a mile wide and an inch deep. I served on the committee to review NYSED drafts and when it became apparent to me that they were really not interested in making the significant changes that I was told would be coming, I decided to spend my time doing other things (no dramatic resignations, mind you, just stopped making the quarterly trek to Albany). We may have an opportunity again, if the results of upcoming PARCC exams are as bad as initial reports indicate, to make significant changes. I hope that will happen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Piece, Critically Theorizing the Global

I published a piece in Theory and Research in Social Education (November, 2013) about the need to engage global learning through the prism of policy changes in the US and the world. Global education manifests in multiple and competing ways, as schools are being positioned to serve national agendas for economic competitiveness above all else. This is not new, of course, but my motivation to write this piece grew out of my astonishment at the singularity of the conversations which I have heard. In the article I offer suggestions for schools and teachers to begin to turn the global gaze inwards at the very practices (Common Core Curriculum Standards, PARCC, teacher evaluation, teacher education value-added measures, etc.) are themselves venues for global learning. As the song goes, here's to better days.

Critically Theorizing the Global, TRSE, 41 (4).
Globalization has unleashed profound changes in education. These include positivistic international school comparisons, a singular focus on schools as drivers of economic development, and the adoption of neoliberal market principles in school. These changes, however, generally go unexamined within the field and literature of global education. Global education too often focuses on aspects of the far-away life of others while not attending to how global forces manifest in the most local of institutions, the school. This article examines the interrelationships of these phenomena in a period of hyper-globalization and considers the potential for rethinking global education as a counter-practice.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Educating to Build a Cooperative Global Community


I had the pleasure of participating with colleagues at Teachers College and Columbia University to offer visions of what a global community might look like.  The video is linked here and the text of my talk below.  Special thanks to Morton Deutsch for organizing this event!

What if would it mean to be a global college?

I want to begin this conversation by moving far away in an effort to come back to TC, a brief figurative excursion towards homecoming. I begin in Thailand, at a school I have been visiting in Bangkok, one based loosely on Waldorf principles derived from Rudolf Steiner with a dash of Maria Montessori. There are many remarkable things about this school, which is why I continue to visit and dialogue with them; they embrace inquiry and its uncertainty as courses of study are framed by and around student questions and concerns; they are locally rooted in teaching, for example, about hundreds of Thai rice varieties through raising crops themselves. They spend a week in expedition learning, working with rice farmers while developing global connections by exploring how these and other practices are done throughout their region and the world.

But perhaps most stunningly to me, from the west, is that they truly live together. During my week there this past August, the entire community stopped to have lunch together. Students worked in teams to prepare meals for their peers, shopping at the local markets for what was being grown in season, preparing the food and doing the clean up afterwards. Faculty did the same, in buffet style, sitting at large tables eating delicious local varieties and then cleaning plates afterwards. The previous summer I participated in a faculty meeting where instructors sat in a circle for three hours and talked about how their lives were going, what challenges they had with family and friends and how this affected their teaching.

I couldn't help but think how improbable this would be here at TC, to have us preparing meals for each other, sitting together to eat and converse and then cleaning together. Or sharing our personal challenges that invariably manifest in our work. If you are like me, you have lunch in between email responses. Don't get me wrong, I like the food service that we get here as much as the rest of you but I now realize that this convenience and speed comes at a cost, of making the food that we eat alien, in a sense, modernly tucked away in its preparation, consumption and disposal.  John Dewey, a well-known chicken farmer who resided for a time on Long Island and who also happened to teach philosophy around here, had these concerns. He worried that modernity's convenience and speed would drive a wedge between people and their rudiments, between the labor of the day being connected to the bounty of the evening's table.

As Dewey offers,
"Plato speaks of the slave as one who in his actions does not express his own ideas but those of some other man. It is our social problem now, even more urgent than in the time of Plato, that method, purpose, understanding, shall exist in the consciousness of the one who does the work, that his activity shall have meaning to himself."
Education, then, would help children locate the processes of life in the everyday experience of making a life, one that was necessarily social and fundamentally global. I read this in Dewey's work some years ago but it never made more sense than at this school in Thailand. Dewey's education was fundamentally global, not dressed up in salon parlance about being global, but in its everydayness, being 'education pure and simple', ironic in its mundane transcendence. Simply an education worthy of its name.

If Teachers College is to engage planetarily then surely we must bring our daily routines into synch with the flow of life on the planet and in relation to the necessities that bind and nourish us. We must live with the recognition that Martin Luther King implores, that our interdependence is myriad beyond naming all before we rise for breakfast.

So knowing the incomprehensibility of our connections and our blissful and fleeting awareness of the same, how do we teach globally? What would it mean to have a global teachers college? I'm struggling with that question now, though happily not alone, but with partners here at TC and in the non-profit sector. We are creating an online global certificate program, one that we hope will help teachers learn about the world in deep ways so that they can engage their students in just the same type of learning. We are excited about its possibilities while anxious about the questions that it raises for us. We hope that the Program will spark an enthusiasm and commitment on part of teachers, an original impulse that every teacher has to change the world, that is dulled by a drone of requirements that often sets aside the essence of teaching, that spark that makes aesthetic engagement possible. I look forward to what new questions and problems this project will generate, what new plateaus and vistas it will afford us. And ultimately, what questions it will demand as we seek humbly to support teachers who will guide children to inhabit a shared planet of justice, ecological harmony and peace.

My hope is that the current policy reform cocktail, themselves an ironic form of global education since they are driven by national impulses to compete economically, will burn out in time for us to save ourselves on the planet. We would be wise to recall the words of TCs own Larry Cremin, who wrote: "to contend that the problem of international competitiveness can be solved by educational not merely utopian and millennialist, it is at best foolish and at worst a crass effort to redirect attention from those truly responsible..."

If we need a reminder of the dire planetary situation we're in, read the reports of devastation and social upheaval visited on the Philippines just three weeks ago. I know some will deny the imperative of global warming as coming from the Jeremiahs of social reconstruction, hell bent on ending our fossil fuel economy. I suggest we are simply people overwhelmed with the idea that one generation can act myopically to put economic gain above all else and to risk that their children, all of our children and generations to come, may not enjoy the splendor and beauty of what it means to live on Earth.

I would like to leave you with one thought. My back of the napkin math coupled with my reading of Bill Bryson indicates that none of us are strangers. If you assume that each new generation arises every 30 or so years, and you trace your family line back through the past millennium, you have millions of grandparents of which you are a direct descendant. Or more accurately, WE have millions of grandparents together. We should live with this idea habitually, not as though we are family but in the knowledge of our fundamental familial being. That simple yet profound idea can help move us to a planetary existence perhaps more than any other.  Thank you. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Global Teacher Education

I was invited to participate in a webinar last week on preparing teachers for the Common Core Curriculum Standards by Asia Society, Longview Foundation and Global Teacher Education. The audience drew from around the US and focused on what teacher educators have done/can do to prepare their preservice teachers for what lies ahead.

One of the challenges with the Common Core Standards is that it seems to be a moving target. There are many misconceptions surrounding what changes it might bring, from unfounded assertions that it takes personal responses out of the picture (as if that were even possible) to it signaling the end of fiction and narrative.

My angle has been to confront the change as an opportunity that requires at least two stances: first, to be prepared to engage students in instructional practices that will support their learning within and beyond the CCS context, and second, to theorize why there is so much talk about CCS now. If you've read some of my blog you know that I'm 'all about' the context, and that, for me, is where it gets interesting. 

The mantra that accompanies CCS, one I hear refrained in my board of education work as often as I do in my day job, is getting students to be college and career ready <shudder>. Interesting that the word civic was removed from an earlier iteration of this phrase. So one does not want to be in the unenviable position of arguing against such worthy goals, but it's the limitations of the vision that strikes me. CCS is too oriented towards academics as a totality without due regard to the 'what's more' approach needed in education that is truly comprehensive and, I would add, worthy of the name education (I'll thank Dewey for the phrase).

A deeper concern surrounds the way that it sets kids up to means to another end, that being national economic productivity. And here, for me, is where CCS is a form of 'global curriculum' as it seeks to promote US educational competitiveness, and therefore, economic dominance. This is what is ultimately driving the train and lining up around such a singularly focused aim is disconcerting.

Thinking about issues like this, I try to personalize the decision for people.  It's a simple question: would you want this ______ education for your own child?  If yes, great, let's start the conversation there and while we may disagree, it will be a different level of disagreement than if you say no. But I have concerns about an educational policy that fundamentally regards my child, or any child, as a means to an end rather than as an end in an of themselves. That is the humanizing vision of education that the founders of common schools had in mind, one that I fear we're losing touch with in a hyper-global context.

We shall see!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Debt Crisis in Global Perspective; or, land of the berrinches

Here in the US we're breathing a collective sigh of relief, if only for a little while, over the end of the latest round of the debt crisis. An effort by Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives shut down the government for 16 days while demanding concessions on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The good news is that no significant concessions were made, both for the preservation of the Act that extends coverage to nearly all (but unbelievably not some very poor people in states governed by those denying them coverage, see the NYT piece on this, Millions of Poor are Left Uncovered, October 2, 2013).

I was not so surprised that this happened as one only has to listen to right wing radio for a short time to sense the intense hatred that many people have for Obamacare, and for that matter, Obama. But I was surprised by the fact that this intense hatred and subsequent policy maneuverings are not known outside the US. Point-in-case, I had dinner with a colleague from the UK just days before the shutdown and he had no knowledge of the situation. In some ways that's not surprising since it is a US domestic issue. Yet, the fact that so many countries hold US investments, it really doesn't make sense to use the domain "domestic" any longer.

The NYT piece on this yesterday by Damien Cave offers great insight as to what's wrong with the US and how we are viewed by those around the world. "Technically defined as a tantrum, berrinches are also spoiled little rich kids, blind to their privilege and the effects of their misbehavior." Wow, that sums it up! Equally as amazing is the lack of awareness that people in the US have about how these events are being understood around the world and why they matter so much.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Amazing Angkor Wat

We traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia yesterday, transferring on a short flight from Bangkok. When we arrived the airport, newly built it seems, we simply walked out of the airplane and into the small terminal building. That introduction gave a good offering of what was to come as Cambodia is much less crowded than Thailand, more agrarian and with less development, though we are just in this one region, not in the capital city of Phenom Penh. We are staying in a great, off the beaten path place about 2km from the city center. It's a great change, low-key environment.

Seeing Angkor Wat for the first time after so many iconic images was a take-your-breath-away experience. The size, beauty and majesty of the ruins was overwhelming. We entered from the East gate, which is the less popular entry and therefore less crowded, giving more time to linger over the Hindu wall castings that retell some of the stories. One of the most famous bas reliefs is the plan by
Vishnu (to whom the temple is dedicated) to stir the Ocean of Milk by pushing and pulling on an enormous serpent to free the precious objects lost within. Angkor Wat was originally built in the 12th Century and dedicated to Vishnu as the Khmer people adopted Hinduism from India. The religion shifted, as did political power among the Khmer, in the 16th Century, so wats (i.e., temples) from this period forward reflect Buddhist cosmology blended with the earlier Hinduism.

The image to the right is of the great temple steps to Angkor Wat, rising to the third, or holiest level.  Yes, they are steep as they appear! As our guide Samar explained, the idea was that those permitted to climb to this level, reserved only for religious leaders and royalty, would be symbolically reminded of the difficulties of entering heaven and the need for concentration and faith that one will be protected on their climb. Fortunately for us they offered a 'tourist staircase' on the East side, which was itself a challenge but nothing like what it must have been to summit the other steps.

We then visited Angkor Thom, which was the long-standing capital of the Khmer Empire after the 16th Century, reflecting a more Buddhist orientation. The images here are most memorable for the hundreds of smiling Buddhas cast in stone among the various obelisks (some 49) that rise over the site. This site was less restored than Angkor Wat though it was still quite impressive. Thom was the place were the elite of the Khmer Empire lived within the massive fortress of walls that extended for some 5 square km around the site. Too, it is surrounded by a 100 meter mote that, at the time, was filled with crocodiles to defend against aggressive neighbors (such as those from Ayuttaya, see previous post!). We were fortunate to be there as the elephants were leaving for the day, following a morning of hauling tourists around. We didn't partake in deference to our four-legged friends, who seemed tired and hot in the blazing sun that neared 100F on our visit (or maybe we were just projecting). The visit was well worth the intensity of the weather and made for some amazing photos as skies were perfectly clear despite being here near the peak of the rainy season.

Our final stop of the day was Ta Prohm, another Buddhist temple in a region literally filled with some 200 wats. This one is quite special as it is also known as the 'jungle wat' since it is literally overgrown by massive trees. You may find these images familiar as Tomb Raiders was filmed on this location in 2001. I couldn't help but reflect on how odd it is that the fact that a Hollywood film was made at a particular location elevates its appeal to travelers and to locals. Though I must admit they selected a great location!

I hadn't thought seriously of visiting Cambodia until speaking to a colleague in Thailand last summer about the incredible beauty and historical insights of such a visit. I'm thrilled that we were able to make the trip as it was the highlight of an otherwise invigorating and exciting 3+ weeks traveling Asia.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Touring Thailand

My family joined me for some touring of Cambodia and Thailand. First we took in the sites around Bangkok, including the Grand Palace of Bangkok, ancient ruins of Ayutthaya, the beach locale of Ko Samui and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The Grand Palace was quite impressive with structure after structure of detailed, gold-leafed icons and symbols. The level of detail work is remarkable!

We were also drawn in by the various renderings of Buddha. We learned that while there is great local/regional variety as to how these representations are made, the commonalities surround some 32 markers, such as the gesturing of a hand towards the earth, that makes them authentic as representations. From traveling in India and Cambodia one can see subtle differences in the forms and yet the underlying structure of symbols remains the same. The Grand Palace was certainly that and it seems that it is still being used by Thai royals as there were sections that could not be reached and were under heavy guard. 

We then took a day trip to Ayutthaya, a historical seat of power in Thailand until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. Ayutthaya, or as it was known in the West, Siam, was a strong regional power and one of the wealthiest of its time. This was my second visit to the ruins and what struck me most was the evidence of ferocity that still remains from the siege of the fortress and temple areas. The Burmese, whose historical antipathy towards the Thais was long-standing, can actually be seen in the beheaded Buddhas, the burned-out temples and charred remains at the site.

Last stop in Thailand was a few days on the island of Ko Samui.  The warm retreat offered some boating, snorkeling and general laziness on the beach, before heading off to our last stop, Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Many Voices on Democracy in India and Beyond

Part of the LIFE 2013 Conference included panels of respondents around the core themes of the conference, including ethics, leadership and action. I served on a panel about the values related to democracy with a diverse panel. You can view the dialog here:

Thoughts on the Beach in Phuket

Arrived back in Thailand via Mumbai, the LIFE conference and teacher workshops in India now completed. It was a great week but very draining as the schedule was nearly the same each day--travel to the next city, overnight in a hotel, rise early for breakfast and transfer to the school, engage the 6 hour workshop, have lunch, travel to the next city--and repeat! The teachers were outstanding, highly engaged in their conversations with each other and eager to gain insights and approaches to their practices.

So a brief stopover in Phuket is just what the doctor ordered! The weather was somewhat unsettled the day I arrived, with some tropical downpours and then breaks of bright, hot sun.  Though quite humid, the warm ocean breezes here make it very pleasant.  I spent the morning writing by the pool (there are worse places one could be working!) and then ventured down the hillside hotel where I'm staying to visit Karon Beach, a charming spot in a deep cove of the peninsula. I paid 100 (~3.00) baht for a chair, ordered a few beers and the day was nearly perfect.

Though I was trying to 'check-out' from work and simply relax, I couldn't help but notice the differences in beach-going here. First, there was no entry fee to the beach, a relatively rare situation now in the US. One could easily buy a drink or snack, at slightly inflated prices, and there were no restrictions about dogs being on the beach, what one has to wear or general 'rule signage' that one would find in the US.  It was simply the beach!  There was a bit more litter than you might see in say Ocean City, NJ but the difference wasn't enough to detract from the overall experience.  Too, the number of stray dogs in the beach communities is troubling as there seems to be little regulation for their care. I'm not much  of a libertarian but one could see both the upside and downside of this way of social organization on the beach.

Speaking of dogs, I had a great conversation with an ex-pat from England about the dogs she was feeding. She explained the upon retirement and while visiting Thailand a decade ago, she noticed that many of the stray dogs were not being cared for. So she moved here and began caring for the strays in this area. The dogs were in amazingly great shape as she deworms them and provides basic healthcare.  I noticed her since as she was riding up on her motor scooter, the dogs were following along and ate voraciously after she prepped the meals. She joked that they typically meet her where we were talking, on the north end of the beach. When she's running late, however, she finds them waiting nearer to the entrance for the familiar site and sound of her bike.

Teacher Workshops in India

Spending the week traveling India (Jaipur, Delhi, Chandigarh & Mumbai) doing workshops on conflict-resolution and teacher theorizing in schools. Today I spent the day with faculty in the Delhi area at St. Mary's School and yesterday with teachers from Maharaja Sawai Mansingh Vidyalaya in Jaipur. We began around 9am and spent the day engaging in activities, discussions and videologues in small and large groups. The teachers seemed genuinely enthusiastic (or perhaps they were just being polite!) about the dialog and having space to talk openly with their peers. There was also time for fun and games too, of course, led by my most-able assistant, Reha.

Taking the train to Chandigarh after today's session, I was thinking about how much teachers gain from these experiences. Simply having the mental space and opportunity to talk with people from different schools about their work is so vital, and it seems, fairly rare. The feedback forms from teachers were unequivocal: we want more PD opportunities! There are costs in terms of what is offered, the materials required for purchase, securing a central location and providing food and refreshments.

The level of hospitality and welcome at these sessions is quintessentially Indian! Everyone stops to greet and talk, there are many offers to carry my bag and each school puts up signs to greet the PD provider. I am always invited into a meeting with the principal who drops everything to sit and have tea and conversation. And today, as i approached the front door two absolutely adorable primary school girls who greeted me with a garland of marigolds and tika (saffron-colored powder for the third eye). I am made to feel incredibly welcome, just like home....ahem :-).

Dinu, a staff member of the NGO that I consult with, offered some very interesting insights about pulling off these PD days for teachers. She explained that when a teacher is absent, for PD or any other reason, her colleagues are expected to cover classes for her. Thinking from my context, I asked if teachers were paid for additional periods covered. But they are not as it is simply an expectation that teachers will carry the load for their colleagues when they are away. Quite different from most schools in the US where substitute costs are a significant expenditure in most districts. Too, she explained that teachers were also expected to come into school for PD or other duties on certain Saturdays throughout the year, as the ministry requires 210 days of work a year for teachers.

These sessions remind me every time I do them of the fundamentally mutual nature of learning. I invariably feel I have learned more than I was able to teach. Thanks to these teachers for their insight and warm hospitality!

About Me

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Bill Gaudelli is an educator with over two decades of experience teaching, speaking and providing professional development about globalization and innovative education. Gaudelli is a frequent speaker at international conferences and is currently conducting research about efforts to prepare young people for global living. He is a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.