Saturday, April 2, 2011

The future and Cambodia

Over the Chinese New Year holiday in February, my family and I were lucky enough to spend two weeks in Cambodia.  It was not hard to fall in love with this beautiful country.  I will happily go back any chance I get.  It has a tragic history that I am embarrassed to say I still don't know much about, but it was striking to see the impact that history is continuing to have today.

I didn't think about a connection between Cambodia and my interest in inquiry until Clive Elsmore said he'd like to hear more about my trip.  Then I started to think about what it was I loved so much about Cambodia and its people.  Resilient, smart, highly adaptable: these are three ways I would describe the Cambodian people I met.  When we spoke to tour guides, tuk-tuk drivers, hotel operators, students, they all had a version of the same tragic story to tell: families torn apart, parents killed, lives and livelihoods lost.  Yet, they smile and carry on.

After a day of visiting the gun-shot pocked temples at Anchor, we brought rice to an orphanage outside Siem Reap.  I commented to the lovely man from the U.S. who was running the orphanage that it was good to see so many NGOs working in Cambodia, from organisations retraining street children to those restoring ancient temples.  I wondered why.  He explained to me that the Khmer Rouge had effectively wiped out the professional class, so all these NGOs had stepped in to fill the vacuum.  That certainly gave us pause.

So, how is all this connected to inquiry?  Well, it made me think about how quickly our current way of life can be ripped from us.  We may go along thinking life will always be the way it is now, but that is just foolish and dangerous.  None of us know what the future holds, so we are obligated to prepare ourselves and our students in the best way possible.  If we are not innovative and adaptable, we will not be ready for the future.  If the Cambodian people were not willing to move forward by taking advantage of every opportunity offered to them, they would not be in the process of moving out from under the tragedy of their recent history.  They are not forgetting the past; they just aren't getting mired in it.

I've seen what happens to a community that gets stuck in its past in Canada's Arctic.  The people suffer from substance abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and hopelessness.  I am not naive enough to think this doesn't go on everywhere, even in Cambodia, but I think there are those people who embrace the past and those who embrace the future.  If we are able to teach our students to inquire, think, question, innovate, they are much more likely to want to embrace the future.

1 comment:

  1. great post....I currently live in Beijing and have yet to head to Cambodia....but hope to soon. I am a Canadian Social Studies 10, as well....keep writing great posts :)