Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Making the link

I was nervous on the first night after the assembly. It was our time to officially begin mingling with the boarders, and other faculty of the Gandhi Ashram. I was not sure what I could possible talk about with the students, as I felt our life experiences would not be comparable. After I made it through the basic name exchange, questions about age and academic areas of interest, I was worried I would not have anything else to speak about. I then asked what seemed like the next logical question to any adolescent or young adult who was looking for conversation, “What type of music do you like?” I was relieved when he mentioned the names of Green Day, Linkin Park and Akon because I had often listened to them back in the United States. I would have never guessed that this simple question would spark the beginning of many conversations with the boarders and the link that often tied our experiences together. As Simon During explains, the global popular comes into being when a particular product or star is able to hit in multiple markets (810). Although During exemplifies Arnold Schwarzenegger as the global popular, I would argue that there are many other celebrities (both music and film) that have also achieved this level of fame and popularity in multiple markets. I believe this global popular is what helped bridge the gap between the Gandhi Ashram boarders and myself anytime we discussed Western music. I only knew music that had come from the United States, by way of Hollywood, which is a key ingredient of becoming distinguished as a representation a global popular. However, I do not think that the global popular is the only reason why we bonded over Western music. While I feel the global popular did play a part our bonding over Green Day, it is the case that English music is the only type of music we had in common. My mission when going to the Gandhi Ashram was to teach English to the students. Teaching English does not only happen in the classroom, however, it also happens (and I believe most effectively happens) when practicing speaking English in everyday conversation. It was stressed to all of the students that they should speak English at all times when within the Gandhi Ashram gates. Why was it so important for a school, like Gandhi Ashram, to teach English to its students? According to Chakrabarty, Indian history is viewed through the lens of the European experience. For India, the legacy that England left on the country is played out in a multitude of institutions, especially the education system. It is vital that English is taught because it allows a student to have a fair shot in the global world, that is increasingly being influenced by the Western world (not just Europe). Since we cannot seemingly change the way that the Western world is influencing the global society, we teach our children how to survive in the within it. However, it is easy to forget that English is not their first language. This becomes important when we ask our children to explain their history, their emotions or even simple concepts. Often times I knew they felt more comfortable talking, and explaining in Nepali, but it could not be acceptable because I had to enforce English. However, if they did not know the words, they had no choice but to be silent. I congratulated and praised the students who were the most articulate in their speaking and writing. I played into the Eurocentric legacy because while I was telling them to speak in English and praising them for their efforts, I was implicitly telling them “the better you get at English, the better you can be.” Although this was not my intention, and I am sure that it is not the intention of many teachers at schools like the Gandhi Ashram, the message is still there. Now that I reflect on this experience, the relationships I formed with many of my students and the boarders was twofold: at the same time we could bond and feel united through the lyrics of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, there is a fundamental barrier that I may not ever be able to pass.

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