Saturday, December 6, 2014 Professional Development Workshop

Educators for Teaching India
and the South Asia Institute at Columbia University
Sacred Texts and Sacred Places: 
Teaching the History and Practice of Religion in India
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Time:  10:00am – 5:00pm

Location:         The South Asia Institute at Columbia University
                        606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont
                        Morningside Campus, New York
                        Maps and directions
9:30am            Coffee, tea, bagels, muffins
10:00am          Rachel McDermott (Barnard), “An Introduction to Teaching Indian civilization” 
Introduction to teaching about Indian civilization with attention to both its unity and its diversity, and to religious thought and practice (Vedic, Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh).
11:15am          Break
11:30am          Richard Davis (Bard), "Teaching the Bhagavad Gita, the 'Hindu Bible’”
The Bhagavad Gita is by far the most often translated and the most often taught of all Hindu religious works.  Davis will discuss several different ways to approach the text: (1) as part of a larger epic work, the Mahabharata, (2) as a philosophical work of its own time in classical India, (3) as a key text for Indian nationalists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, like Gandhi and Vivekananda, and (4) as a work that has also challenged American readers, like Thoreau and Oppenheimer, and still can challenge contemporary students and readers
12:30pm          Lunch (provided) and conversation.
1:30pm           Jack Hawley (Barnard), "Krishna in the Braj Country."
Until the 19th century, the Bhagavata Purana may well have been more important than the Bhagavad Gita to many (perhaps most) Hindus.  The Bhagavata Purana especially celebrates the world of the child and adolescent Krishna in the Braj country of northern India, and that region, centering on Mathura and Brindavan, is still a major focus for Hindu pilgrimage.  Using visual materials, Jack Hawley will ask what it is like to be there and participate.
2:30pm          Manpreet Kaur (Columbia), “Text as Preceptor: Guru Granth Sahib in Sikh belief and practice”
In the Sikh community, the sacred text of the Guru Granth Sahib is believed to be the living embodiment of the Supreme. After a brief historical overview of the development and organization of the community vis-a-vis this holy book, we'll leaf through the current ceremonies and practices of the community, personal and public, to examine the centrality of the sacred text in the community's ethos. In the process, we'll map some of this history as well as contemporary practice onto the geography of Northern India.
3:30pm            Break
3:45pm            Concurrent break-out Workshop sessions
Workshop One
Tom Lamont (Groton School) and Achla Eccles (Riverdale Country School)
“Rethinking How to Teach Modern Indian History in an American High School”
For decades in American high Schools the teaching of the history of India has been rare, or perhaps worse, characterized by stereotypes and simplistic narratives that have generally reflected Western, specifically British perspectives. This workshop, led by two experienced teachers of modern Indian history at the high school level, will offer newer ideas and approaches that reflect a more complex, nuanced, and richer narrative that represents more recent and emerging scholarship in modern Indian history. 
Workshop Two
Brad Nicholson (Peddie School)
 “Creating and Implementing Trips to India for High School Students”
Trips to India can be transformative for American high school students, but many schools shy away from them based on fear, misinformation, or inexperience.  This workshop, conducted by an experienced leader of India trips and summer programs, will discuss the benefits and difficulties inherent in taking high school students to India.  A wide variety of successful models will be presented, with an emphasis on the logistics and risk management aspects of such a trip as well as ways to create trips that go beyond academic tourism.  We will also discuss strategies for integrating trips into the larger curriculum.


Copies of the following books will be distributed at the workshop to all participants:

The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War.  Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller (1986)

The "Bhagavad Gita": A Biography.  Richard H. Davis (2014)

Sikhism.  Gurinder Singh Mann (2004)

Sources of Indian Traditions, Volume 1:  Beginnings to 1800.  Edited by Ainslie T. Embree (1988).


Participants must be K-12 teachers, two- or four-year college instructors or students enrolled in graduate education degree programs. If you would like to register for the workshop, or have questions, please contact William Carrick at <>. To register, please send an email which includes your name, school affiliation, level of students taught, and subjects taught. Student registrants should include their school and degree program, anticipated graduation date, and a very brief statement of career goals.
There is no registration fee to attend the workshop.  All books and materials will be provided to participants at no cost.
For additional information, please contact William Carrick at or by phone at (212) 854-4565.