U.Va. Curry School Co-sponsors 'Educating World Citizens' Conference, Featuring the Dalai Lama

October 6, 2009 —The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education is a co-sponsor of the Mind and Life XIX conference on "Educating World Citizens for the 21st Century," to be held Oct. 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C. The conference features the Dalai Lama, along with leading educators, scientists and policymakers worldwide.

Conference organizers are seeking to promote research that explores the best ways to integrate emotional, intellectual and social learning in the classroom.

"We hope to draw more attention to expanding research into mindfulness-based educational approaches, such as social and emotional learning, and how such reforms can improve attention, self-motivation, self-esteem and healthy decision-making skills among school-aged children and teenagers," said Adam Engle, chairman of The Mind and Life Institute.

"This two-day session with the Dalai Lama and top educators and scientists is a rare opportunity for all participants to envision what the future world citizen should be taught," said Rebecca Kneedler, Curry associate dean for external partnerships and international initiatives. "In addition to instilling in our young people a hunger for knowledge, we must also find ways to engage them in compassion, empathy and the application of knowledge to solve world problems of injustice and oppression. Curry is sponsoring a small group of students to attend these sessions with these world leaders and to bring these experiences back to Curry to share with a larger group."

During the conference, the 13 U.Va. doctoral students will join other participants in education, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy and will participate in four sessions. The Dalai Lama – the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet – will be active in each of the segments, which include "Attention, Emotional Regulation and Learning," "Compassion and Empathy" and "Envisioning the World Citizen."

Several students shared what they hope to gain from the conference this Thursday and Friday.

"As an educational anthropologist, I am looking forward to the opportunity it presents to explore diverse thinkers' conceptualizations of global citizenship education and the potential role of cultivating certain 'virtuous' emotions, such as empathy and compassion, in children as an aspect of the process of making the world a safer place for difference," Curry doctoral student Ingrid Hakala Isin said. "More broadly, engaging in such an involved, interdisciplinary dialogue regarding these concerns represents a much- appreciated opportunity in my own schooling experience to enlarge our realm of educational discourse beyond the prevailing 'what works' political philosophy of education, to sensitively and creatively reflect about the meanings we hold regarding education, and, in the process, to imagine what the American educational system might transform to become."

Curry doctoral student John Broome said he will approach the conference from "the perspective of a civic educator with an eye to infusing more holistic practices in a traditional education system.

"What role can contemplative practices and holistic education play in our educational context? How do we create the 'whole child' as well as the 'whole citizen'? What do children need to know and be able to do to be active citizens in our global environment? What civic knowledge, skills and dispositions do they need to be cooperative and competitive on this world stage? How are we to create a synergy in educating our children for both national citizenship with global responsibilities? These are questions I come to the conference with and I wish to use to inform my research interests and teaching practices," he said.

Curry doctoral student Lisa Foster said she hopes to "gain a new perspective on how to really get to know a person and help them develop by considering how the mind, body and soul play into the picture of one's life and growth. It is not just about developing them academically

Upon their return, the graduate students will discuss their experiences and key learning outcomes from the conference at a brown bag lunch at the Curry School. The date and time of the event are to be determined.