The New York Times & Education Update Essay Contest Winners

Elementary School Division

Question: Describe similarities and differences between your culture and the culture of another country you have read about in The New York Times. What do you consider to be some of the good and bad points of each?

First Place Winner,
Elementary Division
Child Marriage, a Culture of India
by Asif Zaman
P.S. 173, Queens, NY

When we think about India, we think of a land Columbus tried to find, or a land Europeans wanted to explore for its wealth. We think of the great civilizations and cultures that ruled and influenced India for thousands of years. India is a land of traditions, myths, legends, fakirs, snake charmers, and of course, the yoga. India is the largest democracy in the world with about 950 million people.

The United States of America is the greatest modern civilization on the earth which also believes in democratic values and freedom. America is advanced in science and technology. We believe to conquer everything by science technology, wisdom, and prayer. We enjoy good family values and traditions. American culture allows social emotion and intellectual growth. Indians believe in their ancient traditions and customs along with their family values. It seems some old traditions are followed blind-folded. Child marriage is one of the examples. Young children as old as 4 to 12 years old are forced into matrimonial bondage by their parents. Reports John F. Burns of The New York Times, “According to decades of research, child marriages contribute to virtually every social malaise that keeps India behind in women’s rights. The problems include soaring birth rates, grinding poverty, malnutrition, high illiteracy, and infant mortality and low life expectancy, especially among rural women.” The rural pandits in Northern India believe that child marriage prevents sexually transmitted disease including syphilis and AIDS.

In contrast to Indian culture, we enjoy our freedom in every aspect of our life. We find our own mates and have no restrictions by our society to marry anyone against our will. We can marry any person anytime, anywhere, as long as two people agree to do so. Somehow, we have a much higher divorce rate than India. Our sociologists estimate that forty percent of marriages end up in divorce, leaving the children to suffer emotionally.

Our freedom brings openness towards sex at an early age resulting in teen pregnancy, and also the risk of sexually transmitted disease which has become a major problem in the US.

We conclude that every culture has its merits and merits. Every culture is rich, unique, and special in its own way.

Second Place,
Elementary School Division
Kumbh Mela
by Christina Liang
P.S. 254, Brooklyn, NY

Kumbh Mela is a holiday celebrated by northern Indians. This celebration is held in Hardwar, India. Many Indians came to Hardwar to celebrate this religious moment with their families and relatives. This year, the festival was held on April 14, 1998. Kumbh Mela (Mela meaning festival) has been known as the world’s largest and longest festival. It has been celebrated every twelve years since the second millennium BC!

Some Indians believe that bathing at Hardwar at the time of the Kumbh Mela would bring worship. Others believe that dipping at a Kumbh Mela will guarantee eternal salvation (salvation: the act of being saved; rescued). I am a Chinese-American. I celebrate a lot of different religious holidays too. Some of them are similar to the Kumbh Mela in some ways. We usually come together to celebrate happy times. We do religious things and activities like pray to religious gods we believe in. We need to be especially good and be respectful and happy (I’m sure that’s the easiest!). We celebrate these holidays to remember special people or events in the past. We house important people that are brave and did important things in the past that helped our country. Those are just the similarities.

There are a lot of differences too. We celebrate different holidays and the holidays have different names. We speak different languages because we live in different areas of the world. That’s what makes us the “melting pot.” The biggest difference is that different people celebrate the holidays with us. That is what makes the holiday special and very happy. That is what makes us all special to each other.

This article was interesting to read because I can learn about another culture and maybe in the future I might visit that land. I might be able to explain their culture to my family (It’s always fun to learn!).

Third Place,
Elementary School Division
The Indonesian War
by Gelene Harding
P.S. 316, Brooklyn, NY

This would be an outrage to American people. Having to know the children of the future were being shot at just because they wanted freedom of speech. Having to know that they can not have the right to speak their minds. This is an outrage.

Indonesians should have laws protecting students. If they think so highly of them, they should have the right to speak. In America everyone big or small, young or old, rich or poor, has the right to speak. Even though it may take a while for the young, old and poor to be heard in America, they will be heard. Everyone has the right to speak in our beloved country America.

The Indonesian people are being killed just because they want to speak. And Mr. Suharto, the President himself, had ordered the fate of these people. And he has made the wrong choices. The people of Indonesia have had enough. It is time to get rid of such a terrible president. That is why I am happy to say that they are trying to overthrow Mr. Suharto. They will give the presidency to someone who will let them speak what is on their minds.

The people of Indonesia know that it will be hard to overthrow the president but they are determined to do it. They will try their best to get a president that qualifies for their needs. Even though it would take quite a while and it would be very hard, they will do it. They are determined to!

In America people take their freedom very seriously. If they feel something should be done by the government they protest until it is done. If the American public believes that a politician is not doing his job properly or he is lacking moral values they ask that person to step down from his position and they will put a lot of pressure on that person. There is no legal or political way for the Indonesians to ask for the resignation of their president so they protest the only way they know how, and that is violence. There have been similar movements in different countries such as South Korea. That movement ended in bloodshed. So have movements with hundreds of people killed. Even with such a possibility up on the Indonesians they still want to stick to it, the same with the Americans. Our culture does whatever is needed to be done until the job is finished. They would never turn away in the middle of a serious situation. The Indonesians are taking a stand to say that they won’t tolerate such a terrible thing. They are showing they won’t leave a rock unturned until they get to the bottom of this.

The people in power in Indonesia can very well overpower the president. That is why in my mind I think Mr. Suharto is a little scared because he knows somehow if the people unite they will defeat him one day. Since the first outbreak, of the people killed six of them were college students. The Indonesians think very highly of their college students so the killings caused them to unite even more.

America is somewhat the same because our students are also thought highly of. We respect them because they are our future. The same with the Indonesians, their students are the future. It is believed that a country that does not respect and invest in their children is headed for serious trouble because the children will have to rule one day and they are not going to be fully educated and organized to handle the job they are expected to do.

Indonesia and America are almost the same because they both take interest in their children’s education. I think so because both nations know that one day we are going to rule the world.