Guest Post: Interview in Dharamsala
by Tim Shields
“You don’t teach curiosity, but you create the context in which it’s important to show up. Because staying curious is the best way to learn, it’s the best way for self-development, and curiosity is connected with compassion. When you judge people there’s no compassion in it, but when you’re curious about people there’s a possibility of understanding who they are.”
– Ward Malliard
A few days ago I was privileged enough to tag along with Malliard and his senior high school class from Mount Madonna School in Santa Cruz, California, a class of just 15 students. Over the course of his career in teaching, Malliard’s students have interviewed leading global thinkers and world leaders across several continents, and during this trip alone, his class has interviewed Timothy Roemer, U.S. Ambassador to India, Mani Shankar Aiyar, a member of the upper house of parliament, Samdong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Rinchen Kandho, head of the Tibetan Nuns Project, and His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama. His students were poised, intelligent, and mature, while at the same time they managed to retain the youth and innocence of adolescence.
As the son of United States Congressman, he “went over the wall,” as he says, but never strayed too far from his upbringing. He is driven by political awareness and social service, yet at the root of it all is his desire to do good in the world and “to be on a journey that I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
Thanks to everyone who attended our Sixth Annual Chautauqua. It was the most successful yet. Our purposes for the Chautauqua, which we hold at Mount Madonna each year are to engage in meaningful conversation about our own learning and to discover experience new ways of transforming our work in education. This year we used the three phases of the “learning journey” which are, the “call” the “journey” and the “return” to set context for our discussions. We also conducted the gathering with the intention of bringing art and music more to the center of the learning process. With group facilitation from Peter Block and Vivian Wright, artistic facilitation from Mary Corrigan, Mariah Howard and Avril Orloff and Musical facilitation by Barbara McAfee and Michael Jones and Bob Caplan we accomplished our goals.
The African phrase Ubuntu in its essence means “I am because you are,” or stated another way “I am a human being through you.” It is a statement of interdependence and interconnectedness. It also calls us into of our highest human attributes such as sharing, empathy, respect and compassion.
Journey to Africa
By Ward Mailliard, Project Leader
“At Philani Child Health Project I was given the gift of touring the township of Khayelitsha and being exposed to poverty I had only witnessed as numbers and statistics, and my heart never felt heavier. I remember standing in the home of a family slowly dying of AIDS – but looking into their faces I saw hope, a hope in the form of an intense, enduring strength and will to persevere. I found myself turning away from their eyes in an effort to hide the feeling of helplessness and sorrow I felt for them. I wondered why I couldn’t locate that feeling of hope they had for themselves in myself. Has my society taught me that hope is unrealistic? Is my natural reaction to doubt the good and only see the bad? It was then that I realized that these people were the ones I wanted to define me. These were the kind of people who believed in compassion and a hope for the future. If the world would learn to see like this, our visions of our lives and ourselves would no longer be blurred by selfish desires and needs, but rather a belief in the strength of the community to help us succeed.”
The above was written by 11th grader Anneka Lettunich after returning from our recent journey to South Africa to interview Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Read more…
We discovered the wonderful Emmanuel Ivorgba on the Project Happiness trip to India in 2007. All we really knew of Emmanuel during the months of preparation for our journey was that he was a spirited and gifted teacher in a school in Jos, Nigeria and he was bringing two students to join our trip to India to interview the Dalai Lama. He was an important yet very distant part of our year-long project of creating a student curriculum for the Dalai Lama’s book, “Ethics for the new Millennium.”
When we finally met Emmanuel in Delhi in March of 2007 we discovered to our delight much more than a gifted teacher. Everyone took and instant liking to Emmanuel. His kindness, good spirits, story telling skills and irrepressible intelligence and dedication to the cause were instantly obvious to everyone. In short we saw Emmanuel as a visionary willing to sacrifice for the sake of bringing needed change to the lives of the children of his area. It is well recorded in the news that Nigeria and its people have suffered a lot in recent years. Nigeria is an oil rich country, but many of its people exist in poverty and parts of Nigeria are dominated by illicit groups taking advantage of the poor conditions and lack of cohesive civil authority. In the midst of that is Emmanuel who has dedicated his life to restoring through education the human values that are a deep part of Nigerian culture.
For the past four years Mount Madonna School has been hosting a gathering of educators who come together for two days in conversation about how to foster learning environments that will support the human spirit and generate the thinking and capacities needed for today’s challenges. This year Peter Block joined our founding team of Angeles Arrien and Vivian Wright to explore the theme of “Remembering and Understanding What we Already Know & Naming the Gifts that we May Have Forgotten.” In the dialogue with 65 participants from across the spectrum of education we examined the question of how to move from teacher as “expert” to teacher as “facilitator and learner” in the educational experience. In addition to the skillful facilitation by Angeles, Peter and Vivian there were two presentations.
We at Mount Madonna School are so honored and excited to be working on this wonderful project with our friends at the Dominion Heritage Academy in Jos, Nigera and the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, India.
In seeing the emails that our students are exchanging and experiencing the developing bonds between myself and my counterparts, Yeshi at Dharamsala and Emmanuel in Nigeria, I am struck by how powerful the basic question, “What is lasting happiness?” can be. It is a question that can take us into the mystery of what makes a human life worthwhile. Read more…