Education is Key to changing Mindset

13 Jan


When there is no place for women to be safe in a society, the destruction of that society is assured. The very fabric that binds people together is trust. If one cannot trust one’s neighbour, colleague or relative to be decent and not attack and brutalise, then whom can one trust? Women and children are attacked, groped and humiliated regardless of time, dress, occasion, age or even provocation. What provocation can there be to stop being a human being and attack like a hungry animal?

While clearly a law and order issue, since most assaults are unreported, or unaddressed even if reported, the malaise is deeper. We are a sick society that needs to take a good long hard look at our values and question them deeply. Misogyny is rampant — why else would more women be attacked than men? Why else would women be expected to work harder and be more skilled than men? Earn and cook, pick and clean, study and serve and of course be restricted in her property rights. Be the victim of circumstances for to speak up would be to shame. The question is shame whom? Shame the people who are creating such inequity? Certainly yes. They deserve to be named and shamed.

The long-term solution to this is not easy, and it lies in public education. Shifting values takes generations and often is accompanied by great upheavals and protest. Of course men are going to protest if they have to wash their own clothes or cook their own food — heaven forbid, they might even become self sufficient. The debate in education often comes round to skills and employability. As a country we have statistics that show that employers are unable to work with the people they receive from our education system, whether at the graduate or post graduate level. Employers, of course, seek core competencies, but they also seek responsible, self disciplined and self sufficient staff who will be able to take the right decisions in their domain. This starts early in life, not on the first day of employment.

Our excessively competitive culture is damaging our kids in more ways than one. Firstly, the focus on marks makes the children ignore anything other than rote learning. The journey of discovery, the disappointments of ignorance and then the process of researching with rigor are completely missing from the implementation of our education system. We learn to reproduce, not learn to learn. No wonder, few know how to learn social skills, boundaries and even their legal limits as they grow up. Current classroom practice also does not allow our children to spend time discussing and learning about shared values, caring team work or even about managing differences whether they be gendered or regional. Often, even in co-educational schools many boys do not talk to girls and vice versa — learning strange versions of sexism even as they should be exploring and enhancing their social skills. Differences are stated in textbooks, platitudes that must be written up in end of term examinations. Parents encourage their children to excel via thievery — what else is it if one commissions a ‘project’ and claims it to be one’s own. Such competition is detrimental to values, and to the experiences that should enrich. If these norms can be broken with no fear of punishment, then so can many others. Children are taught to push the boundaries of right and wrong in ways that damage society.

Teachers and parents lament the lack of respect in the younger generation. This is a generation that grows up with a variety of sources of information, many of which abase themselves in the quest for commercial or political success. To have abused women in Parliament, to have misinformed on the news, to have lewd songs on cinemas and to have illogical nonsense spouted on television serials is the stuff of public education.

Good education is about learning how to be self-disciplined without any restraint, watching or policing. If a child has to be told to switch off the television, has to be supervised in its homework or needs to be punished for non-performance — then it is a failure of the educators. These children grow up to be people who cannot do the right thing without being policed or punished. A society can work when its schools build respect and reason into every action, so that we can hold our heads high and declare true freedom.


This was published in the daily Pioneer newspaper on January 8, 2013 and is linked here: 


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