Monthly Archives: May 2009

beautiful world of the backbenchers

This text was sent to me as a word document – ascribed to the indefatigable efforts of Arvind Gupta to ‘search and recover’  gems, that is! This was in response to the diatribe that I wrote about those many (I would have preferred to write ‘a few’ – but the reality is otherwise)  crazy parents exerting extremely idiotic pressures on their children in this IIT or MBBS or whatever mania. It can be found here: Sarcastic takes-off – 2 of 3

Normally I would dismiss anything that appears in Times of India as epitomes of meaningless drivel or at best as voyeuristic / pornographic content. But this one is apparently different.  It is a deeply felt and moving commentary on the state of education, peppered with sarcasm and good humour, eminently recommended.

May the tribe(s) of the likes of Manu Joseph increase!

— begin —

Beautiful World of the Backbenchers
Times of India 13 Apr 2008, Manu Joseph

The most foolish description of youth is that it is rebellious. The young do wear T-shirts that say Rebel or Che or Bitch. But the truth is that the youth, especially in this country, is a fellowship of cowards. It lives in fear. Fear of life, fear of an illusory future. The perpetual trauma of the forward castes is inextricably woven into this fear. And what Arjun Singh’s successful reservation campaign has denied them is the right to a secured but ordinary life, a life that comes with scoring 98 percent in the board exams, a life that goes like this: Engineer-MBA-anonymous. You can argue that this route is better than sociology-salesman-anonymous. But that will be to focus unduly on the ordinary among the cowards. The real tragedy concerns the extraordinary cowards. Great writers, painters, musicians and athletes who are lost forever to what are moronically called, ‘the professional courses’. Instead of pursuing their talents they are, right now, in dark gloomy tutorials preparing for entrance exams, fatally infected by objective type questions. The angle between tangents drawn from the point (1,4) to the parabola y^2=4x is?

The angst of the types who score over 95 percent also fills me, and several lakhs like me, with wicked joy. I was the 75 percent type. It was not pleasurable to be so in Madras of the eighties. I grew up in Kodambakkam where Telugu film directors, who wore white shoes, kept their beautiful mistresses; and Anglo Indian girls in skirts, who did not have hair on their legs, and all of whom I now remember only as Maria, walked to Fatima Church. But a large part of my formative years were spent in a Brahmin housing society called Rajaram Colony where fathers were all clerks and mothers were housewives. Rare working women had the same aura as divorcees. I was special because I was a Christian, and the transitory relatives of my neighbours, when they learnt my religion, would speak to me in English.

Many of my friends were periodically thrashed with belts by their fathers when the miasmic green report cards came home. Once, I heard the cries of a boy who had scored just ninety percent in a maths monthly test. Another form of punishment was heating a stainless steel serving spoon and inflicting minor burns. It was called, ‘soodu’. My parents never hit me for my marks though my report cards were inspiring. My mother beat me up occasionally for political reasons – every time her mother-in-law came visiting. Apparently, according to a rustic Malayalee way of life, thrashing the kids was a hint to the in-law that it was time to leave.

Those days, the legends of Rajaram Colony were our seniors who had entered the IITs, or as a consequence, had gone to America to study further. Their names were taken with reverence. When they visited home, they left a trail of whispers. And when they deigned to play cricket with us, we observed closely how they bowled and how they batted. Because they knew everything. It was already decided in every household, except mine, that the boys will go to IIT, a certainty just like their sisters will do BSc Nutrition. And so my friends began their furtive preparation when they were not yet thirteen. They began to score higher and higher at school. And they began to look at me as an unfortunate freak, not only because they thought they were brighter but also because I said I wanted to become a journalist. They scored better than me in English too. (Once in an English test, when asked the opposite gender of ram, almost every one in my class, astonishingly, knew the answer was ewe. I wrote, ‘Sita’). I did always claim a higher creative status and often entertained the backbenchers, who were chiefly sons of illiterate parents, by calling my Brahmins friends, “curd-rice muggers”.

In the school I had slowly gained a reputation as a poet and some sort of a stand-up comedian. But as I approached the 12th standard, I was not the hero anymore of the juniors. That honour drifted to a brilliant boy, the first ranker who once used to play the tabla and did not touch the instrument anymore because he was preparing for IIT’s Joint Entrance Exam. (A few years later, I would meet him on the campus of IIT Chennai. He would tell me that he will not go to America. “Because, you see, with transcendental meditation, you can sit here in Madras and visit any country in the world”. He was serious. Now, he is a banker in San Francisco).

Meanwhile, in the Rajaram Colony, I observed that older Brahmin boys who had, somehow, fared poorly in the 12th standard and had to suffer the humiliation of pursuing BSc walked in the perpetual mist of guilt and embarrassment. They took to smoking and drinking, and ‘sighting’ – the disreputable art of looking at girls. They stared at a future in Eureka Forbes.

I eventually moved out of the Colony to another such fiendish place but kept in touch with my childhood friends. The distance between us, however, grew. They did not really want to see me. I was a distraction in their preparation “for life”. There was nothing they could talk to me about, nothing they could share, like their latest JEE sample test scores or the traits of the teachers at Brilliant Tutorials. On my part, I began to find them unhappy and bleak. Once, they were fresh and eager. Like me, they wanted to play cricket forIndia. Some were interested in music, some even attempted novels. Now, they were zombies in the trance of a whole material world that was just one entrance exam away.

Eventually, almost all of them scored in the high nineties in the 12th standard exams. One made it to the IIT. The others prepared to go to second rung engineering colleges in humid melancholic towns. But they still thought they were more victorious than me because I had got 75%, a misfortune that their parents could not believe would visit someone who had two hands and one head. Worse, I told them that I was going to do a BA in English Literature. At that time, people did not think you were gay because you wanted to do literature. But they still did not understand why a male would do such a thing. They asked me if I was alright, if I could reconsider, if some maternal ornaments could be sold for the good cause of capitation fee.

Some days, I think of those boys from another time. They are mostly bankers in America now and, I imagine, partly responsible for the subprime crisis. They are in the glow of the life that they had so dearly sought. But somehow I feel that their sisters, who eventually pursued what they wanted to, have more interesting lives. Also, occasionally I hear that some IITian or the other is returning to the art that he had originally loved. And is making up for the time he has lost because he could crack the toughest questions in the world but could not answer in time the class teacher’s annual question, “What do you want to become in life?”

— end —

Hope you enjoyed it  as much as I did.

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religion

Religin actually. Truly and verily intoxicating, this brew. Religion can be taken in good quantities resulting in real health, if one is sane headed & centred, but religin even in small quantities is quite toxic – what’s more, religin seems to be in abundant supply too!

I did not understand the context of the extended & off-tangent quoting from the king james version of the bible by ‘Anu’ – she posted her comments on the blog – subsequently, ‘Anu’ and I had a little email conversation – but, as per her request not to share it on the blog (I respect her decision) I am not sharing it, though sharing it probably may have been useful – am not very sure. But, I have approved her ‘quotey’ comments on the blog.

The only thing that I am sure about is that, this set of comments and email interchanges puzzled me a lot; on an earlier occasion too, there was this quoting from the bible with little else by the same ‘Anu’ and I so did not allow it because it would have added zilch or zero additional info/insight to the post. But this time, I did it, hopefully this will be for the last time.

I had a little bit of conversation with some folks with whom I share a lot of interests, and realized that there are nutticisms of various kinds, including that of yours truly.  Anyway, it is amazing as to how the mind systematically sees only what it believes in. There is no scope for even a cool zephyr to enter the portals of the mind, once the avenues are closed and the portals act like a staid stack, you know what I mean, LIFO. What loss of human potential, what a terrible waste. Heck, we can’t even recycle human minds to make good soil, no, not yet.

I strongly recommend a good dose of life, taken twenty-four hours a day to persons like ‘Anu.’  Everything will be all right in no time. Good luck, and may you be embarassed by light, just kidding.

Anyway, given the context, my recommendations in terms of books and stuff follow, don’t get unduly put off – it may appear to be a garish show off, a silly tom-tomming one at that, but I know that it IS. Ha ha!

Seriously now, I have had the luck & inexplicable privilege of enjoying the following books and authors and films and much else – have benefited a lot too from them, one way or the other, and it is one nice listing that I can share with a few acquaintances that I have been left with… Ah, the nostalgia value!

Enjoy!

Recommended books:

Anthony de Mello – a Jesuit priest (a damn good one at that), the soul of the Sadhana Institute of Lonavala, India. He has written fantastic books gleaned from his decades of experience of being an aware inquirer, not an evangelical conquistador. He is also a veritable antidote to the feelings of exclusiveness stemming from one in the evangelical mode about ideas/religions/cults. His books are very strongly recommended, practice of them much more so. You should not read his books in one go – but sip them in, whenever you feel like it. They work on the principle of homoeopathic potencies. Re-reads of these tomes are a must.

Alas, Tony is no more, but his books and anecdotes continue to exhilarate and provoke thought fragments and facilitate insights. (I know Gangarams on MG Road, Bangalore stocks them and the price points of his books are so low for such a stupendous and wonderful value they offer, so…)

More info on Tony here: http://www.demello.org/

I seriously wish, there were more folks like him. What sense of humour, what humility! What perspectives!

Bahuroope Gandhi – Anu Bandhyopadhyaya; this is one of the finest books on bapuji, life, human potential and karma, if you will. Thanks to that nice wizard Arvind Gupta, this book is available online. Read it, cherish it, read it to your children.

Aesop’s fables / Panchatantra / Kalilah wa Dimnah / Jataka tales: Nobody even needs an introduction to these canonical books – except perhaps the Arabic one, though it has existed for centuries, which once again is a beautiful and retargeted translation of the Panchatantra. How many perspectives on Dharma (lamely translated into english as ‘duty’) can one get through this simple expositions of complex scenarios…

Asimov’s guide to the bible: This is more than a good 1000 pages long (and strong), if my memory is correct, but is a damn good read. Asimov, the encyclopaedic scholar brings in a lot of insight and comparative knowledge to his book, as usual! Recommended. It can be finished in a few sittings.

Jesus, the son of man – by Kahlil Gibran: This is a good literary piece and gives a pratiloma point of view about Judas and Jesus without being acerbic or wrenchingly academic. Nice. One does not need to read the Gospel of Judas, to understand his points of view. A reading of this nice literary work would do.

Why I am not a Christian – by Bertrand Russel: When I read this first – may be in the early 1980s, I was completely taken in by its essentially polemic nature. Repeated and rational whiplashes directed at the clerical institutions/structures and antediluvian thoughts… Quintessential Russel. But now, I have learnt to delete the polemics and retain the juice of his insights, though am not very successful at the constant implementation of it.

Apophthegmata PatrumThe Sayings of the Desert Fathers: This reads like a Kabir or a Mullah Nazruddin (in his reflective ones) or a one of those gazillion Bhaagavata sub stories. These desert fathers were/are living in the deserts of Egypt for the past nearly 1500 years or so and spend their life in contemplation and inner work – NO crusade, NO evangelism. NO attempt to hunt  & harvest pagan souls for the Christ. NO sickening blather about the sins. Only loveliness. (a good copy of this book, an English translation, I recollect, was available in the Connemara library of Madras – and hopefully is still available)

I didn’t realize that scans of this very interesting book are available online! One has to sign up with this catholic site, that’s all.

The Bible – both old and new testaments. A deep and incisive study would help. It is hard work, but it is one of those minimalistic things that everyone has to do, to understand how we work, how our cultures (and thoughts) have been shaped, how twisted and at-loggerheads some views within them are, how they don’t bother about internal consistency, how various points of view get accommodated, how Jesus was a brows-skinned man (if he actually existed, that is), how interpolations are made, how deification begins – creating larger than life persona of eminently normal people, what does hagiography mean, what are the political needs of creation of myths and then supporting them with elaborate religious structures (read: organized church, and its counter-poster child, the secularism; before the church came up with its arrogantly supposed authority over anything and everything, there was no need for secularism as a special tag / moniker – because secularism was all there it was) –  and how many commonalities run through various sacred texts of various religions etc etc.

Same goes with our Qur’an. Everyone interested in the history of human thoughts, should read it. Luckily Qur’an’s Indian language translations  (I have read only the English and Tamil ones, but have friends from 4 other linguistic regions in India, who have studied this book in their mother tongues) are far superior to  the ones for the bible; an example of the latter would be Gideons international propagated pulp tamil bible – it is one atrociously sad translation – neither transliteration not transcreation – not even transcription. But then, may be its shortcomings can be traced to the original tamil translation – which laboriously tried to Indianize the sentences & contexts. I must say that it was a valiant attempt, though.

If one does not have the ‘time’ to go thru the Qur’an, then there are some excellent books and pamphlets by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan of Delhi. What remarkable scholarship, clarity of purpose and humanism that this Maulana has! (In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that I could retrieve the mail that I posted to a list right after the bombings of September 11, 2001- about Sri Wahiduddin – it is here: [silk] Maulana Wahiuddin Khan).

Apparently, this good Maulana is also running an organization called Center for Peace & Sustainability, which I did not know about till this minute; it seems to have some canned broadcasts by him too.  Lovely.

I am not even going to talk about our Bhagavad Gita. But I would recommend the beautiful (and surprisingly priced so low) books of the Gita press of Gorakhpur, instead. I have just started studying ‘I am That’ of Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Kabir like figure. It is very promising too.

Also, I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the basic suttas of Buddhism – but I loved Pankaj Mishra’s ‘An end to suffering‘ – which once again is recommended. Paul Reps’ zen flesh, zen bones is also recommended, incidentally – it being one of the finest collections of zen and pre-zen verses and tales.

One thing that peeves me NO END is our tendency NOT to go to the sources, not being even prepared to do the (ultimately rewarding) hard work but instead, to merely WORSHIP them; in my opinion, when this mindlessly holy worsthip business starts off, there is no enquiry at all – only the effect of the opiate would remain, as my old friend Karl Marx would have to loved to say; it is another thing, if we have reached nirvana and therefore there is no enquiry at all – but tell me who has reached this stage?

Given half-a-chance, we choose the path of least resistance, ALWAYS. We are very consistent in this respect. But then, world moves forward ONLY because of the folks who DO NOT choose the path of least resistance.

Ability to quote (from the bible or for that matter, from Das Kapital) is something that anyone can do, BUT, the ability to understand things is a few orders of magnitude MORE difficult. I for some strange reason, could rattle off many of the psalms of david and many passages from the old testament, may be because of the musicality of the intonations – in the wasted days of my childhood.

That, I went to a particularly tragic & sterile missionary school could have possibly been a reason – but then, I must admit that I did not understand what I was rattling off. My cup NEVER runneth over, at least it was so, then! It was like writing a million sriramajayams in a notebook, rather ritualistically, or doing namaaz regularly without ever ‘applying’ or being aware – oh what a waste!

(after all these tiring, and sometimes fulfilling acts of diligently going through these ‘religious’ texts, one may begin to understand that a Mohammed, a Krishna, an Arjuna, a Raama, a Raavana, a Gautama or a Judas or a Jesus were only human beings or figments of imagination of our fellow human beings or legends or even myths from whom we can learn – may be, then we can begin again)

As ‘Sipayi’ says in one of our personal conversations:

Don’t you believe this is how religions are misunderstood? Admire the Prophet for putting an end to infanticide, child sacrifice many other cruelties of his time. Admire Buddha, Jesus for their innovative schools of thought and relentless search for truth and answers. That does not make them Gods, but only students, pursuers and good natured; they never claimed to be Gods anyway.

(hope ‘Sipayi’ does not mind my quoting him, without permission)

Recommended films:

To Verdener – Two Worlds: This is a very fine Danish film of Niels Arden Oplev. It is about a girl who struggles to come out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult – and does indeed manage to get out. A good, to use the cliché – ‘a coming of age’ – film. More information:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1065318/

So many scenes and characters were reminiscent of the cute anecdotes of Anthony de Mello. It is based on a true story and I very strongly recommend it.

Interview with a Saint – Father Tadej (1914-2003): Tadej was a Serbian orthodox christian monk – Father Otac Tadej.  I got to know about this remarkable man only a few years back. The interview is so nice and in places, I could almost smell facets of our Ramana Maharishi of Tiruvannamalai in him. And of course, shades of our own Anthony de Mello too, what with his unorthodox views!

This is one of the nicest documentaries on ‘religious’ figures that I have seen. The film is in Serbian, therefore do insist on english subtitles if you want to get it. More information here: Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

10 questions for the Dalai Lama: This documentary of Rick Ray is splendid and well made – questions are relevant and answers, very candid and excellent. The fact that such folks are still walking the earth, I mean the Llama, means really something. It fills one with optimism and hope. More information here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0819354/

In all probability, NammaShaale MediaLib will have a copy of these three films, post summer vacation.

(my thanks to ‘Anu’ who provoked this listless list. But for‘her, I would not have found out about Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s website and the online availability of apophthegmata patrum! Whirled Wide Web, here we come)

Thanks & you can wake up now! 🙂

where the mind is without fear

I have checked with a few folks and they also have experienced and continue to experience these…

Sometimes it is a piece of music that keeps repeating itself in the head – such as a 7th Symphony of Beethoven or a Toccata (in C minor) of Bach or a Bhimsen Joshi rendition of Ahir Bhairav or a MS Subbulakshmi’s ‘kurai onrum illai, Govinda’ – I have no wants, Govinda.

Sometimes there are these haunting images – such as the scenes from a Tarkovsky or a Kurosawa film, that deliciously torment you…

Sometimes it is plain text that keeps rattling you, forever popping up from the deep recesses of the synapses – for the past few days it has been Bhaanusingho’s where the mind is without fear

Today is the birthday of our Tagore. ttaahkur, I mean. 

chitto jetha bhayashunyo  

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
(from gitanjali, his famous collection)

coyote & I

“What’s your view of things, Coyote?”

“Well, it mostly depends on how I’m looking at them, I guess. The angle of perception is important too, of course. And whether or not of open or closed eyes and mind.

“All in all, I’d say I tend to view things thru my crystal, Much more clarity there, and it tends to filter-out misconceptions, too.”

“You know what, Coyote? You talk too damned much!”

“Yes, I agree. And you, Asshole, ask too many questions.”

Peter Blue Cloud

(from his book – Elderberry Flute Song Contemporary Coyote Tales. Peter is one of the finest native american story tellers and poets)

we expect too much from teachers…

… and also from schools, and very little from us. Of course there are a few exceptons, as I would mention always, but then…

(this would be part #8 of the ‘frequently avoided questions on education’ series)

I think, we as parents (mostly clueless, that is – it takes one to know one and all that…) have these romantic notions of an ideal school being populated by ideal teachers and ideal peers for our children – and keep looking for it. And, when we can’t locate one (obviously, what do we expect!) we keep complaining ad naueam about the status quo.., We are not satisfied at all with the situation, and spread the happy news of our disaffection, discontent and cynicism all over the place – and for some unfathomable reason, the inherent spreadability of any negative news defies ALL physics that I know of – it spreads so fast, in spite of not having much of truth, and absoutely inertia-free!

We expect to find bleakness and negative situations, and voila, we find them in mind boggling abundance!

I think teachers are like the rest of us. They are neither despicable demons nor angels waiting to service us. They are part of the great area of gray! There are good teachers and bad teachers – and the multitudinous majority of them are in between. There are capable & conscientious ones and there are utterly useless (‘kaamchors’) system beaters…

There are good teachers, who have incredible passion towards teaching, who have the capacity to ‘connect’ with children when needed, and who are NOT of the ‘emotional’ type but very warm and respectful towards the children; the last point – in the sense that these good teachers do not get personally hooked on to the children and get into tiring/draining situations. I am happy to know of a few of them.

I am also sad to know a few bad teachers. But they also teach me many things – but nothing that they profess to teach. I am talking about the ‘other things’ – the tacit ones here..

And, good teachers need not necessarily be from schools. Even we can be (I like to hallucinate – but think of all the axes of requirements of being a ‘home schooling’ parent, ohmygod! ayyo!!) but, it is a choice one has to mindfully make.

On a related thought stream – why don’t we expect ‘too much’ from ourselves, instead?

In the long lost mists of my childhood, we used to chant that verse (from Taithriya Upanishad? I don’t remember, I could be incorrect) – that begins with ‘Maathru Devoh Bhava.’ – many of us would be familiar with that, I think. But I also realize that those days are probably over. The old order changeth, yielding place to the new or to chaos? Now, I’ll tell you what we would do – or at least, what I would do.

‘Old’ upanishadic saying

Our (at least, my) current interpretation

maathru devoh bhava toxic co-dependence needs to be avoided; and my god, she happens to be my spouse’s mother-in-law, Grrr
pithru devoh bhava – toxic ditto – and my god, he happens to be my spouse’s bother-in-law too; he is responsible for all my failures. Grrr
achaarya devoh bhava teachers are bad, clueless – and don’t they merely work for a living? We need passion man, passion. But you don’t ask me how passionate I am about things that I profess!
athithi devoh bhava we don’t want ‘unannounced’ guests at all; if at all these thithis want to come, they had better inform us well in advance, and then do a reconfirmation before they land…

I am not saying that modern psychoanalysis and its loud cousin – the psychobabble is all bull excreta, but I increasingly feel that – all these techniques are being used to analyze the others endlessly, instead of even beginning to use them to look at ourselves, at least occasionally!

I was truly startled (when I went to a Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) training – the guide/guru was really good – Richard McHugh) a few years back, to realize that almost all folks, my fellow trainees, were more interested in analyzing others rather than using the good techniques on themselves – but this may have been an aberration. But it was fun.

A shrink’s world almost never shrinks, and in any case, it NEVER shrinks much enough to include only the shrink. That is shrink-rapping for you!

Probably, aeons back, teaching was a respected profession. But I don’t think it is true anymore. The way we (as a society) treat our teachers, police force (am giving just two examples here)  is so bad – they don’t get paid well, they have bad working conditions, bad/outdated equipment, they have long hours, do all kinds of extra work (teachers: election, enumeration; police: random security duties) – and yet, we expect them to perform much more and be answerable to all kinds of real and imagined fears and insecurities.

If these two segments of society are given the salaries of say, the lowest of the lowly computer programmer (I would hate to call them engineers) and treated with respect – I think, within a generation, our society would vastly improve. But am obviously smoking marijuana.

And, yeah – did you say ‘ Achaarya devoh bhava?’ My foot.

(part #9 may follow)

home and school: dialogue continued…

This one deserves a special post. Thanks Jayashree, for having taken the time and energy to come up with some very interesting and valid standpoints. I appreciate that.

The original post for which Jayashree posted a rejoinder is here: home and school – a complete partnership.

(this would be part #7 of the ‘frequently avoided questions on education’ series)

> Jayashree Ashok Says:
>
>April 26, 2009 at 11:15 am e
>Thanks for this post and summary. This post in co-
>incidentally similar to the points I’ve been putting down for
>ourselves and our children. It was nice to read a group meeting
>summary with such points.

Our pleasure – the thing is, as mentioned in the post it is our perspective or thought at that time – we made some quick notes before the meeting and in the meeting quite a few other points were raised. Quite a few of them were good, but we did not capture the other points in this note – may be we should have done that too! In this context it is NOT a group meeting summary, As I wrote in that post, if we were to do that now, there would be some additions and modifications, but then I just wanted to present it as a set of thoughts for record etc etc.

>We all talk a lot about life education. What does this really mean?
>Most of the time schools aim at looking at only the material aspects
>of life education. That too in a limited sense. Does life education
>include courage and strength to live life to the fullest? Does it
>include giving to others? Fully participating in our communities? Is
>life education only individual centric?

Yes, yes, YES. It should. But, it need not be only be undertaken in school. I tried to handle some of your ‘dyadic’ questions in this post (Education: A taxonomy towards understanding this beast better) – and later, will try to coherently to present some more stuff.

I am not very comfortable with the dyadic perspective of material vs spiritual ways of looking at things – I am of the opinion that a lot of things in life are either 1) merely two sides of a given coin, for a given value of dyadic extremes or 2) in the great & lovely gray area between those two extremes. In the taxomomy post, I have tried to present my understanding/case. If you have the time, please go thru that post and comment on the same too – I would appreciate that.

>If home and school are indeed places where we expect children to
>learn life skills – then we really need to have more discussions
>around this.

I agree. Your comment/rejoinder is welcome, and as Hegel would rather not admit, with some happy marriage of thesis and antithesis, a reasonable synthesis can result. Dialectic materialism (or spiritualism), here we come!

>Today, I’m not sure many schools – including Namma
>Shaale even look at preparing children how to face challenges –
>internal and external to themselves.

I agree. I think no ‘school’ as in outsourced and externalized ‘education’ – away from realm of parental responsibility will work in splendid isolation. Schools are NO magic silver bullets, especially when there is a cognitive dissonance between what the parents are and what the school does. With my limited knowledge and perspective (read: tunnel vision) I don’t know of any school that is a silver bullet.

Children are like sponges as I am tiringly fond of saying and the primary environment is home, and will continue to be so for many more years – till the time when all the babies (excepting those of diehard & maverick homesteaders) grow up only in bigger and bigger plastic tanks, finally to be released may be for propagation purposes – with all morals, ethics and what not, getting directly programmed into their brain, while they are still in their tanks.

So, whatever the school does, it can only supplement and (in some cases) complement what is done at home – whether it is indifference or indoctrination or general restlessness or hedonism or whatever at home.

I also think that a given kid’s mind is like a palimpsest – layers over layers of experiences and internalizations – and most of these layers are formed with the parental/familial influenes, even though I am aghast at this thought.

So, if I feel that my child is not getting benefitted in school in some realms or in all realms of that beast called ‘education,’ I would look at what I cannot contribute to that outcome that I don’t desire to happen to the child, at home. Does it sound slightly puzzling? I feel that life is self-fulfilling prophecy, in other words.

To reiterate my point(lessness?), home environment is the primary environnment from which children pick up their values, ethics, the giving nature, stewardship; the school can help a lot, but looking at my personal experience of teaching and dealing with puzzled (and puzzling) parents & ‘students’ in random spurts over a couple of decades, I feel that:

1. If the aims, goals, ethics, norms and values of parents and school are congruent – the outcome is good (and the goodness is magnified) for the child – in fact this is ONE greatest service that a given ‘school’ can do to the child.

2. If the above are not congruent in parents and school – the child suffers, but if the parents have good ‘sense’ then that good sense will prevail on the child too.

3. If the above are not congruent, and if the parents have questionable ‘sense’ whether or not the school has reasonable sense, the screwed up nature of the parents gets reflected – in the child.

4. In any case, what a given school could do is to either magnify the basic effect of parents (it could be positive or negative in both parents and school) or smother the effect(in positive or negative ways). I think the ultimate responsibility is ONLY with parents.

The following table summarizes once again the major points of view in terms of ‘Good’ sense & ‘Bad’ sense (this is dyadic once again, but will suffice for the discussion and adds a lil’ bit of spice too!), though categorizing them as points of view A or B should also be okay. Anyway, it is all about the congruence of points of views of the school and the parents – whether it is good or bad, it would depend on perception, I think. (of course, with the caveat of ‘all other things being equal’ and all that)

Case no

Parents’ ‘good’ sense

‘School’s’ ‘good’ sense

Probable outcome on children

Comments

1

yes

yes

Enhanced ‘good’ sense They would mostly make it peacefully and nicely to the world.

2

no

no

Where do I even begin… Realm of the serial killers of the 2020s and 2030s or/and would be scamsters

3

no

yes

The school can try, but ‘apple does not fall far from the tree’ Cognitive dissonance in the child. The home environment being primal, would override the good effect of the school.

4

yes

no

Sad for the child. The school reduces the ‘good’ sense of the parents. Cognitive dissonance in the child; there is something to be said about the perceptions of these parents and how could they commit such an error of judgment…
5

kind of

kind of

Foot soldiers of the middle 2000s. The majority of the population is in this area.
Of course, there are grand exceptions, but then they only prove the rule; also, sufficient allowance should be given to the ‘flaw of the averages’ and all that, while interpreting the above table…

>I also want to point out that not just parents – but teachers are
>also role models…something rarely acknowledged by the teaching
>community.

I agree, but teachers are only representative sample of folks living and working elsewhere and in other fields. Therefore there are good teachers and bad teachers and Non-teachers as well – and this categorization would be applicable to everyother field, including parenting. But, I don’t know whether teachers are in denial about them also being considered as role models – whether positive or negative. I don’t know of a good/varied representative sample size of teachers to come to a decision here. But, I know you have had a very significant experience of interacting with schools and teachers, over many years. Now, assuming that they are in denial by and large, what next?

>It is not sufficient for just parents to take up this
>responsibility.

I agree. But, the teachers in my opinion cannot afford to have (Spouse says, perhaps they should NOT have at all) emotional investment & stakes in a given child – it is deleterious to the student/child in the short and long run. I think this should be with the exclusive domain of the parents.

It is important for children to interact with ‘well meaning, but not too very close‘ kind of capable and warm folks – and I think teachers could be essentially that. This factor helps the child in having a healthy view about the external universe (is anything external at all?) – that is, not negative/cynical at all but encouraging.

>Teachers need to be diligently aware self aware of
>what they are communicating to the children.

I couldn’t agree with you more – but still believe that the home environment continues to be primary and primal – so if the child sees a lot of layered meanings and inconsistencies in the teachers, perhaps the home environment ‘prepares’ them for that world-view. As a friend of my spouse says, children are our best bullshit meters. They know. My child knows how phoney I am, whenever I am being one.

>Our children spend a
>large chunk of the day at school. Children learn – all the time –
>from parents and teachers and peers. The question is really – what
>are they learning?

🙂 You know, I get cynical sometimes, but try to shake myself clear – when I consider whatever the smouldering hell that I learnt – in school, home, ‘professional’ career, entrepreneurship etc etc… At one level, I am much more comfortable & happy with plant life – and may be, just may be, I am learning too.

Life, I celebrate thee!

>Thanks much!

I thimk you should put together the stuff that you have been thinking about (on education, life and what not) and publish your nice points of view. In the mean time, please plan to take over the blog and do some EFT for/on me. I need it.

(This dialogue spawned thought continues in the next post – which would be  art #8 of the ‘frequently avoided questions on education’ series)