Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Losar! (Do you know what year it is?)

Today is Tibetan New Year, or Losar. I used the opportunity to discuss the idea that not everyone in the world follows the same timeline, and it made for an interesting discussion. I wore one of the shirts I picked up from Tibet Gallery, which certainly sparked a conversation in and of itself since it's not the typical polo-style staff shirt I usually wear. After that, life got interesting when I informed my students that it was the Earth Ox Year 2136. From there I informed them that according to the Chinese calendar, it is the year 4706; it's 5769 by the Jewish calendar, and for Muslims, it's 1430. That kind of blew their minds a bit and led to a conversation around the B.C./A.D. vs BCE/CE way of marking time, and how we keep track of time in general. It definitely became a good discussion, and I think it helped them to understand, or at least think about, some of the differences that can and do exist between cultures. I also tried to get across the idea that as we become an increasingly global society, we will need to become more sensitive to those differences as well as the similarities, and use them to move the human race forward rather than tear us apart. The concept that not everyone in the world marks their societal calendar by the birth of Jesus Christ was something of a new one for them, and they did not know the difference between BC/AD and BCE/CE. The idea that something as "basic" as a calendar can be so different led them to wondering about other differences that can and do present themselves... I hope.

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