Educated by Society

26 Jul


When survival, not dignified conduct, becomes the mark of success, people will tend to behave in an unacceptable fashion. That’s become the norm


Surely they have been educated, said an outraged woman in the market place. How could they do this?


I wondered what she could be talking about.


Was it the shameful act of grinning hooligans in Guwahati where they exposed their animal tendencies? Or was it the Khap panchayats who banned women from having mobile phones? Or, could it be the shameful panchayat that beat up a woman accused of having an extra-marital affair? Ganging up on a poor woman surely cannot be an act worthy of educated people. Or people in power. But no, policemen are recruited based on their certificates, and they gang-raped a woman in Uttar Pradesh for three days.

Or was it about the disgraceful news about India that’s doing the rounds in China? The youth on a sponsored trip that misbehaved, the pictures of Indian filth, the exhibition that is supposed to promote India with pictures of carnage? — What could the lady be talking about — there was so much to choose from.

It could be any one of these appalling events that have occurred recently and occur with terrible frequency. And for each of them a part of the blame falls on the lack of education, or the lack of the effect of education.

Education is supposed to be the panacea for all societal evils. An educated person is presumed to have learnt how to behave, how to make intelligent decisions and how to progress. All of these are built on the foundation of good values that are supposedly encouraged and practised during the many years at school and beyond. And yet we consistently see that this is not always the case. Many people do learn good things from their years in education, yet retain certain beliefs that are in complete contrast to what they have been taught. This begs the question: Should inconsistency be blamed on education?

One may argue that consistency is what science is made of and a scientific education is a good education. Therefore, consistency must be taught at school. And it is — when the teacher in mathematics class tells you to do a sum by one method alone, and no other tool or technique is valid — that is a lesson in being consistent in your process.

Is that necessarily a good thing? Could it not be that ‘consistency’ is the root of many of these troubles — where the perpetrators are stuck in their inherited or adopted beliefs about the superiority of brawn over brain?

We have consistently been teaching our children that there is only one right answer, and that is the way the world works. We also teach them that there are winners and losers, since everything is a competition. And losers are fair game, they will not amount to anything much in life, they will be the victims of circumstances. And in the real world, not only do we reinforce this binary view of the world, we also show them how to trample upon the ‘victim class’.

We are an overpopulated nation with scarce resources. In a civilised society, we would be a nation of long queues, but of course, we are competitive too. So, we have been ‘educated’ via pressure or absenteeism, and the callousness of those who were put in positions of care. Thus we learn, both within school, but even more so outside school that we must look after ourselves or nobody will.

Our education does teach us values. It seems that soon, we are going to be examined at school for these, probably using objective type questions, with marks for pointing out gender bias, corruption and lack of civic sense. Some of the students may even know the right answers because they have memorised right and wrong. We do not learn to use our judgment, to choose to abstain from wrong, to discipline ourselves.

We are educated as much by society as by our schools. Our educational institutions may be our temples of knowledge, but the searing lessons that we learn from our mentors and leaders stay much longer. We have learnt to operate beyond trust and beyond shame in a land where we survive, not our dignity. The biggest teacher of all — the present moment — has taught us this.






This was published on July 26, 2012 in the Pioneer Link:


One Response to “Educated by Society”

  1. Kappu August 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Thats a thought provoking post and what happened in Guwahati and the plight of the women being suppressed is abominable, yes. I hope that “maturity” you have explained grows.

    Do stop by my blog! Kappu

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