Category Archives: request for comments

a handout for my lovely pupils… (and to myself!)

Generally, I deal with batches of adolescents from a few schools these days – as part of the game of a double edged sword called ‘education.’

The subjects that I pretend to teach range from history to sciences to choir music to computer programming. It has been fun.

Following is the sample text of a handout that I dish out to any given fresher to my sessions, for your edification.

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I believe…

that you are a smart cookie.

For that matter, any and every individual is very smart, there is no exception whatsoever to this rule… of course, I am not being factitious here!

One may be bored or tired or lazy or whatever, but the fact is that every child / boy / girl is smart & super intelligent…

Why do I believe so? Why should we believe so??

Remember? In the first session we talked a little bit about the various parts of the brain, and the fact that all of have, more or less, the same amount of brain cells and that all of us at sometime or the other use 100% of our brain capacity (as opposed to the funny urban legends about most of us using only 5% of the brain) etc etc.

but we focused on a part of our fore-brain called Cerebrum.

  • This is the seat of our consciousness.
  • It is the center of mental activity.
  • It receives messages from the sense organs and enables us to observe our environment through them.
  • The information gained through the sense organs is stored in memory / cerebral cells (we all have the same number of them) – and are used when necessary; we commonly refer to it as the ‘memory power.’

The most important aspect of this cerebrum is that it is the seat of:

  1. Intelligence – all of us have the same amount – irrespective of what urban legends say.
  2. Emotions – all of us are capable emoting normally, with a few genetically wired exceptions.
  3. Reasoning power – we all have oodles of it!
  4. Imagination – ah, this is where some of us lack depth – but we can learn to imagine!
  5. Will power – and yeah, some of us may not be persistent cookies – but we can always train ourselves to enhance our will power.

So, it is the lack of the last two – the imagination and the will power – that largely makes us & molds us into mediocrity and poor performance – whereas all of us can be great models of excellence in our chosen fields…

In other words, there are no ‘born geniuses’ – the genius in us is always, without exception, brought out by the continuous application of our imagination and will power.

First things first…

There are some quotes in this section – for us to reflect on and internalize…

Ricki Riscorla (The principle of 7Ps)

Proper prior planning & preparation prevents poor performance.”

[Ricki was a much decorated US marine and a great leader, doer & and a humanitarian – he believed in planning and training and leaving nothing to chance]

Richard Feynman (on knowing and problem solving)

… you do not know anything until you have practiced.”

… You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

[Dick was one of the finest scientists that graced the earth – and an incredibly multifaceted one at that; besides being a Nobel laureate, he was a code decipherer, drummer, saxophonist, lock-picker, juggler and what not]

Yo-Yo Ma (on how to learn – coupez la difficulte en quatre)

When the problem is complex, you become tense, but when it is broken down into basic components, you can approach each element without stress.”

… then, when you put them all together, you do something that seems externally complex, but you don’t feel it that way… you know it from several different angles.”

[Yo-Yo is a great Brit cellist and a fantastic meta-learner]

Laura Ingalls Wilder (on perseverance and cheerfulness)

Things that have to be done, must be done cheerfully.”

[Laura was a famous American author of ‘Pioneer’ books – especially the series called Little House on the Prairie’]

Ralph Waldo Emerson (on Self-reliance)

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards… it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. “

[Of course you may already know of him! He was an American author of many other facets]

Robert A Heinlein (on the capacity of the human potential)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

[He was an American, popular science fiction author and a great engineer among many other things]

Perhaps you can use the Internet to research and know more about these folks and much else.

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The idea of this series of sessions (a few times a week) is to get an overall bearing on the basic building blocks of science & math in general – but with a particular reference to social sciences and the things around us.

The examples for the basic ideas / thoughts will mostly be from the sciences – but they are mappable to the rest of the knowledge realms.

Rules of the game:

  1. In every session a few basic ideas will be discussed – and some examples will be given.
  2. There would be some homework (not too much at all!) based on the ideas – post every session – that you will work on over the next couple of days. The submission of the homework is your feedback on what’s happening and this is important. Please give it the attention that it deserves. Non submissions will have definite consequences.
  3. Punctuality is an important attribute of life; lack of this will likely have its consequences.
  4. There would be simple but unannounced tests – and so regularity and rhythm in ‘studying’ will help a lot.
  5. Negative feedback in respect of 2, 3 and 4 will indicate your non-interest and we would need to discuss this to take some appropriate action.
  6. Look, nobody’s forcing you to ‘learn’ – and of course, nobody’s forcing me to ‘teach’ either – you and I are here, only because we want to be in this arrangement, voluntarily. If you feel that this not true, let us discuss.
  7. Believe me, learning (in terms of being curious, questioning and validating assumptions, unlearning, relearning, and thinking) is fun, if we are able to focus.

The idea of giving you these quick ref notes is to give some pointers – you may have to take your own notes to help yourself; as you see, these ref notes are not even grammatically complete! 🙂

Now… on to the rest of the notes, and to life and learning, please!

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shah jahan’s tajmahal vs raja’s corruption

Once in a while, we ‘discuss’ politics and allied goings-on (including the civic structures and civil society) with our impressionable adolescents. We sometimes discuss history too, in spite of the fact that in these times of the impending ‘secondary school leaving certificate’ exams and prep mode for some of our children, we can’t have interesting discussions like this all the time.

But, still…

Here is a gist of a rather tricky question posed and some ideas it generated…

1600s CE:

The Moghul emperor – Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram – popularly titled and known as ‘Shah Jahan’ in our horrendous history books – ordered the construction of a mausoleum (basically an elaborately & aesthetically constructed interment monument) – over the grave of his favorite queen (who was also Khurram’s maternal cousin) Arjumand Banu Begum – popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal. Arjumand dies in the mid 1600s and Khurram grieves for more than 20 years over the matter, and finishes the construction of the mausoleum – and of course orders the movement / transport of the remains of his queen to the monument from Burhampur, where  it was temporarily interred. The building apparently cost Rs 3.2 Crores at that time. In US dollar equivalent it would have then been some 1 million (US $ 1 million); the current value of the cost incurred would be in the region of tens of thousands of crores of Indian Rupees. Again, this would roughly translate to many billions of US dollars.

Khurram literally bankrupts his government in the process, in spite of the fact that India then was a very vibrant economy. He uses the tax payers’ money to build a monument for primarily his edification. If he had instead built a mosque or mosques or some other place of worship or a big university or a huge set of factories – they could have benefited the laity – at least to some extent. At least, these community structures are justifiable expenditure items.

Everyone then and now know that he diverted the state funds for his purely personal agenda. In other words, it is corruption. But, we don’t even think of it like that. We feel that it would be a blasphemy to think along these lines. We assume that kings can deal with the state treasury in anywhichway they want.

The fact that the Taj Mahal is considered beautiful is besides the point. (full disclosure: I haven’t visited it so far)

200os CE:

Andimuthu Rasa – popularly(!) known as A Raja, the much deservedly maligned ex minister of Telecommunications of the Indian Union, manages to make a monumentally corrupt set of deals and wheeeling-dealings – and has perhaps built many Taj Mahals elsewhere. We don’t know much about them. He is not willing to share the details. Not yet. The money (with the standard cut at 30-35% of the deal size) that he must have accumulated through this diversion of Indian Nation’s assets (tax payers’ money) will amount to some Indian Rs 40,000 Crores at least, as of now.

But, we call this Raja names. He has also done exactly what Khurram had done earlier. The only thing is that we don’t yet know the details of the taj mahals of this Raja. May be, his taj mahals would be modern day temples (as our Jawaharlal Nehru announced loooong back) like some huge industrial complexes or pleasure islands or housing mega-complexes. We don’t really know.

Raja was/is a ruler. Khurram was one too. Both have done almost similar things – using public money for personal ends. It was aristocracy then. It is a so-called democracy now. Frankly, the only difference that I find is that, to my limited knowledge, Andimuthu Rasa’s wife is still alive and so perhaps it is immature to talk about a multiplicity of possible Parameswari Mahals. (sorry, sorry…)

I also agree that, perhaps we cannot use the current definitions of corruption to historical contexts – I am a reasonable student of history. But the fact is, these kinds of cognitive dissonances continue to bother me. I feel that if A. Raja had lived in the times of Shah Jahan, say, what he had done now would have been normal. In fact, many of our historians would have praised him for his Parameswari Mahals.

Hmm. After much discussion (and a justifiable sense of uncomprehending horror from our adolescents) we kind of figured out that our notions of corruption stem from our understanding of the current concepts & notions of democracy, republic etc. And also that – as usual we always rely on our ability to articulate our double standards and selective application of ideals to understand an increasingly complex world.

(I would say that one of the impossibly beautiful rewards of being, teaching and learning with children is – the fantastic pleasure of looking at the faces of the children, when their brains go click-click-click and nerve impulses whiz thru their synapses making new connections and applying new contexts… and then, we get to see the impossibly radiant faces of our children. It is lovely, one has to experience this feeling to really appreciate it)

And, I would love to hear from you about our very own and contemporary Andimuthu Raja Shah Jahan…

work ethic (of children) comes from home…

(this is really an unfairly loooong post, but please go through it and let me know what you think. I think it is very important that we parents really bother about this idea of a ‘proper work ethic’ in our children and the +ve or –ve contributions that we make to our children, either directly or indirectly)

children, moving…

It has been a little more than 3 months since the school started the first term of the current academic year – and this term has drawn to a close already… A reasonable time to reflect on things and pontificate, I suppose. Every year, in nammashaale (or for that matter, in any other school) a few children get out and a few other children get in.

This is the same case with all structures, institutions and organizations which have people working together towards some common goals – and in these cases too, individuals who ‘fit in’ stay back and those who cannot, move out. Mostly, there is a pattern to this, sometimes there is not.

The end of the previous academic year too saw a few children leaving the school, some because of normal extraneous reasons (parent job changes etc) and some because of the fitment issue. The reason why this post is dedicated to the topic of ‘work ethic’ is that, I observed some interesting developments in the school centering around these cycles.

Children settling down…

Every year (or even within a given year) when the children get back from the holidays / breaks, they take a week or so to settle down and start working in their own rhythms and embark on concurrent / concentric waves of learning as is usual in a Montessori environment. But this year, the children appeared to happily settle down just within a day or two and it was such a pleasure seeing them – like the diligent & colourful ants at work.… There were / are also very few political and social issues compared to the previous years, very interesting…

I was wondering what could be the basic reason for this ‘fast settling down’ and now I think it is because of the significant attributes of the children who got out in the previous year! And, I sincerely hope that these children (who got out) are doing well elsewhere too – as all children have immense potential embedded in them – but, depending on their attributes, require different kinds of environments and pedagogic approaches …

IT (un)professionals

Now, I have seen these cycles (of folks getting our/in) happen in the corporate world for a significant stretch of time – and but for a few really exceptional stellar cases, the chaps who get into circulation practically every year in the job market, fall into two neat buckets:

  1. ‘alleged’ dolts with no capacity to perform in any realm whatsoever
  2. allegedly ‘good performers’ who always hop for a salary hike.

But, instead of the real reasons such as the above, we often times hear of random nonexistent sham reasons for these shifts such as:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Better working conditions
  • Work not challenging enough
  • More learning opportunities

However, I personally know these silly reasons to be pure hogwash. Actually, the main reasons for chronic job hoppers are only the two in the above paragraph.

The reason why I brought up these IT guys and their ways (yeah, I know what I am talking about) is that there are striking parallels between many of us parents and the IT detritus. Sadly so.

posturing parents & small schools

I have also seen these cycles happening for a few years now (at nammashaale, I mean), and have some observations. This is more about the patterns that I read in the data that I get to see – and not about any particular case.

Every school has a philosophy and a few methodologies for delivering on that philosophy. The philosophy of a given school may meet with a good impact on the child if the child is prepared, primarily at home. If not, chaos (both for the child and the school) results and the sooner the tangle is resolved, the better it is. The subtext here should read: So, if you are personally offended because of my observations, please give yourself one real, deep, hard look – it may hurt, but once in a while it is a good idea to introspect.

Back to the question again, some children / parents get out; some others get in, so… is there a pattern?

The interesting thing here is that, to get to know the ideas, philosophies and people behind a given school – there are a good number of sources and possibilities, if a given parent is diligent enough and is prepared to dig around. So, for the parents who want to ‘put’ their children in a given school it is rather easy to collect relevant data about the school. And, these (meaning us) parents know how to preen themselves so that their vocal and loud ideas are seen to be in alignment with those of the school – purely with a view to getting a foothold into the desired school system. To be slightly charitable to these preening parents, I agree that parental anxiety in seeing to the placement of their wards in a school considered ‘good’ by them, sometimes gets the better of them. Sadly so.

However, for schools, that too for really small schools, it is not possible to have this luxury of background and reference checks on parents. This by itself is not bad – but when a school establishment meets a preening parent (as above), their children are expected to be a good fit and the admission process is actively looked into – as the agenda of these small schools is primarily about dealing with the children and exposing them to the ideas stemming from the philosophy of the school, rather than looking at the wannabe parents, critically and stuff.

So, thanks to the incorrect perception & lack of analyses, I think, small schools (and the folks behind them) make the sad mistake of assuming certain suitable characteristics in the children, based on the oral positions taken by the parents in the first few interactions, that is, before the children join these schools.

However, since verbal posturing (and social activistic talking, swagger & infinite hubris) often tends to get diluted when a real test (that would ‘separate men from the boys’ so to say) comes along – then, friction arises between the aforesaid parents and the school community. In this context, the given child suffers.

yoga of learning

Now, there are many paths to ‘education’ or yoga if you will – but all the real paths have one common denominator – the requirement of a proper work ethic of the child.

The work ethic of the child is seeded, developed and matured from the home of the child and parents contribute a lot to it. I would even say that the work ethic of the child is completely picked up from the ‘indirect presentations’ at home – whether it is integrity or dishonesty or a myriad other ‘personally lived values.’

In the earlier times, perhaps the children had the luxury of more adults (as ‘role models) stemming from the advantages of the joint-family system, to present the ‘lived’ values of work ethic – from various perspectives. But in these days, the work ethic of the child is primarily derived from its permanently busy (or absent or indifferent) parents or from TV. I am not even talking about the helicopter types here! (gasp!)

When a child with a proper work ethic engages with her learning – she cares about the work and loves it. The working and learning of the child deeply enriches her. Approaching work with care and awareness, even the most mundane tasks are transformed into an exciting series of opportunities to reflect and grow. Not surprisingly, this idea is reflected in all the fine spiritual traditions from around the world.

The attitude towards work, in my opinion, gets reflected in three types of yoga (not at all mutually exclusive), there could be more – but as of now, I could think of only these three buckets – my limits of knowledge have been reached, of course! And, honestly I do not know how to translate the Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ into English – may be, it incorporates the ideas of learning, education, discipline, integrity, tremendous focus, zanshin and what not)

  • Bhakti yoga – the learning mode in which the child really respects and loves the knowledge and is in awe of it and therefore works towards it.
  • Gnyana yoga – the mode in which the child seeks and thirsts after knowledge and hence does work
  • Karma yoga – in which the child would do the work for the love of it, not necessarily going after knowledge.

A given child exhibits some or all of the above at some point or the other and develops a robust sense of work ethic, that will make her a happy and contented individual – she may eventually be on a path to ‘right livelihood.’

In all these cases, the knowledge accumulation, skills development, ‘centering’ and integrity of character happen because of significant contributions (either positive or negative) from parents – and this happens right from the womb to the time of children going to school to beyond. The school can only build on the basic character that has already been imprinted into the children. This work ethic is what determines how learned or ‘educated’ or happy, a child becomes. Many of us parents don’t realize this. We expect the schools to cater to need of the development of character to the children. We feel that if some character issues are there with our children, then, the school is not doing a good job. How foolhardy we are!

It always amazes me as to what lengths we parents go to, to look for reasons away from us, while we happily ignore the famous words – ‘I have seen the enemy, and it is I.’ All that most of us are interested in, is in the delectable possibility of blaming someone else for the all the wrong things that are happening to our children…

Okay – Sometimes, it may so happen that a child is not benefiting from the school system – and this has nothing to with the preening parents or the school system. But to my limited knowledge and my rather sketchy experience in ‘education,’ there is nothing else that would help the child flower, than the existence of a proper work ethic that is inculcated in the children by their ‘living’ parents, who really live their values. May be there are more factors than this work ethic beast, that would help the child get ‘educated,’ I am willing to listen, discuss and all that – but as of now, I would think that, in a reasonable school system the existence of a proper work ethic in the child is the only thing that would be a sine qua non. Given this backgrounder, eventually we parents realize that the things are not working for our wards. At this point of time, it is very convenient for us parents to blame the school.

However, we never, not even once look at the possibility of our own splendidly negative contributions to our children. This is tragic. However, there are some exceptions. Some parents do realize their mistakes in judgment and move children over to other suitable schools, the ‘extraction’ is done ethically – the current school heaves a sigh of relief and hopes that the children and their parents will be happy wherever they plan to go to…

It is definitely to the credit of these kinds of parents, that they somehow or the other realize it – and take an appropriate action. Water finds its level. What we get out of a system is determined by our genuine aspirations, or karma if you will. Eventually,  some of us parents will get our children fit into a system that the we want the children to get in – not that it is the requirement or the need of the child.

Frankly, I would say that, whenever there is a severe cognitive dissonance in

1) what parents want in their child,

2) what the child is developing into and

3) what the school wants the child to be working on

– there would be ample symptoms and happenstances to point to the dissonance. However, it is easy to feign asinine ignorance by all of us because it is oh so convenient – and you see, we don’t want to unsettle the apple cart.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” — Marcus Aurelius.

But, at this point, what should be done is:

  1. The school should discuss with the parents about the untenable and mutually destructive proposition that is happening and request the parents to take the child to some other suitable school – within a definite time-frame.
  2. The parents should discuss with the school and see whether there were perceptional mistakes & errors in judgment – that are resulting in chaos and if there is no easy way to ‘fit into the system’ they should move to a different school – within a definite time-frame.

But, what usually happens is:

A: The parents are completely dissatisfied (validly so) with the school because of the perception mismatch – but merely wait for the academic year to get over so that they can move out to a ‘suitable’ school. These undercurrents (actually many of these are overcurrents) are picked up by their children, and they begin to behave in bizarre ways in the school. Their souls are also dyed with the thoughts at home. They see everything that is wrong with the system, and only the wrongs – because there is no perfect system in the universe (Bapuji would use the term ‘gutter inspectors’ here). They spread a lot of negativity in the school, disrupt the proceedings, become disrespectful of everything that the school stands for…  These children also take these feelings and go to their parents. The parents endlessly gossip and spread their negative perceptions around. The result would take three courses of action:

  1. There is a very catastrophic cascading of ill-feelings and negativity buildup at home and finally everything bursts open – and this would result in arguments and mindless mudslinging – and a whole lot of rumour mongering and wildass meanderings. All eminently avoidable.
  2. The parents keep quiet, prepare for some school admission somewhere else for their wards and start defaulting on fee payments – and there is so much of unnecessary clandestine happenings, needlessly so. This leaves a lot of bad blood. Of course, the children would realize the lack of integrity of their parents, but then, they would reserve their opinion to a later date, hopefully.
  3. In a very small number of cases the parents would calmly discuss and take an appropriate action. (I am hallucinating here, this never happens, which is rather unfortunate)

B: The school community is uncomfortable about dealing with the situation and they do not want to request the parents to move on / take their children out. They are filled with a sense of needless guilt and spend a whole lot of time analyzing and agonizing over why things are not going the way they are supposed to. The school’s primary interest is in the child and so the community feels helpless in addressing the needs of the child as the souls of these hapless children are already dyed with unnecessary thoughts. Eventually the cookie crumbles, the child leaves, there is some collateral damage, bruised psyches. All needless.

I feel that the following are perhaps true:

  • In a reasonably wholesome educational system that would involve a Montessori angle (or one based on Waldorf sensibilities), the lateral entrants are not a great idea – this is because, the lateral entrant children end up introducing a lot of noise into an otherwise stable and synchronized system.
  • The school suffers because the ‘lateral entrant’ children have possibly different values, different kinds of work ethics that the school and its normalized children cannot grapple with.
  • The children joining at the lateral entry points also suffer because their expectations from the system are at variance with what the reality is at home – the suffering happens at home and also at the school.
  • The small schools should be resigned to the prospect of some children leaving at various levels every year – this could be a part of cleansing actions from the sides of the parents and/or school – and the vacancies created by these leaving children should not be filled with lateral entrants. This would mean constantly strained financial resources at the school.
  • Economies of scale do not work for small ‘boutique’ schools – as invariably scaling up would require that there is so much noise-injection into the system. (Personally, I would hate any entity begging for alms and aids. So I would think it would be great if ‘foreign aid’ or even random local aid is not resorted to at all, in spite of all the hardships…)
  • Parental involvement in a given school is a double edged sword, tragically so. The reason is that, many individuals take things very personally and respond to gestures from the small schools in prejudiced ways.  Just because they think they have something to offer, they think the school should make use of it. They almost never pay any attention to the philosophical fitment or particular pedagogic orientations that whatever they want to do at school has to conform to, at all! And when they are somehow informed that it is difficult for the school to make use of the parents’ offer – they take it as a personal insult and react in juvenile ways.
  • Parents and School systems should watch out for early warning signs and try to have reasonably frequent dialogues with each other, with a view to sorting out issues; pressure cooking does not help, of course.

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Inculcation of proper work ethics in ourselves (and hence in our children) is such an important thing for our schools, society and families… I would even say that it would constitute the very basic of our social fabric.

I am in general an optimist, in spite of my sardonic and sarcastic statements and I hope that we as a parent community and citizens would get our act together and behave responsibly.

So ends this pontification. 🙂

Comments (and brickbats) are of course welcome!

( part of FAQs on ‘education’ series )

‘rote learning’ is important (part 2)

To make sense of this past, the previous post on the topic should perhaps be read. It would at least provide some semblance of a context and continuity.

Here are the frequently avoided answers to the (should be) frequently asked questions on rote…

What is ‘rote memorization?’

I would define it as the ability to recall in a snap, certain ideas (or ‘facts,’  if you will) with very little effort or thought (or ‘logical thinking,’ if you will) – to build on these basic facts and the ability to act upon them in applicable & relevant domains.

This would be in terms of arithmetic operations, instantaneous responses to emergent situations, recalling of applicable processes and logic, recalling of mapped entities etc etc.

I would exclude the (thoughtless and mindless) ingestion and regurgitation of data – without any prior understanding and logical processing (without ‘any rhyme or reason,’ if you will) from the arena of rote memorization. The examples of such mindlessness would include ingestion of disconnected facts for the purposes of quiz trivia; cutting and pasting of code (or text) without any preprocessing etc etc.

Is ‘rote learning’  against ‘logical thinking,’ creativity & spontaneity?

No. No. No.

I know that 20 x 21 is 420. Thanks to my rote memory, I also know that 21 x 21 is 441. I don’t need to actually process this information – that is, to quickly (and sneakily) multiply 21 by 21 to arrive at the answer. I know the process of multiplication of course, but find it convenient to ‘rote memorize’ so that I can quickly carry on with the higher order tasks. Of course I memorized this ‘21 table’ very many moons back. It has stayed with me, thanks God. So I rather rabidly feel think that ‘rote’ memorization is not against logical thinking. In fact, it is a product of logical thinking.

I think it is incorrect (and very childish) to see rote and creativity as two ends of a spectrum. Let us assume that we are talking about a painter, a good painter. So it is not about the types of MF Hussain, who I think are probably good with their skills but simply not good enough with real art. The painters need to know a lot about perspectives, colour combinations and many other ‘grammatical’ and semantical aspects of paintings. However, because these painters have practiced (‘rote memorization’) so much with the grammar, they can recall instantly many aspects of their paintings and embark on great acts of creation, building upon their grammar and idioms. They would rather concentrate on some higher order tasks (such as aesthetic beauty, abstraction etc) than on mundane things such as – what colour combination will bring forth the desire hue or tint etc etc. Here again, ‘rote memorization’ is integral to creativity. Without rote, obviously each and every act of creativity will be a needlessly (and soullessly) big process, mostly mind-numbing.

Coming to spontaneity, let us understand that ‘spontaneity’  is not so very spontaneous as we would all like to hallucinate. It is based on the ability to quickly recall learned behaviours, with very little thought investment. The learned behaviours happen only because of constant application, repetition and practice. I would call this a rote process – but would never belittle it. So there is no possibility of spontaneity bereft of the basic building block of creativity.

Is there no ‘mugging’ aspect to a ‘creative’ endeavour?

Of course, of course. As elaborated in the previous answer, the rote memorization has to happen with respect to the understanding (for instant ‘unprocessed’ recall later) of the basic building blocks of a system (‘grammar,’ if you will) so that the creative juices can flow forth and multiply.

There is a mugging aspect that is integral to any given creative endeavour.

Is rote memorization important to learning?

Yes. A resounding YES. All of us need to know certain fundamental and basic things (that we can recall on demand) to survive, to learn and to do a good job of anything that we set out to do. Learning happens in layers and in established contexts.

Does the parameter of ‘rote memorization’ exist in splendid isolation and so can therefore be redundant and rendered next to useless?

No. In any learning continuum, it is part of a roughly three-pronged (and stepped) process that involves memory skills followed by analyses and synthesis skills. All three are important. Here, memory skills = rote memorization, what else! And, all the three harmoniously build on each other to make a given child ‘gifted’ – this is not to deny that any given child is gifted, as they all are really special in their own ways.

But unfortunately they remain gifted only till such time as their ‘gifted’ nature is noted by the parents. Many parents then take it upon themselves, to squish and squeeze the children, thus reducing them to mere automatons.

What is the place of ‘rote learning’ in ‘education?’

It is the basic building block of education. Not merely literacy. And of course literacy itself is but a bye-product of rote learning. I would even say that it is a basic building block of learnt behaviour and life, in general.

Can we do without any ‘mugging’ at all?

No. Sorry, if you are of the kewl_kat type (that meaninglessly hates rote), I regret to say that mugging is unavoidable. But, I think it is important.

Example: You had a walking route that you were given to taking, as a matter of routine, and one day you get mugged by a mugger enroute. You then start consciously avoiding the route even as you instinctively veer towards that route in the subsequent few occasions. Eventually, you learn to avoid the originally mugged route and take to some other route. And later, after many days of conscious mugging practice, you learn to avoid possible mugging by muggers. Much later, the alternate mugged route becomes a regular route, and you rather thoughtlessly take to that without batting an eyeball. (sorry)

And, when you want to ‘officially’ take up the matter of the mugging incident, without much thought whatsoever, you consider calling the police – even this a bye-product of a learned / mugged behaviour.

Moral of the story: Even mugging can only be avoided by mugging. Mugging is God. At least that’s what my mugging has taught me. (hic)

Can someone (at all) do without mugging? I mean, is there some remotest role in this universe that would demand that mugging be avoided??

Yes. The ‘professional’ muggers should. If they mug too much, then they invite the wrath of the policemen and the irate citizenry.

To my knowledge, this is the only case of mugging that should be avoided.

What would life be, without rote memorization?

Rather sad. There wouldn’t be any kind of ‘development.’ You would not have any technology or any literature or any music worth speaking of. You can’t even speak – which probably is a good thing. You can NOT do anything that you normally take for granted.

Actually, you would not even be around. You would not have evolved. Without rote learning, evolution would not have progressed at all. (okay, okay. Now, let us assume that we have actually progressed, just for the sake of this argument)

Can we say with a straight face that we don’t benefit from this ‘mugging’ at all?

Yes. We can all lie without any remorse. We are pretty good at that. Besides for many of us, it is COOL to talk disparagingly of rote memorization, while having NOTHING to show for any darn creativity at all.

What are its limitations?

The limitations of rote are in our heads – assuming we have something called a functioning brain inside it. The advantages of rote are also in the same place.

But, but… I still think ‘learning by rote’ is bad. That’s not what I want my child to do!

You see, you have learned through rote memorization that rote memorization is bad. Many ‘learned’ folks and ‘perennial wisdom spouting’ guys have mouthed such an opinion, you have happened to come across some of them, they look respectable and they appear to be the  ‘thinking types’ and therefore you have felt no need to question them or their assumptions. This unquestioning learning and herd behviour perhaps should be categorized as bad rote memorization.

And yeah, may be there is this dyadic possibility –  BAD rote memorization and GOOD  rote memorization. Thanks for pointing this out!

Do you have anything else to say about your favourite and current fad – rote memorization?

Yeah! How did you guess?

Now, many of us like order and basic predictability of things.

The so called squeaky cleanliness and orderliness of a given environment / space owes its formative ideas to the so called evil rote!

We learn to keep things back in their own place (after use), organize things (we don’t want to perennially keep searching for things) – all these things happen ONLY by rote memorization – however, we say that we mechanically or instinctively do such things.

Now let me rant a bit about the parents who say that rote is a veritable evil…

Well, it is actually slightly funny. The same parent who is against ‘rote memorization’ would send his children to piano and sundry music classes and other performing art tutorials! I would imagine that all these arts and activities do NOT have any grammar, do NOT have any basics that one has to be repeatedly trained on and are TOTALLY creative and spontaneous and are all the time done on the fly. (not my fly, luckily; um, sorry!)

So, imagine! A child without any prior training and even without having seen any musical instrument previously, goes on stage, sits down at a pianoforte and starts composing an incredible symphony on the fly without any darn involvement of rote memorization! What a cosmically lovely and Godly sight it would be!! (Of course,  I must have had too much of marijuana)

I am not blaming the children here, but am wondering how clueless some of these pontificating parents are! (but then, they make up the entire humour content that I am exposed to these days!)

So is ‘rote learning’ bad, unimportant and so has to be dispensed with, in toto?

You judge.

(needless to say, comments are welcome; am prepared to face the brickbats.)

(( part of the infamous ‘FAQs on ‘education’ series))

the right to education ‘act’ (2009)

Though the act is generally incorrectly abbreviated to RTE act, the correct phrase is: The Right of Children to Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009. It should probably be called ‘Right to Elementary Education act,’ say REE, by us – which is at least closer to the content of the act… However, I would use the incorrect, but unfortunately a  popular abbreviation – RTE act! Sorry.

Some of my friends and I have been having some tentative discussions & have been jotting down personal notes on the subject and were circulating them ‘privately’ – that is, comprising among others,  some of our opinions, readings, misreadings, gross-misunderstandings etc etc on the RTE act.

I am planning to share some of them, in the hope that the semiformed notes would probably be useful to folks out there on the web, seeking some jaundiced information on the RTE act. (of course, the jottings will be less rabid, expunged,  and therefore slightly more readable than the original febrile discussions, I hope);  so, these are my notes and further down, my questions too! (most of this text is some weeks old – and there has been at least one formal meeting that I have since attended, thanks to Sri Ramdas and Srimathi Rama of Viswabharati Vidyodaya Trust – and so, I have become aware of more interesting and relevant points of view about the RTE act since when I first wrote the notes, but more on this in later posts!)

My notes:

One should FIRST & foremost, go through the Central gazette publication of the act, in detail. It is available off the Indian Government website – The Department of School Education and Literacy – The Right of Children to Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Next, one should go through the  notification of the act: Notification of Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act 2002 and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. This merely gives the ‘effective date’ but it is important from a legal perspective.

The third reference document would be:  Model Rules Under the Right Of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

It is also important that the notifications of the state governments are yet to happen. So, when I write ‘notification,’  it is about the (impending) State notifications, rather than the Central one.

Now,  it is very important at this juncture, to remember what  Mark Twain said once: “First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure.

The RTE act  sure reads very draconian or very egalitarian depending on where one comes from. But the fact is that it is both. Very good intentions are in the right place (Kapil Sibal and all that – though he came in quite late to the scene & to the real run-up to the passing of the bill) – nobody could question this act done in good faith, but the implementation is the one that one will have to wait for (and/or take afirmative action) and then see… Anyway, the basic features of the act (my reading) are:

  • the word ‘education’ has not been defined at all – which in my opinion is puzzling
  • free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14
  • nothing to do with the primary or higher education
  • no entry or exit criteria for children apart from age
  • mandatory provision to provide 25% reservation for disadvantaged children in private schools
  • prohibits unrecognized schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission
  • no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education
  • provision for special training of school drop-outs, to bring them up to par with students of the same age
  • the Right to Education of persons with disabilities until 18 years of age has also been made a fundamental right
  • provides for the establishment of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and State Commissions for supervising proper implementation of the act, looking after complaints and protection of Child Rights
  • other provisions regarding improvement of school infrastructure, teacher-student ratio, hours of duty, working days in an year, class size etc etc
  • funding estimates: US$38.2 billion or Rs 1,71,000 crores – would be required in the next five years – but there is already a shortfall of Rs.19,000 crores off the allocated Rs.34,000 crores even for the first year!
  • funding for implementing the act would be shared in the ratio of 65:35 between the Central Government and the states, and a ratio of 90:10 for the north-eastern states; of course, the state of J&K is an exception, as usual!
  • formation of a school management committee (75% of this will be parents!) involving parents, local elected representatives etc, in every school, with significant powers
  • all schools have to be recognized by the appropriate authorities
  • 3 years timeframe for the implementation; with some provisions, it is 5 years
  • fine of Rs 1.00 lakh for contravention – with a probable Rs 10k perday for repeated contraventions!

Sheesh! It does look like a war declaration, at one level! A war declaration, NOT because of the draconian provisions which are well intentioned and aimed at curbing the growth of ‘factory’ schools with no soul or values, but because the act does not acknowledge the diverse & critical ground realities!

This could have happened, may be because certain positive facets of this beast called ‘education’ that are being adddressed by well meaning folks and organizations, are not taken cognizance of at all, by the legislative bodies or by our bureaucracy.

Perhaps this happened because, these well meaning schools, folks and philosophies are in a minority. Minority not in terms of narrow religious denominations or sects, or else, their voice would have been heard purely because of the expediencies of political mobilization and carving out of constituencies.

May be these folks did not use the available spaces for the articulation of their points of view, during the run-up to the passage of the bill.

Or, possibly these maverick educationalists were actually busy doing their work, minding their own businesses, when the legislative actions simply whizzed past them.

Or may be perhaps, these groups did not have a reasonably sufficient mindshare of the nation, given the fact that our nation is caught between the asinine IPL cricket matches and the abysmal Aamir Khan starrers, and is rather busy getting entertained.

Whatever be the reason, there are possibilities for much collateral damage due to the current provisos of the RTE act.

My questions:

  1. Without defining the term called ‘education’  in the RTE act, how can it be made meaningful? Or is there a possibility to interpret education creatively and realistically because of this very reason,  so that grievances of genuinely affected constituencies be addressed pronto?
  2. How come no one is (mis)quoting the freedom of religion, in respect of ‘education’? I would say that my particular religion does not allow me to go to these HighYieldVariety schools as per the diktats of the act. So, can I say that my religion would allow me to go only to these schools with  ‘alternative’ ideas? Can we say that the State cannot interfere in this aspect of our lives??
  3. If one reads the preamble to our Indian constitution: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HERE BY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.” Just read the brown text again.  How come no allowance at all has been made for small community establishments, pursuing various educational philosophies and thoughts? What about the basic diversity – especially when we talk about ‘unity in diversity’ and all that?? What about ‘not profit making’ schools?
  4. Is the act going to create an yet another failed ‘green revolution’ archetype? That Indian apparatchiks could dream up a well intentioned idea (yet again) but thoroughly botch up on the implementation/fineprint aspects, thereby killing ALL the vibrant diversity and memetic pools?
  5. How is the new position reconciled with the existence of NIOS – National Institute of Open Schooling? How can one arm of the government strangle the other (a much older and wiser arm at that) and the basic ideas that basically gave rise to the wiser arm?
  6. How are the homeschoolers (not that they are even in a microscopic minority – in addition, many of them are utterly clueless, but I would say that they HAVE their right to be clueless too, like the rest of us!) – I am quite intrigued! What about the parents’ rights?? (In my Tamilnadu, there is a very grave law against parents who are not sending their children to school, think it has been around for a while – but I don’t know of even a single case of punishment. I recall that there was not even a single FIR that was filed in this context, even when the ‘law’ was a freshmint one!)
  7. Elementary and Secondary Education are EXCLUSIVELY State Subjects in the Constitution of India (not even in the concurrent list) and the Central Government can not compel the State Governments to follow the former’s diktats. So, can we bank on the karnataka BJP government to help combat the well-intentioned offtangentness on part of the central government of Congress and its cohorts (just to bring in the dirty politics angle) – at least while forming its own rules, the States do have the power of creative interpretation.
  8. Where is the money? Many state governments are already in the red! The Central Government, could it help? May be the latter will cheerfully establish more factories for printing currency??
  9. As it is, there are some 12 lakhs India-wide vacancies that are yet to be filled in our Government schools! How can one even begin the address this…
  10. The Central Government itself has set up quite a few types/genres of elite schools – such as navodaya vidyalayas, thereby depriving the normal, other government schools of due funding… How is this gap ever going to be bridged? How come this RTE act is not applicable to the Central Government’s such creations?
  11. The nation, even 60 years after Bapuji’s death, has not even understood the deep schism that exists between the ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘equality of status’ – this is really sad. Without this basic cognition, we simply go ahead and want to make cataclysmic changes! Tell me, as to how will a child from a disadvanged background, go to a court of law for enforcing its fundamental right? How can the poor child (or its parents)  engage the likes of Ram Jethmalanis to ensure the enforcement of their rights, say in the Supreme Court? Would there be a followup “Right to Engage Ram Jethmalanis” too?
  12. I feel that the Central Government should provide for at least safe and clean drinking water in all the schools first; may be usable toilets can follow later. Then, it can take up all the other ‘developmental’ issues.
  13. How can the Indian Central Government ensure that the funds that are supposedly allocated by it, will be used by corrupt and completely spoilt, mercenary State governments (like that of say, Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s Tamil Nadu) for the purposes of implementing the act? What if the said ‘governments’ use the fiund to give away free Sony PSPs to all the children? Or to give away free Fridges to all households? Or better still, what if they embezzle the whole damned fund? After all,  my fellow Tamilian friend Srimaan Karunanidhi,  has been accused by the venerated judges (of impeccable credentials and integrity) of having the ability to practise Scientific Corruption, as early as three decades back! So, the likes of  Srimaan Karunanidhi would have only become better at their acts, the dilegent students of malfeasance that they have been, for all their lives! The Central Government has lamented that the state of Tamil Nadu  for example, has not been conducting any internal audit from the year 2006 – with respect to the expenditures on education! (but am digressing)

The basic ideas of the act are closer to my heart too – but when there are so many holes, the funds mobilization is grossly inadequate, where do I even begin to interpret the act…

On the contary, may be there is hope. May be all the holes and inadequacies in the RTE act, can be rightfully and genuinely addressed. In spite of my fears to the contary, there are many, very many people who will do the right things, at the right time.

May be not all is lost. We survive on hope.

(more later…)

doubteronomy and numbers

This is a reflective piece written on ‘doubt’ by a NammaShaale parent and adult, Rama.  

Thanks Rama, and keep ’em articles/essays coming the blog way…

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

 Doubt

(Rama) 

I had been meaning to write for a long time now.  When I did mention the idea of writing to some they always said, “But where do you have the time!” and that’s just what I want to hear.  Anyways, here I go.  I plan to keep to it but let me see how long. 

Yesterday my sister and I watched the film Doubt.  As part of the post film discussions we realized that Doubt can be a powerful emotion. 

Doubt is a good thing I’m sure because much enquiry comes from doubt.  Men (and women) have once upon a time sinfully doubted if the earth was the center of the Universe. 

Only last week in class I gave bunch of 9 and 10 year olds the presentation of measuring the internal angles of triangles, quadrilaterals and polygons.  We measured the angles of an equilateral triangle and saw that they added up to 180 degrees.  Now, I was surely not going to give away the secret here but even if I did it would be completely “doubted”.  So the children saying, “I doubt if it would be so for an isosceles triangle or a scalene triangle!”, “what if the triangle had an obtuse angle?”, “what if it was a larger equilateral triangle?” set out to measure the angles of many, many triangles and other shapes as well.  The results are yet to be arrived at. 

But I have many times in the past seen on their faces the joy of discovery, the joy of clearing a doubt. 

The joy of seeing that the sum of internal angles of a triangle is always 180 degrees!  There are always a pi number of diameters in the circumference of a circle!  An inscribed square is always half a circumscribed square (I doubt if this works for all quadrilaterals, need to check out!) 

In an elementary class the discoveries go on to – multiples of 9 always add up to 9, the square of a decanomial is the sum of its cubes, hot air always rises; light always travels in straight lines; words that end with ‘c’ and are occupations or hobbies are always end with the suffix –cian, monocotyledonous plants always have parallel veins and flower parts in threes and multiples of three… I could add one everyday! 

The knowledge acquired is impressive but what matters to the child is the joy each of these discoveries gives him because he builds his very personality with these discoveries.  As Mario Montessori says, “When the elementary child is given a vision of the order of the universe he constructs the inner order of his personality through experiences in a structured world.  Inner order is necessary to be able to see meaning in one’s existence, to find one’s identity, to achieve independence, and to act in a meaningful way.” 

Last Saturday I spent some blissful hours doing a few higher algebra activities with the cubing material.  I was doing (x + 2) (x + 1) and I did see in the book that it should result in x2 + 3x + 2.  But I doubted it!  I did a good ten variations of x – 4, 7, 8… and saw that it worked always! Believe me it was most joyful!!! 

Doubts and disbeliefs are plenty but predictions and certainties are way more!  What can be more joyful than ¼ always being 0.25! (But in one of the presentations a child did say, “I doubt if this would be so in base 6…) 

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Rama also happens to be the grand duchess of the school, in case you have doubts. Surprised? Please note that there is even a quote in the text, by the sonnyboy of la grande mademoiselle Montessori herself, to prove the point! QED.

ps: sorry about the laboured pfun on some ‘old testament’ stuff – in the title of the post…

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’

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

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.

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  —

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! 🙂

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)