Realism, Idealism, and the New Universe Story

Image result for thomas berry new story old story

The Modern Story of Realism

Dear Students,

If I ask are you a realist or an idealist, you will probably consider your basic approach to life. The realists live more cautiously or even pessimistically, while the idealists see the bright side, spotting silver linings in every cloud.

Philosophically, however, I’m trying to get at a bigger question: Image result for dean radinwhat is the fundamental nature of reality? Put most simply, what came first, God or the atom? Dean Radin, chief scientist of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, addresses this question by contrasting two philosophical positions taken throughout Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 4.37.27 PMhistory, realism and idealism. The realists believe that the basic building blocks of reality are physical bits that we call atoms and molecules. Billions of years of random mixing of material elements resulted in the lucky strike of not only a habitable planet, but an increasingly complex evolutionary ladder that has culminated in the miracle of human personality and reflectivity that we call mind, awareness or consciousness. This certainly is the current cosmological story underpinning modern civilization. Continue reading

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Our Collective Human Purpose on a Bumper Sticker

IMG_20170326_134730146.jpgI was sitting at an outdoor table on the 7th floor of our high school grounds – the Penthouse suite view, I mentioned to a passing colleague. After a dismally dark and rainy Sunday, I was cheered by the sun, as it began breaking through the fog on this first day of the new week. Grey began to give way to a swirling promise of greens and blues and whites. I was taken by the view.

It was an inspiring setting to consider tomorrow’s lesson plan for Image result for ishmaelmy Humanities I in Action class. We were beginning our study of the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, asking the question, “What is the guiding story of human civilization?” Overlooking the campus, a question came to mind for the students’ homework, “What in your opinion is the collective purpose of humankind?” To make it memorable, the assignment went on, reduce this message to a bumper sticker slogan like, “I have a dream”, “Just do it!” or “Make America Great Again.” Continue reading

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Did We Make A Difference? Action Research of a Teaching for Empowerment Program in South India


For the last seven years HKIS students have come to our two sister schools, Concordia-Ambur and Concordia-Pernambut, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to implement a “Teaching for Empowerment” curriculum developed by our students. Once again we returned to Ambur in March to facilitate this week-long program, but this time Image result for caroline scownan HKIS alum, Caroline Scown, who participated for three years here as a high school student and co-wrote the empowerment curriculum, returned during her university’s spring break to do action research on the program. Her surveys and interviews of the program participants aimed to respond to the nagging question that is always present in school service learning events: did we actually make a difference? In this context, can HKIS students honestly say that the “Teaching for Empowerment” program truly empowered the Indian students? Continue reading

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Well-Being and Wisdom: Considerations for a Wellness Curriculum

Maddy Lab begin

As students enter high school, they are asked to begin to navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a daunting task. A new wellness block is being offered for all incoming HKIS freshmen next year employing an interdisciplinary approach combining PE, Counseling, and Religion departmental perspectives to offer students a much-needed orientation towards well-being and wisdom.  Continue reading

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“We Can Make Difference:” SCMP Article on 10th Annual Service Summit

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-47-35-pmWe Can Make a Difference by Kay Ross, February 14, 2017

Students from HKIS and its sister schools Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi gathered at HKIS on January 14, 2017, for the 10th annual High School Service Summit. It was also the culmination of the Middle School’s fourth annual Student Leadership Program.

“The Service Summit is the kick-off day of our Humanities 1 in Action course for 9th-graders at HKIS High School,” said Humanities teacher Mr. Marty Schmidt. “We think the two most important things in our school’s curriculum are the future of the planet, and the mental health of our students. So we want our students to find a way to connect their hearts to the world’s issues, and feel empowered to act.”

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Each year, that action comes in the form of semester-long “Elixir” projects, designed and implemented by the students themselves, in which they tackle an environmental or social issue on campus, in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. For many students, their projects blossom into successful post-school careers, businesses or non-profit organizations.

Leading up to the Service Summit, a small group of Middle School students from HKIS, Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi were immersed in a three-day Student Leadership Program. “The students get to examine critical issues facing the world, ponder what it really means to be a leader, and forge international friendships. They also start to think about their own possible future Elixir projects. All of that leads to all sorts of outcomes that are not necessarily predictable or measurable,” explained Mr. Greg Ladner, Associate Principal of HKIS Middle School.

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The program included workshops with Ms. Jessica Giang and Ms. Laurence Couture, two Beijing-based facilitators from Me to We, a Canadian social enterprise that empowers people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices. “The aim was to get the students to understand their privileged position in society, and to think about how they can use that privilege for good,” said Jessica.

On January 13, the students visited the Crossroads Foundation, a Hong Kong charity that connects those with resources and those who need help. They did volunteer work, sorting and cleaning donated items, and participated in simulations designed to give them an experience of the challenges faced by blind people and people with AIDS.

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HKIS Middle School student Felix Leung shared his impressions of the program: “It showed me that there are many ways I can serve the community. And I learned that even small actions can have huge positive consequences.”

On January 14, the Middle School students joined the High School students for the Service Summit, where Jessica and Laurence gave a keynote address, and HKIS alumni Mr. Amar Bhardwaj and Mr. Yashvardhan (“Yash”) Bardoloi spoke compellingly about what happened for them after attending previous Service Summits – Amar became passionate about the issue of glass recycling, while Yash founded VolunteerConnect, an online platform that matches volunteers with organizations that need their skills.

Finally, participants had the opportunity to hear from older HKIS students and alumni about previous successful Elixir projects. Examples included empowering impoverished children in Cambodia; producing and selling eco-friendly jute bags in India; reading to and playing with children in a Lutheran nursery in Heng Fa Chuen; gathering donated stationery, clothing, and hygiene supplies to send to people living in extreme poverty in the Philippines; undertaking environmental projects to make Hong Kong more sustainable; and raising funds for two orphanages in Delhi, India.

HKIS High School student Alexandra Debow, who will soon be deciding about her own Elixir project, commented, “It’s not just about completing a project at school; it’s about starting something that will make a positive difference.”


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 Overview of the Service Summit

On Saturday, January 14, HKIS hosted the 10th annual Service Summit, the goal of which is to launch Humanities I in Action grade 9 students’ semester-long, community-based Elixir Projects. Our 75 students heard presentations from our “Me to We” speakers who kicked-off the event with a keynote address. Then they selected five break-out sessions, most conducted by older HKIS students who had done their own successful projects when they were in the class. For the 4th year, the Service Summit was also the culmination of a 3-day service leadership retreat for 30 middle school students from Concordia-Shanghai, Concordia-Hanoi, and HKIS. We look forward to the fruits that will surely emerge from this event.


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Calligraphy as Sacred Art: Meeting Golnaz Fathi

Image result for Golnaz Fathi art workGolnaz Fathi, Untitled, 2011

Dear Students,

Last night I had the great pleasure toUntitled.png hear the accomplished Iranian artist Golnaz Fathi share her passion for painting at a presentation at Hong Kong’s Asia Society. As I listened to Golnaz, I realized that she was describing her love of art as a sacred practice. Upon a night’s reflection, it seems to me that her example can be both instructive and inspirational to those of us who want to explore art as a restorative force in our lives. Continue reading

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Teaching Inspiration: Avaaz’s 100 Victories for Justice


The first semester of Humanities I in Action introduces students to suffering in the world. I often say it has a “shock and awe” impact on many students, as they struggle to make sense of a myriad of injustices: colonization, genocide, racial discrimination, violence, abandonment, and many others. So when we get to the second semester with our overarching question, “Can I make a difference?” and they begin a semester-long community-based Elixir project of their own choosing, it’s important to show that change can and does happen. I designed the following activity to help students learn about the inspiring work of Avaaz, an online advocacy organization of currently 43 million people (!) that brings about real change through harnessing a global will for justice. In only a decade, they have enacted thousands of actions around the world, including more than 100 inspiring victories for justice. Continue reading

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