Actually, that wasn't so bad. I was grumping during the actual presentation - all the same slides as before, barely any new info - but the talkback was super-active, revealing plenty I didn't know.

For instance, his monastery school program is a semi-underground operation, constantly wary of the government.
Ko Tar: We have to do it quietly. Because the monks were involved in 2007 protests, and the government has fear of this old society. If you are doing things with the monks, you have to be careful. They are concerned although it is apolitical... *apparently* apolitical.
KS asked about the future: how the monastery schools would deal with the coming of democracy.
Ko Tar: The last 50 years, what we are concerned with is about the military dictatorship. Now we have to work with market capitalism. 

You know in all other countries, in traditional Buddhist societies, the religious space becomes small. Firstly if you look into the history, there are three sectors. The state, business and religion. That space for religion is becoming smaller in other countries when there is market and industrialization set in. So in Japan, the Buddhism becomes funeral Buddhism. A few people are going to monasteries only when they are dead. 

We don’t know if our monasteries can resist or are resilent enough to resist that force. So I have told the monks, you yourselves have to adapt, have to accommodate, have to change yourself.
Oddly enough, he says he isn't very Buddhist himself.
Ko Tar: When people ask me what is my religion, I say my religion is compassion. Actually our teacher trainers are mostly Christians.
The work with the monks is about access to the community, giving poor kids skills of literacy and good citizenship and pride in their culture before they turn 12 and their parents send them to the fields to work.

And surprise, surprise - remember how KS said he also runs a high school for middle-class kids? I'd assumed this was just his regular day job, but it's actually part of his activism. Public schools are trash and private schools are the exclusive domain of the super-rich. It's only these schools that'll give an average professional's kid the chance to learn English and go to university.

Parallel structures. It's not about equal education - you need the mammoth mechanisms of a functioning government for that. Right now, it's about helping kids, whatever class they are, and giving them what they need to move forward.
 


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