Polk-Bauman Presents on Tibetan Home for Hope

Imagine the following class—students enter, diligently copy down notes, memorize the notes and then are tested on them in a foreign language. This was the scene Mary Polk-Bauman ’11, Public Service Scholar, saw when she visited the Tibetan Home for Hope orphanage last summer. Polk-Bauman presented her findings on the impact of Chinese sponsored education on Tibetan youth at the Tibetan Home of Hope and Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) on April 21, 2011. Polk-Bauman’s presentation focused on the detrimental effects of cultural suppression in Tibet and its impact on future generations. Polk-Bauman said that the Chinese government suppresses Tibetan culture by forcing all Tibetan children to go through the Chinese Public School system, which teaches them little about Tibetan culture. Polk-Bauman studied the impacts of early Chinese education at the Tibetan Home for Hope, which attempts to provide impartial, comprehensive education for Tibetan children before they begin attending Chinese schools. The organization takes in about 100 orphaned or abandoned children at a time and teaches them up to the third grade. The Chinese government requires Tibetans to board at public schools from the age of fourteen. Polk-Bauman said that they have no contact with the outside world and their culture and instead must listen to Chinese propaganda. Polk-Bauman discussed the story of Tenzin, the nephew of Tashi Dolma, Founder of Home of Hope, who had limited schooling until he came to America two years ago to pursue a better education. “In school Tenzin took Chinese, History, Government, Math, Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Tibetan language, and all his classes, except for the Tibetan language class were taught in Chinese. Every class structure was the same. He would go to class, write down what’s on the board, memorize what’s on the board and be tested on it, and that was it,” she said. “His classes consisted of only memorization, and what it was he was memorizing [he knew] little to nothing.” Polk-Bauman also described Chinese control of Tibet using maps of Tibet, whose territories have continually shrunk over the last few decades due to the Chinese invasion. Alex Kim ’14 said, “The presentation was great. I really didn’t know much about the situation in Tibet, and it was scary how oppressed the Tibetans are and how oblivious I have been toward the situation.” The Home of Hope has plans to ultimately build a hospital for the wider general public, whose closest hospital is currently two-miles away. Polk-Bauman originally traveled to Tibet at the invitation of family friend and founder of the Tibetan Home of Hope Dolma, but all she knew prior to her experience was that the country was Buddhist and in Asia. “I was taking Mr. Housiax’s philosophy class my Lower Spring and in his class we read Dalai Lama’s book ‘Ethics for the New Millennium’. So I knew a little about Dalai Lama, but I really didn’t know anything else,” said Polk-Bauman. Polk-Bauman ended her presentation with a short video about the Home of Hope that expressed concern for the next generations of Tibetans and the loss of heritage and culture through Chinese propaganda. “I found Mary’s presentation absolutely amazing. Having [Dr. Tashi Dolma] on campus was a unique opportunity to learn more about the Tibet from the perspective of a native person. She gave me a concrete image of the Sino-Tibetan conflict and I was also able to continue the discussion at the Andover Inn after the formal presentation with some other students, which was great,” said Raphael Grandeau ’11.