+Upcoming Events on Parenting; Information Warfare; Crytpography…
Quote of the Week
“Role modeling is the most basic responsibility of parents. Parents are handing life’s scripts to their children, scripts that in all likelihood will be acted out for the rest of the children’s lives.” -Stephen R Covey, Author of the bestselling ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and collaborating on this.
In this week’s main post, GenWise co-founder, Vishnu Agnihotri, talks about the importance of rituals in building the desired culture in families and schools. He shares snippets from Eklavya School, Ahmedabad’s documented policies and practices, available here.
You are invited to be an early member and beta-tester of the GenWise Club (ages 13-90), a community of interested students, parents, and educators. Check out this link for more about the club and how to join it. It is open to all in the current beta phase.
Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts, or joining our club community for more regular and closer interactions.
The Power of Ritual in Creating Culture
Upcoming Courses @GenWise
Upcoming External Events
The Power of Ritual in Creating Culture
Rituals are a part of our lives whether we are conscious of them or not. These come into our lives through what has been followed ‘traditionally’ or through decisions we make deliberately. I am struck by the power of rituals to inculcate an organisation’s values in its members. By organisation here, I mean a family, a school, a company or any group for that matter.
Today also happens to be Ganesh Chaturthi, a ritual that played a significant role in the Indian Freedom Struggle. Traditionally Ganesh Chaturthi was a private celebration, though some groups had started public (Sarvajanik) celebrations in Pune since the times of the Maratha empire. In 1893, the Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak praised the celebration of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and dedicated his efforts to launch the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organised public event. Tilak recognised Ganesh’s appeal as “the god for everybody”, and saw the importance of an extended public ritual in bringing people together. This helped in building a grassroots unity across people to oppose British colonial rule.
Not all rituals are good; or they may have been relevant in a certain context/ time and may have lost their relevance. These may even need to be abandoned when they do not reflect our current values. At the same time, many rituals that support individual and group well-being need to be actively created and established.
Over the last 15 years, I have been fortunate to visit many schools and have been impressed by how so many of them have positively influenced the values of children, teachers and parents through their practices. These schools may not talk about these practices as rituals or formal policies- yet these practices have become part of the school’s DNA and one can see how this creates a common culture and a set of shared values.
The most impressive documentation of school practices I have seen is by the Eklavya School in Ahmedabad- they call it ‘Eklavya Sari’ and it’s available here. Not only did the school take the enormous effort of documenting these practices and policies in a systematic and elegant manner, they also printed several thousand copies of the book and distributed them for free! One page is devoted to each practice- I share a couple of vignettes from the book below. This book was published in 2008- so things may have changed since then, but the approach of creating the desired culture through implementing specific practices remains valid. ‘No TV Day’ may need to be replaced by ‘No Device Day’ in these times.
Vignettes from Eklavya Sari
‘No TV’ Day
We observe one day in the week as ‘No TV day’ to help children understand the worth of utilizing the time saved by not watching TV in doing some creative activities or spending time with the family.
The day is not only applicable for the students but for the whole family. Mothers willingly switch off the TV sets without watching their favourite soap and the entire family uses the time in an effective way. The educators also follow this.
Usually Thursday is earmarked for this day. In the evening children after completing their Home Work use the time to make any art/craft items or spend time talking or playing games with their family members. It is not that they do not do these things on other days but on that day a conscious effort is made to stay away from televiewing and use that time in a productive way. They might also observe other days as ‘No TV‘ days.
Things made during No TV day are brought by children the next day to school. They are shown in the assembly and this encourages other children also to make something creative and utilize their time well. In the Home Period, educators and children share the different things done on No TV day.
Pre-school outdoor play first thing in the morning
Describing this practice and the rationale for it, they say
The first thing they do in the morning as soon as they come to school is a happy, play thing. So they look forward to going to school. If the first thing in the school in the morning is something that they like then their getting up, getting ready for school and bus ride has a lot of anticipation in it.
Rituals or practices are no less important in creating ‘family cultures’ and supporting the growth and wellbeing of children and other members of the family. Stephen Covey talks about the importance of ‘family traditions’ in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, which I recommend highly to all parents.
Family traditions could be anything- eating meals together, vacations, birthday celebrations or learning together. Here’s an example of the tradition of ‘favourite teacher dinners’ in the Covey family as described by his 2 daughters, Colleen and Maria.
Colleen– One of the things I really enjoyed was our “favorite teacher” dinners. Mom and Dad were very involved in the education process. They knew all our teachers and how we were doing in each class, and they wanted our teachers to know that we appreciated them. So every couple of years Mom would ask each of the children who their favorite teacher was that year. Then she made a list and sent them an invitation to dinner at our house. It was a dress-up dinner. She used her best china and made it really special. Each of us would sit by our teacher and have dinner with him or her. It got to be funny after a while because the teachers knew about this dinner and each year would hope to be the favorite teacher. Maria– I remember one year inviting Joyce Nelson, an English teacher from Provo High. I was twenty-one at the time. Several of us had had her as our teacher, and we all celebrated her. We each told what she had done for us. When my turn came, I said, “I am an English major today because of you. You influenced me to go into English because of the literature we read and what you said and did. The teachers who were invited were thrilled because teachers usually don’t get that kind of appreciation.”
We would love to hear from you about the rituals, practices and traditions in your family, school or workplace! Please share these in the comments.
Upcoming Courses @GenWise
Upcoming External Events
The below events are free to attend, though registration may be required.
Basics of Cancer Biology from the people at Talk To A Scientist features Dr. Karishma Kaushik and Dr. Snehal Kadam in conversation with science student Omkar Joshi, and is scheduled on Sat, Sep 11 from 5-6 PM IST. They will deconstruct the basics of Cancer Biology for young students (targeted at ages 6-16), examining questions such as-
What are cancer cells?
How are normal cells different from cancer cells?
Can normal proteins cause cancer?
You can register here for the event.
How Information Warfare Shapes Your World from Manthan India features Shivam Shankar Singh and Anand Venkatanarayanan, who will explain how the power to manipulate your thoughts is being harnessed, and how information warfare is shaping your life and world. The talk is scheduled on Sun, Sep 12 at 1030 AM IST, and will be live here.
Shivam headed data analytics and campaigns for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Manipur and Tripura Legislative Assembly elections under the guidance of the party’s National General Secretary, Ram Madhav. Anand is a cyber security and privacy researcher. He was called as an expert witness before the Supreme Court of India for the Aadhaar case and has deposed before the Kenyan High Court for the country’s digital identity project.
Describing the session they say- “How do politicians in today’s world attain power? How do nations become powerful? Why do human beings follow others unquestioningly, even if it is to their own detriment? What factors determine which politicians, nations and organizations will dominate the modern world? Through much of human history, societal control was determined by militaristic strength. Individuals and tribes fought to control vital resources and land. In the next part of evolution marked by colonialism and the emergence of mega-corporations, money determined power. In the recent decade, the key to supremacy has shifted again. The power and control individuals, leaders and nations have is now determined by their ability to mould the information environment.
This talk is based on their recent book The Art of Conjuring Alternate Realities.
The Art and Science of Secret Messages (some glimpses) is part of the Kuriosity During Quarantine (KDK) series and is scheduled on Sun, Sep 19, from 4 to 530 PM IST. Geetha Venkataraman, a Professor of Mathematics and Dean, Research and Consultancy at Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) will be speaking on this topic. She has an MA and DPhil (doctorate) in Mathematics from the University of Oxford. The session blurb says-
In the modern world with so much of our exchanges, commerce and communications taking place digitally, it has become imperative to ensure that all these are secure. Cryptography is the art and science of keeping `messages’ secure from eavesdroppers or unintended audiences. However, keeping messages secret is not just an issue during our time period but has been important historically. In this talk, we will discuss some simple encryption systems that were used. This will help us formulate the `key’ ingredients that any encryption method needs to possess. We will also discuss the famous RSA public key encryption system which is essentially based on the fact that it is easy to multiply two numbers but difficult to factorise a given number.
You can register for the session here.