Tuesday, August 14, 2012


(A proposed online petition on the Change.org)

Many brave Tibetans have now burned themselves to death. Their dedication is beyond question, and their purpose is clearly to benefit the community and its values.

But as the wave of immolations spreads, it is more and more likely that many others will also set themselves on fire. Now the great distress and pain has spread to India’s capital too, others will follow. Meanwhile, inside Tibet, a rumour is reported to have spread that if 200 people set themselves alight, this will trigger a response from the United Nations. This could turn into a sad reality, leading to score of deaths of Tibetans, who are already so few.

But there is no certainty that they would lead to any concrete results for Tibet. The international media might not remain interested - Time.com reported that the self-immolation of Tibetan monks was one of the most underreported stories of 2011. There are an average of 900 self-immolations a year in India that are not even reported in the press. The Chinese government is in the midst of its most troubled leadership transition in decades and is almost certain to react more harshly than before. The Indian government, our most precious ally, is already showing signs of extreme impatience and discomfort.

The lives of our most dedicated people could be lost in vain, and in the most terrible agony imaginable. The risk is huge.

We believe it’s not too late to act before it gets beyond repair.

It is therefore critical to call on our brave fellow-Tibetans not to give up their lives. We need them to be remain alive, to help preserve, defend and develop our culture and our nation.

Our leadership has made clear its deep dismay at the use of self-immolation, but we urge all of us to work actively to persuade Tibetans not to risk their lives, when the results are so uncertain and the costs so terrible. With deepest respect for those who have given up their lives, we therefore appeal the administration, both the Kashag and Parliament in-Exile, to take all possible steps to persuade Tibetans not to self-immolate.

With our highest hopes,

Note: I worked on this online petition in March with few Tibetan scholars but never made it to a launch. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave your comment. With increasing self-immolations now, I may launch this online petition soon. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Search...

A mile gone
Untiring legs
Dark lanes
Searching light

A long walk
Finding destination
Overtly confused
Searching peace

A bench rest
Recalculating route
Seeing up
Searching moon

A lone star
A ray of light
Right direction?
Searching hope

A thin line
Crisscrossing dots
All blacks
Searching white

A road ahead
Unknown journey
Dark sky
Searching home

A restless heart
Untamed mind
Feeling lost
Searching love

A lost mind
Resting nowhere
Wandering everywhere
Searching self

A born loner
Complex name
Springboard lives
Searching nest

A human animal
Deducting "human"
Within oneself
Searching animal

A headless head
Complex braincell
Spinning neurons
Searching mind

A painless pain
Clueless bruises
Polluted airs
Searching breath

But I know 
Moon is far
Life is short
But still

*Just wrote in an hour from my iPhone while sitting on a park bench on August 12. Signed 10.14pm*

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Educational Message for Tibetan Americans

A month ago, with great enthusiasm and expectation, I participated in the 2012 Seminar on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Databases at Washington DC. My primary purpose on attending this seminar was to explore the possibility of using the NAEP data for conducting some research on Tibetan American students such as assessment of these new group of Tibetan students’ academic performance in the U.S. schools and also, to compare their performances with other race categories (such as White, Hispanic, Black, Asian) and sub-race categories (such as Chinese, Indian). If you are new to NAEP, below is a brief introduction.

“The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history” (NAEP Webpage). NAEP results are based on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, or samples of students at ages 9, 13, or 17 years for the long-term trend assessments. These grades and ages were chosen because they represent critical junctures in academic achievement (NAEP Webpage). To put "critical junctures" in simple terms, grade 4 generally represents elementary, grade 8 middle, and grade 12 high school. FYI -  NAEP falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Education. For more details, visit NAEP website at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/

Sadly, after attending the seminar for three days, my hope of conducting some research on Tibetan American students’ academic performances turned upside down. I learned that the NAEP datasets reflect only the official U.S. race category i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native. The datasets has no data on sub-race categories (Though I did not expect to find Tibetan as a sub race category in the NAEP data, I did expect Chinese, Mexican, etc. as a sub race category).

Without getting much deeper into strengths and weaknesses of the NAEP data, let me share what I learned through my discussion with NAEP personal at the seminar and through my little research on the topic so far. As of now, the NAEP data may not be relevant to assess Tibetan American students' academic performances but Tibetan Americans may be able to change the future with their collective efforts. Below are few insights on how to bring this change. 

First, in the Student Enrollment Form of most public and charter schools in the United States, there is an option to select race. Within this race category, it is important to select or write "Tibetan" under the “others” race category. This small step may not bear any immediate result in the near future but in the long run, it may. For instance, if NAEP starts to collect data with an item questionnaire to identify student-reported race, the option to select/write "Tibetan" may come up under the general Asian American/Pacific Islander race category. 

Second, the small act of selecting or writing “Tibetan” as a race in the Student Enrollment Form notifies the school, district, county, or state education department about the presence of this unique race. In other words, Tibetan as a student-reported race is identified in the official record or knowledge. 

Besides NAEP, some school districts, counties, or states collect data on their students’ academic performances. In such cases, the chances of having Tibetan as a race or a defining variable (for data analysis purpose) may be slightly higher if every Tibetan parent in the district, county, or state starts identifying their child as a Tibetan race.

Third, in addition to selecting Tibetan as a race in the Student Enrollment Form, Tibetan parents also need to understand the importance of selecting "Tibetan language" as their child's mother language or first language. This small step may one day bring Tibetan language curriculum in the public or charter schools. 

Moreover, the school district, county, or state may start to recognize the importance of Tibetan language. For instance, if you look at the “Publication and Translation” page of NYC Department of Education webpage, you will see nine international languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu (Click to see the page Publication and Translation). The Bengali language in the NYC Department of Education page is made possible by Bengali parents who identified Bengali as their child's mother/first language. This credit should go to the collective efforts of Bengali parents to recognize their mother/first language. 

Lastly, a small step now may bring a big change in the future.  For this to happen, Tibetan parents need to act now.  Tibetan as a race in the official school records may come true with these small collective steps. 

To conclude, if Tibetan as a Race is identified in the official school records, then, the benefits are beyond our imagination. Among many, one could be the study of Tibetan American students' academic performances using the official data: are they performing better in Mathematics than Chinese or Indian American students? are there any differences in the academic performances of Tibetan male students as compared to Tibetan female students? how many Tibetan students graduate from elementary school or middle school or high school? and so on... 

Please share and spread the word out about the importance of this small step. Thank you. 

Note: Even if a child is born in the United States, his or her mother/first language may still be Tibetan.