Think about your favourite teacher, first best friend, first crush, sharing tiffin boxes, the class getting up and chanting “good morning teacher”, bells ringing and copies closing in unison. Nostalgic, right?
School inevitably leads one to “memory avenue” where one cannot help but wander. With the Semester-End Examination bidding farewell, the WhatsApp groups flood with reunion plans. But there exists a bitter side, a side that is an underlying decay, decay that cannot be ignored.
School instils fear in the hearts of students. The adrenalin rush at the fear of not knowing an answer turns out to be a baseless tremor, as one looks back at past. Eventually, this fear becomes a part of one’s system and the default setting of thinking more and speaking fewer sets in. How many times did you know the answer, had a doubt or an opinion but could not raise your hand? Did this resurface in your adulthood? Let that thought sink in…..
“I remember I was in seventh when our teachers segregated us on the basis of the length of our kurtas. We were very young hence, we actually started feeling guilty.”
The length of a kurta, the length of a skirt, the magnitude of the narrowness of one’s pants, the crime of rolling up one’s sleeves seem to be the only parameters which exist to judge students and categorize them into “good” and “undisciplined”. This plight continues like the not-so-famous process of “unnatural selection”, we assume that Darwin hangs his head down at the thought of it. The stages of categorization continue till an alpha being is found who is used as the ideal specimen to which others are advised to “look up to”. “Look at him, try to be like him” they say. Eventually, one tries to follow, as a result, the coping mechanism changes to copying mechanism and a school changes into a mass production unit.
The garden never claimed the roses to be the most beautiful. The flowerpots never told the periwinkles to be like lilies, the soil never told the weed to act like grass.
Students learn to follow, follow their teachers, follow elders, and follow what the book says. No one teaches the act of resistance, the act of questioning is a forbidden fact because apparently, questions do not come as six markers in papers. They never let one ask why but expect an explanation in your diary note.
Schools hollow out the capacity to have opinions. The glass is always half full and schools half-heartedly open horizons to fit in critical thinking. Agitation and resistance are Greek words until one enters college, where every voice matters, where every act of dissent is not reduced to rootless rebellion.
“I’d be concerned about a behaviour policy that focuses on punishing students for what they are getting wrong rather than asking the broader question of why they are behaving in a particular way. Our school’s motto is “live adventurously”…… we encourage individuals to think for themselves and explore and question- that’s fundamental to education”, Iain Kilpatrick, head-teacher, Sidcot School, Somerset.
A democratic classroom is a farfetched dream which only some seem to savour. A place where questions are asked, opinions are accepted and sticks are spared is much due. The existing training for slavery should be replaced by the empowerment of future leaders. Dawn is yet to come.
Feature Image Credits: Gyanarjun Saroj for DU Beat