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Tibetan culture survives through education

Tibetan educator Nawang B. Phuntsog discusses the resilience of Tibetan culture among the exiled at the University’s Cultural and Natural History Collections’ Influential Voices speaker series Wednesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Phuntsog is a long-time campaigner for justice and dignity among exiled Tibetans in northern India and a friend of the 14th Dalai Lama. / photo by Jingyao Liang

Pedro Isao Mori
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s Cultural and Natural History collections welcomed Nawang B. Phuntsog, professor of education at California State University, Fullerton, as its fourth Influential Voices speaker at noon on Wednesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. 

Phuntsog is a Tibetian exile currently living in the United States. He was here to share the efforts being made by the Tibetan people to keep their culture alive despite facing oppression from the Chinese Communist Party. 

“Tibet was caught in a bad geopolitical situation. A lot of countries had an interest in Tibet,” said Phuntsog. “Tibet is strategically a very important country. It is the roof of the world and the origin of many rivers.”

Tibet was invaded by the Chinese government back in the 1940’s and the government relocated to India in 1951. There they quickly established schools for Tibetan children to learn about their culture, religion and language. 

Phuntsog said that they benefited from India’s three language system which allowed Tibetan schools to teach children in Tibetan until the sixth grade. They then transition to learning all subjects in English. Phuntsog also added that schools in the United States could learn from this to promote bilingualism in the country. 

“It facilitates learning, like math and science and stuff like that,” said Phuntsog.

He explained that it is easier for students to learn in a second language when they are already familiar with some concepts in their first language.

Promoting kids to be proud of their backgrounds also improves their performance in school according to Phuntsog. He went on to say that if a child is happy they will be able to pay better attention in class and asked when has an unhappy child been able to enjoy what they were doing. To reaffirm this he gave the example of Tibetan children performing well academically while attending both public schools and “Tibetan Sunday school.” 

Phuntsog criticized China and claimed they were “opportunistic” despite destroying a lot of Tibetan history and banning its people from practicing their culture. China still sells tickets for tourists to come visit Tibet, he said.

Ukraine was also mentioned during the talk. Phuntsog said that along with thinking about the people who are suffering in Ukraine we should also remember about the animals that are suffering there. He also said that the presence of media made a large difference for Ukraine because the lack of media has allowed China to get away with all of the atrocities it has committed to the Tibetan people.

“It was pretty nice to know about Tibetan history and how China is really controlling them through the Dalai Lama and banning them from practicing their culture. I’m really happy I came here,” said freshman mathematics major Alexander Jimenez.

“What I like about this is that we are taking people doing extraordinary things because I’m trying to teach the students that they too can make a difference,” said Cultural and Natural History Collections Curator Anne Collier.

“I believe that the lecture today was very informative for someone who has little to no experience of anything outside of U.S. politics or anything that’s on mainstream media so having the talk. It was interesting to see, his eyes really lit up when he was speaking about the (art) pieces because I’m an artist, so I understand the feeling of letting the piece speak for itself rather than having a description next to it,” said sophomore child development major Monica Cruz.

Pedro Isao Mori can be reached at pedro.mori@laverne.edu.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Nawang B. Phuntsog’s name and to clarify his quote about learning in a second language. The Campus Times regrets the errors.

Pedro Isao Mori, a freshman journalism major and business management minor, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

Jingyao Liang, a junior business administration major and photography minor, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times.



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