Category Archives: rant

our daughters, education, choices

Ross Douthat has written an essay (hat tip to Sriram Naganathan, for the article) – The secrets of Princeton. This is a reaction to the essay that an ex-Princetonian Susan Patton wrote: Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had.

I would request all readers of this blog to read the above two articles – as they have a solid bearing and have valuable insights. Ross’ has more incite than insight, that is – but in the name of preservation of perverse diversity and promotion of Armed Chair Intellectualism, I would give Ross his due too, though I want him to get his just desserts.

My warped opinion follows:  The articles are an interesting read. They confirm my suspicions. Susan Patton’s essay is cool, honest & genuine.

I believe in meritocracy, elitism and all those politically incorrect & inconvenient terminologies – and of course in the basic ideas of that dismal science – economics.

I don’t much care for equality of opportunity (it exists anyway) but I care for the creation of equality of status.

I also believe that each child / adult can be (and SHOULD be) elitist in more ways than one. It is important for self preservation, especially in these times of the meteoric rise of mediocrity and continual institutionalization of sheer lumpen stupidity.

MartinLK always comes in handy – as he says ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

HONEY-AllLaborHasDigni_fmt

It is a fantastic idea to be an elite sweeper, as our Bapuji (also) was.

But am digressing, as is my wont, and let me get back to the Susan Patton ammunition.

When I talk to my village girls (they are in their 9-12th grades) – this is what I tell them. You are bright, superior children. You are the elite! You should go out and construct your own splendid lives. It is possible. Don’t settle for anything less than an equal. Go out and meet with boys and girls from the rest of the multiple worlds that we inhabit, who are your intellectual equals  And you make a choice. Don’t get hitched to a random useless drunken boor of a joker who has got nothing better than a perennial whine and thundering idiocy to boot.

In fact, we (wifey & I) are going to give the kind of advice that Susan would have given her daughter is she had one – to our daughter.

Thanks Susan, for your bold take on the subject.

rote memorization is important

Yes. Rote memorization is an important aspect of learning and we do it all the time. But most of us hate to admit to that – perhaps because it is not considered kewl to have such antediluvian notions. It is not postmodern. It is not hip!

Whenever one comes across this much maligned term called ‘mugging’ – the immediate thing which a given ‘avant garde,’  ‘knowledgeable’ & ‘alternative’ parent (purely self assessment, so pardon them) does is to choke, gag and vehemently say that he/she is against all mugging…

This is especially a problem with many parents who send their wards to some random ‘alternative’  school and think that anything that the masses do, them asses would not do. What an incredible attitude! (however, I agree that this ‘attitude’  helps in status perceptions and involves reflected glories – but that’s another weblog topic)

It does not help matters when the so-called ‘alternative’ schools also make hissing and disgusted noises about this ‘rote’ business – while at the same time positioning ‘creativity’ firmly on the opposite side of the balance, weighing heavily against ‘mugging.’  Personally, I would not go anywhere near any such school / individual  which / who  carries this silly superciliousness of a sad attitude. It says a lot about the cognitive capabilities of the folks running such schools and most of it is, well, tragic!

Mind you – here I am talking about the mugging of the ‘rote memory’  kind and NOT the physical violence oriented one – am not even talking about a possible transmogrification in a certain species of crocodiles into humans (Oh the laboured pun, the horror) …. Even then, there are some incredibly negative connotations that a given clueless individual would associate with, in respect of such offending words such as ‘memorization,’ ‘rote,’ ‘mugging,’ ‘repetition’ etc etc.

Time and again, I feel that one should do the following process thoroughly, in a non-half-baked way – unlike the way most of us ‘learned’ and ‘alternative’ and ‘intelligent’ and ‘thinking’ adults rather routinely do things.

I think a proper understanding stemming from this activity could actually release us from being splendidly stupid, while we think we are uttering great philosophical stuff about the child, development, cognition, growth ad nauseam.

The questioning / interrogation process (probably leading to a better enlightenment)  to which we should diligently adhere to, could comprise the understanding of the following:

  1. What is ‘rote memorization?’
  2. Is it against logical thinking, creativity & spontaneity?
  3. Is there no ‘mugging’ aspect to a ‘creative’ endeavour?
  4. In what ways is ‘rote learning’  important?
  5. Can we do without any ‘mugging’ at all?
  6. What would life be, without rote memorization?
  7. Can we say with a straight face that we don’t benefit from this ‘mugging’ at all?
  8. What are its limitations?
  9. What is the place of ‘rote learning’ in ‘education?’

You know, I have a problem with asinine dyadic representations that are blindly taken as gospel truths of reality. Reality always lies between the ideal types. Sometimes, even the ideal types are much misunderstood and randomly interpreted. More on this endlessly peeving reality at: Education: A taxonomy towards understanding this beast better.

So, when one talks about ‘mugging’ as a despicable thing and ‘creativity’ as a thing to be held aloft, I don’t know where to begin – It is true that I have had mighty verbal duels in the past regarding this contentious subject and I usually did not rest till the opponent was subdued vanquished. However, I think I am growing up too, considering the fact that when a parent in one of the recent school meetings made a disparaging comment against ‘rote learning’  I only politely smiled at the parent. Oh how can I let myself down!

Hmm. But then, let us handle the questions (and perhaps a few more) one by one –  in the a subsequent post.

Stay tuned (or untuned as the case may be).

[This is part of FAQs on Education‘]

aseptic homes: tv, but no books!

You know what I mean?

You go to his/her place, after getting quite a few repeated invitations – you live (because you chose not to die in the city) in the outskirts of Bangalore, um,  just beyond the hemline to be precise, and so going anyplace means a loooooong drive and lots of initiative. Your children would also chide you for spending so much fuel and for being so environment-unfriendly, if you choose to go driving all the way. In any case, the family knows how the trip is likely to turn out, how are you going to react etc etc, given their prior experience. They say it so many words. Oh the exacerbation

The hosting couple also happen to be members of that horrendous phylum (0f the kingdom of Idioticus Indicus) called NRIs, who call themselves, rather incorrectly – ‘ex-pats.’ Your prior experience in dealing with the indifferent members of this phylum, has not always been interesting… You anyway have way too many of them in your extended family and otherwise. Oh the aggravation

But, this couple have children, make reasonable noises about life, there have been a few email interchanges, their children go to some ‘alternative’ school – and you think that, with any luck, at least your kids can have a nice time. So you set aside all other sundry work, including the preparation for the next session at school etc and leave.

The roads have been dug up recently and so finding isoPotholes ** and isoLedges along which to dexterously position the tires of your aged jalopy, becomes a challenge – no complaints, it is fun, it makes you feel alert – at least that’s what you tell yourself. You are a skilled driver proud of your sidewinding, slithering skills and the ability to retain your cool in an Ant Colony Optimization problem – I mean the traffic snarls, the heat, the sweat, the swears, the fellow drivers – the works! grrr…

Finally, you land there at the host’s multistoreyed complex (aptly named some ‘Manthri Prestige PressureCookerVille Chrysanthemum TopazToccata Garden’) and the gruff security guards at the literally sand-bagged entrance, demand to see your identity, phone number (Oh! you don’t have a cell phone? From which planet are you?),  and already you have started sweating, thinking how on earth you forgot to bring your passport (oh God, is it even valid?) and ohmygod, may be you should have gotten a visa from your host, duly countersigned by the Chief of the Internal Security for the apartment complex. Your spouse realizes that you are dazed and offers to step in, but your silly machoness does not permit that…

At the security office, the closed circuit TV cameras whirr around and zoom in and look at you quizzically and somewhat lazily through their monocled eyes and suddenly you wonder whether your fly zipper is up. You turn away from the camera to do a quick check, and the security guards instinctively stiffen… One would think there were some hep political bigwigs/VIPs living in those apartments, but you know for sure that, after all, there are only white collar slaves and lazy bozos working for MNCs ‘live’ there in that complex…

The guards finally ring up your host’s house and ask whether they are expecting us – but only the servant-maid is there, saying “memsahib gone out.” Not only that, “Yejamaan busy” and “bachchon doing homework.” So “please thodi dher ke baad try keejiye” and all that… aha!

You curse your goodluck with the choicest of epithets that you never had a chance to utter in the past couple of decades, and hope  your children did not hear your vile swearing;  and week-kneed that you are, you go to the nearest phonebooth and call the memsahib’s cellphone number. Some smashhit ringtone with some monstrous tune of A R Rahman – keeps you agitated. “Oh sorry. We were expecting you, but thought I could do a quick weight reduction at the nearby Vandal Lutheran Chic Centre. You see, today was the last day for an exciting ‘first time in the entire history of the world’ offer FatChance – sell 2 Kgs at VLCC, buy 3 kgs at home viewing ‘Desparete Housewives’ and eating chips. Lovely. Nice of you to have come. Will be there rightaway.”

So, you are stranded at the entrance with a sullen spouse and puzzled children and look for some one else’s fingernails to bite, as your’s are already over –  it has been a nailbiting finish for the past 30 minutes.

And so, finally, the ‘rightaway’ happens after half-an-hour more and the illustrious ma’am (less 2 kgs, hopefully) arrives, and you get in to the ghetto. Sorry, I should say ‘walled community.’

At their home, you are surprised to find the husband plonking himself down in front of TV, watching a FormulaOne race, but supposedly in the midst of a serious ‘office conference call’ – The laptop (sorry, this was a paunchtop), is on and the latest cricket score of the IPL madness keeps wafting in. Five filament lamps are on, there is so much light and heat – and  hence two fans are working overtime – luckily, the air conditioner is not on, thank God for small mercies… The cell phone chimes, the blackberry announces the arrival of some new email. You feel jealous. You wonder, how on earth could a person juggle between so many things and be productive.  You wonder whether you miss your corporate life. Nor really. You only miss the steadily & obscenely climbing bank balance.

The lady is sweet otherwise, and the steady stream of excellent junk makes you break all the rules that you have imposed on your children. You would like your children to be ‘engaged’ in some activity or the other, so that you can slyly gorge on the junk. But you realize that it is not possible.

The children of the host are busy with their video games. Like in many families, the ‘bringing up’ of the host’s children too, apparently seems to have been outsourced to the videogames, TV and the ayaahs. Your children are bored. You start feeling guilty.

Some elderly people emerge from the bowels of the house (perhaps, either in-laws or outlaws of the couple) and want to discuss the Tamilnadu politics with you. You are sick and tired of Sriman Karunanidhi (and his gazillion families, nephews and the incredibly ‘scientific’ corruption) and do not want to talk about any scum or scam. The elders persist.  You ask whether they voted in the recent elections. They say that at the time of elections, they were in the ‘States!’  &?^*%$# You ask them whether they were in the neighbouring AndhraPradesh State during elections? They say NO and tell you that they were akchooly in YouYes. Heh! You persist and ask as to why they did not consider voting through the postal ballot system. They are truly puzzled.

Here they are, trying to make polite conversation about solving the problems of the world (‘mind you, we have even been to States’) and there you are, who is only interested in some damn voting… You want to rudely say that they don’t have any moral right to complain about anything, but keep quiet. The reason: your spouse is looking at you rather coldly. You know the consequences. You promptly shut up.

Eventually, the husband finishes off all his ‘tasks,’ and tries to chat with you – the usual ones about traffic, great spiritualism, crass materialism, yoga, schooling, ecology, diversity, sustainability, energy conservation, ‘going green’ etc etc. Your eyes glaze over. You ask him whether he has any idea about how his apartment complex gets its water supply and what happens to their sewage water. The guy vaguely says ‘bore well‘ (at this point, you want to tell him that you didn’t ask for his skill set) and ‘I don’t know’ respectively. You are mighty peeved. What a cognitive dissonance! You desperately want some distraction from this endless drivel.

You wonder where the books are. They are not there at all. The host’s family does not have any use for them, obviously.  Not even a telephone directory! Nothing.  You realize that the overall attitude of this family is: when our Sony Bravia or some darn plasma TV is there, what else would one need to be informed, entertained & educated? Sheesh…

You are angry, your children distraught, the spouse caught in ‘the deer in the headlight’ syndrome. The hosts are happily doing whatever they would do, even otherwise. They think your family is having a great time. You tell yourself: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be sufficiently explained by stupidity. You  remember having read this quote, in some USENET chatter a couple of decades back. How perceptive, you wonder and chuckle… The hosts look at you, rather amused and understanding.

After, what looks like a couple of years, you come back home, cursing everything and anything, all the way. And, as soon as you get in, you spread a hundred books in the ‘hall’ and plonk down in the middle of them, lie down and start browsing your favourites. An obsessive-compulsive disorder, really. What a happy escape! You eventually calm down.

You look around – the rest of the family has also calmed down, thanks to books. Nice ones at that.

You know that you don’t socialize much, and in some cases where you must absolutely visit someone, you tend to hum and haw, weigh various pros and cons and finally give-in, but only in a few cases. You obviously don’t learn lessons. You should NOT give in at all. But you are a mutt-head (no, not like those lustrous ‘Nithyananda Paramahamsa types, sadly no universal love is possible in times of AIDS). You have to learn. Sorry to remind you of this.

Yes. You can never understand homes without books. You are not asking for much – the books could even be borrowed or leased or stolen or whatever. Dammit, it does not cost much to have a few books, especially when the aseptic homes spend large sums of money on all kinds of frivolous and obscene stuff!

But, you don’t want to even try to understand folks who not only have no books, but instead have wide screen / plasma / LCD / whatever TV screens that stare at you in the living room. Sometimes, you feel the power of these dumb boxes, even when they are switched off; you shudder.

You realize that many such folks have only the following at the places, where they pretend to live:

  • Lounge room – Entertainment center (TV, DVD player, home theatre etc)
  • Cafeteria (um, kitchen, gaudy dining tables, glittering crockery)
  • Impeccably tiled toilets
  • Bed rooms (master and a couple of slaves)
  • Gadgets everywhere – including US style fridges, washing machines and allied monstrosities
  • Some children (purely because of biological accidents, you suppose)
  • Some in-laws or outlaws (that is, when they are not in ‘States’)

They don’t live in homes, you realize to your horror.

You resolve to spend the time that would be spent on such terribly underwhelming visits – on reading and rereading the books that have left indelible mark in you. You do it rather religiously. Your would-have-been hosts would not understand, it is fine. You build-up a reputation for being ‘unsociable’ and an ‘unfriendly’ person, the I-Me-Myself guy – that stereotyping is  great, you realize! It gives you so much leeway. You happily realize that you have saved (and will continue to save) on an incredible resource – time!.

Morals of the story:

  • Good ‘forward looking’ noises and emails maketh not a ‘home.’
  • At least, when there is a will, there is some inheritance. However, when there is a TV, there is NO way.
  • Avoid social visits prompted by reasons such as birth day parties, death day mournings, your children going to the same school etc…
  • But, don’t ever go for random get-togethers – just to ‘chill out’ or ‘hang around’ or for ‘getting to know more about others’ – it is simply not worth it.

ps: Yeah.  know that just because a home does not have any book(s) does not translate to it not being a home. There could be reasons of economics. Or, the folks could be actually doers so they do not need to brandish books to prove their intellectuality. But these kinds of folks are in a microscopic minority.

** : Actually, the roads in your Hennur – Bagalur area are very good now – a rolemodel for proper macadamization, but that is not going to encourage you to venture out to aseptic homes, sorry.

student – teacher ratio

Ha Ha! Sorry. I actually wanted to title the post ‘Fathers-children ratio’ or ‘Mothers-children ratio’ – or to avoid any possible controversy, ‘parents-child ratio.’ But, sanity prevailed on me, obviously.

This is one of the really cute questions people rather habitually ask, when they are seeking admission for their wards into any school. On the face of it, it sounds like a normal question, but… I will tell you why.

The assumption behind this duh question is, a ‘good’ ratio of  say, 10:1 (or less) would automatically ensure that their ward is getting individual attention, their child would be personally addressed with respect to its unique abilities and ‘weaknesses,’ the child will have all round growth and would ace in all competitive exams eventually and get into some nondescript IIT and then land a software pogromer’s job, neighbour’s (and relatives’) envy, owners pride and all that!

On the contrary, a ratio of say, 20:1 (or above) would automatically mean that the school is desperate for resources (funds, teachers and what not!) and/or the children do not get individual attention at all, the classes will be chaotic, the multivarious capabilities of your child would be stunted and so he will merely graduate from some nondescript IIT and then land a software programmer’s  job eventually, oh the horror, the horror!

The reason behind the parents’ desperation to get an idea of this darn ratio is, I believe, many parents (or for that matter most adults)  could not grapple with anything that cannot be assigned a number or a token – this is irrespective of the gazillion learning theories, pedagogical philosophies that abound. Also, since most of them do not have any idea about the rather complicated stuff like whether they want their children to be happy, peaceful, self directed, contended etc etc, this ratio gives them a number with which ‘competing’ schools could be graded and arranged in an order of desirability – so, they find it important to get the ratio right for their children. If only life were such a mere number based magic!

No point in telling them that this ratio is immaterial and that it at best is, a rather stupid way to look at assessing the suitability of a school. Bad teacher-student ratio need not be bad. Good teacher-student ratio need not be good. There is NO evidence in any canonical research or in empirical studies about the effect of these kinds of ratio on the children one way or the other…

No point in even trying to tell them these, of course.

No point in telling them that, even in a primary environment (with children in the age group of 2-5 to 6 years), given the pedagogic material and structured presentations that are given to children in a typical and good Montessori school, that would aid and abet the intellectual development of the children – a class (‘environment’ in Montessoriese) strength of 30 can be very easily managed by a single adult! And the children would also be happy and perhaps would eventually make great citizens, full of kindness, love, self directedness, skills and what not.

However, the student – teacher ratio is bad in any good Montessori school. So sad!

So, my (unsolicited, of course) advice to such ratio hunting parents would be: Please go to some other school, in the highest position in the pecking order of your ratio rated schools list.

To look at it again, perhaps the schools should in turn, ask for the parents-child ratio, better still, fathers-child ratio from such parents. You know why? Of course, these parents will be offended & scandalized by the innuendo that there could be many contending fathers for a given child!

“What the hell!! What are you hinting at? Do we have loose morals? What audacity! What ethics? Are you telling us that, our child is a ….??”

Relax. No offence meant. The schools also want to go by a good parents-children ratio. That’s all.

Seriously now, I would think that, mostly  these parents create their children by pure biological accidents – and they don’t probably want to go thru’ the tedious process of bringing up their children – in a happy and contended way; they merely want some quick solutions and numbers. Hence, I would strongly recommend a heavy mix of polygamy + polyandry for these parents, so that the child will have a chance to be normal – as at least one of these fathers or mothers is likely to be clueful, for a given value of reasonable cluefulness.

Those who live by the ratios, die by the ratios, what else!

Amen.

whisper campaigns on wings (sanitized version, really!)

A Rosicrucian master’s take on the prime way of life: ‘To love where I am, love who I am with, and love what I am doing’

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This period of October to January is always an interesting (actually endlessly entertaining) part of any given academic year. Do you want to know why?

This is the period in which the angst laden parents (luckily, they are in a minority) have grave self doubts and plan to check out the other schools – and ask you what are you going to do, given their perceived situation.

The fact that many schools start dishing out their application forms for new admissions in this period, does not help the situation. Parents take their company provided vehicles and religiously visit all the alternative and no-alternative schools and simply exhaust themselves. If the current school is perceived to be having an X attribute, they want it to have a non-X attribute – for any given value of the attribute and drive themselves (and others) nuts.

The following table roughly indicates the thought(!) processes going on in the minds of these kinds of parents:

Current status perception Wanted status

( Given value of X)                                                    (non – X)

Concentration on arts                                                 Concentration on Sports
Concentration on Sports                                            Concentration on arts
No exams                                                                          Yes Exams
Yes exams                                                                        No exams
Open                                                                                    Close
Close                                                                                    Open
Textbooks                                                                         No textbooks
No textbooks                                                                  Textbooks
Discipline                                                                          Freedom
Freedom                                                                            Discipline

….                                                                                         ….

This sad listing can go on and on, but I suppose, you get the drift…

However, the real reality in any given simplistic dyadic interpretation is somewhere between the extremes and most of us don’t realize it, unfortunately. We look for ideal solutions. Fine.

The oscillations of these species of parents between (x and non-x) are sensed and picked up by the children. The children want to be close to their parents, naturally. Some of these kids invent scenarios, interpret things out of context and some clueless parents zoom in on the trivia and get agitated about the current school to which their kids go… Some of these parents even set up a temporary cabal and share their adventures with like mindlessed folks. Oh fun.

And, of course BSNL, Airtel & Co benefit a lot in this merry-go-around. It is all economy and growth, stupid. May be NammaShaale would benefit by getting a commission on all these cabal calls. Hello? Where is the business development manager(alliances), when the school needs one??

Seriously, I think this is likely to be a problem only with the parents of kids who go to the so-called ‘alternative schools’ – who think that they are ‘thinking people’ and so have the correct solutions for all problems & ills of the world including the incessant birthday parties. They never come to terms to the fact that they (at least, most of them) are merely armed chair activists and so, are never at peace with themselves. I am a parent of this mode.

Au contraire, the parents that send their kids to the so-called ‘mainstream’ schools, have no such delusions of grandeur and noodle-headedness. They and their kids plod thru with whatever current status they are in, trying to maximize on the available opportunities. I am also a product of this mode.

Frankly, I don’t know which mode is better. You judge.

Oh well. We have been on the receiving end (mostly) of these interesting conversations for the past few years. We don’t have a TV set at home, but enough soap operas and saas-bahu drivel are specially enacted for us by a few fellow parents with complications resulting from noodle-headedness. Oh yeah, some of these parents are not even NammaShaale parents!

Not only that these parents are confused – they, at least some of them, spread the paranoia around, ably aided by hilarious imagination and little truth. . The relentless and mindless Indian whisper starts and the result is oodles of entertainment. Really…

Eventually, as it happens, these uncalled-for perceptions and rumours, reach the ears of the persons against whom the whisper campaigns are mounted, and the result is a total disbelief for a few seconds, and a while later, hysterical laughter on part of the targeted individuals! I am giving a few instances (well, some of them really, really happened, believe me!) of the paranoia and illogical logic of some of us, to provide some fun.

Please note that if you replace NammaShaale, say, with ‘Prakriya Green Wisdom School’ or some such reasonable school, these species of parents would have the same kind of complaints! So much for socialism!!

  1. Teachers in NammaShaale go to school only for two days a week at best. On any given day, you can be sure that only support staff would be present. Even if the teachers come to school by some random chance, they spend of a lot of time in meetings. No wonder my child is not self directed! (Um, I would think – if actually children are not with adults in the school by and large, then there is no other way for the children to be adult directed anyway. Please note that, meeting-surfing can be done only at the corporate ‘premises’ of your spouse; in a school, it is next to impossible to sail from meeting to meeting, pretending that some honest work is indeed being done! May be you should try to act as a teacher in the school for a month!)
  2. Teachers in NammaShaale don’t go to school for two days a week! I wonder how the children are faring! (Ma’am, you can hallucinate and wonder, since you have too much time in your hands, but I know for a fact that most teachers, except yours truly, work for nearly 7 days a week, one way or the other. And, they actually slog it out… I wonder whether you would even survive a week in this kind of a set up.)
  3. My child tells me that he does not study at all in school, and all he does is slicing vegetables & rolling rotis, what kind of a school is this! I am horrified that he enjoys it too! (at least, he will be a good, helpful husband in future, unlike your husband – what do you think?)
  4. My child is using some words that in our household that we don’t utter! What is this? (the child knows it gets a reaction from you, he is just testing, don’t worry; on the contrary, feel free to use some slang that is not immediately intelligible to the child – learn to swear in say, Mongolian)
  5. The school is going to be taken over by the Highways department, and they want to setup a NammaDriving school there! Don’t you know? Already a lot of the school land is acquired. (True. The school is actually planning to shift to the Barton Center on MG Road. Don’t you know this? Actually the school feels that it would be closer to nature this way! In any case, the surreal estate prices at Hennur-Bagalur Road are likely to be cheaper than on MG Road.)
  6. There are no organized sports activities – how will the children learn teamwork and goal setting? (Sir, actually the children all they want and more about this teamwork business in the class environment itself; but may be you are talking about the extravagant and funny ‘offsites’ periodically conducted at your MNC for fostering the team spirit, please beer with the school! On the contrary, you don’t even know of the efforts taken by the school to bring in ‘organized’ sports, coaches and all that…)
  7. The classrooms are open – there is too much wind. There is too much atmosphere. Too real.
  8. The classrooms are closed – they are too cold.
  9. The school environment is noisy; there is too much traffic on the road. (May be you should stop using your car and avoid going to the airport at all, don’t you realize that you are also contributing to your issue?)
  10. The school is in a faraway desolate place – it is so silent; in an emergency how can you reach the nearest hospital? (you see, NammaShaale has tie-ups with hospitals in Chennai and Hyderabad; in an emergency, we can quickly whisk away the patient to the 5-star hospitals there; you know, the school is nearer to the Devanahalli airport as opposed to the Bangalore city hospitals and by our remarkable strategy, we would beat the Bangalore traffic snarls all hollow! The patient will actually get the medical attention ASAP. Agreed?)
  11. There is too much Kannada, Hindi and non-classroom work.
  12. There is too little of Kannada, Hindi and non-classroom work.
  13. The school buses take the road on which we stay, but they refuse to stop at my doorstep to pickup my children; the drivers are uncooperative, they switch off their phones and drop the children off in random places! (Ma’am, surely you know that it is slightly difficult for the buses to go all the way to your 4th floor apartment; we tried, but the lift/elevator sizes are very small at your apartment block. Again, the drivers are drivers, they are not telephone operators)
  14. The children are not allowed to take their iPods and Sony PSPs and PDVD players to school! What kind of a pathetically paleolithic school is this? Shouldn’t we move with the times? (please go to VidhyaScalpting school or some such. They gladly allow these gadgets, I think)
  15. You know, from next year, the school is going to be managed by a Parent-Teacher association and the decisions taken by this PTA will be final and binding on the folks who are running the show! We would soon register the PTA as a society. (Good luck on your planned coup d’etat, sirs and madams; operating a school is no monkey business, it has only hygiene factors)
  16. The school is not inclusive in the decision making processes. We want to be part of all meetings in school! We want to take part in the deliberations, which will affect the school and its children. (Madam, there are very few structured meetings required for a school of this size. Besides, we know how a normal meeting will go – there will be more of eating then meeting. And, actually we have had quite a few of these eating-meetings, been there, done that. The school actually believes in getting the job done, period)
  17. Everyday my elementary child comes back with soiled undies! Can’t the child be cleaned properly after he uses the toilet? Aren’t we paying the fee?? (Madam, your son is only ten years old. Hence I understand that he may not know how to clean himself, it is quite sad that the school is indifferent about this. But, tell me, who cleans his father at his office? Does he send his output as a mail attachment to his VP-Admin or what?)
  18. My child does not have the time, there is way too much work. She has to attend classical dance, hindustani music, language, tennis, badminton, vishnu sahasranaamam (or bible classes), ballet, keyboard, swimming and kabaddi classes thrice a week. The school is harassing her – they are asking her to focus. How can the child have energy to do so much work at the school too?(Madam, please stop this driving up and down nonsense, ferrying your child to various classes – you are leaving a lot of blackholes in your wake; our poor earth will soon get sucked in to your blackholes, much, much before 2012!)
  19. The school is not making my child focus on anything at all. There is way too much of freedom for the child. There is too much of child directed inactivity. (What? You feel that she has to go for IIT prep classes at the ripe old age of 6 itself, is it?)
  20. The child is focusing on only a few things, that too very deeply; she knows too much about some things and not at all about other things. (So, she has to know a lot of things, with an equal lack of depth, is it?)
  21. The adults / teachers are not responsive. I tried to contact them, but their cellphones are switched off. (May be the teacher was actually spending time in the class environment as opposed to being accessible to you on a 24×7 basis? What audacity! My sympathies are with you.)
  22. My child says, he does not like the school, and that adults are abusive, fellow students bully, and the toilets are not clean! O tempora, O mores! (Madam, the child says what you want to hear. You try to spend sometime at school observing and come to your own and your child’s conclusions)
  23. And, there is this cross-eyed male teacher who always looks shabby with unkempt hair growth all over. He does not wear coordinated dress. Look at him, he is supposed to have retired prematurely, no, immaturely, from the IT industry and is working in the school, can you believe it? Am sure he is a failure and a dropout fringe element. And, I know that he is a drug addict and may be has AIDS too. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of my children to get exposed to this wreck! (you may be correct about him, ma’am, but he is not a representative sample of the adults in school. The other teachers are actually good.)

As I said elsewhere, there are perceived issues (and non-issues) in every and any school. I think NammaShaale (insert your current school’s name, for that matter) has been fair and reasonable in addressing the genuine concerns of the parents – most of us know it. If you want to solve or pitch in, be a part of it. If you don’t want to contribute, you can whine or better, stop unnecessarily worrying –  if you want to get out, please get out. It is your life.

But, I sincerely think that the paranoid parents should take decisive action, check out the truth, weigh the situation realistically, think logically, ditch emotional/sentimental bullexcreta and move their ponderous posteriors, in whatever direction that they want to! It is a matter of your children, dammit. Don’t we parents all hallucinate that whatever we do, we do is in the best interests of our children?

Now, if you would excuse me, I gotta go check whether ‘Royal Mysore InterGalactic Boeing school’ is issuing application forms for new admissions; you know, you have to sleep near the gate tonight so that you will have a chance to get the app form tomorrow morning… They are in the IB league, you know, not even your silly IGCSE. grrrr

Spouse! Where in the hell are my raincoat and sleeping bag? What?? I forgot to bring them back when I went for my night-out at the HairyheadLose School this time last year?? @#$%$ Do I have to go to Kuberan School also today? Oh NO.

Again: A Rosicrucian master’s take on the prime way of life: ‘To love where I am, love who I am with, and love what I am doing’

Comments welcome – but not on phone. No sir. Illa ma’am. Don’t worry. I won’t publish your name.

N0H0P3 Idiot Flu Virus Pandemic

Are you afraid that you are going to be one of those people who may die because of this A(H1N1) swine flu virus? If you indeed do, probably you deserve to die ASAP one way or the other, anyway…Good riddance too. You did not bother to check the facts, You did not bother to read, digest, reflect on what’s happening.

But did you realize that you will never get affected by these random and so-called life threatening viruses, if you had immunized yourself against this malevolent & omnipresent Idiot Flu N0H0P3 Virus?

What? You haven’t heard of this virus at all so far?? No wonder you are beset with mortifying worries. Anyway, I am giving you some details regarding this pathogen, gratis…

Idiot Flu Virus (also known as N0H0P3): This is a fairly socialistic & gregarious virus and spreads across races, religions, sexes and continents.

But it attacks only human beings and after infiltrating into them, it uses their body (mostly their mouth and ears) to propagate further. Lately, the mutant forms of it have become so media & technology savvy that they are able to ride on various carriers like emails (especially as ‘Fwd: fwd: Fwd: forwards’), noosepapers and chat rooms, not to mention the social nutworking sites such as FaceBook.

A majority of the world’s population is affected by this virus or its mutant versions (such as, H0P3L355 virus) one way or the other. I give a pie chart to elucidate the point.

hopeless virus

The symptoms of the N0H0P3 attack are:

  • Spending more than a few hours per day in front of the TV looking at all the gory, syrupy and smutty news, ‘breaking news,’ ‘breaking air’ etc kind of reportage
  • Falling for any disaster, doom, destruction kind of news, hook, line and sinker (this happens because generally the brain is kept in safe deposit lockers)
  • Frequent visit to malls, restaurants and then to slimming center
  • Constant munching on junk food
  • Viewing one too many of the classic films like Taare Zameen Par, Slumdog Millionaire (from India) or Rambo MCLXVI, Exterminator or Star Dregs (from USA)
  • Sending more than ten SMS messages per day, using the ‘Cell’ for more than 30000 minutes per day.
  • Tension (self inflicted, 100% of the time) filled life
  • Visit to pattaaya or swiss alps once an year to chill-out and to bribe the family
  • Inability to spend time with family because of the formula one races or those infernal 20/20 (=0, enigmatically) matches
  • Incredible amounts of lethargy, gossip mongering capabilities and little else…
  • A lot of talking accompanied by zilch doing.
  • Inability to see that body part that does it during urination, because of the intervening volcanic paunch. (sorry)

Let me say that there is no hope of redemption from the attack of these virus variants except in the cases of human beings exhibiting one or more of the following attributes:

  • Ability to question the basic assumptions, any assumption
  • Perseverance/diligence to do research, to seek out the truth
  • To know meaningless mass hysteria & random paranoia when one sees one
  • Richard Feyman-ish approaches to physics, life and everything

With no hope of anykind of effective vaccine in sight for this despicable, demented N0H0P3 virus, the only way for us to retain our sanity is to  develop our immunity, right?

We in the world desparately need more people who are resistant to the devilish attacks of the Idiot Flu Virus… Don’t we?

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Other health & swine flu related posts are here:  FAQs & HowTos: health, body, soul…

why I love TV

Upfront, I would agree that I found the TV to be infact useful to me, when we had one, some 1.5 decades back or so.  It had a flat surface on top, over which one can very safely keep tea-mugs. But alas, with the new flat screen technologies this important feature has vanished. Besides, my spouse yells at me, if I keep my teamugs in random places. So we don’t have a TV at home.

Now, I am not of those who would say that technology is a veritable evil. I wouldn’t call myself a luddite in the current dictionary sense of the term, but would identify with it, historically speaking. All technologies (including the IdiotBox) have their positive and negative sides but with what most of us lack – a sense of discretion & the ability to make sound judgements – most technologies and media become unmitigated & unvarnished evil.

To inappropriately quote the National Rifle Association, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Sometimes I chat up with children, when they are not successful at trying their best to avoid me, that is. So, that rules out most of the NammaShaale children. Local neighbourhood children  aren’t that lucky – a few of them that are there, cannot run away from me that easily.

During the course of such random conversations, sometimes some appalling facts tumble out. One such tumbler is that parents (thankfully not all of them, only a few, *phew*) allow their children unrestrained access to the TV.  So, these children become armed with a remote control and become perilously dangerous – and eventually graduate to becoming chainsaw murderers at best. They may even explore other career options such as slumdogs or millionaires  or Borepathis… Won’t they?

I have even heard parents proudly saying that whenever their TV is on, which is for about only 24 hours of the day, their little sonny boy snatches the ‘remote’ and monopolizes its use. I really feel proud of the fact that I have been fortunate to meet with such democratic parents. The spirit of capitalism, the monopoly, here I come…

I am also gratified to learn that some parents not only see random 3rd rate illformed & halfbaked movies, with frontal, backward, sideward, topward and ohmygod, bottomward nudity too, but also encourage their children to learn about the birds and bees the hardway, by watching The Reader, for example! And, ohmygod, don’t I really appreciate such openness and liberal attitudes… Of course, I love Kate Winslut, don’t you? (s0rry, Kate)

Now, I agree. This could be due to various very genuine reasons such as:

  1. Parents are busy earning a living, while yearning to live.
  2. Parents are busy spending their dying, in activities such as being busy.
  3. Parents have got a life too! Don’t they have a right to enjoy life, without bothering about the pesky children? Do you even have a suggestion as to how else children could be kept occupied, without bothering us?
  4. Children are being prepared for being good citizens of the morrow, with the virtues such as stupidity, stupour, moral turpitude, banality, venality, laziness etc etc, being continuously  imbibed from TV.
  5. How else can one ensure suppy of quality criminals and bozos and armedchair intellectuals for the next generation? Talk to us, if you have suggestions.
  6. The children should know what is going on in the world – specifically, they should know life-saving and important details such as who is dating who, why Aamir Khan has sharp ears in Ghajini and all that. (Apologies to the quadruped, hope he does not mind getting compared to Sir Aamir)
  7. Children are always upto some mischief, so switch on the TV, they sit glued to the screen. Simple, eh?
  8. Our idea of  enjoying a quality family time is to watch Formula 1 races and ghastly_tasteless films together on our Plasma TV – while munching on quality chips and slurping fizzy soda. We aspire to be NOT mere couch potatos, but mighty couch pumpkins, grr. Well, you have some complaints, we hear?
  9. Weather is not good ‘outside’ for the children to play – oh what a blessing, let them imbibe some values from TV, while I have an SMS conversation with my colleagues and pretend to take part in a conference call.

Oh what will a hapless parent do, oh NO… What can one do in this situation,,,

I am sure there are more such genuine reasons and my heart aches and goes out to support the hapless parents, who are left with no choice other than the TV, to take care of their children, to educate them,  to inform them, to entertain them and to be with them! May their blighted souls rot in hell till kingdom come. Amen.

A couple of decades back (d0 the math; if you wo do, you would realize that I have no right to be a NammaShaale parent, but only a NammaShaale grandparent), I read Jerry Mander’s ‘Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television‘ – an Indian edition of which was published by that indefatigable Claude Alvares. Surprisingly (not) my views have not changed! If any of you want to ‘borrow’ it, please contact me.

It is hard to refute Jerry Mander’s philosophical moorings and arguments. I strongly recommend it to any parent who can afford to take a few precious hours away from their various favourite TV peepshows.

Jayashree Janardhan Ashok  (this may ring a belle) & Anita Balasubramanian (belle’s rebelle friend?)  have put together a brochure rather politely titled: TV and its Impact on Children – available off this url at the LearninngNetIndia. You may want to check this out.

Our friendly Thekambattu karmayogins  have also ranted against the TV because of its direct population reduction results, among many other such abominations, of TVs, I mean… It is heartrending to see such mishaps happen because of  the insipid and criminal TV serials.

Yes. TV Channels are the Serial Killers.

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What?? Sorry, what did you say? Is there a nice talkshow on Sun Loon TV? I prefer to be my own doshow hostage, ha!

PS: Yesterday, my father (and neighbour) became poorer by a satellite TV DTH connection, and I promptly requested him and banished his TV to a corner of his room where the evil can stay where it is. To be charitable to him, I think he merely wants to know the latest news of the world (perhaps, nothing seems to happen in our sleepy village, Bilishivale) – such as

1) how the latest child of the latest wife of His Holeness Karunanidhi, the current chief minister of my hapless Tamilnadu,  is being accommodated in the Central Ministry of our Indian Government, in spite of his(it) NOT having been toilet trained – expect schemings & announcements such as  ‘Free diapers for children and adults!’ for the citizenry.

2) for the FIRST TIME in the ENTIRE history of the Universe, actress Jenni Fur Slobbers, conducts a Realty TV show, sponsored & ‘brought to you’ by the prestigious MantriSoBah Builders.

3) breaking noose – resulting in the cancellation of the hanging of the condemed etc etc

Pardon him (and me), my lord… Father, Son and the holy waste…

elementary & primary: orientation sessions

As is the practice with NammaShaale, this year too, there were orientation sessions for the parents of elementary and primary children. On 4th of July  it was for the primary group and on 11th of July it was the turn of the elementary.

Following is a report filed by Jayashree Janardhan Ashok in respect of the elementary meeting on 11th. Though the scope of the meeting was to have been to bring out the various stages in the growth of the child and how the school and home can understand and assist the child – targetted primarily at parents who are kind of new to the Montessori mode of education, there seems to have been some ‘beyond the scope of the agenda’ interesting and impassioned discussions and sidetracks around the aspect of physical education.

I like impromptu discussions. I wish I had participated too. But, this time I have passed up the chance, not willingly, but I was not invited, luckily for you, I might add! 

Rashomon, that Akira Kurosawa classic, beckons. 🙂

Jayashree has presented her point-of-view, her take on how the meeting was and her views have been ‘pasted’ below verbatim from her email – with her express permission.

Thanks young Jayashree, for the write-up / report.

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The Role Of Physical Education

We had a very full and productive workshop by Rama with elementary parents last Saturday. Many aspects of elementary education were explored. It was wonderful initiative taken by Rama and the school in initiating such a dialogue so the school and parents are more in sync. Several questions and topics came up including task completion/following a passion project and the overall objective of balancing different work areas. Due to shortage of time we could not explore this topic fully but made very useful inroads. We then had a debate on the role of physical education primarily through questions raised by me – with active participation from Rama and several Namma Shaale parents. Reshma later brought up several questions on Math and Science education and Montessori approaches towards the same. We also explored several aspects of Montessori and the different stages of growth of the child.

I’m taking the liberty of continuing the dialogue yesterday on physical education. This is an important area and I’ve been exploring it for a few years now. I’d really like to request a longer dialogue on physical education. It will be wonderful if more people can post comments on this.

My primary intent is to really get all of us to take a hard look at how we view physical education. Perhaps not enough of us care about this. And hence this absence of physical education at Namma Shaale. Many of us view it as something dispensable – not “real” work. As parents who have chosen to put our children in a holistic education system – we must relook our positions. Several of the points I’m mentioning below are in response to yesterday’s dialogue. Here there are – and hopefully the context will be clear from the responses.

Yesterday’s discussion was surprising for me in many ways – while looking at physical ed – there seems to be a clear separation between education and physical ed. In my humble opinion there clearly seem to be several misconceptions about this –

1)Physical education in itself needs to be seen as integral to education not separate from it. Yesterday’s conversation clearly showed a lack of awareness around this. We kept separating work and physical ed. As lovers of science – one of the best science platforms is our own body. Learning to care of it is as much a science experiment as any. A sensitive physical education program can teach a lot about the human body. I’m sure you are aware of the many findings in science about the importance of a regular physical routine to stay healthy. Fitness and health are surely an important aspect of education. A human body needs to serve its owner for several years. And yet – we seem to simply pay inadequate attention to it. Most of our visions/goals in life cannot be met without physical health. I really would like us to recognize the role of health and physical education as integral to education – not something separate. It needs to be addressed in a systematic way – like other work areas.

2)Lack of physical education can really hurt the children long term. They “learn” and internalize sedentary life styles which can actually harm them in many ways and make the transition in adolescence and adulthood that much harder. Some of us grew up with little or no physical education. I’ve learnt things the hard way with plenty of health problems personally until I took a good hard look at myself. I really hope with the amount of information already available today our children don’t have to learn the hard way. It is much harder to change in adulthood something that we can learn so naturally in childhood. We should not let our own limitations become problems for the children long term. As adults – we need to offer the best to our children and let them develop good physical habits that will support their lives and dreams.

3)Our emotions also get regulated with physical education allowing us to contribute fully and freely in life’s situations. Physical ed trains the mind with many things including will power, participating fully, learning to win or lose, team spirit and many aspects of life. All of these are invaluable aspects of life/living.

4)As another Namma Shaale parent pointed out – it is a great way to learn team work and co-operation. As adults we will be working in team situations and it is important to learn this from early on. We seem to completely ignore this aspect of physical ed/sports. This is one of the reasons it is important for such team activity to take place within Namma Shaale – to help this community of children learn to work with each other.

5)There is PLENTY of literature of the benefits of a good physical ed program on the other aspects of education. Yesterday we dismissed this contribution with “work also produces calmness.” Of course while this is also true – it need not undermine the contribution of physical ed towards producing a balanced child. We need to be careful before dismissing it as “not necessary for a calm child”. Every science article I have read completely disputes this. While work also contributes to calmness – when there is so much restless energy – a good physical outlet will help channelize children’s “flight” and excess energy in the right direction. Every Montessori school I am aware of has this completely integrated. In fact physical ed is even available in card formats! Why are we looking at this as “work also contributes calmness so we don’t need any physical education?” This seems like an unnecessary restraint. Why cant we have both when the benefits of physical education are so obvious?

6)Some of the arguments were that there is too much “work” and not enough time for physical education. Are our children “so busy” between the ages of 6-12 that they have no time to learn about the benefits of physical ed? As busy adults – what can we expect from them? Ignore their bodies till they get a harsh wake up call from their doctors?

I urge you to ponder over these questions. My intentions are really for more children to learn to use their bodies and stay fit and healthy. I hope you will consider this. I hope Namma Shaale will hire a sports teachers of a regular basis and have at least 30 mins of physical activities every day including some team based activity. This will help the children A LOT.

Warm wishes,

-Jayashree

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— discussions on this, welcome; other parents’ reports too  —

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.

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)