Kids Corner


Waiting for Superman




I live in the state that originated the infamous 'No Child Left Behind' policy. Yet each year thousands of urban and rural students leave school without a legitimate education. Forty percent of students are left behind in analytical science, mathematics, literacy and overall college readiness.

A wave of nausea overcomes me every time I hear that statistic. As a parent, I want the very best for my children. I wait for that time in life when the worrying will wane and things fall into place.

This past summer I read Time Magazine's review of the documentary film 'Waiting for Superman.' The title conjures images of an All American Super-Hero dressed in red and blue, the ultimate symbol of courageous benevolence, but the film is actually  about the virtually bankrupt education system in America.

A system, not unlike Punjab's education system, once renowned for its industrious nature ... a system once known for creating model citizens and loyal union workers in a largely agricultural economy ... a system that reached its peak of effectiveness in
the early 1900's ...

In the movie, Geoffrey Canada explains that he realized he was waiting for someone to address the problems of their local deteriorating education system, someone who could work miracles, someone like Superman.

But what about Sikh education in the Diaspora? How does the decline of education both in Punjab and America affect our children? How do we ensure that no Sikh child is left behind?

Of course, there are wonderfully organized Gurmat schools in the densely populated areas of the Northeast like Washington, D.C. and the Bay Area. But what is it like to be a child in Scranton or San Antonio, where the Sikh population is markedly small?

In those small towns across the country where meeting another Sikh means inviting them over for tea. Who is discussing gurmat, history and Sikh traditions?

With my young children just learning to read and write, the need did not seem pressing. Until this summer, when we were saddened by stories of young Sikh children who were asking to cut their hair for their fifth birthdays. It seemed there was a disconnect between our generation, who proudly wore our faith, and the next, who are too embarrassed to tell their friends that they speak another language at home.

As an educator, I believe strongly in the ability to address complex problems through education and practice. So our local sangat began discussing the issue of how to encourage our children. Ideas would get passed around, and inevitably
nothing happened. We have all said: "Someone should teach a class, someone should organize a presentation."

Who is this someone?

Then it dawned on me; we were waiting for Superman.

So I did what any overworked, sleep-deprived mother of three children would do. I cried.

I have never been more motivated than I was in that moment.

I knew we had to empower our students to be strong, inquisitive Sikhs, that our children must be able to answer the tough questions about their faith. In a delicate balance between inspiration and desperation, a few local sevadars and I decided it was time to start a fully coordinated Punjabi and Gurmat School.

We ventured forth creating a safe environment where children can explore their own faith practice, while maintaining our commitment to serve the entire community.

Two weeks later, we began open registrations with the thought that if we could get twenty students registered, the program would be worth it. In a miraculous turn of events, we had forty-five students register, with ten more on the waiting list. To put this in perspective, we only have about fifty parking spaces at the gurdwara.

Suddenly, our small sangat felt connected throughout the diaspora through a support network of sevadars and educators. We began an amazing journey dotted with generous offers to share materials, planning advice, teaching strategies, and lesson plans. We were already connected.

For the children aged 18 months to 15 years who file into the divaan hall each Sunday after class, we are fostering a sense of pride and stewardship for Sikh culture.

And we're teaching them that as long as we have the Khalsa, we don't need Superman.


November 27, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Harpreet Singh (Shillong, Meghalaya, India), November 27, 2010, 11:02 AM.

Juspreet Kaur ji: hearty congratulations to the sangat of your area engaged in this noble task. Waheguru will bless you with success in your endeavours. Any way I can contribute, sitting here in India?

2: Autar Singh (Subang Jaya, Malaysia), November 27, 2010, 10:54 PM.

More power to you and your team. With the realization that Guru Gobind Singh gave us all his powers to achieve greatness, each one of us must rise to take up these responsibilities ourselves, instead of waiting for that 'superman'. Well done.

3: Jagjit Singh (New Delhi, India), November 28, 2010, 7:40 AM.

Very commendable job. You have put 'Apan hatheen aapna aape hee kaaj sawaaryi-ey' into practice. 'Gur sharan charan ek painda jaae chal satguru kot painda aage hoi laet hai!' With Guru's blessings, you are perfectly on the right track.

4: Akbir Kaur (Manteca, California, U.S.A.), November 29, 2010, 3:25 AM.

A number of Sikh organizations are doing yeoman service in this area: SikhRI, Ensaaf, Jakara, Sikh Coalition, Saldef, etc.

5: Juspreet Kaur (U.S.A.), December 11, 2010, 9:50 PM.

Thank you for your encouraging words; the real credit goes to the local sangat: the parents who have made the commitment to bringing gurbani and Sikh history into their children's lives, and the gurdwara for committing the infrastructure to make it so. I sincerely hope other small sangats will be inspired to start on this track. Onwards and upwards!

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