Ramayana Translation Project-Patience and Perseverance

How long will it take you to accomplish your dream?

For Robert Goldman, distinguished professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley and Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman, senior lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, the answer is “about 40 years.”

That is how long the Goldman’s toiled at the painstaking research required to complete the Ramayana Translation Project. The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic, written nearly 3000 years ago, in which Prince Rama attempts to capture his wife. Of course, a one sentence summary can not do justice to a 50,000 line epic, that professor Goldman states, “Think the Illiad and the Odyssey and the Bible in one package, and you might get the sense of it.”

One of the main messages we can give our students is that accomplishments require tremendous effort-sustained, patient, effort. And that, as we learned from the great work of Walter Mischel and others through the Marshmallow Test- this habit of delaying our gratification for a greater reward is a skill that can be learned.

As the Wide Open Research community knows, I am striving to help educators share the great work of brilliant researchers like the Goldman’s, but also to help students learn how researchers chose the path they chose. Many students do not have access to individuals in their circle of family and friends who pursue advanced degrees. This lack of a robust network of highly educated individuals limits their access to those careers.

It helps to know that professor Goldman achieved his success not only through his intellect, but through hard work and  by following his passion through choices he made along the way.

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I am very grateful, for Dr. Robert Goldman for taking the time to answer a few questions about his “career” path.

Dr. Goldman shares how he started off in one direction, but like so many of us, changed paths to truly follow something that inspired him,As a premed student in college I had a desire to learn as much about things of which I was utterly ignorant as I could. Since I was at a university (Columbia) that offered a wide range of subjects, I took a course on Asian (the called “Oriental”) civilizations. I became fascinated with the culture and history of India and changed my major to Sanskrit Studies.”

What are some skills that he learned that he believes teachers could help their students with?

Goldman states, “ The skills that this discipline taught me and should be taught as widely as possible are those connected with philology,  that is to say, in essence, with learning how to read carefully and critically.”

It should be noted that professor Goldman did not really have a sense of pursuing his love of languages until sophomore year in college at Columbia.

I asked him if he would have done anything differently that might have benefited  him and he noted,” Probably I would have taken the Latin course that was offered. But that might have set me on a different track than the one I took.

So, how do we as educators, help our students develop their intellect, and help them develop to their potential?

Teachers need to excite students  and inspire them with a love of learning. But to do so they themselves need to have it,“ according to Dr. Robert Goldman.

Here is hoping that we all have the energy to re-kindle that inspiration that brought us to the education profession in the first place- to put aside the data analysis, lesson plan curriculum cross-walks, the incessant standardized test preparation and love learning again.

For then, we will be able to help our students love learning as well.

Thanks to Dr. Goldman for his time to share his thoughts with our small blog and to the work of Robert and Sally Goldman for inspiring us through their 40 year journey in completing the Ramayana Translation Project.

In a perfect world, their accomplishment would be celebrated throughout the cities and villages, and their work would be given to every graduating senior in America with the admonition, “Learn, Read, Persist.”

But for now, we will simply say thanks. (And read the Ramayana Translation Project!)

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does the Ramayana story still resonate today?
  2. How do we develop patience and perseverance as skills with our students?
  3. What about the work of Dr. Robert and Dr. Sally Goldman is inspirational to you?
  4. How do you develop the skills of philology as Dr. Goldman notes, “learning how to read carefully and critically?”
  5. What are you passionately learning “to excite students and inspire them with a love of learning?” as Dr. Goldman encourages?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

For a link to more info about the Ramayana Translation Project, please click here.summerblooms

Defining Culture at Indiana University

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In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried characters are revealed and humanized through the objects they carried on them as they trudged through VietNam.  It is easy to think that in our modern consumerist culture we are unique in being defined by our possessions as well- logos on shirts, pants, phones.

But is this really new?

Indiana University explores this idea in their exhibit-“Thoughts, Things, and Theories-What is Culture?” at Mathers Museum of Culture open Tuesday through Friday now through December 2017.

The installation features commonplace artifacts such as a 1967 suburban American home, juxtaposed with a dwelling compound from contemporaneous Nigeria inviting viewers to contemplate how our “possessions” fulfill a practical as well as cultural role, tying us to a larger “process” or narrative.

The exhibit tells this story through the phases of life, displaying cultural artifacts such as “Birth and Infancy” and culminating in “Death and Afterlife,” with viewers encouraged to think, discuss, and question every step of the way.

According to their website, “culture is a complicated topic because individual practices from one region or upbringing to another vary greatly, but it’s also a simple one-despite these differences, all cultures are structured around universal needs to fulfill.”

Teachers of World History or Humanities will find this article especially interesting and could likely spark an interesting discussion about what items help explain our culture. I could imagine an especially creative teacher to create an activity where students create their own “museum” either actually in the classroom or in text or graphic form that is inspired by the topics raised in this exhibit.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is culture?
  2. What are some of the countries represented in Indiana University’s exhibit?
  3. In the “Childhood” exhibit, toys were used to help prepare children for adult roles and responsibilities-is this still the case? What are some examples?
  4. A great question from the article,” When does a person cease being a child and begin an adult life?”
  5. Which of your favorite possessions do you think that your “peers” in other parts of the world also have? Which of your possessions do you think they don’t have?
  6. How would you create a similar exhibition?
  7. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”