The College of the Ozarks Patriotic Education Travel Program to Viet Nam: A Vietnam-Era Veteran Responds

PatEdSealI received a number of comments in response to my recent article entitled A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!, mostly from US veterans of the war in Viet Nam, or “Vietnam-era” veterans.  One who falls into the latter category decided to take it one step further and send a letter below to the College of the Ozarks.  The “lessons from the American War in Vietnam” to which he refers are contained in this 2012 article The Racket of War: Dying for Lies, a copy of which he included with his letter.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA


Sanford Kelson– Attorney at Law

December 14, 2018

Valerie Coleman, Public Relations, Director, College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO 65726

Re: Patriotic Education Travel Program, Vietnam

Ms Coleman:

Enclosed is the story of my lessons from the American War in Vietnam.

Boy, did that war wake up in a naïve, idealistic, perfectly indoctrinated young man a curiosity to learn, to study, to read, to discuss, to critically think and to teach. I have never stopped learning. That war made me who I am to this day at 74 years of age. I consider myself a patriotic citizen but not a nationalist.

Don’t you agree that students who are exposed to multiple interpretations of history have a more quality educational experience than those who are exposed to only one interpretation? Multiple interpretations help provoke, oh my God, critical thinking. Do not forget, young students in the deep south of the 1700 and 1800s were taught only one interpretation of slavery, that it was just fine. Even God approved. “It says so in the Bible!” And, that immoral institution lasted for hundreds of years and its effects are still adversely affecting our nation.

Yes, the vets who go on the tour are heroes but in what cause, a just one or not, or a mixture of just and not just? If the lessons of the American War had been widely known, our leaders may not have able to mislead so many of us into supporting the current wars of choice.

Accordingly, I volunteer to go on the College of the Ozarks’ patriotic tours to Vietnam as a concerned veteran and a patriot. Or to present at the college. I believe in education and assisting young people with development of critical thinking skills, so I will gladly pay my own way for an opportunity to educate.

The contrast between my story and the other vets’ presentations may cause some of those young students to think critically and embark on their own investigations, as I did. If so, the lessons they learn will be based upon their own investigation and critical thinking. This I believe, should be the major goal of formal education. Does Hard Work U have sufficient confidence in the intelligence and critical thinking abilities of its student body to expose them to alternate interpretations? I certainly hope so.

Please pass this letter along to those at the college who are involved with the Patriotic Education Travel Program.

I look forward to the possibility of a positive reply to this letter.

Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Sanford Kelson

HATCH! Fair the Fifth: Hanoi – Danang – HCMC

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Nam “Chris” Nguyen pitching College Scout at HATCH! Fair the Fifth

I had a great time at the the fifth HATCH! Fair in Hanoi.  I was there for part of the pitching competition in which young entrepreneurs have three (3) minutes to pitch their businesses to a jury board.  (Yes, it’s exactly three minutes.  They run a tight ship!)  There are three (3) more minutes for the judges to ask questions.  Last year, there were 305 applications and 54 “hand-picked startups”, an acceptance rate of 17.7%, not unlike that of the most selective colleges and universities in the US.  (UC Berkeley had a 2016 acceptance rate of 17.5%.)

IMG_2881It was an inspiration listening to so many ideas, some of which will be transformed into practice and others not.  The highlight was the pitch by Nam “Chris” Nguyen, of College Scout (CS), who finished with a few seconds to spare.  I was impressed by his energy, focus, and enthusiasm.  Congratulations to Nam for rocking it at the 5th HATCH! Fair!

What is College Scout (CS)? 

It’s a Hanoi-based ed-tech startup whose services include but also transcend preparing young people for overseas higher education admission.  Most companies focus on the latter.  In other words, the professional spotlight is what happens before they board the flight to their host country to begin their studies and a new life.  CS does that and much more.  Perhaps more importantly, it prepares students for academic, cultural, and social success in a new and often very challenging environment.  In doing so, it takes the long and holistic view of each young person as a student, future professional, and global citizen. 

CS logo

For families with students planning to study in North America, College Scout is a “one-stop readiness service”. Unlike traditional education agents and related companies that provide ancillary services related to overseas study, CS provides fun and effective prep activities that increase their chances for success not only in the application and admission process, but in the areas of academic, cultural, and social adjustment.  (Full disclosure:  I’m a proud member of the CS advisory board.) 

What is HATCH!?

According to its website, the mission of HATCH! is to support entrepreneurs and promote the early-stage startup ecosystem in Vietnam. By the end of 2013, HATCH! was among the top names for entrepreneurship development in Vietnam, with activities that have made dozens of international headlines; and, not just for the organization, but also for our innovative startups, and their founders and investors, as well as HATCH! partners and sponsors.

HATCH! is the brainchild of Aaron Everhart, who had this to say about the organization:  I’m pretty proud of building HATCH!, which grew from a small coffee-talk meeting in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012 to Vietnam’s largest and leading startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem builder. We’ve built it grass-roots using borrowed spaces, volunteer time, and instant coffee packets. Now we’re proud to be producing Vietnam’s only major international startup exhibition and conference, HATCH! FAIR each year…  Aaron’s tag line isI turn ideas into companies,” and he does! 

MAA

Global Learning in a Time of Increased Xenophobia and Extreme Nationalism

nafsa logoThis is the title of an upcoming webinar that is the first in NAFSA’s Academic Programs six-part Architecture for Global Learning – Series II.  Here is a brief description:

Many institutions integrate global learning into curricula and co-curricular programming with the goal of producing graduates capable of contributing solutions to global problems. However, institutional leaders, faculty, and managers of global learning environments now face mounting anti-international rhetoric and policy.

Join NAFSA Academic Programs for the first session in our six-part Architecture for Global Learning – Series II. Listen to and discuss the perspectives of leading international education scholars and practitioners on the state of global learning as we enter a period of increased populist and anti-international rhetoric and action. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with experienced and informed global learning specialists who will answer questions of how and why extreme nationalism affects global learning. Presenters will provide their views and responses to participant questions on how to continue to support and implement global learning pedagogies and programs that are under attack.

I agree that it is a time of “increased xenophobia” in many countries but disagree that nationalism, extreme or otherwise, is anything new, especially in the US.  In that sense, the title is a bit misleading.  US nationalism, which I discuss in a 2016 University World News article entitled US nationalism – The elephant in the room and elsewhere, is nothing new and certainly didn’t begin to rear its ugly and exclusionary head when Donald Trump was elected president last November.  In fact, I have argued that the term is frequently misused by some of my distinguished colleagues when what they are actually referring to is nativism

I am pleased, however, to see that these issues are being debated. Nationalism in general and as an elephant in the room of the international education profession should be a key point, if not the centerpiece, of any consideration of intercultural competence, essentially a skill set, and global citizenship, also a mindset.  It is a discussion that should have been launched a long time ago.

MAA

 

 

Summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camp (VASAC) in HCMC & Hanoi

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m pleased to share with you information about the summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camps (VASAC) in mid-July.  These events are different than in years past because they will last for four (4) days instead of one (1).

For those of you who don’t about VietAbroader (VA), whose slogan is Empower Vietnamese Youth, it is the premier student-run organization in Viet Nam that helps young people who want to study overseas, in particular in the US.  I’m honored to have served as a VA adviser almost since the very beginning in 2004.  It started out as online forum and then expanded by offering events such as the VASAC, which was first organized in 2005.  (I was a speaker at the Hanoi conference.)

There are two ways in which you can participate in the VASAC:

1)  Institutional sponsorship: Please follow these links to download the institutional sponsor proposal and the institutional sponsor benefit package.

2)  Participation in the Education Fairs, which are free and open to the public.  This is free of charge and you can have a currently enrolled student who’s home for the summer, or an alum, represent you at the fair(s), if you’re not able to travel to Viet Nam.

If you’re interested in becoming an institutional sponsor and/or participating in the public fair(s), please contact one of the VA representatives listed on the last page of the sponsor proposal.
Help VietAbroader Pass the Torch and Empower Vietnamese Youth!
MAA

What is Your Ikigai?

Everyone I know who is happy is working well at something they consider important.  Abraham Maslow

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I had the opportunity to speak to about 150 10th graders at one of the more selective high schools in Hanoi earlier this week.  I chose to speak to them not about overseas study in general or study in the USA or another country in particular but about finding their ikigai, which is related to quality and quantity of life, what to study at university, and which career(s) to pursue after that. 

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A brave student answering the three (3) questions at the bottom – in English!

Ikigai, of course, is a Japanese concept that refers to reason for being, the thing that gets you up in the morning, the passion that drives your life.  While a seemingly simple concept to define and illustrate, it is not always so easy to find.  For students who are 15 or 16 years-old, it is the right time to begin exploring. 

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Another student answering the same questions in English.

I asked them some questions that get at the heart of the matter to help them think more concretely:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you think you might be good at but are not sure yet?
  3. What do you enjoy doing?
  4. What do you have a passion for? 

While I didn’t have a projector because the presentation took place outside, I described ikigai as being at the center of what I like to call an existential sweet spot.

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The existential sweet spot of ikigai

I also shared some relevant quotes about time (The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have. Randy Pausch, 1960-2008), how to follow your heart and  live your life (Steve Jobs, Stanford University 2005 Commencement Speech), and how to be happy in life (the “grand essentials of happiness” from George Washington Burnap). 

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Students working on their ungraded pop quiz

To underscore my point about the value of time as the most precious commodity in life, I helped put the finiteness of life in perspective.  “Let’s say you live until the age of 80, which is five years older than Viet Nam’s current life expectancy.  You’ve already lived 19% of your life.  What will you do with the remaining 81%?”

Then  I introduced the concept of psychological flow, which is related to ikigai.  It was developed by the Hungarian psychologist, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who defined it as a “highly focused mental state” and “effortless concentration and enjoyment”.  He saidThe best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…  The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.  I also like this definition from the Wikipedia entry about flow:  Flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

In order to make the abstract concrete, we discussed examples of flow, including writing, composing music, writing code, playing chess, cooking, dancing, painting, solving a difficult math problem, etc. 

I concluded with a quote attributed to Confucius:  We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.  Sadly, some people never come to this realization.  High school is the ideal time for young people to become aware of life possibilities and constraints. 

Finally, I had the students answer the following questions – in English or Vietnamese.  Some shared their answers with the group.

  1. What is your passion?
  2. When do you experience psychological flow?
  3. What do you hope for?

Looking out into the audience, I noticed that quite a few students were actually listening, a sign of interest and curiosity.  As for the others?  Hopefully, they get it sooner rather than later.  Young people naturally think of life as never-ending while those of us who are older and/or experienced death at an early age know that the clock is ticking.

Have you found your ikigai

MAA

“The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have.”  (Randy Pausch, 1960-2008)