So I never actually described the full purpose of my presence in India and my previous blog post may have indicated that I am here primarily to observe and tour. This is an untruth. Here is a picture of some goat herding women that I took.
No, but tourism aside – ITSA, the organization that brought me here, is a social action organization that is attempting to give Indian students the critical thinking skills they need to become fully functional global citizens. Last Friday and the subsequent Sunday, the first two ITSA workshops took place. They are themed on identity and aim to explore the minds of the participants as fully as possible.
The above picture is from the second workshop and shows the kids explaining how the pictures they drew on their folders represent aspects of their identity.
As an onlooker, this has been a fascinating two classes. Back in the city, I attend Bard High School Early College, a school affiliated with Bard College and some of its programs. One of these is the Writing and Thinking workshop, a weeklong workshop in the beginning of each academic year that forces students to think critically and carefully. It can be a bother (by the end of the week in the past, I’ve had spurts of intense resentment for both writing and thinking) but it always forces you to grow and to think in ways that require personal involvement.
These kids have never had that. Searching for ways to describe and determine their identities and polestars is novel to them. Watching them push themselves so hard and enjoy pushing themselves that hard is absolutely wonderful. In just two classes, it seems apparent to me that they have been hooked on the freedom of thought (yes, of thought) and expression that comes with the workshop. In that line of thinking, one participant even crowed to her friend “it’s like you have complete freedom of speech here!”
some of the participants writing short sentences on their identities.
I cannot wait to see these kids – not really kids, they are in eighth and ninth grade, so young adults, I guess, grow into their full mental potential. It’s exciting and fulfilling and damn but it’s fun to see.
Emma King is a student at Swarthmore College . Emma worked with ITSA as a Workshop Leader and Publicity Director in 2011.