A brag on my students

Posted February 16, 2012 by Marty Price
Categories: Uncategorized

Restorative Justice class at an ancient mosque

They are in back-to-back class sessions (except for their lunch hour) from 9:30 am until either 4:30 or 5:30 pm (schedules vary only a bit) Monday through Saturday. Then they come to the Restorative Justice Certificate Course from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Daily classes generally have daily homework assignments; I assign preparatory reading for each of my class sessions. Most students have major projects they are working on for one or more of their courses and many participate in extracurriculars such as the Legal Aid Clinic, Mediation Competition, Moot Court or writing scholarly articles for the University’s Law Review. Somehow they find time to shoot some hoops, play some volleyball and have a bit of social life. It is a 100% residential school and the students are not allowed to have any employment. Some students come from families that can pay their way. Some come from poor rural villages and have government scholarships for tuition, room and board, books and other expenses. Students from middle class homes get enough scholarship money to cover all of the above, less their parents’ ability to pay. (There are no crushing student loan debts because there are no student loans.) During the two-month summer vacation students are required to take full-time internships with courts, law firms, corporations, non-profits such as the mediation center, etc. These internships are very important but far from being a vacation.

The Restorative Justice Certificate course is non-credit (the University is applying to its governing body for credit for the next Restorative Justice course, next academic year.) Considering all of the above, it seems like a miracle that I have any students at all. The course is open to 3rd year, 4th year, 5th year and Master’s students. 48 came on the first day of class. During the first week almost half of them came to their senses after hearing what the Restorative Justice course would require of them, realizing that they could not handle this course in addition to everything else. Since then, the class has consisted of 26 students. During the first two weeks, a number of second year students approached me asking me to make an exception and admit them to the course. I could not/would not admit them, but I invited them to attend my extracurricular evening discussion groups and Restorative Justice video nights. They came.

The class has been a wild ride for the students and for me. Accustomed to lectures followed by questions from the professor, my highly interactive teaching style and use of experiential learning whenever possible has made for a course unlike any they have had before. Fairly early in the course, it came to my attention that this course was “the big buzz” of the campus. Throughout the course I’ve been approached by students I don’t know, introducing themselves and asking questions – sometimes about Restorative Justice, sometimes about me. The only light-skinned person here, I’m not difficult to recognize.

Part of the wild ride for me is that I have been creating the course from scratch and on the fly. My three-months-in-advance textbook order could not be fulfilled by the cumbersome government bureaucracy in time for the course. Welcome to India—efficiency is not one of its attributes. My 18/7 work schedule came to the attention of my students about two weeks into the course when they asked why they never saw me out and about on campus. I answered honestly. After I admitted that I had done no sightseeing at all (which they considered completely unacceptable) 14 of my students commandeered the Law University bus and took me out for a day of seeing Lucknow – their India. Since then, they regularly take me out for some cultural experience or just for a meal – also a cultural experience, of course. This Friday night, the students and I will be having dinner at the home of one of them – at the invitation of his father, who is the second to the Governor of this State.

As the course winds down, there is much discussion among the students about how they can carry Restorative Justice forward. Three students collaborated to propose a student organization (open to all students) to continue to learn about Restorative Justice and to develop ways to introduce Restorative Justice into the community and into the criminal justice system. (Lucknow is the capitol of the State and the Law University is well-connected with the gate-keepers to “the system.”) The students’ proposal was accepted and I will be the student organization’s “long-distance unofficial advisor.” One of my Master’s students will write his dissertation on Restorative Justice; I will have a similar relationship with him. And the beat goes on… I couldn’t be more delighted.

Student in the pic - a creative photo editor

Share

Higher Education in India

Posted February 14, 2012 by Marty Price
Categories: Uncategorized

Ram Manohiya Lohar National Law University of India

It’s difficult to believe that my first Restorative Justice class in the National Law Universities of India is almost over. I have not written about it sooner because I could not make the time. The course is an intensive – a full-semester, twice weekly class which I have (to the extent possible) packed into four weeks of daily class sessions. Not exaggerating, I have been working 18/7 most weeks, preparing lessons, teaching, mentoring and counseling students, much more. Necessarily it has been a challenging course, for me and for my students.

My 26 students are a mix of the urban privileged and villagers from the lower castes. The latter generally have had mediocre to poor public education before coming here. Many of the them had little mastery of English prior to to a full year of English instruction upon their arrival at the Law University. Still their English is generally weak and all legal education is in English. For more understanding of the context here, some background is needed about the current state of the caste system and about how legal education is done in India. Caveat: all of this information is “to the best of my knowledge.”

Although the caste system was declared unconstitutional some years ago, it remains fully alive and well among the rural and the poor, as well as in the economic low end of the urban population. The National Law Universities (and I believe, all institutions of higher education in India) have a mandate from the federal government that 50% of their admissions must be from rural areas and from the lower castes, although their academic record would not qualify them for admission absent the mandate. This “affirmative action” program has both advantages and disadvantages, as you can imagine or as you may know from personal experience. And of course it is controversial, especially among the students.

In India, professional/vocational education begins at the age of 16, in one sense. Before entering the 11th grade (same as in USA) students must declare their educational “track” and take the required courses of that track in their last two years of high school. After high school, the “college-bound” will go to an educational institution for their chosen profession. At a typical law college or university, students enter into a five-year program which will culminate in a “Bachelor’s in Law” and their eligibility to sit for the Bar Exam. The first two years of their education will be exclusively in the “Humanities,” which are very different in India. In addition to English, they consist of courses such as Government, History, Psychology, Sociology and other courses that in the USA would be considered to be “pre-law.” The Humanities as I know them – the arts, etc. are not to be found. All higher education in India is similarly structured, including only a shade of the concept of a liberal arts undergraduate education.

While the 5-year Bachelor’s in Law qualifies the graduate to sit for the India Bar Exam and practice law if they pass it, some graduates will continue into a two-year Master’s in Law, which is roughly the equivalent of the J.D. (Juris Doctor/Doctor of Laws) that is required to sit for a bar exam in the USA. The J.D. requires a 4-year Bachelor’s degree plus graduation from a 3-year program in an accredited law school (full time) or 4 – 5 years, part-time.

In no way do I intend this as a critique of higher education in India – only an explanation of the differences. I am in no position to be making any judgments about the relative merits and demerits of India’s approach, as compared to the West. My “barely informed” take on it is that this approach probably fits with the culture and also with the professional and economic needs of India.

My next post, following closely on the heels of this one, will be a “brag” on my wonderful students, with whom I am having a love affair (not literally, of course.)

Share

Fulbright Restorative Justice Project in India; Need for Funding

Posted January 30, 2012 by Marty Price
Categories: Uncategorized

Originally posted on December 22, 2011

The Restorative Justice Project and Project Trust in India, 2012 

The National Law Universities of India

The Fulbright Commission, Council for the International Exchange of Scholars,

United States Department of State

The International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred.org) 

Overview of the Restorative Justice Project and Project Trust

The Restorative Justice Project was conceived as joint effort of the National Law Universities (NLU) of India, of which there are fourteen throughout India, and the U.S. Fulbright Commission, Council for the International Exchange of Scholars. Martin E. Price, J.D., of Charlotte, North Carolina was appointed as the Fulbright Professor, Senior Specialist to lead the Project. The Project arose from the recognition by leaders in criminal law reform and legal education in India that Restorative Justice, a global movement with over 6,000 programs, is needed in India. There are currently no Restorative Justice programs in India. The Project begins officially on January 2, 2012 and will be from six to twelve months in duration, depending upon a number of factors including funding.

Goals and Activities of the Restorative Justice Project in India

  • Introduce Restorative Justice as a framework for Criminal Law Reform, Alternatives to Incarceration and Re-Examining the Death Penalty into the curricula and the culture of the National Law Universities and the criminal justice system in India.
  • Teach culturally appropriate graduate and undergraduate courses and train faculty at as many of the NLUs as possible within the time frame of the Project.
  • Present regional Restorative Justice Conferences at most, if not all, of the NLUs, inviting judges, prosecutors, the criminal law bar, corrections officials, counselors and other professionals in all fields concerned with criminal justice, crime victims, offenders, concerned community leaders and concerned community members
  • Speak to the Legislatures and Judiciaries at the State and Federal levels (invited)
  • Establish a nation-wide Restorative Justice movement with a network of active programs sponsored and supported by the NLUs, including Restorative Justice clinical programs in the NLUs

Overview of Project Trust

“Hurt people hurt other people.” Most offenders have been victims at some time in their lives, often suffering from undiagnosed depression and often leading to self-destructive behavior including criminal acts. Crimes from the least severe to the most heinous have broad impacts for victims, their loved ones, friends, neighbors and community. These commonly include a loss of trust in their safety and security. Not surprisingly, depression is one of the most common reactions to victimization. Restorative Justice can help to break this cycle.

Urban India is in the process of adopting Western lifestyles that include high-tech industrialization, excessive working hours, oppressive working conditions and a high level of materialism. Not surprisingly, depression is becoming widespread in urban India.

Activities of Project Trust

Educate about depression and about the relationship between depression, trust, criminal behavior and victimization as an essential component of the activities of the Restorative Justice Project in India

Getting the word out about the Restorative Justice Project and Project Trust

Regular blog postings about the events of the trip and the Projects, sharing learning, personal growth experiences and cultural awakenings about India and the people of India, particularly as related to the Projects

Semi-regular photo-essays about Life, Justice, Injustice, and Transformation in India

Need for Additional Funding

To sustain these Projects beyond their initial phase, additional funding is needed. If you feel so moved, please make a contribution through the “Donate Now” link on the VORP.com home page or contact Marty Price, martyprice@vorp.com, to learn about specific ways that your contribution can support these transformational Projects and make a difference not only in India, but in the world.

The links to a one-hour online radio interview with “yours truly” about Restorative Justice and the Project in India:

Share

Reaching for higher education in outback, India

Posted January 27, 2012 by Marty Price
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags:

Mehera and Robin w/diploma and honors transcript

 

HR Director, Robin, MP and Jai

Originally posted December 16, 2011

I have relocated to a home of a Westerner in the village in Arangaon, just next to the village I was in previously. Among the benefits of the move are relatively dependable electricity, water and Internet access.

I am getting enculturated (one of my primary goals for this month) and I am being well-trained in what Westerners must not eat or drink, how to make sure food and drink are safe or how to make them safe and a myriad of other precautions that Westerners must adhere to in order to remain well in India. Meanwhile, just around the bend, an entire family in this village of dalits/ untouchables (where I am living) was attacked by some virus as yet unidentified; one of the children died and all of the rest are critical. Scary.

Most of Arangaon’s villagers are dalits (“untouchables”.) I am becoming friends with a few families. Suffice it to say that they are no different than anyone else except that they were born into a dirt-poor and illiterate class and most of them are working hard to just put food on the table. My new housemate, Robin, and I are working with two of the young people, both of whom are bright, hard-working and dedicated to bettering their lot in life. With much tutoring from Robin, Mehera, in her mid-twenties, just graduated from a certificate program in Office Technology. Now employable as something other than a maid for Robin, Mehera plans to move to the city – Pune (formerly Poona) – about four hours away. Jai, a man of about 30, very much wants to go to the chiropractic school at Life University in Marietta, GA, near Atlanta. Jai currently works in a call center for Tata, the largest auto maker in India. Jai attended a week-long “chiropractic camp” near Mumbai (Bombay) presented by Life U. alumni. He was so impressed by all of the good that this group of chiropractors was able to do for hundreds of locals that he decided this was to be his profession.

Robin is a clinical social worker. With the help of Robin her husband, Jim, the latter young one, Jai, has been offered a 50% scholarship by Life U. Robin’s husband is an alumnus of Life Chiropractic. Robin says – somewhat seriously – that if they were to adopt Jai he would be entitled to a 100% free ride at Life U. But Robin and husband are not ready to go that far. So Jai still needs the other half plus international airfare. Jai will stay with us this weekend and we will be working with him for most of this weekend. Robin’s focus will be on a number of financial aid possibilities she has identified; I will be focusing on Fulbright and Rotary International academic exchanges.

In a couple of weeks, Robin and I, Jai, and a local chiropractor who has taken an interest in Jai, will all make a four-hour trek to Tata’s International Corporate Headquarters in Pune, to make a presentation to the HR director about the benefits of an employee wellness program (unheard of in India.) Our goal is to convince them to invest in Jai’s education, with an agreement that he will come back to Tata to create and develop an employee wellness program. (Many chiropractors are involved in employee wellness programs.) Robin has done the research on the benefits of employee wellness programs. We have gotten this close to the top of the corporation because Jai has received so many awards for the quality of his work in the call center that the guys at the top know him and think highly of him. This clearly could be much bigger than Jai becoming a chiropractor (in itself a good thing) perhaps even benefitting employees of other corporations all over India – all of big business in India pays attention to what Tata does. A wellness program that pays off at the bottom line for Tata is very likely to be emulated elsewhere in India.

As you may gather, working with and for Jai has become an exciting project for even more reasons than: I like Jai, I want him to succeed and I see the greater potential in helping him. What I also see is that I need not and should not limit my vision of how I can make a difference in India to only restorative justice or only related to law and alternative dispute resolution. Working with Jai has nothing to do with those – it is about economic justice and increasing access to education and heath care. Well worth my time and energy. In the meanwhile, I’ve been invited to deliver a restorative justice workshop at the law school at nearby University of Ahmednagar. Of course I said I’d be delighted. And I will be.

Share

Everyone I’ve met has been just wonderful…

Posted January 27, 2012 by Marty Price
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Originally posted December 6, 2012

Please forgive me for being out of touch for so long. There are at least a thousand reasons – I won’t bore you with any of them.

I got into Mumbai (Bombay) something after midnight, got out of the Mumbai airport something after 2:30 am (my driver was there waiting for me, notwithstanding three changes of flights and the 2 1/2 hours in the airport. Yes there is a God! I caught about 4 hours sleep at a motel an hour from the airport and I’m now on the road to Ahmednagar, State of Maharashstra, (West Central India) where I will spend most of December.

I flew from Charlotte, North Carolina to Munich and then Munich to Mumbai. On the first flight most of the passengers appeared to be Americans. On the second flight I became a minority. It seemed that most people were either Indian or German.

So now, about wonderful and interesting people… first the Lufthansa flight crew. It was clear that they were all about serving people, seeing to our comfort and caring for us in any way that they could. There was so much that I appreciated about the way I was taken care of (and in the cheap seats!) I hate to say it but I’ve never had caring service anything like this on a U.S. airline.

The first person I met on the plane was a 25 year-old Indian woman. She was returning from the U.S. after 3 months of working there for a company that’s based in India and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is a mechanical engineer. When I asked her what she liked best about her time in the U.S., she said, “the driving.” I couldn’t begin to understand what that meant when she said it. More about driving later. I will call this woman Sani – not her real name. We sat together and we talked for almost all of the two flights. It was amazing how this engaging conversation made the time fly! I asked Sani at least a thousand questions. She was very open and told me much about her life and life in India generally. Well-educated, well-spoken, fluent and articulate in English, well-traveled, dressed stylishly in Western style, Sani appears to be the model of the contemporary Indian woman. She was raised in a well-to-do, conservative family. And the conservative part now presents her with an age-old conundrum. She wants to marry her boyfriend of some years and her parents want to “arrange” a marriage for her. She loves her boyfriend very much, but marrying him is likely estrange her from her entire family, with whom she is very close. She doesn’t know what she will do. Meeting Sani was in many ways my pre-India cultural consciousness-raising. And I will remember her as my first Indian friend on my trip to India. She will return to work in NC for three months again about a year from now. We plan to stay in contact in India and later in the U.S.

On the flight from Munich I met a strikingly handsome fifty-something German man (I’ll call him George because he reminded me of George Clooney) who teaches German and Spanish in many countries. On this trip he will be teaching in India, Ethiopia and Algeria. Telling me how much he loves his work, George and I connected as teachers and through our mutual love for the Spanish language. He indulged me by allowing me to talk with him in Spanish – with his assistance. Among other things I talked with him about my regrets that I have not disciplined myself to continue consistent and serious study of Spanish over the years, notwithstanding my many restorative justice trips to South America and Mexico. I was fluent in Spanish in my twenties and I regain much of my command of the language on my longer trips. Then I lose it after months or years not using it in the U.S. George and I also plan to stay in contact.

On the same flight I met two rather charismatic young Germans who work for Bank of America in Munich. Their perspectives on the banking crash are very different than what I’ve read in the mainstream or alternative US press or media such as The Guardian in the UK. According to these two men, the banking crash was caused by failures in technical systems – it had nothing to do with greedy and corrupt bankers and investors. They believe all of that to be a cover-up to protect the high-tech, mostly American corporations whose systems failed the financial history. It struck me as akin to Holocaust denial – in Germany.

I’ve been speaking this letter into the voice recorder on my iPhone as my shuttle driver takes me to my destination. The driving here (by my US standards) is absolutely insane. I’ve been told that foreigners in India should never drive – they should always have a local driver. Now I can see why. I love my driver, Michael. He is keeping me alive. There do not appear to be any rules of the road, posted or otherwise. No posted speed limits, few signs to direct traffic and no courtesies between drivers, as far as I can tell. There appear to be only goals – get there as quickly as you can – alive and without having a collision. Worthy goals. Actually there is one thing everyone seems to agree on – that is driving on the left side of the road. Large trucks, small cars, motorcycles, scooters, pedestrians and animals all compete for right of way and seldom give way to another. Oh yes, there does seem to be an unmarked HOV lane on the leftmost side of the left lane, reserved for motorcycles and scooters carrying three or more people! A couple of on-the-road amusements – I saw two billboards advertising companies called “Sham Marketing” and “Shlock Publicity.” Truth in advertising?

The air pollution is absolutely unfathomable, unbelievable unless you understand a few statistics about the population density. The population of India is 1.2 billion, but it’s difficult to understand what that really means. Here it is: the population density of the U.S. is one person per square kilometer. (A square kilometer is about one-third of a square mile.) The population density of China is 4 people per square kilometer. The population density of India is 30 people per square kilometer. I’m going to need some time to let that sink in.

Love to all,
Martin

(Yeah I know, what’s with Martin?) During all of the years I was working in Latin America lots of people wanted to call me Mart′in – they just couldn’t quite get Marty. I got as far as letting them call me Mart′in without correcting them. I actually liked the sound of it, but I wasn’t bold enough to take it on at that time, tempted as I was. Now in India, Martin is very British and familiar to Indians. It sounds more dignified than Marty and more appropriate to an elder. And what the hell – it’s the name my parents gave me. It’s on my driver’s license and my passport. I’m claiming it. Please call me Martin.

Share