The Perspectives workshop is a five-day funded and credited professional development experience for K-12 teachers whose curriculum requires them to teach subject matter related to India in their classroom. Whether you teach world history, show literature or film from India, run interfaith trainings, or simply wish to acquire a better understanding for your own lesson planning goals, the workshop can help you find guidance, access to helpful materials, advice on avoiding common pitfalls, discussion on controversial topics, and all the resources needed to address one of the most fascinating and complicated regions of the world with confidence and a strong sense of context.
A typical workshop is a summer intensive, on-site at Bridgewater State University, and includes lecture and discussion sessions with subject matter experts, such as academics, community advocates, religious practitioners, social activists, and others. Participants are also exposed to facilitated cultural experiences in the form of music, dance, and art, as well as personalized tours to religious and community sites within local Indian communities.
Our workshop was born of the realization that for K-12 students, subject matter relating to India appears within the Common Core curriculum in some form or another in a host of subjects, including Social Studies, English and Language Arts, World History, World Religions, and Current Events. And a basic need for familiarity with India already undergirds the life of today’s global American citizens, registered in actions as small as walking by a yoga studio, as communal as celebrating a holiday with our neighbors, or as critical as conducting business with branches of the hundreds of multinational corporations that have operations in India each year.
Today, more American students than ever are familiar with or curious about India’s relationship with our country, with terms such as “outsourcing” and “call centers” familiar to every worker, and members of the Indian diaspora represented at all levels of engagement. Many wish to deepen their understanding of Indian religions, recognizing their contributions to global culture from the poetry of the Muslim courts to the ancient practices of the four dharmic faiths, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, as well as the storied histories of Indian Christians and Jews. But today’s American students also wonder about current affairs in the homeland of our strongest allies, such as tensions in Kashmir and the rise of religious fundamentalism. They’re interested in Indian entertainment, from Bollywood movies to postcolonial literature to American-based dance companies, and they’re curious about Indian social issues, from caste-based activism to the Indian feminists taking on the Delhi rape case.
From the stereotypical to the scholarly, India is intertwined with the academic knowledge, pop culture, and civic life of today’s K-12 students. Teaching India, however, is a subject that has provoked outrage or hurt from many members of the Indian community and the diaspora, fraught as it so often is with misunderstandings, confusions, stereotypes, misleading media images, competing agendas, and the remnants of colonial pedagogy. The information landscape related to India is fraught by debates and academic schisms. It’s also undergone a welcome upheaval due to social change and the welcome advent of marginalized voices into the conversation. It’s intertwined, more than ever, with complicated touchstones of religious and cultural history.
The Perspectives workshop is designed as a resource to help you understand some of these key touchstones, and help equip you to navigate the information landscape about India afterwards. Rather than provide a prescriptive take or “acceptable” narrative, we aim to explore multiple narratives and how they manifest in the classroom together with participants, and help them find and embrace controversial or new voices in the body of ideas about teaching India.