Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Poem that everyone would like to ignore

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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Need imagination, not yatra.

I read Shyam Manohar’s Marathi novel ‘Kheksat mhanane, I love you’. The title can be translated into English as “Saying ‘I love you’ snappishly”. As I finished reading, a sentence came to my mind: Lack of imagination is the root cause of corruption in India. First, I thought, this sentence was from the novel itself. So I verified. There is no such sentence in the novel.
But the novel is all about lack of imagination power, an acute disease that India is suffering from. This disease has weakened our civilization making it increasingly degenerate.
The veteran BJP leader, Lalkrishna Advani is on a yatra (journey) against corruption. His objective is to create awareness among people about corruption. This objective appears ostensible to many. They say that his main objective is political. But I want to believe in him, as there is nothing that is apolitical. At least, his campaign is not like the one of Team Anna, who are running their campaign against corruption under the disguise of the Lokpal bill, which they are misleadingly projecting a panacea to corruption.
Advani’s objective is clear. He has no specific agenda other than the power to rule. But my concern is whether there is any imagination in Advani’s campaign. And there is not. Our politicians do not use any imagination power. Overall, Indians do use less and less imagination power.
Lack of imagination power causes lack of creation of knowledge. In a society where there is lack of creation of knowledge, a person always feels helpless. A helpless person tries to rely on an external help. He always feels dependent on others. This gives rise to a scope for exploitation of each other’s helplessness. And from here begins corruption.  
India is seriously going through a crisis of scarcity of ideas. We boast about our I.T. industry and our software engineering skills. But there is hardly any product based company in the I.T. industry. No company in our I.T. industry has used imagination power to create a word-class I.T. product, which is completely Indian.
Why just I.T.field? You take any field as wide as possible-manufacturing, service, agriculture, art, cinema, literature, science, technology, poetry, medicine. An Indian has no confidence that great imagination can take place in India. Once I said to a taxi-wallah, “Do you know, an Indian who lives in Mumbai has discovered a planet that is almost similar to our earth”. He looked at me, said, “Indian?” and started laughing. Erosion of such confidence is dangerous for our civilization.
We want confidence that great imagination can take place in India. This confidence itself will work against corruption.