A Rant on Education

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Damayanti Young No Comments

My frustration as a teacher

We need only peek into history to see that it has long been the tactic of the ruling class to dominate a population by undermining their independent search for knowledge and way of being, through carefully prescribed values and ideals. Accepting these ideals, the population self-moderates and is thus easily exploited.

The British colonisation of India was indeed no exception to this rule, as stated by Thomas B Macaulay in 1835 in his Minute on Indian Education; “We must at present do our best to form…a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, in intellect.” He further went on to say that this class could “…refine the vernacular dialects of the country…with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge.”

One may argue that Macaulay’s bigoted ‘good intentions’ did not harbour a sinister plot to undermine and oppress the people of India, but a closer analysis reveals much more. We can infer the following from Macaulay’s statements: not only did the people of India lack knowledge, but their languages were incapable of conveying any ‘true’ knowledge.

Whether Macaulay himself believed these assumptions or not is a question of his own bigotry or duplicity; but the real issue lies in the consequences for Indian people who implicitly accepted these beliefs. The cunning despotism herein is this: by the very act of ‘educating’ India, this disempowering propaganda was surreptitiously imposed on the people of the country.

But surely the world is a better place now, right? We are advanced; we have access to vast knowledge through information-technology. This technology has been made available to us by globalisation and free trade agreements enabling large multinational companies to outsource their labour inexpensively to ‘less developed’ countries. And surely the underdevelopment of such nations, as well as the labourers’ low income, has nothing to do with propaganda that their native cultures are inferior and inherently lacking in knowledge.

Wrongo!

For this golden world of cheap stuff we can mainly thank the industrial revolution, which also bought us the foundation of our modern education system.

“School forcibly snatches away children from a world full of God’s own handiwork …It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual…a manufactory for grinding out uniform results. I was not a creation of the schoolmaster: the Government Board of Education was not consulted when I took birth in the world.” – Rabindranath Tagore, 1927 Nobel Prize Winner for Poetry in the Bengali language.

Traditional ways of learning aren’t good to us anymore, they don’t give us ‘stuff’. We want stuff, and we want it cheap, so someone is going to have to make it for us. Someone is going to have to sell their farm to move to a concrete box in a city so they can work in a factory, or go to school so they can manage the factory when they grow up. Yay! Quality of life is improving thanks to all our stuff! It’s a no brainer, if you think about it. Wait. No time to think—I have an app that does that for me—I gotta get to work so I can earn money to buy more stuff. Beats living on a farm and growing stuff you can eat, right?!

Excuse me if I sound facetious, but the current situation is indeed a joke. We are all beasts of burden in an unforgiving system, the mental software of which is a post-industrial, competitive free-market, ‘value-neutral’ education system.

We only differ in degrees by which we are forced to endure its exploitation.

So have I come only to complain, to offer no solution? No, I would be ungrateful to my own teachers if I offered no antithesis to the status quo. Rabindranath Tagore hints at it, saying; “ I was not a creation of the schoolmaster.” He held that proper teaching does not explain things; proper teaching stokes curiosity. Although he received home tuition, Tagore was extensively self-taught. And what was the focus of his study? Everything from geography to judo, from mathematics to masterpieces in literature, from the arts to anatomy. In short, he was a student of culture.

“Education is a compulsory, forcible action of one person upon another. Culture is the free relation of people… The difference between education and culture lies only in the compulsion, which education deems itself in the right to exert. Education is culture under restraint. Culture is free.” – Leo Tolstoy

So I propose—and we act on this as I speak—we grow a garden; figuratively, as we cultivate the fertile imagination of the future generation of India, and literally, so that they may have food to eat and learn to live harmoniously with the land—independent of economic disadvantage and thus they will thrive.

Help us grow. Understand what we really stand for and support Golden Avatar.

by a teacher at Golden Avatar

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