I’ve heard a lot of talk about the importance of education for Tibetans, and that’s great, but it is also important to think about what kids are learning. Reading and writing Tibetan language is not the only important lesson for kids, they need to learn good behavior too. Unless young Tibetans know how to interact with the rest of the world the right way, they can’t rise to the top.
When I was growing up in Tibet, the school I went to for a short time didn’t improve our behavior at all. It made us worse, school was where we learned to fight and throw rocks at each other. During my recent stay in India, a lot of the same problems were going on at the school my daughters went to. They had cute uniforms, and everything looked very profession, but what was going on inside was ridiculous. My daughters were shocked at how rough the other students were. Managing naughty kids also took up too much of the teachers attention instead of focusing on education. Most parents didn’t see a problem though. They wanted to make sure their kids were tough. One girl from the school came home with several obvious bite marks, her mother told her, “What’s wrong with with? Why didn’t you get her back?” The girl, who had lost her front baby teeth, complained that she tried her best to bite back but it wasn’t working.
A long time ago, teaching kids to be tough was probably smart. In Tibet, people needed to be tough to handle a rough life. Unfortunately, we can’t keep going in exile as if nothing is different. In the Western countries many of us live in, kids can’t be biting each other, pushing, or fighting. They need to learn the skills they will use as adults to manage problems and anger without causing trouble. That’s what the societies we live in expect, so that’s what we need to learn too. Rather than fighting, kids can learn communication skills, how to talk through an issue with other kids. When that fails, they should know who to contact, like a teacher, to take over. By improving behavior as well as education, Tibetan parents can make our kids can be successful anywhere.