Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (2023)

Stepping up to take the microphone, 9-year-old Tenzing Kunzang Gyanakwa got up in front of a group of about 60 students, teachers and parents gathered in the community center.

In a clear voice, he told the crowd about the “simple yet powerful” message of a children’s book by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhists’ spiritual leader.

“The Dalai Lama believes that cultivating compassion can make us happier and more fulfilled individuals, and that it can also have a positive impact on others,” said Tenzing, sporting a blue Tibetan shirt with gold piping and fringe, about “The Seed of Compassion.”

Tenzing’s Sunday afternoon presentation was part of the opening assembly of a weekly Tibetan language school at a community center in Vienna, northern Virginia, outside Washington DC, where children between the ages of three and 18 are taught Tibetan by volunteers.

The self-funded school is one of 36 in North America, where about 36,000 Tibetans live – the largest diaspora outside of India. About 400 live in the greater Washington area.

Preserving a culture

The goal of the school network is simple and increasingly vital: To keep alive the Tibetan language and culture in the face of China’s attempts to squelch them.

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (1)

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (2)

China has forced Tibetan children in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas incorporated into Chinese provinces such and Sichuan and Qinghai to be separated from their families and sent to boarding schools where the instruction is in Mandarin.

It’s just one of the many ways that China has tried to erode Tibetans’ way of life.

Chinese authorities have prohibited boys and girls under the age of 18 to be sent to monasteries and nunneries and closed religious schools.

They’ve imposed heavy surveillance on Tibetans and restricted communication with Tibetans abroad. They’ve forced the collection of biometric data and driven nomads from their ancestral lands. Beijing has even interfered in the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

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“We are at a very low point in our legacy and in terms of Tibetan as an identity,” said Kalsang Dorjee, principal of the school and board member of the Capital Area Tibetan Association, or CATA, which operates the school.

“The Tibetan language is just not only a language, it’s a heritage which we want to pass on to our next generation,” he said.

Songs, prayers and sentence structures

After the opening assembly in Vienna, where those gathered sang the American and Tibetan anthems and recited a Buddhist prayer, the 50-odd students dispersed to three classrooms, depending on their age, to learn Tibetan for two hours.

In one class, second-graders were learning and reciting the Tibetan words for colors. In another, preschoolers received praise in Tibetan from their teacher for doing a good job with their homework on learning the words for body parts.

The high school-age students paused for a two-minute meditation before tacking their Tibetan lesson.

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (3)

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (4)

The sessions are held on Sundays from 3-5 p.m., followed by an hour of singing or dancing. The teachers are all volunteers, and the school charges a nominal monthly fee of about US$20 per child, which pays for the rental space at the center.

The school began informally in 1997 when an ethnic Tibetan who came to the United States under a program in the late 1990s that provided 1,000 immigrant visas to Tibetans living in India and Nepal, began teaching the language to five or six students in the basement of his home.

The school follows a curriculum designed for Tibetan children growing up in the West by the Department of Education of Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered in Dharamsala, India. Instruction is nonpolitical and nothing is said about the Chinese government’s policies in Tibet.

“We are trying to preserve Buddhist teachings, which thousands of years ago our ancestors took so much trouble to go to India and bring to Tibetans,” Dorjee said.

“And if over the course of time we lose that language, we are going to lose all of that — the teachings which have been preserved all these years.”

Cultural assimilation

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Dorjee estimates that 350-400 Tibetan families, whose adults were part of the immigrant influx in the late 1990s, reside in the Washington capital region, which includes the District of Columbia, and parts of Maryland and northern Virginia.

But families are also worried that their children will assimilate into American culture to the point of forgetting their cultural identity and heritage.

“One of the fears and concerns for all Tibetan families is we worry that slowly the next generation will not be able to follow Tibetan culture and traditions, especially now that they are more involved in the American lifestyle and culture here,” said Tenzin Norbu, another CATA board member and father of Tenzing Kunzang Gyanakwa, who talked about the Dalai Lama’s book.

Tsering Lhamo, who has taught at the school for more than 15 years, agrees.

Once you lose the language, it’s very easy to lose your culture,” he said.

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (5)

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (6)

In mid-March, two teachers from the school joined about 80 other educators from similar schools for a three-day workshop in California to learn how to incorporate social, emotional, and ethical learning, or SEE, learning into their educational programs.

The framework content of SEE learning is primarily derived from the Dalai Lama’s books on secular ethics — “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” and “Ethics for the New Millennium.”

The two teachers from CATA’s Tibetan language school then held workshops in Vienna for their fellow teachers and the students’ parents.

“This is not only limited to just language,” Dorjee said about the instruction at the Tibetan school. “We also are trying to inculcate these values in the kids so that when they go out in the world they become a really responsible citizen with a lot of compassion and empathy, so that the world becomes a better place.”

The school would like to see the Tibetan language included in the Fairfax County Public School system’s World Languages Credit Exam, which assesses reading and writing proficiency in foreign languages.

Students in grades seven through twelve may earn up to three program credits to fulfill a world languages requirement for an advanced studies diploma. The exam is also an approved assessment for awardingthe Virginia Department of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy.

But first the school must increase its student enrollment number to be considered for participation in the program, Dorjee said.

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‘Culture mates’

Students said they enjoy the social aspects of the school.

“We can actually hang out with our culture mates,” said Pema Gyalpo, 10, who lives near the community center and has attended classes for about two years.

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (7)

Radio Free - Independent Media for People, Not Profits. (8)

Dolma Tsering from Ellicott City, Maryland, says her two children Tenzin Doela, 8, and Yangla Lama, 5, also like coming to the school to meet and play with their friends.

As a parent, though, she believes the instruction serves as a means for them to stay connected to their roots, to know their identity and to learn about their culture and language.

“It’s important for the kids to meet other people — other kids who look like them and who share the same beliefs and same culture,” she said.

Tsering, who was born in Nepal and came to the United States with her family in 2001, doesn’t know how to read and write in Tibetan and can’t recite Buddhist prayers, but wants her children to be able to do so.

“That’s one of the reasons why I want them to learn how to read and write in Tibetan,” she said. “So, when they grow older, if and when they want to connect with their religion or go deeper into studying, they have the ability to read and write.”

Besides classroom instruction, the students also participate in cultural performances when invited, such as a recent event at George Mason University where some of them performed Tibetan dances in celebration of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

School leaders now are planning a Memorial Day camping trip for students, teachers and parents — about 90 people in all.

Besides being with like-minded friends, Tenzing Kunzang Gyanakwa says he realizes the importance of learning the Tibetan language.

“Later, in the future, if people forget the Tibetan language, there will be no more, like, country,” he said. “Tibet won't any more exist if they can’t speak the language and do all of the things that they do in Tibet.”

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Edited by Malcolm Foster.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Roseanne Gerin.


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What are the advantages of independent media? ›

Free, independent media allow the public to make informed decisions, hold leaders accountable and hear a diversity of opinions — all free of government influence.

What is an example of an independent media? ›

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Independent media refers to any media, such as television, newspapers or Internet-based publications, that is free of influence by government or corporate interests. The term has varied applications.

What does independence mean in journalism? ›

Media independence is the absence of external control and influence on an institution or individual working in the media. It is a measure of its capacity to "make decisions and act according to its logic," and distinguishes independent media from state media.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the media? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mass Media
Advantages of Mass MediaDisadvantages of Mass Media
Spreads awarenessSometimes spreads fake news and creates rumors
Real-time updates are availablePeople fail to enjoy the moment
Gives voice to the voicelessAlso lends more power to the already powerful and rich
2 more rows
May 5, 2023

What is the concept of free media? ›

Freedom of the media is the fundamental right of various forms of media—including print, radio, television, and online media—to operate freely in society without government control, restriction, or censorship.

Why is free press important? ›

“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.

What is independence and why is it important? ›

Being independent gives you the ability to care for yourself -- either emotionally, physically, or financially. As a result, you're in a better situation to asset others. In turn, this increases happiness, promotes a sense of belonging, gives you a sense of purpose, and increases your life satisfaction.

How do I start independent media? ›

To establish an independent, reputable media company, one that generates revenue, you have to:
  1. Define your target audience and niche.
  2. Create valuable unique content.
  3. Determine your core message and the benefits to readers.
  4. Attract visitors with SEO, SMM, guest blogging, partner with other online media.

What are the three 3 examples of media? ›

Modern media comes in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet.

Who is the owner of independent media? ›

Independent Online
FormatOnline newspaper
Owner(s)Sekunjalo Investments Public Investment Corporation China International Television Corporation China Africa Development Fund
HeadquartersCape Town, South Africa
1 more row

What are the pros and cons of radios? ›

Comparison Table for Advantages and Disadvantages of Radio
Radio provides a huge selection of channels based on geographical locationSometimes it is difficult to get the proper signals from a radio station
Compared to TV, radio is a cost-efficientOnly audio media and no visuals are available
2 more rows
Feb 16, 2022

What are two benefits of media? ›

Advantages of Media
  • It educates individuals. ...
  • In a very short period of time, citizens get the latest information. ...
  • People have to bring their secret talents. ...
  • The awareness in children is growing. ...
  • Radio is useful as individuals obtain brief news and can reach it via a cell phone and many more.

What is the disadvantage of media in our society? ›

People spend too much time on the Internet, viewing or bingeing content. Their relationships with friends, family, and neighbors may suffer as a result.

What is the negative of being independent? ›

The Downside of Hyper-Independence

Independence can, in some respects, make us complacent. When you're too independent: You might fail to make social plans — and cultivating meaningful relationships and engaging in deep conversations, or just having experiences with other human beings, is fundamental to a rich life.

What is the problem for being independent? ›

Being overly self-sufficient may lead one away from opportunities to exchange ideas, receive inspiration, and deepen relationships—all interactions that foster growth.

What is the weakness of being independent? ›

However, being too independent gives the impression that you don't need the support you sometimes require so you might end up feeling lonely or depressed. Because simply that wasn't the way you were raised or the way you've been living and accommodating; it's simply considered out of your comfort zone.

How does society benefit from free media? ›

Disseminates information and ideas among citizens, contributing to a people's common storehouse of knowledge. Improves the workings of representative government by helping citizens communicate with their governments. Affords citizens a means of calling attention to violations of their rights.

Does media have the right to freedom? ›

The United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."

What amendment is free media? ›

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Houchins, 438 U.S. at 15–16.

How does the government regulate media? ›

Radio and television broadcasters must obtain a license from the government because, according to American law, the public owns the airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues these licenses and is in charge of regulating the airwaves.

Does being independent have a big advantage in our lives? ›

Living independently is great for your self-esteem and confidence. The more confident you are, the more you'll believe in yourself and take on things that you might not normally do. This, in turn, will give you a positive outlook on life.

How does independence lead to success? ›

Independence is important because…

It promotes confidence and self-esteem as well as motivation and perseverance in school. It fosters self-reliance, allowing your child to feel they have control over their life.

How do I live an independent life? ›

Consider the following recommendations as a starting point to help you along the way.
  1. Set boundaries. One definition of codependence includes a lack of clear personal boundaries. ...
  2. Learn effective communication skills. ...
  3. Engage in activities you enjoy. ...
  4. Spend time alone. ...
  5. Learn what you can control. ...
  6. Seek therapy, if necessary.

What are the advantages of independent? ›

And, it comes with the following benefits as well.
  • Boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem. ...
  • Reduces stress and promotes happiness. ...
  • Improves decision-making. ...
  • Allows you to help others. ...
  • Lets your experience inner peace. ...
  • Ensures that you make yourself a priority. ...
  • You can achieve whatever you want.
Jul 2, 2021

What are the advantages of using media? ›

Advantages of Media
  • It educates individuals. ...
  • In a very short period of time, citizens get the latest information. ...
  • People have to bring their secret talents. ...
  • The awareness in children is growing. ...
  • Radio is useful as individuals obtain brief news and can reach it via a cell phone and many more.

What are the advantages of place based media? ›

Place-based advertising is all about creating meaningful interactions with consumers in specific places outside their homes. This type of media can help build brand awareness, drive action, and reach your target audience during their everyday routine.

What are the advantages of public media? ›

The Pros of Mass Media
  • It Can Keep Us Connected. ...
  • It Can Spur Business. ...
  • It Can Spread Art and Culture. ...
  • It Can Give Voice to the Voiceless. ...
  • It Can Empower the Already Powerful. ...
  • It Can Be Used for Disinformation and Hate. ...
  • It Can Homogenize Culture. ...
  • It Can Overtake Personal Connections.

Is independent good or bad? ›

Independence can be seriously good for your self-esteem. Having a belief in your own opinions, choices and actions give you a confidence boost like no other. If you were to constantly worry about what other people thought, you would never be able to be who you are.

What are two benefits of working independently? ›

Benefits of Working Alone

There are many reasons people prefer working alone: Less distraction. It's easier to concentrate on your ultimate goals when you are not distracted by the concerns of other people. More opportunity for individual creativity.

What are 3 good benefits of social media? ›

What are the benefits of social media?
  • navigating and sharing digital content.
  • responsible online interaction.
  • building an online identity.
  • maintaining their digital reputation.

What is the advantage and disadvantages? ›

A disadvantage is the opposite of an advantage, a lucky or favorable circumstance. At the root of both words is the Old French avant, "at the front." Definitions of disadvantage. the quality of having an inferior or less favorable position. Antonyms: advantage, vantage.

What are the social advantages of media? ›

The advantages of social media are plenty. These include fostering connections with people from different cultures, getting the latest updates on trending topics, sharing your creativity, and interacting with individuals with similar interests.


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