The Question for Hong Kong Protesters: Principle or Pragmatism

BN-DM986_hkprot_G_20140701220857Despite Occupy Central’s high profile threats to carry out an “era of civil disobedience,” Hong Kong protesters still have taken this city by surprise in the last 8 days, the largest student-led demonstrations on Chinese soil since 1989. The crucial question facing protesters now is what comes next.
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Technology and Our Future Debate: “How Do We Separate the Gift from the Curse?”


Inventor Ray Kurzweil expects people to live forever. Such an application of technology has vast moral implications for the future. Kurzweil is one of the provocative thinkers that students encountered in this unit on the role of technology in society.  Continue reading

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Technology and Youth Disconnect: Perspectives from International School Students



This year in my “Service, Society, and the Sacred,” a junior-senior elective religion/social studies course at HKIS, I decided to start the semester with an attempt to better understand how the technology revolution is impacting youth culture. In order for students to make their school year and their lives in general more fulfilling, the course’s main goal, I felt that we first needed to come to a collective understanding of the challenges students are facing. This blog entry shares the first unit of the year in which students reflected on how youth culture has been affected by technology. Continue reading

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Is Ignorance Bliss? Teaching about Chocolate Slavery on Day 1


 When students reflect on their time in Humanities I in Action, they frequently recall the first day of class. Grade nine students are incredibly open to new impressions on their first day of high school, so our teaching team has tried a new opening day activity the last two years that is not only a valuable lesson on its own, but also represents in microcosm our approach to their learning and growth throughout the year.

For some years we have used the issue of slave-produced chocolate. Because many students are practically addicted to chocolate, this issue resonates with them. The shadow side of chocolate production encourages them to think more deeply about their consumption patterns. In moving this topic into the initial activity of the year, we designed an activity around a central question of our first semester of study, “Is ignorance bliss?” Continue reading

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“Inspired Choices” by Andrea Zavadszky about Humanities I in Action (South China Morning Post, August 4, 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.19.25 AMFollowing our TEDx talk in May a reporter from the South China Morning Post scheduled an interview with Mike and myself for an article, and now it has just been published. The article represents the course well. We are especially pleased that our two award winners from last year, Helena and Yash, spoke so articulately about their experience in Humanities I in Action last year. I’d also like to thank Andrea for taking such a personal and sustained interest in the topic. Continue reading

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For All Sentient Beings: Meeting a Bhutanese Monk

DSC_3455Ten years ago I took a National Endowment for the Humanities course on Himalayan Cultures in Worcester, Massachusetts. My focus of study was on Buddhism, and I learned a great deal during the summer. However, I remember one of my professors saying that the new generation of Tibetan monks was more likely to be watching TV or playing video games than doing meditation. I’ve also heard similar anecdotal comments that meditation has become a lost practice among Buddhists in Asian countries. As a religion teacher wanting to properly represent these faiths, I’ve often wondered about the spirituality of contemporary Buddhist monks in Asia. And as a Christian who has re-discovered contemplation in my own tradition, I’m also quite curious about the spiritual practices of contemporary followers in Asia. Continue reading

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Using Spiritual Practices to Teach for Happiness and Spiritual Growth in a World Religions Course: An Action Research Perspective

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The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.

- Carl Jung


For years I have focused on service learning as the path for social conscience education in my Humanities I in Action class. However, in the last few years, as I’ve started to teach World Religions, I’ve been intrigued to see if I can develop a religion curriculum that prompts inner awakening within students. In the last three years of exploration, I have come to believe that the most effective pedagogical strategy to develop personal growth in a religion course is by placing spiritual practices at the center of the course curriculum. A World Religions curriculum can not only give students a working knowledge of various world religions, but, more significantly, can also provide students with spiritual insights into their own lives through the use spiritual practices. Continue reading

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