Letters from Readers
Helpful cover story on online schooling
Your recent article (“Schooling: Online and Off,” August issue) was both informative and insightful. As a member of the senior leadership team of Woodward Academy, an independent school for students in grades Pre-K to 12 in Atlanta, I empathize with the angst of parents during these challenging times as well as the
angst of schools as our administrative teams have worked countless hours grappling with these difficult decisions. We are all in emphatic agreement that the health and safety of our community take precedence above all else, and yet the ideal model for learning remains elusive. Ultimately each school and each family will need to make the decision best for them, but there are a couple of points raised in the article that I found to be particularly noteworthy.
1. Different ages do have different needs with respect to learning. Younger children require supervision and hands-on learning opportunities, particularly at this critical period of their cognitive development, and it is both unrealistic and unfair to expect them to focus for extended periods of time. These students will be best served by learning in an in-school environment wherever possible; however, if the student must learn remotely, it is critical for the school to offer synchronous learning (with real-time interaction with teachers and students) along with opportunities for physical education, PE, music, dance, or other cocurricular activities that reduce screen time and increase the sense of social connection.
2. Even for older students, who have a greater capacity for autonomous learning and digital maturity, schools must offer every opportunity for social connection, whether it is continuing with club and special interest meetings through online platforms, or hosting student on-campus events that are conducive to physical distancing requirement, e.g., an outdoor movie night on the football field.
As there is no crystal ball that can predict the end of the pandemic, we as schools must do everything in our power to offer flexible and innovative ways to create a productive learning experience while focusing on the social connection and sense of community that our children crave. Thank you for stimulating thisworthy discussion.
Nija Majmudar Meyer
Vice President for Enrollment Management
Woodward Academy, Atlanta
How much is Indian enough?
Thank you so much for Bhavana’s beautiful article on bicultural identity. My parents are from Andhra Pradesh who came to the U.S. in the ’70s. I was part of the first generation of Indian-American kids to be raised in New Jersey in the ’80s and ’90s.
Did my family and I experience racism? Up to an extent, but not as bad as others. Did growing up in white communities and having a small Telugu community in the New Jersey of the ’80s and ’90s affect my bicultural identity? Of course it did, but that was also a different time. I also saw the transformation of many towns here into heavily Indian enclaves. Do I see it as a wonderful thing for the current generation of Indian kids to
have access to our culture in the form of temples, cultural associations, ashrams, grocery stores, restaurants, and everything imaginable that is Indian? Yes, I do. But I see a downside as well. We have become so insular and exclusionary at the price of not exposing and immersing our kids to people of different cultures and backgrounds.
There are countless stories I have heard from many Indians of my generation who are married to non-Indians and have biracial kids. They feel excluded from the Indian community because they are not really considered desi enough. Our community is excited that someone of Indian descent is the VP nominee for the Democratic party. However, would Kamala Harris and her family, who are half-black and half-Tamil, be accepted into our Indian enclaves in 2020? Based on what I am hearing from biracial Indian kids and their families, it is highly unlikely. What values are some of our Indian-American parents teaching their kids about Indians who come from a diverse background and have a mixed heritage? What are the criteria to be considered “Indian” enough?
[Editor’s note: Bhavana’s article, which first appeared on our website, can be read on page 44 in this issue.]
Letter to my Muslim community
Like many of you, I call the United States home. However, the last four years have made me feel like a visitor in my own home. This election will decide whether we have to continue to feel like outsiders in our community, or if we will have the opportunity to feel like we belong here once again. The contributions and positive impact Muslims have made to society have been overlooked for far too long. As our population continues to grow, so should the confidence of our voices.
We have been antagonized and targeted by countless acts and policies. Our community deserves more. Earlier this year, President Trump halted H-1B visas through 2020 which disproportionately impacts the desi community. This is just one instance of how our community has been attacked by the current administration’s policies. Historically, Republicans have advocated for policies that make family-based immigration more
difficult. If we continue to let this administration work in the way they have these last four years, we are risking our future and the well-being of our community.
President Trump began his presidency with the Muslim ban, which was a direct attack on us. We cannot continue to let our Muslim brothers and sisters be victimized by this presidency. An attack on one of us should be treated as an attack on all of us. Just like any other religious or ethnic group, Muslims have the right to exist in the United States. We are here to fulfill the American Dream just like everyone else, and deserve an equal opportunity to achieve our aspirations. This election is monumental as it marks the first time a woman of color is on the ticket for vice president. Kamala Harris, as the daughter of immigrants, understands the obstacles of being a minority in America.Unlike President Trump and Vice President Pence, we can count on Senator Harris to be considerate of the immigrant experience throughout her tenure as VP.
More urgently, the coronavirus pandemic is posing a great threat to our community. Since our families are more likely to live in multigenerational households, our communities face an increased risk of exposure to Covid-19. When our elected officials introduce reckless reopening plans they risk our children falling ill to the virus as well as being carriers, exposing our elders to the virus. Our voice is a critical part of the American voice; we cannot lose that. It is imperative for us to recognize that our voice matters.
A new look at the Mahatma
We, the generation belonging to the period of Independence struggle, grew up with Gandhi ji’s name on our lips. So extensive has been the writing on Gandhi ji’s life that any new book that gets published feels like “more of the same.”
But Dr. Uma Majmudar’s new book, Gandhi and Rajchandra, is refreshingly different. We see the ordinary human side of Gandhi ji. Like any of us, he was torn by doubts and left groping in the dark looking for affirmation of his ideals, for someone to show him the way. Thus reflecting on Gandhi ji’s journey and inner struggles, she shows that one is not born a Mahatma but becomes one by dedication, conviction, perseverance, and the blessings of a guru who lights the path.
She also brings to fore a name that is practically unknown, much less celebrated—that of Gandhi ji’s guru, Shri Rajchandra. Gandhi ji lived with Shri Rajchandra and saw for himself how Shri Rajchandra actualized spirituality and the teachings of scriptures in his day-to-day life. Rajchandra’s extensive and deep knowledge and respect for world religions, his liberal inclusiveness, and being born into Jainism and his deep faith in nonviolence at all levels of one’s existence, inspired and assured Gandhi ji of his own aspirations of living by the principle of Truth. The discussions between the two on varied topics continued throughout their life. Gandhi ji regarded him as his living Guru, whom he held in great love and reverence.
Dr. Uma Majmudar, with her thorough research and hard work of seven long years, has brought to her readers the unexplored side of Gandhi ji’s life and the influences that made him a Mahatma. It is a worthy book and is very readable too.
What’s on YOUR mind?
We welcome original, unpublished letters from our readers. You could either respond to a specific article in Khabar or write about issues relevant to our community. Letters may be edited for length and other considerations. Longer submissions by readers may be considered for the “My Turn” column.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Fax: (770) 234-6115.
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Note: Views expressed in the Letters section do not necessarily represent those of the publication.
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