I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return
- W. H. Auden
Morality is no longer a prime concern for today’s schools. Teaching moral values sounds very antiquated today, as education has become a money-making commodity, which is directly linked with marks like the linkage between profit and share price. The higher is the profit, the higher is the share price. Similarly, the higher are your grades, the more money you make. The children are increasingly under pressure in order to prove their ‘extraordinary talent’ by securing good grades in exams. They do not want to leave anything to chance; they join coaching classes to sharpen their skills required for the ‘cut-throat’ competition. Coaching classes may have become essential, but their commercial nature makes them ‘brutally’ indifferent towards moral values. The only value that the children quickly understand today is that money attracts better education and better education attracts more money.
Today’s teachers are busy with completing the syllabus. Their main focus is on how students can pass exams with good grades. At very early age, the children understand that securing good grades is the purpose of education. Thus their goal is always tangible. Pursuing tangible goals at such tender and early young age induces stress and anxieties. How a school helps its students to manage the stress determines the moral ambience of the school because the children fall prey to different malpractices, as there are always quick and easy ways available in order to get rid of the stress.
And punishing students is not the way to curb malpractices. Once, in one of the famous English medium schools in Pune, I was conducting a workshop on soft skills. The students were extremely notorious and uncontrollably mischievous. Though I tried to control them by keeping myself calm, I lost my temper after some time and started scolding a boy. Immediately a few of them said, ‘Sir punish him, punish him’. I was flabbergasted. The boy gave them a vengeful look. The students told me the ‘standard’ forms of punishments that the teachers follow in the school: making the boy stand on the bench or say ‘sorry’ thirty times. I didn’t punish the boy and continued the workshop. However, I still remember the vengeful anger that the boy had in his eyes against those who had wanted him to be punished.
Schools have no time to think on how to create a mechanism which will resolve the students’ moral and ethical dilemmas. As the students pass through the adolescent phase, the complexity of such problems escalates. Counselling is a better way to deal with such problems than mere teaching what moral values are. Only those teachers who have the knowledge of how to deal with stress without falling prey to easy but risky short cuts can become good counsellors. Thus, teaching at secondary schools is the most challenging job in the field of education, as it requires both intelligence and rectitude. However, it is the least preferred career option for the bright students; probably, because teaching requires a high level of righteousness and also because teaching is not a lucratve career option. Everyone today wants the world to be recognised as place where you can make money by any means; the poem of W. H. Auden is then worth ignoring.