Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Austin Lectures Day 1

Holy cow! No India pun intended. Today was a very information-packed day! We were at an all day session at the University of Texas with lectures from a variety of professors from a variety of universities. 

Our first lecture was entitled, "Dilemmas of a Democracy: Politics and Economics of India since 1947," and was given by Subho Basu a professor at Syracuse in New York. He discussed that there are six social divisions in India that really drive the politics and economics. These divisions are language, religion, caste, gender, class, and the urban/rural divide. He said that these divisions are really strong and because so, there have been people since the formation of the Indian state saying that they would collapse as a democracy because they were so incredibly diverse. Well, it has been 51 years and they are still going. 

Then, we had a lecture regarding Women's Access to Education/Child Health Outcomes in India. This woman is looking at how a mother's education level influences access to healthcare in pregnancy and early childhood. Not too shockingly, she found out that the higher the education level of the mother, the more access to healthcare the child had and the less likely there would be a gender gap in the amount of healthcare between a boy child and a girl child. She discussed how increasing education levels in women usually contribute to changes in social welfare for all unlike when you just increase the education level for men. Greater societal changes are seen when women have education versus just men. Very interesting. India is still largely very poor and rural and so there is still a large gap in the access to education between boys and girls, rich and poor, etc.

Next, we had a crash course in the Hindi language. Hello=Namaste. Goodbye=Namaste. That is all I can remember for now so I will be doing some studying.

Our last lecture was looking at call centers in the city of Pune and how they are changing gender dynamics in the home and in greater society. The big issue here is not that women are working outside the home but that women are working in the middle of the night in order for them to be on the US day schedule for customer service. There have been questions of public safety and questions about what it is doing to families to have women gone in the middle of the night. Also, very very interesting.

I also wanted to mention that I have now met everyone and they are all really nice and it is super cool getting to be with a bunch of teachers. There is another program here too who goes to India & Sri Lanka and they are all humanities teachers. So, until we leave New Delhi, about five days after we arrive in India, we are all together. I still feel like everyone has pretty amazing resumes here but I am not having that "Why was I picked?" feeling like I was before. 

So, now we are going to have dinner on the Austin riverboats...a cruise, you might say. I have been deemed the group attendance taker. I am even the dorky middle school teacher here. But, there is another teacher from a School to Watch! Very exciting to have that in common for idea sharing. 

So, that's all for now. 


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