Thursday, 5 January 2017

To Kill a Community

There was a wise and wonderful community in rural India.
We, the educated, decided to 'develop' them and give them the basics of health and education.
They were given an allopathic system, which invalidated, before their own eyes, their vast and detailed health practice.
They were given a schooling system which proclaimed and established the supremacy of a certian type of learning - based on reading and writing skills - and rendered worthless befor their own eyes their vast and depthless knowlwdge of animals and plants and farming and animal rearing and cures and stories and dances.
A wise and wonderful community lost its sense of worth and value ... and thereby lost everything.

Vinay Pasricha Fantastic analysis
Aparna Krishnan It is not an analysis - it is just truth that you see when you live in the community - as a neighbour, friend.
Aparna Krishnan One has to just go and live in a village and be part of the local economy and community. And to engage only in that context and with that understanding. Otherwise much harm may be unleashed, by the well-meaning.
Vinay Pasricha And how will this community that gas lived in the same way for centuries now change and become better - or do you think they are Perfect and don't need to progress
Aparna Krishnan Well, who are we to change them ? (What is 'progress' ?) We, the urban, drain the earth more, we have no community sense, we have no sense of humility. We need to just slow down into silence, and understand their greatness and superiority, and out of that alone can a completely different path emerge. Till then we operate in the present mess ... and I also teach the children 'English' ... rueing it the while.  
Vinay Pasricha Let us agree for a moment that their way is superior - but even they need to become better how will that happen?
Sanjeev Deshpande Rather a strange concoction of 'we, the educated' and 'they, the pristine natives'. We and them are together in this pathless land of education.

Why would you deny what a child has gained from his/her education. It is his/her property to do as he/she pleases.

My mom keeps saying her parents took her out of school after 7th standard, else she would have become district collector or something.
Sunanda Basu It's strange to blame education as a cause for the some of the problems that are plaguing the Indian villages today. Is it the 'EDUCATION' or the wrongful expectation of value of education that is the problem? If education was not there for village kids we wouldn't have had Dr Meghnath Saha, writers like Bibhutibhushan Bandophadyay and other many such accomplished persons!
Aparna Krishnan He who 'teaches' commands the superior position, and the knowlege system of the 'taught' becomes negated. Lat us accept this political reality. And Vinay, even if the village people need to become 'better', are we in possession of a better and superior wisdom to guide them ?
Vinay Pasricha I don't know the answers and I am hoping to learn something from your experience, which is why I am asking
Vinay Pasricha I believe that the western civilization may have some things to teach us, but ultimately we have to discover ourselves and develop our own unique solutions to become better - but become better we must
Vinay Pasricha So if these villagers need to become better, how are they doing that?
Sunanda Basu Why negated and not expanded?
Aparna Krishnan Sunanda, that it gets 'negated' is a political reality ... because it is between unequals.
Aparna Krishnan Vinay Pasricha,  I also have no answers. I see the problems, and i am shareing those. I am seeing a wise and wonderful community, being convinced that they are ignorant, illiterate. The answers can only come out of collective searching, because such drastic changes of positions may be needed. But the need for the collective search is urgent and desparate.
Sunanda Basu I don't understand the implication of politics in this-but I think it depends how it is imparted and how it is received. But to deny the village kids the opportunity of education! The success as is normally perceived depends a lot on the 'medha'. Education should not be for job alone-it allows a person to appreciate literary works, learn about different places ....or are even these the luxuries of 'elite'?!
Aparna Krishnan They need literacy, basic maths. They need the village economy to become vibrant again. This will need a policy level perspective and commitment. I doubt if they need a 8 day school for 12 years which only gives them the desire (and sometimes a limited ability) to become a clerk or xerox operator.
Aparna Krishnan Also, about culture ... I find them far more rooted in culture, than we with our readings, and dance classes and music concerts. Yes, they should also enjoy good Telugu literature. Yes, literacy as a basic skill is required. But everthing in the right place and perspective.
Sunanda Basu I totally agree with the fact that the 'formula' schooling system in India needs to be revised and more emaphasis should be on vocational trainings after certain level of learning and only the meritorious one should be encouraged to pursue regular schooling something like the system they have in Germany. The point I was making came from my personal observation that if one doesn't perceive education as the means to earn higher living standards then one actually sees the value of education. I never felt that my education somehow diminished my values! So I was wondering why EDUCATION is the problem!
Aparna Krishnan ... because our skill base is literacy. If schooling had pottery as the paragm - then all our skills would be negated, we would start as beginners, and we could be the also-rans.
Aparna Krishnan Systemic schooling makes any one knowlege system as the basis - depending on who is in power.
Aparna Krishnan As far as education for wisdom goes, my village people are illiterate and wise.
Rahul Banerjee subsistence and sustainability are the drivers of the traditional knowledge system whereas profit and growth drive the modern knowledge system. even when traditional knowledge is absorbed by the modern educational system it is distorted to provide profit. therefore unless we can abjure profit and respect nature there seems little chance of the rural poor getting any respect because they are perpetually in loss.
Sunanda Basu I cannot accept that EDUCATION (learning/knowledge...whether modern or traditional) is to be blamed. There is a famous saying that many Bengali have heard' parashuno kore je gari ghora chore she' - this mentality associated with value of education is the problem.
My father comes from a village and he often talks about the idyllic life of village and the value system but has never complained about modern education that he feels fortunate to have received it. The movie 'aparajito' (partial autobiography of bibhuti bhushan bandopadhay) portrays the strive for education by a village boy very accurately- it resonates with what I hear from people whose roots are in the village. And of course not to speak of the reforms by Pt Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar- a village boy whose zeal for learning is even still cited to children at least in Bengali families! So this bashing about 'educated' people is misplaced- if a person is truly educated they grow and not diminish! The problem is our outlook and perception- we tend to associate degrees with level education! And that's incorrect - different people with same degree from same institute, who actually have the luxury to choose a profession - do make different choices depending upon their ideology!
Aparna Krishnan All are valid truths Sunanda - in different planes.

In today's world, yes, everyone should be schooled and given a place in the modern, literacy based world - as a clerk or a scientist based on their ability to leap up from illiteracy. It has become a uni-dimentional world – where our skills of reading-writing are most valued, and all else skills are undervalued.

But we need a world where every knowlege has a valued niche. And then a potter learns in a very different medium from a 'school', he learns at home at his father's feet. All knowlege cannot be encompassed into 'schools'.

So schooling promotes only ‘our’ strengths.

But till we change a basic paradigm, yes, we can only try to ‘school’ every child. And move it from starvation as a potter to a liviihood as a watchman, or a driver, or a cleak ... or in very rare cases as a teacher !
Sunanda Basu It's the last paragraph of your comment that I see as a problem, Aparna. Viewing education as a means to "better living" creates the problem. So if parents and kids, both understand the true value of education then perhaps many of them will not pursue education beyond certain level- this realization needs to be there. Education as a passport for better living is a very Asian mentality-ironically in western countries (since western education is to be blamed for ills!) a high percentage of kids don't pursue further education and mostly the passionate ones go further... So expectations of education's results is the problem and not education itself. If the expectation is changed and the truth is realized then perhaps only the passionate village kids will pursue further education. The problem is that unless the village economy picks up there will be a temptation for the villagers to push their kids for further education even if the children aren't truly passionate for learning.
But, to deny the opportunity to village kid is not the solution for we may miss out on the next star or make his/her progress very difficult.
Actually, Aparna, a good education exposes you to all knowledge, and we make the final choice of what we value.
So the problem is in the valuation system and that has to deal with our psychology and morality and has nothing to do with education/knowledge!
In fact I believe true education broadens our vision!
Rahul Banerjee its more a question of what we want from education as Sunanda says and is echoed by Vineet. today competitiveness instead of cooperation and the strenghening of apathetic centralised systems have become the core drivers of education. where is the space for rebellion without which societal salvation is difficult? I spent the last five years doing a Phd in an university under an open programme that allowed me to do pretty much what I pleased. However the UGC hs now forced the university to close this programme and straight jacketed it into the standard pattern. even so i had to submit to some minimal guidelines for thesis writing which i found constricting.

Aparna Krishnan Structured schooling (as opposed to education which is gained at the potter's wheel, at the cooking stove, at the grazeing grounds at the village vaidya's practice - more than in a school) defines one paradigm of knowlege (our skill base or reading and writing) as superior to others. Therein is it fundamentally flawed. In the model of many castes - each inheritor of a skill needed by society - each skill and education and knowlege and wisdom - had a seperate space. Such is what needs to be visualized ... of course it needs very creative thinking ... a ka Gandhi.
Aparna Krishnan Everyone is saying how schooling should be made less competitive, more vocational, more diverse. I completely agree. But my problem is schooling ! In the modern schooling, one skill (literacy) is the unwritten superior skill. How can you introduce other skills equally ! Farming is learnt on the land. weaving at the loom at home, potter, helping the father at the potter's wheel. To make the potter take a pottery class in school in school is silly ! I have done it in the village school ... and after having walked the roads, realize they lead nowhere.
Ekta Agarwal I think the only solution is that every village has to be self-sustainable in itself. Earlier, the only thing most villages needed or imported from outside was cloth and salt, probably. Over the years, we have confused education and literacy and that ...See more
Aparna Krishnan Yes, it needs many hearts and minds to work together to evolve a different society. Schooling and education will dovetail into that society.

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